Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Battle with Depression

"Your Mom is not the same person she was," I overheard my husband explain to one of our boys.

Our son wistfully replies, "I hope she gets better soon."

My tears flowed.  I was not sure I would ever be better.  How does a broken heart heal?  How is one ever the same after they are broken?

Each day I rose early.  In the stillness of the morning, I sought strength from above.  I never wanted to leave the quiet.  I wanted to stay here reading His Word and praying.  But...children awoke, meals needed fixed, laundry begged washing, and somehow I walked through each day.  However, I lived angry inside...angry that my solitude had been disturbed.

The reality of my life was depression.  A depression that would not loosen its grip. It took me a long time to acknowledge it though.

Over a year before my medical doctor had suggested to me that I take an anti-depressant.  I had gone in for unexplained aching and fatigue in my body.  After a lot of blood work, and finding no physical cause for my very real physical pain he made his suggestion.  It frustrated me.  It angered me.  I was not depressed.  Something was physically wrong.

I tried my own remedies. I took a probiotic put out by Plexus which helped me significantly with the pain.  The pain gradually went away, and I was thankful.

However, I continued to fight through each day emotionally.  I was depressed although I adamantly denied it.  I had been battling anxiety attacks over the past couple years, and they were becoming more frequent.  Sometimes they came on for no apparent reason.  And the tears, they were always just below the surface squeezing out at inopportune times.

Increasingly, I longed to be able to enjoy my children again, to laugh and feel like it was genuine, to find joy in the little things, and to not have a continual tightness in my chest.  I didn't want to hide from social situations or be holed up in my room, but my room was my safe place.

In my room, I could cry and no one saw.  I could read books and escape to a different world.  Here I didn't have to "people."  God and I could just talk there, and we were ok.

Prompted by a challenging situation with one of our children and an intense anxiety attack, my husband and I went and visited with our family counselor.  She is a godly Christian lady whom we highly respect.  She gently suggested I try an anti-depressant.

Everything within me screamed "no."  Yet desperation was demanding an ear.  I wanted God to be enough for me.  I did not want to need medication.  Should a Christian even use medication?  I felt tormented by a swirling of thoughts.

As I prayed, God sent me a friend who helped me process. I am thankful for her, and for her gentle reassurance and love.  God used her to help me get up the nerve to go back to my medical doctor.

I have been on an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medication for a little over two months now.  It has made a huge difference for me.  I find it easier to smile.  My brain fog feels like it is lifted. I have only had one anxiety attack. I am truly enjoying little things with my children again.  I am hibernating in my room less, and I actually began an exercise routine.   Is it a magic pill?  No, but it feels like a balance in my head is being restored.

I pray this will only be a temporary need in my life.  However, I am grateful for the Lord's provision. Once again laughing, planning, and dreaming about the future is a part of my life.  Most importantly I am better able to serve God with each day that he has given me.

It is hard for me to share this with you.  I have been praying and thinking about it for a couple weeks.  Here is why I decided to share.  I have been on the other side criticizing those who struggle with clinical depression.  I had those self-righteous thoughts and condemning attitudes.  For that, I am deeply sorry.

Also, there are some who suffer in silence.  I think this is especially true for those in ministry.  They carry a lot of burdens and love deeply.  I believe this can make them more prone to depression.  I know I have been scared to share my struggle completely because I fear condemnation.  We need to reach out to each other and love one another as Christ loved us.

For this reason I speak out and share.  Someone was willing to be vulnerable and share with me, and it has made a difference.  There may be someone out there who needs me to do the same for them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blessings through Difficulty

Through the past two years, I have not blogged much.  My heart has not been in it.  I would sit down to write and all that came out was heartache and grief. There have been so many tears, and whenever I wrote I cried more.  I could not bear it.

I have been undergoing a healing process.  I have spent more time soaking up God's Word and letting it fill my heart.  I am learning a lot about prayer.  There is an intense longing in my heart to talk to God.  I can't get away from it. My soul longs for communion and intimacy with my Maker.  God is refilling my well.

Sometimes God brings about his healing in mysterious ways.  This school year I began babysitting twins...just little babies and so sweet.  I know it seemed crazy for me to take on something else, but God knew what I needed.  I love babies.  They are calming for me.  They bring peace.  They force me to sit down and relax.  I have spent a lot of time in the rocking chair.  As I have rocked I have kissed sweet faces, caressed little hands, and breathed in the sweet scent of baby.  Somehow in all the rocking, loving, laughing, and playing, joy has become a part of my life again.

Another activity that has been healing for me is tatting.  When I was a teenager a dear sweet neighbor lady taught me to tat because she was afraid it would be a lost art.  I haven't tatted much in years, but I picked it up because it was suggested to me that I needed to do something that defined me outside of my family and ministry.  Tatting gives me a creative outlet.  Currently I have been making tatted cross bookmarks. These crosses remind me that Jesus bore His cross alone so I would never have to bear mine alone.

Contemplating the past couple years there are times it is tempting to wish the pain away, to wish it had never happened.  But when I look at where I was and where I am now, I realize I would not change a thing.  God used difficult times to draw me intimately closer to Him.  I know God as my Comforter now.  He has walked beside me, given me strength when I had none, and held me through the pain.  In addition, I know Him as the Great Physician, the one who is healing my broken heart, lifting my wounded spirits, and restoring my soul.  I realize now that I could not live nor breathe without Him, and that is why I would not go back.  I knew that in my head before, but now it is ingrained upon my heart.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Together Forever

My Grandma Mary Ann passed away Thursday, July 28.  God blessed me with a special visit with her just one week previous to that.  Grandma had suffered from dementia for several years.  The last night I saw her she had more clarity of mind.  God is good.

Dear Grandma,

Our last evening together is one I will always treasure.  It was a gift from God.  I don't know if you knew for sure who I was, but you knew I was family.  We both knew we belonged there together in that moment.

I held your soft hand as we talked and shared memories.  I wasn't sure of what all you were telling me about, but your smile and gentle laughter filled the room.  A rush of memories flooded my mind.  So many of them were of your laughter.

Leaning against your chair memorizing the beautiful laugh lines on your face, I remembered being a little girl sitting on the floor in your classroom looking up at you as you read books to us.  Our favorites were Amelia Bedelia and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.  You would laugh so hard that you cried.

When I was older, sleepovers at your house with Aunt Jenni were the best. We would be so silly, but you never seemed to mind.  You joined in our laughter even when we were laughing so hard we were snorting and falling off our chairs.

As we talked I tried to get you to take a drink or eat a cracker.  You told me firmly and clearly that I could just put that away!  I guess you and I are a little alike.  We're both stubborn.  But it was you who taught me to always offer to feed others or at least get them a drink.  All my memories at your house include crowding around the dining room table and anywhere else you could squeeze us in for a meal.

As we visited Gaither music was playing softly in the background.  Les began to sing along.  Then you started to softly mouth the words too.  It made me remember the day when I came and sat with you at Jenni's house not too long ago.  We listened to the Gaither's and sang all the songs about "going home."  We talked and ate apples together.  What a sweet day, but it was a good thing we were there alone. Neither one of us were great singers.

As the time came near for me to leave, the tears kept clouding my eyes.  Goodbye's are hard.  I kissed you on the cheek and told you I loved you.  You told me you loved me too.  I will forever cherish that "I love you."  Then your last words to me were, "Don't be so long next time."

Oh, Grandma, it will probably seem like a long time to me, but I will come see you again.  I look forward to that day in heaven when I can hug you once again.  We will walk through the beautiful gardens picking apples and eating them.  We will catch up on the last few years, and then you will invite me to your mansion where your dining room will be full of people.  Laughter will ring from the rafters, and we will be together forever.

Until then, I will remember all that you left me.  You left me a love for God and a love for people.  You were generous and kind, always hospitable and sacrificing for others.  My life is rich because of you.

Thank you for a life well-lived!

With love,

Monday, June 6, 2016

Moving past grief

Last year at this time we had placed one of our boys in a boarding school.  Another of our sons had chosen to leave us and return to his birth family. Though we had not experienced death, we were mourning the loss of two children.  Our hearts were torn apart by sorrow that seemed to never end.  It was a longing to hold them in my arms one more time.  It was a giving up of hopes and dreams. It was an ache that went on and on.

When life has does one live in the new normal?  A year later, I still don't have all the answers.  I can tell you the things that helped me the most.

Let yourself grieve.  Our family counselor and a good friend both told me I needed to let myself grieve.  I didn't have to be strong.  That was freeing for me.  And I did grieve.  Some days all I could do was cry.  Even now as I write this, tears surface.  I don't cry as often now.  Most weeks are good.  However, there are still times it hits me hard.  Just last week as we headed on a family trip to Arkansas, I wept.  I remembered our last trip to Arkansas.  I remembered our boys being with us and the good time we had together. And I missed them.

Learn to live in the moment.  I could not manage to look ahead.  It overwhelmed me.  I learned to take each day a moment at a time.  I did not know how I could go on another day or another week, but I could do what needed done in that moment.  One day at a time is literally how I functioned.  Yes, I did miss some things because I didn't plan ahead.  But I found it was ok.  God holds all the tomorrows.  I had to do the best I could with the day I was living in.

Let go of the past.  For some time the "what if's" controlled my thoughts.  What if I had done this or what if I had done that?  Would things have turned out differently?  Those questions will literally paralyze the human spirit.  They took away my will to go on.  I could not change the past.  I could only give it to God and ask him to make the best of the effort I had given to our children, and ask him to redeem my shortcomings.

Hang onto God.  When my world was in turmoil, I realized the only sure thing in life is God. Everything else can be gone in a moment.  Prayer and Bible study became a priority.   I was desperate to talk to Him and hear from Him each day.  Through the time I spent with Him, God granted me the strength I needed for each day.  I could not have made it without Him.  God was enough, and I would be ok.

Lean on your friends.  I have been used to being the one who helped others.  Instead I found myself in desperate need of my friend's help.  Mostly it was prayer support I needed.  There were times I would be praying and trying to get a handle on my emotions but simply couldn't.  At those times, I had a few friends I could text and ask to pray for me.  Their encouragement and added prayers to our Father got me through when I couldn't find the way on my own.

Even a year later writing this is hard, it brings fresh waves of emotion.  However, the emotion is also mixed with joy as I see what God has done in the past year.  Perhaps my journey through sorrow will help someone else.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14 ESV