“I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” Psalm 38
Why don’t ya come on up and join me for a good ol’ fashioned front porch visit. I’m honestly a little hesitant to extend the invite, but I believe it will be something that could benefit both of us in the long run. I will be opening myself up in more ways than I care to admit and with that I brace. I brace for ridicule, questions, doubts, comments, and judgements as I cautiously share a fortified part of my life. I have avoided this post as I am not someone who willingly puts herself “out there”. I tend to be a very private person, but if I have one hope it would be for you to be encouraged or gain a desire to encourage others who live daily with this silent struggle. In effort to address different levels of this affliction, this will be a “to be continued” series.
Come on up and join me. Go ahead and have a seat in that rocking chair if you like.
Can I get you anything? Lemonade or maybe a glass of sweet tea? I really want you to be comfortable and feel welcome as we settle in.
Sure has been a little warm lately, hasn’t it?
I believe I will make my way to the porch swing, if that is OK with you?…..the gentle gliding back and forth ushers me back to the days of my childhood.
Anyway, enough small talk, I guess I might as well go ahead and dive in….well, here goes nothing or everything!
Welcome to my world. The world in which I live daily with depression. There, I said it. You have no idea how hard it is for me to say those words. I am stepping way outside of my comfort zone and seriously starting to second guess myself and God at this very moment.
The lump in my throat is growing larger and I am finding it hard to swallow. I know all too well what will soon follow. Hot, salty tears will threaten to spill over causing my eyes to sting and my sight to blur. This will quickly be followed by a deep, rapid pounding inside my chest that will echo loudly in my ears. I can feel heat gradually rising up my neck as I see the all too familiar trembling at my fingertips.
I want to be as transparent as possible, but it is not an easy task. Right now, thoughts are spinning in my mind like an old homestead windmill whirling in the hot Oklahoma summer breeze. Round and round, faster and faster, clank-clank-clank…….
Do I really want to travel down this road of full heart exposure or should I just wrap it up and tuck it deeper inside? What are people going to think? I know the stigma that comes with this confession. What are people going to say out loud or secretly? I know the thoughts that fill one’s mind as they try to process this information.
Trust me, I’ve heard the whispers.
I’ve caught the don’t-look glances.
I also know the shame and guilt that consumes those who find themselves at this crossroads of admission.
Anxiety and depression are two extremely taboo subjects, and both tend to be misunderstood especially within the Christian realm. All I can do is ask you to listen closely to my words with an open heart. Please allow yourself to be directed by Jesus and maybe, just maybe we can gain a deeper love and appreciation for each other’s battles as I entrust you with my story.
“I feel myself sinking further and further down and there is not one thing I can do to make it stop.
I close my eyes and beg the great darkness to take me under so I no longer have to feel this type of pain.
I’m screaming inside, but no sound escapes. Please just let me go numb.
How much longer will I be trapped?”
The above is an entry from my prayer journal during one of the darkest times of my life. As David cried out to God in Psalm 38, I too found myself at a place of feeling desperately broken. I would like to say this was the one and only time I have ever felt this way, but that would be a lie. Looking back, I am able to recall times where depression started showing up in my life, popping in like an unexpected guest. At first it would gently tap on my heart’s door, arrive for short visits and move on; but one day it took hold of my hand and never let go.
In my very first blog post I shared with you my readers, that I use writing as part of my personal therapy as I am the face of depression. At that time only those within my closest running circle knew of this private battle. I was touched ever so deeply by the encouraging, heartfelt responses I received from so many, including complete strangers. The following is one of the statements I made referring to those of us who suffer with depression, “By the world we are viewed as sad people who just need to snap out of it and by the religious we are regarded as having weak faith.” Today, I would like to add, to those of us who wake up each day with this affliction we only want to be understood, not pitied or dismissed.
My first hardcore bout with depression came after Robert and I lost our first child. I carried the weight of that loss as a personal failure. I viewed it as MY inability to do the most natural act for women, carry a child. Prior to that pregnancy we had prayed or better yet, begged God for a child for years with no results. We found ourselves in the beginning stages of discussing adoption when I was able to surprise my partner in life with the exciting news he was going to be a dad.
The highest of highs was followed by the lowest of lows as complications prevented us from experiencing the joy of welcoming our first child into this world. It didn’t help this loss came during the Christmas season where everyone was joyful and jubilant. I wasn’t joyful or jubilant.
I was sad.
I was sad beyond any type of sadness I had ever experienced before. I cried and I slept, a lot.
The only place I wanted to be was home with Robert. He knew the depth of my despair as his heart ached for his loss. I didn’t want to venture outside those protected walls because everywhere I looked I saw people with babies. Friends were having babies, family members were raising babies, and complete strangers doted on their little bundles of joy.
I was devastated, I was empty, and I was angry.
I did not want to be angry, but I was.
We started going to Wal-Mart late at night to avoid as many baby sightings as possible. Trust me I know how harsh that confession sounds, but I am trying to be as honest as I can about where depression was taking me and it was not pretty. The harder I tried to fight it, the deeper into darkness I fell. It was no longer a physical battle as my body was trying to recover from all the changes; it was developing into an emotional, mental, and spiritual conflict and I was losing.
Days eventually got brighter, but I would soon discover this unwelcomed guest was not packing up and leaving any time soon.
**I would like to add a little side note. When you learn someone has suffered a miscarriage, please find it in yourself to be considerate and extend compassion. It does not matter how far along the pregnancy was, weeks or months; the pain is real and the loss is devastating. And could I ask one more thing of you? For the love of all that is good, do not try to minimize the pain with shallow pats on the back or common phrases like, “well something just wasn’t right and it was your body’s way of taking care of it”. This does not help. Let me repeat, this does not help; as a matter of fact it actually makes it worse. Twenty-two years later I still think of our first child every December and every July. Soon and very soon!!
I hope and pray through our little visit I have been able to provide you with a fresh introduction into the life of someone who lives with depression. Depression is not an illness like the common cold that can be treated quickly with an antibiotic.
We are not sad people who just need to snap out of it. Trust me, if we could we would. Stronger faith does not keep depression at bay. If that were the case, what do we do with David and Elijah? Two extremely strong men of faith, but they too suffered through depressive episodes.
There is no shame in depression.
There is no shame in asking for help to deal with depression.
There is no shame in seeking medical attention to aid with depression.
There is absolutely no shame.
We are everyday people, living everyday lives. We are your family members and best friends. We are your co-workers and church family. We are the teenagers in the drive-thru and the older gentleman at the grocery store. We are the strangers you pass in the crosswalk and the quiet neighbor down the road. You interact with us everyday and may have never realized the inward battle we are fighting. We live, laugh, and love as well as struggle, cry, and withdraw. My triggers look different than yours and my responses may cripple me for a time; but please don’t view me as a labeled person. I would much rather be seen as someone who sheds light and hope onto a dark subject.
I am a survivor of depression, not someone who lives defined or defeated by depression.
Even through the worst living nightmare of my life, God was with me (Deuteronomy 31:6). Even when I was curled up with no desire or energy to get out of bed, God was holding me (Isaiah 41:13). Even when I cried out for relief and none seemed to come, God heard me (Psalm 34:17). Even when I didn’t feel or see God, He was always working behind the scenes (Psalm 40:1-3).
Try to understand this was not an easy conversation for me to have, but I truly believe it is one we do not need to be afraid or ashamed of any longer.
I will leave you with a personal treasured insight….The furthest distance I have ever experienced can be from my head to my heart. Sometimes I have to force myself to stop feeling and start meditating on the things I know to be true. My feelings cannot always be trusted, but what I KNOW to be true can!!
Until next time meet someone at their greatest need!
To be continued…..