Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

32 thoughts on “I Met Depression… and I Won

  1. Heather, what an inspiring and hopeful story. Thank you for sharing.

    I agree that everyone’s path to freedom from depression will be different. God is so good to give us the path we need according to each individual. And he is so good to walk alongside those of us who haven’t found a way out yet.

    He’s good. All the time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your story Heather!

    My experience with depression is probably different from other people’s experiences. However, depression is something a lot people go through. But when you are dealing with it yourself it doesn’t feel like anyone else understands, it feels quite isolating.

    My battles with anxiety is in the sense that I tend to worry about a lot of things which manifests in my body through tension headaches and migraines. For years, I dealt with feelings of hopelessness and wondering if things will ever get any better. I tend to feel more anxious during transitions, such as going back to college after things not going so well in the past. Additionally, I feel I can be misunderstood a lot which makes me feel incredibly disconnected from other people. The biggest problem with dealing with depression and anxiety is that I didn’t tell anyone about it. I didn’t do so out of the fear of being judged. So I kept my feelings bottled up and fought my battles silently within.

    It’s a daily battle but knowing who I am in Christ keeps me fighting. Currently, I’m in graduate school working towards a masters degree in my desire profession, but ultimately I plan to use for ministry. As long as I keep my eyes on Jesus and surrounding myself with other Believers, then I will be alright.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I appreciate your honest Kim and how you so openly shared your story! You’re right, depression is so lonely. At my worse point I truly believed that no one could understand or relate to how I felt! It was terrible!
      Yet I still knew that God saw me, and somehow that was enough to keep going. I’m glad you kept your eyes on Jesus, I don’t know how I would’ve got through without him as my foundation. He was and is my hiding place.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Heather I enjoyed reading your testimony about overcoming depression. I like the quote about drowning and being handed a baby lol 😂. I also like how you mentioned that God tailored this plan of healing for you, which reminds us we have to seek Him daily to find out what He wants to do in our lives. Your story is so inspiring. I admire you for not giving up and overcoming your trials although it’s not easy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Dawn! It’s so true, Our instincts tell us to copy what works for others, but it rarely helps us the same way and we’re left discouraged or hopeless! What if everyone sat at Jesus’s feet to hear his voice? This is my heart’s desire for those who are living in despair!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, thanks for sharing about your experience with depression and what helps you. Sounds like you were so overwhelmed mentally that you needed to give some attention to your physical self and your spiritual self. Mind, body, and spirit need to be balanced for us to thrive. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so excited that this post inspired you! Stella, as you take the steps God is calling you to do, don’t compare to my story, rather be encouraged that little steps are HUGE in God’s eyes! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your heart!

      Like

  5. Very inspiring, practical and really well-written piece. I like the way you didn’t let major disappointments with people of the church keep you from the good things God had in store for you. You articulated very well how the healing you received is not a ‘one size fits all’ answer. Glad to hear the treadmill helps you through the Canadian winters. When I started running for enjoyment (as well as fitness and everything else), I found it much easier to dress appropriately for the weather and hit the streets. The fresh air and changing scenery are invigorating. Congratulations and well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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