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. 

About Me · Faith · Forgiveness · Repentance

A Heart That’s Free

Today, two of my kids were fighting (I know, BIG shocker there! Yes…my kids fight occasionally too…) 😉 We were going through the usual actions of figuring out what happened, who was all responsible, and apologizing, when suddenly it occurred to me: none of my children were actually sorry for what they had done! And even harder to accept was the fact that NOTHING I can do will make them sorry for their actions. I mean, they said sorry, because I was telling them to, but in their hearts they felt completely justified in their actions toward each other. It’s why some days it seems like the fighting, the hitting and the yelling never ends. Discipline may make them outwardly obey and long talks may make them understand, but I can’t FORCE repentance.

Repentance. It’s not a very hot topic these days. Actually to tell you the truth, I’m not sure that most of us even know what it means. And it’s too bad, because repentance is actually a very beautiful thing. As a believer, I am called to live a life of continual repentance, not just once, but day after day. It doesn’t come naturally. In fact, it is one of the messiest and most humbling things I can think of.

When I was in high school, I began to make really bad choices. To this day, I’m convinced my choices in themselves weren’t the issue. The issue was that I had bought into the lie that my choices had no effect on others. In fact, I believed this so strongly that I began to feel that nobody had any right to tell me what I could and could not do, since it didn’t concern them AT ALL. What did it matter to my teachers if I didn’t show up to class…I wasn’t directly hurting THEM. What did it matter to my parents if I got drunk…it didn’t really affect THEM, did it? And so it goes with anyone who travels down that road: The deeper we fall into destructive paths, the more desensitized we become…and the more blind we become to how hurtful and selfish we can be.

Finally, one night at a very destructive party I had snuck off to, something terrible happened. It happened to me. I got drunk and two men I had never met before slept with me. They were TWICE my age. And I felt like I deserved it, because after all I had made so many unwise decisions that night. And I felt hardened to it. I wasn’t even that upset, but here’s the thing that got me: my parents were. They felt pain FOR ME. Not just anger or frustration. I had caused their pain and their pain wasn’t selfish pain, they hurt FOR ME. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, repentance started at that moment; realizing the pain I had caused and feeling remorse. And behind the remorse came action…I never got drunk again.

Shortly after this event, a very sweet and BEAUTIFUL lady heard about my situation and wanted to meet me. She spoke of God and even though I had grown up in the church, I had heard all the stories, I had even prayed the prayer and sang the songs…I met Jesus for the first time. And I said yes to him.

A few months later, my boyfriend and I discovered we were pregnant. It wasn’t a shock. But since I now knew that my decisions didn’t only affect myself, I knew now was the time to change for good. I went to a Christain School and the principal at the school was immediately notified about my situation. He told me that in order to stay in the school I was to a) go to a crisis pregnancy centre for counselling and b) stand in front of the school and announce my mistake. “Whoa! Just a minute…” some of you may be thinking, “That’s not right! It’s completely unfair and humiliating!” And many of my friends thought so as well at the time. But here’s the thing about true repentance: it’s humble. 

I no longer cared for my rights, I just wanted to make things right.

This is repentance. It’s not pointing fingers, trying to pass off the blame. It’s not making excuses. It’s humbling. It’s sometimes embarrassing. And it’s definitely not easy. But since God LOVES a repentant heart, he becomes our hiding place. As we uncover our sins, he actually covers them for us.

So I agreed to those difficult terms, and you know what? The night before I was to speak, God gave my principal a dream and he came to me the very next day saying that he would read my statement for me. And as I sat back in my seat and listened to him read it, I felt completely free.

“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

 

About Me · Creative Writing

A Dream and a Blog

For years I’ve loved writing. Writing to me is a way that we take the experiences of the day, the emotions in our hearts, the thoughts in our minds and put them together into words, so that other people may get a picture of the world through our eyes.

When I was eight, it was short stories of unwanted children, which expressed a deep sadness and never ending feeling of unwantedness that I held in my heart. In my teens it was poems, which I wrote for my assignments, but they all held those deep, deep emotions and thoughts that we would never dare share with another. I shared my depression, suicidal thoughts and heartbreak, hidden behind the lives of fictional characters or flowery  words. In this, I discovered how writing helped me understand myself and that it actually helped me cope with my situations and feelings.

I had never thought of writing as a career choice, I was far more interested in the “lucrative careers” that the school system seemed to put on a pedestal. I always thought though, that someday, I would publish some of my poems or write a novel.

At the beginning of grade 12, when most of those grand decisions for our futures are made, I discovered I was pregnant. At the time, it didn’t feel like a crisis. As an easy-going seventeen year old, I just shrugged and thought, “Well I guess I know what my future holds, I’m going to be a mother!” And from that point on, I made all my decisions around this one question: What will be best for me and my child? I wanted to graduate, but it was no longer important to me. I didn’t see how it would be any use in my future, which was now motherhood. I decided to finish all my courses the first semester in school and to then work full time at my job so that I could recieve maternity leave and stay at home with my child for the first year of motherhood. After the first semester, I only needed one more credit to graduate, but I put my diploma out of my mind. I really had so many other things to focus on at that time.

As I wrestled through the next season of life, writing took a different role in my life… journaling. Occasionally I was asked to speak at an event about my teen pregnancy and then I would get to share my story, which was about the only place I shared my written work with others.

About three years later, I was pregnant with my third child and I had a dream. Now I’m not the kind of person to think that every dream means something or that I need to do what my dreams tell me to. If I did that I would most likely wake up and rob a bank, and then spend the following days running from cops, who would suddenly turn into the most terrifying bear you’ve ever seen in your life. Really. Most dreams make absolutely no sense. But I had a dream where I received my high school diploma. I woke up and wept. It seemed like a piece of my life that had been long forgotten, yet here, in the dark of the night I was crying about something I didn’t even know I had really cared about. And sitting alone in the dark, I decided right then and there that I was going to graduate before my next baby was born. The very next day I made the arrangements to earn my final credit. A few weeks before my third child made his arrival, I went to my old high school and my principal handed me my diploma.

For the next seven years I continued to  journal. And then, a few nights ago I had another dream. It held the same sense of loss that seemed to awaken a longing within me that I never knew I had. In my dream, I was going to college and majoring in journalism. When I woke up, I was reminded so clearly of the first time this had happened to me and how joyful I had been to receive my diploma. The ache I had felt before returned, so I immediately (in the middle of the night), got up and started looking into colleges nearby and what they had to offer. When it became clear to me that it would still be three years or so before I would be able to go back to school, I decided that I needed to sharpen up my writing skills while I waited. Thus, I decided to start this blog, even though I’ve never considered doing anything like this before. And I think the hardest part of starting a blog for me has been this introduction, since I much prefer to just write those things on my heart that seem to flow. But there’s my story on how this blog came to be. I hope you enjoy it.