Depression · Faith

Mental Health: Are We Choosing our Own Chaos?

I don’t do random.

If I start something new, it almost always has a purpose. Sometimes the roads I travel start with a purpose but only lead to a dead end, or they get so rocky and dangerous that I turn around.

But I never just carelessly walk down random paths. I’m far too predictable, to safe, to orderly for risky adventures. However, I have to admit that I always seem to find myself on these precarious streets…

Like the time I chose to keep my baby at the age of seventeen. Or when I chose to get married before I graduated. A few months later, I chose to pack up a bag and live at the hospital while my baby boy suffered for almost a year, before witnessing God’s amazing healing hand.

I chose to finish my high school diploma with 3 kids under 3, even though my body begged for extra rest and I had no desire to do homework when they were finally sleeping at night.

Later, I chose the lonely road of homeschooling, though I’m not a great teacher and I feel unqualified.

I chose to leave a church full of friends and family that I had attended since my childhood to help start a church that ended up being the most painful and wounding experience of my life so far. I also chose to walk in forgiveness and healing, believing the best of people.

We left a job my husband loved, to buy into a company and build it into something, which has been painfully difficult.

And my newest path is the choice to send my five beloved children to public school next year.

I wish I could see the future but I can’t, so I try to walk as close as I can beside the only one I know who does: my Heavenly Father. He’s known by so many to be a rock. A shelter in the storm. The hiding place. He’s a foundation. He is a strong tower. Our refuge in times of trouble.

That is my God.

The choices above may seem difficult, but no matter how those around me viewed them, they all brought a sense of peace and although there has been hardships and inner turmoil around me almost constantly, I rarely have felt that sense of chaos within me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have felt inner turmoil. In the past I felt a lot of it while dealing with depression and anxiety. In fact this month I’ve been feeling a lot of it.

I can tell almost immediately when I’m in “overwhelm” because I become unable to slow down and just be. My downtime moments are filled with distractions.

This is why I feel like having a daily time of devotions and reflection is so important. Other than connecting with God, if I wasn’t used to quieting myself nothing would seem wrong! I would feel anxious and upset, but I wouldn’t realize it until panic attacks and anxiety would start kicking in.

However now I can tell things are wrong just by assessing my quiet times. I just want to distract myself! Turn on the Netflix. Get out the iPhone. Scroll through the news articles!

There’s no desire to reflect or think about my own personal life and the “whys” or the reasons for my behaviours.

This is overwhelm: Avoiding reality. Avoiding the hard questions. Avoiding true connections. This leads to small talk, which leads to shallow and unfulfilling relationships.

It’s a constant disconnected feeling and general discontentment in life.

Sound familiar? This constant state of busyness and distraction are common place in our world, but should not be common place in the Christian life. It feels weird when I get like this because I’m not used to it. It’s like running in a random direction just for the sake of running.

Busyness is often like that, isn’t it?

We sign up for this and commit to that, not having a reason for it but simply because that’s the way the rest of the crowd is headed. It feels wrong to turn off onto a more lonely (albeit simpler) road. But in my experience that’s the path that usually brings the most meaning and peace.

Not that important lessons aren’t learned on the main roads…but with high traffic comes stress, chaos and accidents.

This is where quieting ourselves and learning to ask the hard questions becomes so important. Without reflection, life becomes too difficult to navigate so we instead turn to distracting ourselves from the busyness which leaves us disconnected with our own emotional state. Cue the sleeping drugs, anti anxiety and depression meds that studies say about 1 in 6 Americans are now dependent on.

1 in 6!! Let that sink in for a moment!

No I’m not saying that there’s never a reason to take medicine for mental health issues. Not at all! There are many legitimate imbalances in the human brain that require medical intervention. But do we really believe that 1 in 6 people need to be on meds? Or is there something else going on that we’re not willing to face?

These are uncomfortable questions and thoughts, I know. Necessary ones though.

Are we willing to face them?

Am I?

 

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Depression · Poetry · Running

What They Don’t See

They see me run.

But they don’t see the struggle,

fierce determination,

deep hurt,

raw pain,

rejection,

and anger unleashed.

Ten more minutes.

Why is it that the last ten are the hardest?

My breaths become deeper,

The pain is a reminder of what I’m fighting for.

Nine.

They don’t ask, so I don’t tell.

When they don’t know, all must be well.

Keep to myself, nobody gets hurt.

Eight.

I tried so hard,

A wanna be person.

Driven. Focused. Self sufficient.

Unimportant.

Seven.

No cheerleaders here.

Pressing on on my own,

Fighting my battles with tears.

Six.

Maybe if I try just one more time,

Would they see my soft heart?

Or despise my persistence.

See my deep longing?

Or loathe my existence.

Five.

Half over.

I heard of a man who knew all the Psalms,

So it became my mission to know them all.

Quote my verses some more.

I know ever so many, but no clue what for.

Four.

I paid all my bills not a second to late,

Gave all my tithes,

Opened my gates.

Three.

I forgave all my foes,

But they haunt me at night.

Why continue pursue me when I gave up the fight?

Two.

Learning a language.

But why bother, just to speak it alone?

Writing a book,

But if no one cares, what am I writing for?

One.

One more minute of striving for this,

Why do I bother?

Driven to conquer sadness,

Through sadness.

Done.

I’ve conquered this run.

I’ve won the struggle.

Left depression behind.

The next day to find.

Tomorrow I start it all over again.

Waiting for the day, my running can end.

Depression · Health

Ask if I’m Okay

For all my friends and loved ones out there who have dealt with depression or who are still dealing with it, I wrote this for you. I’m here for you if you need to talk, or even if you can’t talk, but just need someone to know that you’re struggling. You are NOT alone.

 

Dear Friend,

I know you’re there. You’ve always been. I know that if I have a baby you’ll bring me a meal. I know that if I’m faced with a loved ones death, you’ll hold me when I cry. I know that you’ll smile and congratulate me about any new and exciting event in my life. I know that you’ll do that. It’s what friends do.

I know that you’ll listen with excitement as I tell you all about my vacation and if I tell you about my problems, you’ll give your best advice. I know that you’ll laugh at my jokes even if they’re lame, or tell me a story about your rough day to make my day feel better. And if one day I’ve just HAD ENOUGH, and my washing machine has broken down while my kids have the flu, I know that if I call you…you’ll be there. You’ve always been. It’s what friends do.

But there’s one thing you never do, and it’s ok because until now I’ve never done it for you… It’s never probably crossed your mind, because it never crossed mine either.

Please, dear friend, just once in a while: ask if I’m ok.

And most likely you’ll hear me say: “Yeah, I’m good! Why? What’s up?”

And you can say, “Oh nothing, I’m just checking because I want to know if you’re not”…because a lot of the time I am okay.

But once in a while I’m not.

And then on those days, when I feel so alone, like nobody cares,  I can think back to the time you asked me if I was okay and remember that if I’m not okay, you’d want to hear about it.

And I’m sorry. Sorry for not doing that for you, because I understand now that some pain is just too hard to bring up on it’s own. Some pains are so deep that they need a friend to come and say, “Are you okay? I want to know if you’re not, because I care.”

I understand now that it’s awkward to bring up some types of pain, because you don’t know what to say…often you don’t even know what’s really wrong…but the pain is very real and it is crushing you. I understand that now. I understand why you pulled back and withdrew, why you avoided family and friends, not because you didn’t want to talk…but because you didn’t know how to. I now understand why you seemed to want to be alone, not because you didn’t want me around…but because you didn’t think I would be able to process feelings that even you couldn’t seem to work through.

And I want to tell you today that it’s ok. It’s ok to call me to cry, even if you don’t have the words to speak to me. It’s ok to tell me that you’re not ok and it’s ok if you don’t explain any further. It’s ok if you let me know those ugly feelings and thoughts, those ones that you want to run from. It’s also ok if you don’t. I just want to let you know that I’m here. It’s what friends do.

It’s also ok if you have nothing to offer me other than your tears. So if you ever feel completely alone, or that no one actually wants to hear the true response when they ask you a casual, “How are you?” Please know that you can be honest with me. I’m not afraid of your feelings, even your darkest ones. I want to know that you’re okay. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything for listening. I’m not a therapist. I’m just a friend who may have little to offer you other than a shoulder to cry on and my prayers. I probably won’t have the answers to your problems. But you don’t have to apologize for the way you feel, or for “being a downer”, because I want to be able to walk this road with you. I want to be there! My dear friend, you are not alone! You are loved. You are deeply cared for!

Are you okay?

I’m here to listen. It’s what friends do.

Depression · Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer

Finding Joy in Hardships

Joy is easy…when times are good. But what about those darkest of times… those days, weeks, months or  even years where you find that everything you dreamed of comes crashing in?

These past few years have been the hardest years of my life.

Now if you know my story, that’s probably a bit hard to believe. But what about your teenage pregnancy?? What about the loneliness of losing all of your high school friends as they went on with their lives without you? What about the months you watched your son suffering in the hospital, wondering if he was going to live to see his first birthday? What about the time where your spouse lost his job and you had no idea how you were going to feed the three young babies depending on you? Harder than those days? Yes. A hundred times…yes.

It hasn’t been the outward kind of hard, where everyone can see what’s going on and rushes in to help. Our health is great, our finances have been good, our marriage is doing well. These are things we so often take for granted until they’re gone. Losing a loved one, failing health, money struggles, or having a rough marriage bring very dark times as well. But these aren’t the type of hardships I’ve faced this past year.

I was quite suddenly faced with a totally unexpected confrontation, during a very difficult season of my life. This brought about a dark feeling of rejection that I can’t, try as I may, find the words to explain. Maybe it’s hard to explain because I’m not free to tell the whole story… just vague little pieces to protect those involved. I think only those who have felt so hurtfully accused, deeply rejected and so utterly confused as to WHY, could fully understand what I’m talking about. But the hardest thing wasn’t that it happened…it’s that was happening for over a year. For months, I went to bed almost every night with my pillow soaked in tears, wondering if I would ever again lie down with peace in my heart. And for the most part, I carried these burdens alone – desperate to talk to someone, anyone who would listen…but my heart was torn because it involved those I loved SO dearly, so I kept silent.

My life, to the very core, was being shaken. At one point I truly believed that I had lost the favour of God on my life. I began to do everything I thought I could do to win his favour back. I tried so hard to admit all my faults, to confess and confess and confess, to not be defensive, to take the blame, to restore the peace…and through it all, I began to let go of something very important; my joy.

My joy was gone. Somewhere along the way, my eyes had turned from looking at Jesus and I began to focus on the problem. Like Peter among the waves, I had stepped out of the boat in full confidence; only to lose sight of the fact that I was never meant to walk on water…I was simply supposed to look at Jesus. When I realized this, healing could begin.

Here I was faced with one of the most difficult questions to ask during a trial: How can something like joy be found again…even if your circumstances haven’t changed?

The first step was to recognize the devil’s lies. I realized that I can’t do works to earn God’s favour. Period. God’s children receive his favour as they look to him. And when we have our eyes on him, he loves to pour out his favour.

I also had to let go of the way I wanted things to turn out. I felt that if I just did my very best, if I prayed hard enough…then God would make things better. As it turns out, God never promises to make the road easy or better. He does promise to work everything for the good of those who love him. And I needed to trust this promise. As soon as I was free from focusing on my problem, I could fully turn my attention to pleasing God.  Then and only then, could I follow the steps HE wanted me to take.

The final piece in my journey to rediscovering joy was found in the book of Philippians. If you haven’t read it before, or even if it’s been a while, read it. It’s a true gem. Here is a book written by a man almost 2000 years ago, who had been through so many trials. At the time he wrote it, Paul was in prison, facing a very lonely future, a trial which could’ve led to his death, and hearing of people against him actually preaching – all while he sits under house arrest. Despite all this, the letter is one of the most joyful and thankful books of the bible. Instead of complaining about the negatives events that surround his current circumstances he chooses to see the positive side of things. He also shares two secrets about finding joy and peace that I began to cling to:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace…” Philippians 4:6-7

Pray. That much I had done. Telling God what I need. Check! Thank him. Thank him! Thankfulness is part of the secret to having the peace of God in your heart. And I began to thank God, even in my pain. Declaring his goodness out loud is SO POWERFUL! As I began to thank God, day after day, I slowly started to see some good things that had come out of my situation. And then, the final secret to joy:

“…I have learnt the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I can have joy because he gives me strength.  

This realization, that God wasn’t just watching me suffer from the sidelines – but actively walking through the fire with me and holding me up, brought me great joy! Every painful moment, he was there. Every night I cried, he was holding me. And in my weakness he is beside me, giving me strength. I am not alone. Now that is a reason to have great joy!

“In your presence is fullness of joy, at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11