Things I’ve Learned from my Depression Journey

Can anything good come from depression? I think yes.
I’ve learned:

      1. Empathy for those who are suffering from mental illness. I have the ability to relate and offer comfort, because I myself battle against depression. And while each person’s mental illness is unique, there are some consistencies that generalize across diagnoses.
      2. The experience of the Behavioral Health Unit. From my short stay in 2009, I have a better understanding of the chaos and turmoil in a psych ward.
      3. That there is tremendous pain in the world – I’ve had the “blinders” or “rose-colored glasses” removed.
      4. That I have never been walking alone – Christ has been with me through it all. He has supported, encouraged and sometimes carried me, even when I couldn’t see it. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” Hebrews 13:5b, NIV. And just because I couldn’t see His Presence doesn’t mean He wasn’t there. He does not depend on what I feel, or even think, to be true. He is God. He Is.
      5. Emotional intimacy with my husband – we’ve always been good communicators, but there is still room to improve.  Through depression, I was given chances to share my thoughts, feelings and fears with him. Previously, I would hold those things to myself because I didn’t want to “burden” him. But marriage requires sharing the tough stuff along with the good times. And he is a great husband, an amazing man, my best friend.
      6. How God loves me completely, even in my mess. I have a better understanding of His unconditional love, which the Bible tells us is beyond our understanding! “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:17b-19‬, NIV‬‬
      7. The importance of having a good Christian therapist – I’ve had two! They’ve each listened and understood, helped me think things through and make sense of my thoughts, and pointed me back to Christ and my husband for support.
      8. The value of a slower pace – no need to be over-the-top-involved in everything.
      9. An appreciation for naps! And gliders and rocking chairs and swings.
      10. A gratitude for the smaller and simpler things in life.
      11. The need for rest, space, quiet, even silence.
      12. The benefit of solitude and focus and breath.
      13. To not hide my emotions from my children, but to share/teach/show my kids that it’s normal to have troubles and it’s important to ask for help. I hope I’ve shown them God’s faithfulness to us through the hard times.
      14. To be more observant, to talk less and try to listen more.
      15. To pray about everything. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬
      16. The willingness to admit my weaknesses to my friends and family so they can pray for me. When I’m able to be honest and vulnerable, I allow others to help me.
      17. To serve from a place of brokenness. I had the opportunity to facilitate in a Depression Support Care Group for a year, after asking for 6+ years that God would use this depression in my life to help others. And now I blog, in the hopes that my story offers encouragement to other Christians with depression. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Cor 1:3-4, NIV
      18. Of my absolute need to rely on Christ for everything. I’m growing more dependent on Him. “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:10, NIV
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My Daddy

I hung up the phone, having enjoyed our call immensely. I teared up as I prayed, “Thank You, God, for my Daddy.”

I call my folks every week. Typically on Tuesday afternoons, but sometimes I have to reschedule. My folks are great about that when it happens. And I mean schedule – as in: on the calendar for a particular date and time. Yes, I schedule my calls to home.

Honestly, I have to or otherwise I would forget to call. At least, that was true when my kids were younger. I could get so busy with them and all their stuff that I would forget to call for a couple of weeks. So Mom and I got in the habit of putting it “on the schedule for next week.” Good habit.

Sometimes when I call, Dad answers the phone and I get to talk to Dad, too. Sometimes I just chat with Mom.

So I had already talked to Mom this week. But I wanted to call Thursday morning and share an answer to a prayer request that I knew they were covering in their morning together-prayer time. And I knew that it might be too late to share this news with Mom; I couldn’t remember what time her Thursday commitments start.

I was pleased when Dad answered – he had just returned from dropping her off at church. I was just going to share the prayer request and hang up, but we easily started chatting about …stuff. Mom’s ministry, Dad’s studies, writing and blogging. We talked about some things we did when I was a kid. It was a great chat.

After I hung up, I let memonies of younger days come:

How I loved Saturday mornings when he would run errands – such fun to get to go with him! Especially if we stopped at his office. The old green tile steps and industrial hand railing, the smell of paper, the black spinning desk chair. I felt so small at his really big metal desk, piled high with papers and fliers and books. There were lined yellow pads, his large cursive/print handwriting revealed on the open pad in the center of the ink-blotter. I think he had a glass plate across the desktop with notes “permanently” attached under the glass. I’m not sure about that, though. If it was there, it was hard to see under the piles of books and papers, the black rotary phone, the in-boxes. He was always researching or writing or researching for writing. At least, that’s what I thought he did. In my limited understanding, he wrote a newsletter, I called it a newspaper, for his company’s employees. I’m still not sure how that meant he got to be the guy in charge at the park activities – a kid’s memories you know.

I remember playing silly word games at the dinner table. We used to beg him to “be funny.” He told good jokes – still does (sometimes the same ones!) I remember when he ate the stuffed green peppers because we kids had never tasted such a thing. (I haven’t made those in ages, but they are so yummy – maybe for lunch this weekend.) I remember how he was always the first one dressed on Sunday morning, sitting on the couch in the living room, staying out of the way of his three girls getting ready! I remember good advice he gave to me as a new bride, jealous of my husband’s salary. I remember his delight when Santa brought him a mountain bike for Christmas, and the year he got his long longed-for jean jacket – a present from Mom when he was in his late 40s.

Daddy doesn’t know a stranger. He has this amazing gift of putting people – anyone – at ease. He’s got a great smile that makes his eyes twinkle – really! – and a laugh that bubbles up from deep inside him and makes me laugh along. It’s attractive to people he meets – he draws them in.

I remember one time when he and Mom were visiting, and the three of us decided to explore the historic downtown shops. I was a beginning knitter, so Mom and I wanted to check out the yarn store.  We walked in, Dad staying near the front of the tiny shop. Mom and I wandered to the back, picking up skeins. We were admiring the colors and displays and chatting about her knitting project and my beginner’s efforts. And then we were done – it wasn’t a large store! So we waited by the front display as Dad wrapped up his conversation with the shop owner. Only he didn’t.  Mom and I lingered, but the guy and Dad were laughing, Dad listening intently, head bent down a bit, ear tilted toward the right where the man was standing. We waited for several minutes, but the conversation was not even close to ending. Finally, Mom and I told Dad we were headed next door. It was three stores later before Dad caught up – he and the shop owner had been talking the whole time. I think they were swapping golf stories!

Dad is a servant-leader. He’s not afraid to do a job that needs doing. He helps clean the church on Fridays for the weekend, though when I was growing up, cleaning was the girls’ job. He is a retired professor – still a Sunday school and Bible teacher – who only wants his students to learn. He is a man of integrity – there is no question that he walks out his faith in Christ. He’s humble, too – always quick to sing another’s praises, not his own.

He shows me God’s character of grace. He is gentle in his guidance, and it’s clear that he loves Jesus, and continues to grow to be more like Him. Dad and Mom aren’t quitting their journey of growth in the Christian life as they age. Quite the opposite. Dad is like Caleb in the Old Testament – he longs to finish strong in the Lord (Joshua 14:6-15).

I want to do that, too. Thanks, Dad, for showing me how. Love you.

Missed anniversary

I completely missed a significant anniversary. And that’s a good thing!

Earlier this week, the car dealership where we bought our last vehicle “called” (recorded message) to wish us happy anniversary on the one year ownership of our vehicle. Ok…thanks. I had totally forgotten about it. Which means I had forgotten about the circumstances that brought the need for the vehicle in the first place. A day that I thought I would never forget.

We got a new vehicle a year ago because ours had been totaled in a car accident a few weeks prior (Friday June 13th, but that story is for another post). As I spent the summer healing, I became “obsessed” with the need to know how fast the guy was going when he hit us.  I searched everything – read all the articles, called local police and State Patrol and state DMV offices to request reports; for whatever reason, I felt like if I knew that, I would be able to put the accident away.

I never got that information – though it was promised to me, it turns out that it was never even available.  I was angry, and wondered how I would move forward without this (tiny) fact. My husband, friends, therapist – all asked me why it was so important to me. Quite frankly, I have no idea. But since I was never going to know, I needed to accept it and move on. I had no idea how to do that.

I began praying, and asking God to help me accept the accident and put it behind me. This wasn’t an issue of forgiveness – I forgave the guy on the night of the accident. No, this was just a weird obsession. So I prayed and prayed. And I obsessed and fretted. And I prayed some more. I had lots to pray about (2014 was a very stressful year – another future post!), and lots that I needed to simply accept.

And then one morning, I didn’t need to know. It’s as if God flipped a switch, and I didn’t care about it. I felt a real sense of peace – I knew I would never know, and it didn’t matter.

Looking back, I wonder if I was going through stages of grief. You know:

  • denial  – there was no denial – we needed a new car!
  • anger – at the system that wouldn’t tell me what I needed to know
  • bargaining – sure! if I could have this fact, then I’d stop thinking about the accident
  • depression – I was in remission, but teetered on the edge of it again
  • acceptance – help me, God!

And He did. He brought the acceptance, the peace – His peace – to my heart and mind.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

(Lightness)

Whirlwind Of Busyness

Welcome back…to me, and therefore to you, my readers (thank you for reading, by the way!).

I’ve been away from writing and journaling and blogging and reading for a month, due to the whirlwind that overcame me as we moved to Florida. Yep – we made it. (See https://peggyricewi.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/florida-here-we-come-yet-still-waiting/ post from the end of January). But with all that has to happen in buying and selling homes – lots of paperwork, changing addresses, saying all of my goodbyes (that’s the hardest part of this process, for me anyway), selling furniture on Craig’s List, weeding out old books and clothes and craft supplies, giving liquids to neighbors and friends (liquids can’t be transported on the moving van), dropping off donations and hazardous waste – it was all-consuming.

And then there’s the flight to Florida, signing lots of papers, doing a little new-home shopping, unpacking the many boxes that come off the moving truck. And finding new places for all of our belongings – making each room feel like home instead of a forest of boxes. Hanging pictures, getting new drivers’ licenses, finding my way around town, unpacking a few more boxes (don’t look in the garage – there are still plenty yet to be emptied)…

It’s been almost impossible to find time to write. And when I do have time, I’m exhausted. And to tell you the truth, I’ve been a little intimidated. When I first started blogging in January (I’m a newbie), I was following instructions from the WordPress classes – classes that are designed to help new bloggers get off to a good start. I was really enjoying February’s Writing 201: Poetry, and had signed up for March’s Photography 101. I have all the assignments, I just haven’t done all the work.

And then those little voices started nagging at me. You know the little angel on one shoulder, reminding me how much I was enjoying my entry into the world of blogging. But you also know the little red devil with the pitchfork on the other shoulder, whispering to me that I’ve lost my momentum, won’t be able to blog again, the words won’t flow…Notice how he says so much more than the angel.  Or maybe I just hear him more loudly. I’m such a self-critic, so his words resonate.

So I’ve avoided journaling, and reading my friends’ blogs, and writing my own. I’ve also ignored my emotions, stuffing them down until I “have time” to deal with them. Admittedly, they’ve leaked out a few times, but I just choke them back – I don’t have time right now.

And I’ve neglected my time with God again. I’ve prayed a lot, but I haven’t taken the time to meet with Him, to read His words and listen for His voice. I’ve been busy, like Martha in Luke 10:38-41 (NIV):

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Please don’t misunderstand – the work Martha was doing was important. But her worry and distraction by the busyness of the tasks – that’s where her priorities went awry.  I want to choose what is better. I want to get back into the habit of starting every morning with Jesus.  The reality is that I’ve started this process with Him hundreds of times in my life, in our walk together. But each time, He is full of love and welcomes me back. And He’s never too busy – He always has time.

[Even as I wrote this, I knew it sounded familiar. https://peggyricewi.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/distractions-and-intimidation/. And that’s not surprising – God often teaches me the same lesson over and over. Sometimes, He takes me deeper in the lesson; other times, it’s a refresher course!]

Limerick

A Journey with Jesus through grief:
His company brings great relief.
I won’t walk alone –
He’ll make Himself known.
He asks me to trust and believe

promises written in His Word,
like grace – to me freely offered.
I cast all my fears.
He’ll catch all my tears.
He is Jesus, the gentle Shepherd.

I’ve tried to run ahead of Him.
I’ve been sure that the “this” was the “when.”
But I’m learning to wait,
And to God dedicate
myself to His perfect plan.

He knows the future I face.
He created me for just this place.
Tho’ I don’t understand,
I’ll cling to His hand
And together, but He’ll set the pace.