You may or may not remember the first article I wrote on this blog that talked about our first day back in church after two decades of non-participation. The sermon that day was about anxiety and worry and the sin of despondence. It spoke to me, and it let me know that God was listening. We walked into God’s house, and the first thing He did was look straight at me and say, “I see you.”
That was a big deal because I have been quite familiar with depression and bone-grinding worry all of my life. Fortunately, I haven’t experienced hopelessness or despondence since I met Jesus. This is not to say that I don’t still suffer from depression and anxiety. I’ve had a monster of a year with both. They still get power over me from time to time. I still have to work through it with techniques I learned in cognitive therapy. I still have to force myself to get up and do all the things we have to do to keep life together. Depression truly sucks. It is the proverbial thorn in my side. I have prayed on it way more than Paul’s three times, but depression and anxiety are still here.
Everyone has his cross to bear, and this is mine, I suppose. Jesus wants us to pick them up and follow him anyway. Some of us have loss, physical incapacity, chronic pain, habitual sin patterns, addictions…or whatever else. For me, this is it. The anxiety/depression duo. Not fun. None of our crosses are fun. None of them are easy. In our bitterest moments, we get mad and say, “why does this have to be my lot?” Worse, we can compare it to other people, and that gets ugly really quickly. The point is: we all have at least one cross to carry. And it’s hard.
This is a broken world, and sin has disordered a lot of things, diverting them (and us) away from God’s perfect image.
Over the last year, I’ve had a series of unfortunate family events. Deaths…way too many deaths. Divorces in our close circle of friends and family. Parenting our daughter through her first serious loss. Illnesses have come, just one right after another. I was hospitalized. Friends and family have received terrible diagnoses and suffered through scary surgeries that were touch-and-go. Some of them didn’t get through it. I still have a dad in a very scary medical spot. We still have people close to us suffering through all manner of horrible, scary, and heartbreaking things.
It’s been a bad year by absolutely anyone’s standards.
Because I suffer from chronic anxiety, my adrenaline was through the roof for about six months of it. As those of you who go through this regularly will understand, the depression hits when the adrenaline crashes, and we go from anxious to numb. Our lives and our bodies grow heavy and tired. Being awake gets to be like pushing through thick fog, and simple tasks become huge mountains to climb. Days run over each other and we become emotionally disengaged without our consent. Time passes too quickly while we’re moving in slow motion. We forget things. It gets embarrassing, and that makes it worse. We withdraw and try to make a quiet nest to hold it all together. We recognize it happening, and we try to stave it off, but then it settles…and then we have to wait. We wait for it to lift. We do the breathing. We do the deliberate visualization and the meditating. We make short and easy schedules to regiment and follow. We pray. We wait.
The cool part, however, is this:
Dealing with this mess has been different this time because I’ve had God with me. I’ve been through many depression cycles in my life so far, and this one was just as bad (or worse, really, because it was longer) as any that came before it. The difference was that this time, I had faith. I never had that before.
Indwelling is a word that Christians use a lot, but it just means that the Holy Spirit is within us. It sounds very spiritual and touchy-feely because it is. It’s been a big deal for me of late. When it got bad and I started to panic, I reached for God, and He was right here.
Every time I turned to look–to check–to make sure, He was right here.
I never had that before, and it was a tremendous comfort. It didn’t make the daily reality of living through a depression cycle less exhausting, but it removed the despondence (the lack of hope) that usually comes–the inability to say with confidence that this will eventually end. This time, I know that it will pass, and God has been right here with me every time I reached out to find Him. I don’t know about you or what you go through, but that made all the difference for me.
This cycle is finally lifting, but it’s been a long one. I’ve been unable to do some of the leadership things I was entering into before it began, and I’ve been unable to pursue the hobbies and activities that bring me joy. I’ve been far too preoccupied with making sure my kid made it to school on time, the house was baseline sanitary, and that I took at least three showers per week. Yeah. It’s been like that. Bare minimum has been all I could manage.
My husband, our church, my friends, my family, and our God have all played a huge role in keeping me engaged. It’s not over, yet, but it’s ending. Those who suffer these chronic bouts of depression know what that feels like, too. It’s the feeling we all sit and wait for when we’re in the thick of it. It’s the rainbow, of sorts. The ground is still wet and the clouds haven’t completely cleared, but the sun has poked through and made something pretty for us to look at in the mist that remains. Answering the phone gets a little less scary. Making dinner gets a little less difficult. Taking showers starts to feel good again. Getting ready to leave the house feels less daunting. It’s not over, but it’s ending. So we move from hope to anticipation, and that’s when the upswing back to the land of the living begins.
Over the last year, I have written three more articles in the David study, but I can’t seem to post them, yet. I’m not sure why. They will come when they are supposed to, I guess. Until then, they’re in the draft section, and I will continue to look at them and edit them until it feels done.
In the meantime, I have been hired on for part-time work in my church office, and that feels really good. I now lead the Tuesday morning Bible study group that started it all for me. More than anything else, my study group has been my soothing balm. The responsibility to be there was a huge part of keeping me up and running when everything in my body wanted to shut down and sit alone in a cave. The fellowship of this group of godly women gave me support and comfort during the humiliation and fear that depression can bring. Thank you, Lord, for my Tuesday Ladies.
Depression is different when God’s here. It’s still horrible. It’s still heavy. It still feels like the life has been squeezed out of you until there’s nothing left. The difference is, when God is here, you don’t have to feel alone in it all the time. I just look over my shoulder, and I can feel Him there. He didn’t ask me for anything. He didn’t feel like an obligation. He wasn’t heavy. He was just here. He just waited with me and gave me comfort. That is everything.
Jesus didn’t promise us a life without pain when we follow Him. In fact, he promised the opposite. Pain is just more bearable when you know there is something bigger and something eternal sitting with you through the panic and the nights you spend frozen on the sofa, wishing you could get up but never quite figuring out how to do it. He is God. He sees you. He cares. He will comfort you and keep you company in the lowest moments of your life if you let him.
And it will all come right in the end.