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. 

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A Splash of Color

Many times depression has been explained to be like living in a world void of color, seeing in blacks, greys and whites. For many years, I took this as a metaphorical meaning and believed that depression was a state of emotional darkness in which one simply had to break through and choose to see the colors. I believed this for a huge part of my life and honestly still struggle with thinking this is either partly true or at least has a sliver of truth to it.

This is why it was devastating to me when my doctor diagnosed me with depression just one short month ago.

I sat in his office, surprised and yet not surprised. Numb, yet hopeful. Certain of which paths I was willing to take to healing and which paths I refused to go down.

Strangely, this seemed to me a familiar feeling, and I remembered a long time ago (yet not THAT long) when I sat in an office, feeling very fragile, alone and broken as a young teen. I remember clearly the vulnerability in the diagnosis: “You’re pregnant.”

These situations both similar, yet, different…

“Who…ME?!?” These things only happen to others. People who are careless. People with terrible lives. People with no support. But me?!? I am none of these things!

Yes. Me.

And as question after question was asked, denial was no longer an option.

Have I suffered trauma in the past few years?

Do I struggle with chronic fatigue?

Have you lost an interest in any of the things you love to do?

Do you ever resent your children?

Do you have trouble sleeping at night?

Have you recently wished you were dead or wanted to harm yourself?

Have you felt rejected or a lack of support from your loved ones?

Question after question was asked…and I wondered, has this doctor been reading my blog? Or truly is this how depression feels?

Depression for me isn’t seeing life in grey. It is a deep, pressing sadness that follows me everywhere. It invades my laughter and trickles into my sunshine. It is like a living in a grey world, but with a splash of color that always lasts too short…or always seems just out of reach.

But I see color, that I most definitely do. I see it in my garden, when little green seedlings start to peak out from underneath the wet soil. I see it on my four-year-old’s face as he happily trots along the yard, noticing every flower, every insect, every brightly coloured stone. I see it on my daughter when she rides on her horse like the wind. I see it in my friends, when we laugh and talk together. I see it so, SO clearly.

But it never quite reaches my heart.

When I’m in a social setting, I’m not out there putting on a fake smile – my smile is genuine. My eyes really do light up when I’m happy to see you. I really do find the lamest “dad jokes” funny. But I walk away from these things, pain heavy in my heart…still empty and sad. Unchanged. And I wonder, will life for me ever look the same as it did?

I think back to that first visit to the doctors: bright eyes, young skin, fresh youth. And I look in the mirror: tired eyes, loose skin – with faded purple lines, and an older, experienced face.

No – quite definitely, it will never be quite the same. I will grow through this. I will learn through this. I will be different after this.

Looking back to the ways I changed after that first doctors appointment, I smile, knowing that while the outside changes weren’t quite so pleasant…the inside ones, in my heart, were quite remarkable.

It is hopeful then, that this season may produce the same results.

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Down Unfamiliar Paths

I’m not writing here much these days.

Perhaps it’s partly because I’ve been busy, but mostly I think it’s out of disappointment.

I started writing because of a dream I had one night: A dream of going back to school and becoming a journalist. A dream of doing what I’ve always loved – writing. At the time I had the dream, college was extremely unlikely and out of my reach. It actually still is.

So I started this blog.

The purpose of this blog?

-To grow in my ability to write.

-To gain feedback.

-To encourage others in the midst of trials.

-To speak about my pain to an unknown group of people, because I couldn’t talk about it to anyone.

I wrote to give a fresh perspective, a godly view.

But as I left Facebook and eventually Instagram, I slowly lost more and more feedback and followers. I lost people who actually cared about what I had to say and I wound up with a handful of people who would give small bits of feedback, mostly of whom were strangers. I literally know five people who read my blog. And although I have almost 100 followers, those numbers really mean nothing. Many of the wordpress writers have one goal in mind: To gain more followers and if liking my posts and following my blog gains them a follow, they do it.

So really, I thought I had left social media, only to find myself on another form of it.

Blogging has become for me a lonely place, a reminder of the way the world is changing and a painful reminder to me of how there are already too many writers in the world.

There’s no room for another one.

So…is this me saying “good-bye” to blogging?

Perhaps.

Or maybe just putting it aside for a while as I desperately try to find a use and a purpose for my love of writing. Not one that just gains another “like” on social media – I am SO tired of “likes”! I want to write in such a way that inspires people, challenges them and makes a positive difference in the world.

 

I realize I’m walking around rather blindly on this road of writing. I’m not quite sure exactly how one publishes a book, or how they even get it to the shelves. I don’t even know any writers. Do they have support? Do they have people who care about what they write? Or did they start off like me? With people around them who don’t care for books and no one to ask about these things…

So I travel this path, in the middle of writing a book, unsure if anything will come out of it or if it will too end up with my discouragement and lack of interest. Will anyone really want to read it? Will they be honest with me about it? Can I take their honesty? Or will it crush me? I don’t want to have people “pity-read” my book and I definitely don’t want those around me to feel obligated to pick it up. So to be brutally honest, I’m actually too embarrassed to even share it.

How exactly do you share something as personal as a book? Will anyone even care or will they just absently comment: “Oh, that’s nice!”

Now, there are definitely people who have sincerely encouraged me. And I want to thank you if you are one of them. If you are one who has truly read and enjoyed this blog, from the bottom of my heart: Thank-you. Your encouragement means a lot to me! More than you could possibly know. You are probably one of the few I have already mentioned my book to. And hey, maybe the next time I’m on here, I’ll be announcing my best-selling, award winning book 🙂

Or maybe I’ll simply announce that I’ve finished it.

Or maybe I’ll be sharing my sob story of my flop of a book.

More likely, I’ll just be back one day, ready to write again with a new passion for blogging.

I’m sure I’ll be back eventually.

That’s the thing about unfamiliar paths, you never really know what you will find at the end, until you try it out. 

Love always, Heather

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Today I felt Like a Failure

Welcome to Parenting 101: I tried my best and I failed.

One of the first lessons when raising little human beings, is that doing your best isn’t ever enough. You can spend 100 percent of your day unselfishly loving, serving, cleaning, cooking and teaching and there’s always, ALWAYS someone (or perhaps many) who are going to think it’s not good enough.

I remember reading an open letter to moms a couple of months ago titled “You Are Enough.” It spoke to discouraged mothers about how their love and efforts were enough. Honestly, posts such as this fill my heart with hope. They’re touching. They’re encouraging. When I read them, my eyes fill with tears. I try to convince myself that they’re true and I’m inspired to keep going.

But the truth is, I really don’t believe them.

Because never, have I ever been enough for my family or my kids. 

Not even on my good days.

Not even on the days where I manage to keep my cool from morning till night.

I’m not creative enough.

My food isn’t healthy enough…(and if it is, it doesn’t taste good enough.)

I’m not joyful enough.

I’m not fair enough.

My motives aren’t pure enough.

I don’t have enough time.

I can’t clean enough….(And man, do I EVER clean. All. Day. Long.)

I’m not pretty enough.

I’m not loving enough.

My apologies aren’t sincere enough.

I’m not encouraging enough.

My faith isn’t real enough.

I am NOT enough.

Reading through this list, I realize that none of these feelings or thoughts are unique to just me. These are the real thoughts and feelings that us mom’s struggle with daily. “You Are Enough” would’ve never gone viral if women didn’t have a deep desire to hear those very words.

It’s a wonder to me that any mom even makes it through motherhood.  Is there a place more lonely? Is there a position in life that take as much blame?  Are the consequences of failure higher in any other occupation?

To mess up, literally harms your own offspring. The cost of failure affects the very ones you love the most: your own precious children.

I’m sorry, are these thoughts too heavy for today? It’s just the kind of day I’m having.

I woke up this morning, bright and early. Our family had just had spring break, so I felt refreshed and ready to teach. I planned fun activities, lots of breaks, snacks and rewards. It was tons of work for me, but meant to be a relaxing day for the kids as there was very little real work involved.

Before noon, my best efforts had failed and two children were crying in their rooms. I tried to gently correct my son in his behaviour and it completely backfired. My boy told me that he felt like a jerk who always ruined everyone’s fun and that he was a horrible son.

My heart was devastated.

Here, I was pouring in time, care, love, and creativity. My absolute best efforts. Yet the day ended in tears and my son was struggling with condemnation.

Where did I go wrong? Why am I such a failure?

Motherhood sure is hard.

I honestly feel like I could end this post right here. But it’s not the end. Because the one thing that sets me apart from those who don’t believe in God, is HOPE.

Hope that things will get better.

Hope that God sees my heart.

Hope that he will take my best effort’s, and bear fruit from them.

Hope that when all is said and done, it will be enough.

But the devil knows where to hit us and when. And today I was really struck down. Today I felt like quitting. Like throwing my hands in the air and giving up.

But, HOPE.

Hope keeps me going.

I have long given up hope that I am enough, but I still believe with all my heart that Christ is. He will make up for my failures, for my bad days, for my lack of abilities.

In Christ alone, my hope is found.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” Psalm 31:24

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Poetry

Broken

How long will this heartache last?

Will I be broken in two forever?

I feel forgotten and worthless.

Yet here I stand.

Cold. Dark. Alone.

In vain some try to comfort me, to make me forget.

But can’t forget, I just mourn.

I mourn their loss forever.

Did no one value my friendship?

Did no one mourn the loss of me?

Life goes on as though I never existed.

They carry on without a glance in my direction.

What is love if it does not last?

What is friendship if it fades away?

Where is loyalty, can it still be found?

For though I reach out again and again,

None take my hand.

Though I call out in love,

There is no reply.

Just a cold, dark, silence,

Which speaks louder than words.

 

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When the World Around Me Crumbles

Today, Dear Friends, I feel sad.

I call you, my readers, friends. Because it’s you who I write to, not to “my blog”. Not that I know who you are, or how many of you will even read this. I never know. Sometimes it’s thousands, the next time it’s twelve. Strangers approach me and know precise details of my life. They tell me how amazed they are by some of the things I’ve gone through. They tell me they are encouraged by my writings. They tell me I have many talents. But what they don’t seem to know is how very, very weak I am.

The past couple years I’ve been so sensitive, not just to what happens to me, but to the very things which happen around me.

I see and old picture of myself and cry. Who is that girl?

I hear a story of someones heartache and I weep. I know their pain.

I hear about the struggles of the elderly and my heart goes out to them. How difficult it is to grow old.

I read a line of a poem that speaks deeper than its words. Tears flow freely.

And sometimes I literally am like: “STOP!!! Just stop being such an emotional wreck and pull yourself together!!”

But I don’t stop.

I keep feeling all this pain because I know the moment I shut myself down to what I’m feeling, that is the very moment I’ve ceased to heal the wounds which have been afflicted. I’m supposed to be in this season of pain. Only God knows how long. But it is where I’m supposed to be, because I can’t move on until God does. He’s here. And He won’t move until I’m ready.

My world, my hopes, my dreams, my beliefs…everything I built up for the last ten years crumbled in an instant. I was left on a deserted beach with my family among the rubble that was once everything that I knew about me. Gone are my multitasking abilities, I am so limited throughout the day. Slowly, step by step, I found myself in the same place I was ten years ago, with nothing to stand on but Jesus.

How humiliating. How humbling. How naked.

And I’m crying, maybe because of wounds…but mostly because I just don’t know how this all happened. I had thought I was building my house on the rock. I had thought I was strong, trusting in him every step of the way. But it turns out that I was just trusting in my own abilities, in my own way of doing things, in my strong leaders and my godly friends. And yet…

I see him among the rubble. Here he is!

Precious Jesus. Waiting for me to see that it was all temporary. Waiting for me to realize my absolute dependancy on him. Waiting for me to look to him and say, “You are God and I am man.”

And through all the deep recesses of pain within my heart, there is absolutely nothing, NO ONE who can comfort, but him. His words are the only comfort my soul receives. His presence is the only place that feels right, that makes me forget that a piece of me is missing.

When the world around me crumbles, I have but ONE.

Only One.

His name is Jesus.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though it’s waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” Psalm 46:1-5