Tag Archives: Depression

The Year of Dessert First

All my friends have been posting photos of their year from Facebook. I’ve always been more of a words person, so here is my year in words.

photo

I didn’t write much this year. I started out 2014 unemployed and depressed, scared that I may never want to write again. While at first this terrified me, I found God whispering something new to me, in the midst of my own silence.

Live My love story.

I started this blog a few years back specifically to “Write My Love Story,” to share the story of God’s audacious love in my life. I didn’t know how to experience God apart from writing. Writing is prayer. Writing is life. For me, at least.

But I’d lost writing. And, consequently, it felt like I lost God.

In this year of silence. Of words not typed out on pages or scribbled across receipts. I lost my writing, but I found I didn’t lose me.

I don’t have to write for my life to be real. For my prayers to be real. I don’t have to write at all to be a person. To be loved. To have worth.

The life can just be mine. The thoughts just mine.

If I had to pick a title for my year, I would call it “The Year of Dessert First.” Not that I skipped all the healthy things or the hard work, but it’s been a year of grace, where first accepting the dessert, the gifts, the grace, leads to health and wholeness, recovery. 

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 preset

I could list all of my accomplishments of 2014: starting a graduate program in Linguistics, teaching a university level course, securing myself a boyfriend. But those are just the outside trappings. I stand back almost bewildered that this is my life now. I did nothing to deserve this. To earn this. And that’s the beauty of it.

When I look back on my year, the moments I cherish most, the feats I’m most proud of have nothing to do with a college acceptance letter or my relationship status.

I’m proud that I persevered. That I continued with counseling even when it seemed nothing was improving. That I started a grad program even though I had no idea if I would have enough energy to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone do homework or attend classes. I’m proud that I had the privilege to invest in the lives of Alzheimer’s patients as a caregiver in a last ditch employment attempt. I’m proud that I traveled to Israel and Palestine and let everyday peacemakers teach me something about grace. I’m proud of the moments I let my friends in, let them cry with me, sit with me, mourn with me and hope with me.

With my boyfriend, I’m not boastful in my relationship status, but deeply moved by what he’s taught me about grace and self-acceptance. I’m thankful for every moment he makes me feel that I am enough. Just as I am.

I feel resurrected.

This woman of words is at a loss to express the healing that’s taken place. The peace I know.

That phrase from the song, In Christ Alone, seems to say it best:

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

            when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

There’s a contentment within me that I never imagined possible. Not because I worked my ass off for self-love and self-acceptance as I have in the past. In fact, I didn’t try at all. And I think that’s the best medicine a recovering perfectionist can encounter. And I don’t mean this as a formula. Not a how-to-get-over-depression-and-love-yourself DIY manual. But as my story of God’s undeniable grace in my life this year.

10525977_768235618144_1507728508712168670_n

grace from the disgrace

beauty from the ashes.

stillness to dancing.

And so I enter 2015, happily dancing and enjoying dessert.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Stillness to Dancing

T.S. EliotJust a few months ago, I wrote about my experience with depression.

Crippling, life-stealing depression.

I wrote how I was choosing to serve God whether or not I ever found healing or relief from depression. How I was choosing to be faithful—or at least trying to be.

I shared my experience of the low, the tough, the vulnerable. And then I was silent, on the blog at least.

So today I want to share a follow up. I want to share a story of healing and joy and gratitude.

I’ve been reluctant to write this post. I don’t want my healing to sound cliché. I don’t want to prescribe a how-to formula for overcoming depression because I know it doesn’t work like that. I don’t want to jinx it.

But somehow I’ve come out on the other side and I can’t help but rejoice. I can’t help but share.

I think of my favorite T.S. Eliot quote, “So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

Today I am dancing and I don’t quite know why. Like Allie of Hyperbole and a Half bursting into hysteric belly laughs at a lone kernel of corn, it doesn’t make any sense.

For me it started not with a piece of corn, but at the Sea of Galilee, overlooking the waves that Peter once braved.

Sea of Galilee

God spoke to me that day. He declared inner peace over my soul. He declared me healed and free.

I can’t explain how I heard Him or why I believed that I would be free. I just knew He broke something FREE in me that day. Free from bitterness and wallowing and the chains of depression.

I felt the healing work deep in my soul, deep in my bones. So much so that I couldn’t help but dance.

Dance?! On the shore of the Sea of Galilee? Alone. Ear buds in. Eyes closed. Hips swaying and hands raised.

Like a lunatic. Like someone crazy for Jesus and the healing power he brings.

I didn’t feel the healing yet. I hadn’t experienced it yet. But I knew it was time to start dancing over my graves of depression and burnout and disappointment.

Dancing became a sign of faithfulness. A way to declare victory before the war was even over.

I danced in worship. I danced my praise. I danced for the grace and redemption and renewal I hadn’t yet experienced.

Nothing else mattered but setting my heart and my body to praising the God who promised to heal me. To love me. To bind my wounds.

As I danced, I prayed the chains would be broken. I prayed that my freedom would bring freedom to others.

And when the songs were over, my body stilled, I opened my eyes and turned to see a Korean tour group sitting just a few feet behind me, staring at the girl swaying to the music in her earphones, in her head, in her heart.

And I didn’t care. I was being healed. I am being healed.

Since then joy has found a way to creep in. Little bit by little bit. I began to experience joy in my new grad school classes. Joy at caring for the daily needs of a 94-year-old woman with advanced dementia and one heck of witch cackle laugh. Joy in meeting with my favorite girlfriends on earth to chat and pray and cry and laugh together. Joy in just being.New Kitten!

Today I have a lot to delight in– a new boyfriend and a new kitten for starters (!!). It’s taken work, though, don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked hard in counseling, finding the right medication, admitting that I need help. I’ve prayed and prayed. I’ve recommitted to taking care of myself.

But the healing started that day at the Sea of Galilee. When God whispered something to me, calling me to deep inner peace, silencing my striving like Jesus once silenced the very waves that crashed before me. He declared freedom in me that day.

And I danced it. I hope I am dancing it still.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Writing, God, Depression, and Surrender

So one of the reasons, the main reason, I haven’t been blogging is because I’ve been dealing with depression. Not just a few bad days, but full-blown-take-over-my-mind-and-my-life-depression.

If you haven’t done so, please take a moment to review another Allie’s informative and–I think–pretty spot on description of depression here.


Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.20.51 AM
Ok, done with that? It’s important.

The depression started with burnout at my last job. Then moved to sadness sadness sadness when I moved to Guatemala. Instead of excitement, I felt an overwhelming sense of grief–missing friends, missing community, missing meaningful work.

Then came the numbness. For some unexplainable reason I was no longer excited to speak Spanish or go salsa dancing or tutor women in reading and math–things I used to love and be so passionate about. I didn’t know why I’d rather stay inside and watch Netflix than explore the city and make new friends. I was living the dream, but it felt like I was frozen in a nightmare.

I thought I was just taking a long time to bounce back from the burnout. I thought I had a really bad case of homesickness. I thought I wasn’t adjusting well, was bad at making friends, was lazy. I thought I was a failure.

I didn’t realize it was also my brain chemistry working really hard against me.

I was really sad for a really long time and nothing seemed to make it better. Since I’ve been back, the intensity of the sadness has lessened. I like being around my friends here. I like the beach. I’m not lonely anymore.

But I still don’t feel like me. Like Allie described, I feel pretty numb (which I must admit feels better than sad). Or, more accurately, I don’t really feel anything. Just a lethargy, a void. But the worst worst worst part of depression for me, an introvert, a writer, a person who has Intellection in her Top Five Strengths, isn’t the emotional numbness, but the mental numbness. A fog. A grogginess. Like someone keeps dosing my morning coffee with Nyquil.

It’s made life pretty sucky and unexciting. And it’s made writing almost unbearable. It’s like this. Let’s say writing were a physical activity, not just a mental one. For instance, running. Writing a blog post or a grant proposal would be like running a mile. I used to do it no problem. I was born to run. I lived for the runner’s high. I didn’t mind the shin splints or the side aches. The feeling of wind in and out of my lungs as I rounded the track was unmatched.

Then I got sick. I’m not sure if it was overtraining or not cross training enough or a nasty virus just happened to pick me. I don’t know if I’ll ever know what or why this happened. But suddenly it just felt wrong. Like trying to run a mile with the flu. You can probably do it, but it feels crappy and your legs don’t work quite right and you want to just lay on the sidelines and puke or fall asleep instead.sick-mom

Unlike the flu, with depression you can look alright from the outside. Everyone kept telling me to keep running. You’re so talented, they said. You can still do it. You just have to keep training and it will work out.

I got to the point where I had to decide that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew for me, I couldn’t. I can’t. I feel sick. I feel like my brain has been taken over by poison or a sedative, like I’m running through molasses. It’s not fun anymore.

I’ve spent the time since I got back to the States trying to figure this out. I took a hard break from writing–hence my blogging absence. I’m seeing doctors. I’m trying different prescriptions, different therapies. I’m trying to get this under control. I have an incredible community who cares for me and supports me and has been with me every step of the way. A group of amazing women who say, “we don’t understand this sickness, but we love you anyways and we’re here to help.” They show me grace, grace, grace.

The grace I’ve had so much trouble extending to myself.

I’ve been terrified that this is the new me. That I’ll be stuck in this brain dead land forever. That I’ll never be passionate about anything again. That I may never write again.

I’ve made a lot of bad choices. Trying to feel again or numb again or distract from the numbness.

I’ve been stuck in fear. Stuck living for the hell of it. I’ve no longer felt like life matters, so I’ve lived like it doesn’t matter.

I keep praying, God, if you heal me of depression. If you give me my life back, my brain back, my joy back, I will praise your name you to all the ends of the earth. I will glorify you. I will use my life and my brain and my joy to serve you. See how much good I did while working at Plant With Purpose. Serving at church. Writing on this blog. I’ll do that again if you heal me.

To which he replied (and continues to reply), “Serve me now.”

I reel. How is this the best option? How is this good for anyone? Why wouldn’t He want to heal me of depression? To give me life and life to the full?

To which he doesn’t answer. He just repeats. “Serve me now.”

He says, “I love you whether or not you have depression. Whether or not you write. Whether or not you make wise choices. Whether or not you feel like you’re in control.

It’s your turn to trust me whether you are depressed or not. Whether you write or not. Whether you make wise choices or not. Whether or not you feel like you’re in control.

Because you’re never really in control, no matter how you feel about it. I am. And I love you. And I am good.”

My pastor gave a sermon awhile back on wrestling with God. On the importance of honesty. He said that’s it’s ok to be honest with God about our disappointments. And the truth is. I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that living in Guatemala felt so lonely. I’m disappointed that I haven’t yet found a job back here in the States. I’m disappointed that it’s all been so hard. I’m disappointed that depression stole what should have been the best year, the best adventure, of my life. I’m disappointed in myself and in my circumstances.

It’s okay to be honest with God. He knows my disappointment. He can take it. He can take my pain and my anger. He hurts with me.

In the sermon, my pastor emphasized that RADICAL TRUST IN GOD ALWAYS PAYS OFF.

Not that our prayers will always be answered. Not that my depression will be cured and this mental fog will be lifted.

But God is good and He loves us. He’s the only one worth trusting in.

So ever so reluctantly, I’m shifting my focus. I’m switching my prayers. I’m surrendering to the God of Love that I’ve failed to trust in for so long.

Today I will say,

I surrender to you, O God. I will trust in your Love. I will hope in your Love. Even if my depression never lifts. Even if I never get my brain or my life or my identity as a thinker/writer/processer back.

I am Yours.

Amen.

So I don’t I know if I’ll keep up blogging. I don’t know if writing will get easier. If depression will become a dark spot in my past or something I’ll deal with forever. I just wanted to share this with you. To explain a little about where I’ve been and where I hope to be going. Thanks for listening.

Tagged , , ,