This blog post has been rolling around in my head for some time now. In light of the recent celebrity suicides, I think it’s time I write it. My own family doesn’t even know much of what I am about to say, so this is extremely hard and I am going to make myself extremely vulnerable here. I know that depression still has a stigma, and an even greater one within the church. I remember as a child hearing that suicide was an unforgivable sin because once you did it, you couldn’t ask for forgiveness. What a thought to go through a young persons head, but even at age 8, I could understand why someone would take their own life. It did scare me though that you wouldn’t go to heaven if you did kill yourself.
My childhood was probably pretty typical for someone growing up in the 70’s- early 80’s. Parents fought a lot, one drank a lot, nobody really talked about stuff like alcoholism, depression, abuse. Nowadays, there are support groups for everything if you are willing to go. It wasn’t always like that. These were the “skeletons in the closet” that you hid from the rest of the world. Then one day my mom was Born Again (the phrase that was used back then). God certainly had set a plan in motion way back before I was born. My parents both came from Catholic families. Around the time I was in kindergarten is when my mom truly found Jesus. He began a work in her that started a chain reaction in our family. She brought us kids to church and I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior at age 6. Yes, that is very young for someone to grasp all that He is, but I knew I was being called to Him. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Though a child’s faith then (isn’t that what we are supposed to have anyway?), I have definitely grown into it over my many years.
I first had manic/depressive episodes in high school. I would be so full of energy and giggles and elation, it was the most wonderful feeling in the world! Then the crashes would come, an oppressive dark cloud suffocated me. I cut my wrists. Superficially. But I was crying out for help when I didn’t know how to ask. Several months of this cycle went by and I finally told my mom because it was getting worse and I didn’t know how to make the bad thoughts go away. My mental problems were hush hush in my family except with my mom. She at least had the good sense to get me help. We went to several therapist and doctors until we found someone I was comfortable with. Thank you mom, for doing this. It saved me. And thank you Georganne, you helped me know that it is ok to get help.
As a teen and college student, keeping up with therapy and medication was not what I wanted to do. The medication took away all my manic episodes and I missed them; for they so wonderfully took away all stress, pain, and worry. I didn’t want to “talk” about my feelings. That was so dumb and a waste of time for a person in the prime of their life. So, I quit it all. Then depression came back. Then I started drinking to numb myself. Then I passed out while driving. God protected me through all that. I started taking my faith more seriously again. I was still a confused young adult trying to find my way through a move across the country (running away). It was here that God finally broke me. But it was the most blessed breaking ever and I was washed clean and forgiven years worth of self loathing and destruction in one prayer. A million steps away from God, one step back. Hallelujah. The weight was lifted off and I could breathe again!
I met and married my husband, and all was well until after my first baby was born. Postpartum depression attacked my brain and I saw images in my head that no mother should see. I knew I needed to get help again. I was put on an anti-depressant right away and thank God it worked. Fast forward baby number two and we were proactive in starting a safe anti-depressant right after she was born. I was able to take myself off it after a year and I was fine. Fast forward again and depression came back with a vengeance.
It was different this time. It was mind and body numbing, an emptiness, a nothingness. I felt as though under water. Words weren’t understandable. I felt paralyzed. Medication only took the edge off. We attended a wonderful church at the time and I was able to receive biblical counseling. This was not a “let’s talk about your feelings” this was let’s dig in God’s word, and see what is real and what is not, as depression is a big fat lie. Your brain is messed up and you think your emotions are fact, but they are not! The book Depression, A Stubborn Darkness was absolutely imperative in my healing as a depressed Christian. I struggled so much with negativity. During this time my family had a job change and a move. I had to move from my friends, my church, my support. I did not want to move. It was no secret I did not like where we moved. But I was fresh off great counseling, somewhat stable emotionally, and prayed up. For 6 solid years I was clinically depressed and fought and wrestled with God. I prayed and begged for Him to take this thorn from me. His answer, “my grace is sufficient.” And that is how I lived for 6 years; resigned to live with underlying depression, bitterness, resentment. I had read books on God taking away depression and knew it just wasn’t in the cards for me. I accepted it. My medication was enough to keep me from being suicidal again, but I could not find any joy in life. I struggled to reconcile this as a Christian, who’s outward sign was supposed to be JOY. I had none. No inner smile. Just nothing.
I started to run again because I had gained weight. That story is here. It was a struggle to run. It was not easy, but I kept at it. After about a year, I realized it was changing me. Little by little I was seeing a difference. I was reading the book One Thousand Gifts and started to notice little things, like the way the sun hit the wildflowers, the way the wind moved the leaves, things like that. Directing my thoughts and finding thankfulness to God was healing me. Along with medication and running. It was the perfect trifecta! The cure! When one of these three things is neglected, I revert back to depression. It is hard to be on constant vigilance. Sometimes you just want to go on auto-pilot. With depression, I can’t. With autoimmune diseases, I can’t. Sometimes I am just TIRED. But when I ignore a key player in my mental and physical health, I am out much longer than what’s good for me, for my family.
I never ever thought that I would be free of depression – and I guess truly, I am not. But, God has changed me from a hopeless and bitter person to one of hope and joy. God was with me all along in the darkness – when I suffered insomnia and would walk alone during the middle of the night, when I drank myself into oblivion, when I cut myself, when I cried until I could cry no more, and when I smiled that first smile after seeing Him light up the sky in brilliant colors just for me! He changed me. He has made me whole. He has made me see my worth. He has made me see His infinite worth, He allowed me to see a tiny glimpse of His glory and it is a sign of what’s to come.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18
There is hope in this world and it’s Jesus. During my imprisonment of the last big bout of depression, I never thought I would be free. Like Paul singing in a jail cell, I thought that is what I would have to do. Except I wasn’t good at it. I had moments, but mostly I just complained. Sure, I prayed as Jesus did – take this cup from me, not my will, but yours… And just knew I would have to be okay with living “below the line.” (Dad, you know what I am talking about.) God really did set me free. It’s unbelievable when I really think about it. So I need to stop and think about it more and be in awe of God. Not to be bitter when He doesn’t take away pain or illness, but to trust Him in the process. He is the answer. Not that I ever want to go back into that kind of depression again, He allowed me to grow during that time, so yes, I am and can be thankful for it. For in my tears were some of the sweetest moments with God, the closest I have ever been to Him. Even though he didn’t take away the pain, he suffered right along with me. In my weakness, I was strong – in Him.
I think that is why running is so important to me. It is raw and brings you to the end of yourself. For me, it parallels the fight with depression. I can overcome, I am stronger than I thought, I will press on towards the goal, I will not grow weary in doing good, I will fight the good fight, I will run with endurance, I will run and not grow weary, I will forget what is behind and strain for what lies ahead, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will run in such a way as to win the prize, I will not be afraid, I will hope in the Lord, for I can do all things though Christ who gives me strength.
If you are battling depression, I highly recommend this 3 part series from Desert Springs Church. It can be found here. This was turning point for me.