Recognizing Despair: Patty Mason Interview (Part 1)
Patty Mason is a living testimony that God is not distant from our anguish. Though other types of depression are clinical, Patty attributes her depression to attempts to fill the hole in her soul where God should reside with things that did not satisfy. God set her free through the quiet touch of a woman who had no idea of the impact she would have on Patty.
God set her free from depression and invited Patty to learn more about his love for her. For more than twenty years, she has developed her relationship with both God and others struggling with despair. She ministers and equips others to learn to discover, embrace, and live in freedom through Liberty in Christ Ministries.
I will post our interview in three installments. Patty’s answers speak life and hope into the darkness and oppressive grip of despair because she offers no less than what God offered her.
As we conversed about her book Finally Free: Breaking the Bonds of Depression Without Drugs, Patty focused her answers on what she has seen and heard of God’s work in her own life. She didn’t make broad and sweeping comparisons about the depression experience, but instead, she passionately described the consistent character of Christ no matter our history of despair.
Our stories of depression are individual, but God’s story of freedom for all mankind is the same. Patty declares with passion and compassion; God is restoring us as his bride, and despair loses its grip in the hands of a loving redeemer.
Turning the Page on Suicide: You open Chapter 1 by distinguishing depression as a constant battle bringing on overwhelming feelings of sadness, rage, and hopelessness. Describe why a depressed person can’t just snap out of it and choose to be happy?
I don’t know why we can’t snap out of it. I know I couldn’t. My husband loved me, I knew he cared about me, but he didn’t understand what I was going through. I think his attitude was,˜Oh, you’ll get over it. A lot of people ask the same question. We all have sad days, or days we feel off, but that is not depression. Depression is a very deep and dark place, and it’s not someplace we can just snap our fingers and automatically get out of, no matter how much we want to be free.
TPOS: What are some ways people responded to your depression in the early days? Were friends and family aware of the shift in your behavior?
No, not at all, I tried to give the impression I was perfect. I wore the mask way too well and covered my emotions. I didn’t let people into my world. In fact, I didn’t let my husband in that world for a long time.
TPOS: You say in Finally Free, I never saw the depression coming, nor did I realize how much it would steal from me. Is it possible to be prepared for depression; to create an emergency kit for the pits of life?
Depression gives off warning signs. Before the symptoms of depression become visible, I exhibited frustration and anger, which indicated something was wrong. Our life experiences, even if they seem trivial at the time, do affect us either positively or negatively. If there is trauma in your past, then start looking at it, don’t sweep it under the rug, and think, I’ve moved on, and that’s the end of it.
TPOS: You credit your desire to find yourself, and later speak of success as representing â€œa notch on the belt of life that told the world I had worth. Young men and women often talk of self-worth or finding their identity as they are beginning their adulthood. What were some of the things you thought would give you self-worth?
Adventure was my first journey, I traveled quite a bit. Actually, travel became a drug. I was so addicted that I no sooner came home, I started to plan the next adventure. Next, I turned to men, then family to try and fill that void. I thought marriage and children would fill me as a woman.
TPOS: Relationships and marriage offer the opportunity to feel valued and special, but why canâ€™t another person complete us? Why is it so easy to lose our identity in marriage?
If we look for someone else to complete us or tell us who we are in order to find our identity, we will come up disappointed every time. The only way to find our true identity is to connect to God through a personal relationship because he is the one who created you. He knows who he desires you to be, and when you tap into a relationship with Jesus, you will discover your true sense of worth and purpose.
TPOS: How does the world look at motherhood? Why do our children not fill the void in our soul?
The world today doesn’t look at motherhood the same way it did fifty years ago. Back then, motherhood was critical; it was a woman’s primary role. Today the world tells you that it’s not enough to be a mother. You have to be successful in all these different areas of life. This was a great struggle for me as a young mother. Prior to marriage, I had a career, but my husband and I made the decision that I was going to walk away from that career and become a full-time mom. I thought that was a wonderful decision until I went to different events, like my husband’s Christmas party or some other event with women who were in the workplace. The minute I told them I was a wife and mother it was like my brain fell out of my head. Suddenly I wasn’t interesting, worth anything, or successful. This made me feel very disappointed and disillusioned about who I was as a young mother. I even started looking down on myself because other women looked down on me.
TPOS: You said, For all this time I allowed a world that didn’t have the faintest idea how to live tell me how to live. When piling up all the things the world says are of value and finding yourself still unfulfilled, what do many turn to at this moment?
It depends on the person, but sadly, many people turn to addiction. Drugs, alcohol, social media, video games, anything that will distract them from feeling the emptiness and the void that is in their soul. The place they couldnâ€™t fill with success or money or career or power or whatever else they try to fill it with.
TPOS: Describe the moment you knew you were depressed. Because you weren’t ready to share, and frankly others might not have been willing to listen, understand, and offer encouragement, what choices did you have with the recognition of depression?
Depression has a root. Just because you are not feeling symptomatic, doesn’t mean there are no underlying roots. That is what happened to me. At the time, I didn’t realize I was depressed because I was still pursuing what I thought would fill me. It wasn’t until I had everything I thought was going to satisfy me and make me happy, and it didn’t. When nothing I pursued filled that void in my soul, that was when I began to realize I had fallen into depression.
TPOS: What are your recommendations for anyone who has experienced deep trauma in childhood, just starting into adulthood?
Don’t wait. If you have gone through something in your past, in childhood or your teen year, don’t sweep it under the rug and think it’s in the past. Whether you have been physically or sexually abused, or experienced verbal abuse, where someone spoke hurtful words to you, or you experienced bullying in school, take a look at it. Don’t wait. Ask yourself some tough questions. Take a deep look at what you went through. How does that trauma make you feel when you think about it? What emotions does it stir up in you? I highly recommend a counselor, or trusted friend, to help you sort through those emotions. Someone who can help you dig into your past so you can start to understand what you are feeling. These emotional wounds and feelings are embedded in your soul, and unless they are exposed they will continue to fester and grow over the years until finally face them. Maybe ten years from now you start to have emotional breakdowns, and you will have no idea where they are coming from. (Continued on 9/19/2019)
Patty Mason is an author, national speaker, and the founder of Liberty in Christ Ministries. For more than two decades, Patty has shared her story of God’s redeeming grace and deliverance from depression before numerous audiences, in several books, blogs, and magazines, such as Lifeway’s Living More as well as radio and television programs, including American Family