Here’s my truth. I’m known for writing about things that may be controversial or “not talked about.” I’m known for my openness about everything. But, over the last few months, it was all a lie. A farce. A show. A mask. It was not real.
I went AWOL for a while. The “real” me, at least. I went through a severe depression episode that started around August, and I finally started coming out of it in October. I decided to write this blog, along with a picture of my eyes, swollen from hours of crying on one of my worst days, to let you know that depression is real. It is ugly and painful. It isn’t always noticeable, until it is.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression most of my teen to adult life, but I never had an experience or “episode “ like this one. I never laid in bed for weeks without showering, or went days without eating or speaking. I never ignored my children or husband, leaving him to do every single thing by himself while I laid in bed staring at the ceiling. These were all new experiences for me. I did not enjoy them.
Depression is a beast on a rapidly rotating downward spiral. When you’re deep in it, you know you are, but you just don’t care. You feel numb. I remember once laying in bed, pinching my arm to remind myself that I could actually still feel something. What finally woke me up was when my youngest child came into the bedroom to hug me and I refused to hug him back or even acknowledge his presence. I saw the disappointment in his beautiful little blue eyes as he left. Right then, I realized I needed to change.
I got up.
I started trying the “fake it til you make it” approach. It worked a little and motivated me some. I was still lying to myself though. So, I decided to seek help. I reached out to 2 different counselors who I still see regularly each week, even now. I sat down and talked to my very supportive husband (honestly, the man is a saint), and told him I was sorry, I realized I needed help, and I was going to get better. The man never wavered in his support. There were (and probably still are) days he was pissed at me for my failure to act like a wife or mother, but he never threatened to leave me, or any other adverse actions. He expressed his concerns. We talked for 2 days straight, the first time in our marriage that we completely communicated about everything. That was my emotional healing moment. I was able to release everything to him, tell him things I’d hidden from him for fear he would judge me. He didn’t. He would hold me while I cried and reassured me he still loved me.
By this time I’d begun mending fences with him, but there was another one that I still had to work on. During my depression I had ignored everyone. Especially my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I “hid” my problems (when we all know you can’t hide from Jesus!) and stopped talking to Him. I was upset because I felt like He wasn’t paying attention to me. Once my head began to clear, I realized it was MY problem, because how can He talk to me or help me, if I’m not listening? One day I was outside walking the dog, in the sun and warmth, and I felt His Spirit all around me. I closed my eyes and lifted my face upward, and mentally cried out in absolute anguish to Him, asking for His help, giving Him all of my anger, anxiety, pain, trauma…everything, until I was bare and had nothing left to give. That was my spiritual healing moment. I could actually feel His Spirit taking over. I felt the warmth of the sun and the Son, and felt tingling in my limbs, like it was bringing life back into my body where there had barely been any for months. That moment was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. (Side note: I probably looked like a complete nutcase standing in the yard, face upward, arms out, crying like a baby. But I didn’t care. Still don’t. Let the neighbors think I’m crazy. I had a moment with God!!!). Even when I was saved, baptized, and publicly committed my life to Jesus, nothing like that had ever happened. I still can’t explain it fully, despite my incredible gift for descriptive writing.
I began writing that day. I spent 2 days writing about everything that had happened in my life to hurt me. I wrote my hidden secrets, my worst moments, I wrote it ALL. I shared it with my husband and therapists, and a few select trusted friends. I know He inspired me to write it, and I think it was the physical manifestation of His Spirit cleansing me of all my pain. When I finished writing, I felt better. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of it. I felt whole again.
I’m still depressed. I’m still taking it day by day, and sometimes still have bad days. But, that’s okay. I know now, that healing is a process. It took 41 years to hit absolute rock bottom, so it won’t take just a few days to climb out. I’m still depressed. But, I’m getting better every day. I’m smiling and laughing again. I’m eating and showering again. I’m leaving the house again. I’m feeling much better. I can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel again. I have faith in Jesus again. My faith is stronger than it’s ever been in my life.
So, of course a renewed faith pisses off Satan, and makes you attractive to spiritual attacks from the other side. I had my first major attack last week, when my dog died. We’d had her nearly 15 years and she was one of my best friends. I always worried about how it would affect me when her time came, and really worried that it would destroy me emotionally. So, when it became obvious it was her time, I expected to go back into the dark void of depression again. I even went and got in my bed, waiting for the darkness to come, staring at the ceiling and not speaking. For hours I cried, my husband sitting beside me, rubbing my shoulders, not speaking but just letting me know he was there for me. I refused to eat dinner or even talk to my dad. I was ready for the darkness to take me away. In my worst moment, I prayed to Jesus to help me and not let me tear down what He’d spent weeks building back up. I cried myself to sleep that night and had nightmares again. He answered my prayer the next day. When I woke up that next morning, I fully expected to dissolve into tears again. But, I didn’t. I got up, did what I was supposed to do, and I haven’t cried since. I know myself….without that help from Him, I’d have been crying for weeks. I’ve felt His Spirit heavily on me since that day, guarding me against further attacks. He is with me, guiding me, protecting me. I feel loved and cared for. I feel worthy again. Despite this loss of a beloved friend, I feel strong. I feel incredulous too, because I am witnessing firsthand again, the power of God’s love for me. Knowing how much I have abandoned Him in the past, I find it amazing how He can just keep forgiving me over and over. I don’t deserve His love and mercy. None of us do. But, we ask for it and He gives it, without hesitation.
I’ll close now… I hope you enjoyed reading this insight into “dark and twisty” (thanks Meredith and Christina) Summer. I’ll also say that if you are struggling and need help, let me know. I’m struggling too, and we can struggle together. We can be imperfect together and joke about it. Everyone needs someone at one time or another, and I can be your someone if you need it. We can learn together. If you need help getting to know Jesus or want to know more about being a Christian, let me know. If I can’t answer a question, I can point you to someone who can. Just don’t forget that Jesus loves you too…even if you don’t believe in Him yet.
Below is my favorite poem, I’ve always loved it since I was a kid. And it is a spot on representation of my life over the last few months. Enjoy, and God bless!!
Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
I love you so much, and can’t thank you enough for your complete honesty of your struggle with depression! You certainly do have an incredible gift for writing, and described the dark quagmire of depression so very well, and countered it with the amazing light of God perfectly! I, too, have been in the depression canyon for a while, and am thankful to know you are here to talk to.
I’m so sorry you’ve been going through such hard times. Please call me anytime you want to talk. God has stood by me and saved me more times than I can count ( as you know). So I understand to a point. Love you Renee.