Interview with Katie Kuchar on Anxiety and Depression
This interview is the second in our five-part Hope in Darkness: Journeying Through Mental Illness series for the months of July & August. Learn more about the series here.
Katie Kuchar is a wife and mother of 7, with one of those children in heaven and one currently baking in the oven. Married to her husband of 9 years, Katie lives on a small acre in southern Idaho with her garden, chickens, dog, cat, goats and bunny. Her joy in life is to get to know other women who are trying to live out their vocation and encourage them on the way to sainthood. You will find her on any given day strumming her ukulele, drinking coffee, and rewriting the lyrics to popular songs as she tries to convince her children to do schoolwork and chores. Her favorite color is blue, she loves the outdoors, and enjoys asking existential questions on the regular.
Tell us a little about your story with postpartum depression. When did you start noticing symptoms? How did it affect your daily life?
I've always had an underlying stream of anxiety from my early childhood. As a teenager I compensated by trying harder and praying more. I prayed the rosary every day and went to daily mass as often as I could. And while these definitely helped, it didn't solve my issue.
When I left home for college I began to actually notice symptoms, including not being able to concentrate, excessive worry, inability to focus, insomnia, shortness of breath, and I began to experience neck and shoulder pain. I was exhausted all the time. This escalated until after I was married and pregnant with my first child. I was depressed the entire pregnancy and I ate to make myself feel better, which reopened a food addiction that I had as a child.
I had three children in 3 years. After the birth of number 3, I was so miserable that I didn't want to go anywhere, I hated myself, and I hated everyone around me. Little did I know that I had mountains of postpartum depression and anxiety weighing on me. I realized I felt that I had no one to turn to. I hit bottom.
When did you know it was time to ask for help? What did that look like?
I realized that I needed help when my husband saw that he could not help me and one of my college friends pointed out to me that I may be struggling with depression and kindly suggested getting help. She had also been going to therapy and said it really helped her, and that there isn't anything wrong with needing a professional to help me sort through my thoughts.
No amount of rosaries, adoration, confession or mass was making this better, so I took her advice and went to therapy. I went three times, and each time was better. I also joined a 12-step group for my food addiction.
Who or what has been most helpful throughout your journey?
What has helped me the most has been getting a sponsor through my 12-step group, and having a place to be completely honest without judgement. Also, my counselor was absolutely awesome! Reaching out to my friends and telling them the truth about what I struggle with, and being on the receiving end of their love and support has also been very healing for me.
How has your faith been tested through your experience?
My faith was tested by the fact that I was experiencing feelings of unworthiness and doubt of God's love for me. I had to really battle and fight my way through the negativity and anxiety by challenging my false ideas about God, actively rejecting them and letting God embrace me.
I continued to go to mass and pray regularly even though I wasn't feeling better, and this was hard because there were periods where I wondered if God had abandoned me or if I was doomed to live with anxiety and depression forever. Eventually, I came to realize that God was reaching out to me through the people he sent my way to help me sort through my wounds, my mess, and help me rediscover my true identity as a beloved daughter of God.
Now, my faith is stronger than it has ever been because I know that God cares about me, even when I don't care or feel negatively about my life.
What's something you want Catholics to know about mental health?
Mental health is important. It's like any other system in the body, and it too, can become broken or sick. However, mental illness is different in that it’s easy to hide.
What advice would you give to women who think they might be struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental illness?
There is no better time than now to reach out. I encourage anyone struggling with depression or anxiety to call a counselor and tell a friend. Christ is the divine physician and He is waiting to heal you––by His grace and through others. You are not alone.