Tag Archives: depression

When This Jesus-Lover Lost Jesus

I’ll never forget the moment it happened—when I felt a crack in my spirit, the breaking of my faith. Chink.

It was an afternoon in November, just a few years ago. I was sitting on the couch alone. The house was unusually quiet. There were no shouts from little boys. There was no chaos. There was nothing to distract me from thinking, praying, worrying. There had been so much on my mind for so many months. So many things piling up, weighing heavy; a load of issues ready to drop as soon as I could no longer hold them. On this particular day, it was concern over my dad’s health that pressed down with the most weight.

And then I felt it. Crack.

The “what if” question manifested itself physically in my body. Just a little blip in my chest—a literal skip in my heart rhythm.

Smash. Thor’s hammer of doubt hit against the clear glass floor of faith holding all of those weighty issues, all of those uncertainties, all of the pain, all of the confusion.

That floor had always been so strong. It had always been so solid. It had always, always held. But the issues were heavier now. They were just so many more than there had ever been. And the strength I thought I’d always had simply evaporated.

The scattering of cracks along the glass was swift—they were so numerous. One wrong move and it was going to break completely—the solid floor of faith that had always held was giving way.

I couldn’t stop it.

Bang. The “what if” questions grew more numerous over the next days and where for years I’d always been able to come up with faith-based responses to quiet them, I now found myself at a total loss. It was an unusual place for me. A scary place.

Three days before Christmas I wound up in the ER, and the cracked floor could no longer hold. The glass shattered into tiny, glinting pieces of my once firm faith.

Crash. God was missing.

I could not find His goodness. I could not find His promises. I could not find any semblance of a reality where He had any kind of beauty in store for my life. I felt like I’d been robbed. I felt like I’d been abandoned. I felt extremely alone.

Exactly where the enemy wanted me.

Perhaps I should back up a little. Perhaps I should explain when this really all began.

I’m so lucky. Blessed. Honestly had the best childhood a person could ask for. I was raised in a Christian home by loving parents who taught me from a very young age how important faith was. I gave my life to Christ at the age of six and never considered any other path. Sure, like many, I ignored Him more than I should have in my teens, but came back around fully in adulthood. I led Bible studies. Taught Bible classes. Sang on the Praise Team. Followed Him through difficulties. Became pretty well known around my circles for living my beliefs. Life had its ups and downs, but it was good. Me and Jesus? We were good. Simpatico.

Sure, maybe I wasn’t a daily Bible reader, but that’s ok. Jesus got me anyway. Maybe I didn’t pray as much as I should have, but I prayed and prayed hard when I needed to. Maybe I excused and looked over some things in my life, but I knew that God had me. I was good.

I suppose I was too good on my own with all my me-based faith and expectations for my life.

2016 was supposed to be a stellar year. I was expecting baby #4, working a job that was more than a blessing, writing and loving it, and looking forward to moving into a place with a little more space for our growing family. But things weren’t all that great behind the scenes.

Bam. Our marriage hit a rough patch. A very rough patch. Worse than anything we’d been through before. Why, God?

Bang. Then there was some specific sin in my life that I was ignoring. I’m ok, right, God?

Crash. Next came a health concern for my husband, leading straight into the week our son was to be born. What if, God?

Those first three months of 2016 were some of the most difficult I’d had in my life up to that point, but I had no idea what was coming.

The day our baby boy entered the world turned into more than a day to remember. It was one of those days that became defining in my life. You’d think it was because of his birth and that’s partially true, but unfortunately, that day is remembered because of someone else’s choice that put me moments away from the grave. A nurse chose to defy doctor’s orders and I nearly lost my life. I won’t rehash those details now, but while there was joy in my son’s birth, I left that hospital a few days later with pain I could not explain—pain I did not have when I arrived. The pain was physical, but it was also mental and spiritual. I didn’t understand what I had just lived through. I was grateful to be alive, but I had so many unanswered questions. So many new fears. Why, God?

Clink. Bam. Bang. Pain became my bitter companion.

But I loved Jesus! This wasn’t what my life was supposed to look like.

Having a newborn is hard enough. Having a newborn plus three other boys is challenging. All of that plus debilitating pain, strep throat, and the inability to sleep at all is how the first few weeks back home went. Plus we sold our home, the baby had some serious reflux issues, and we bought a new home and had to move.

Bang. It was a lot.

And through it all, the pain continued. I learned very quickly that the doctors I had trusted for so long suddenly had no concern for me. I completely lost faith in the medical community. I was bounced from doctor to doctor, all of them hypothesizing about why I couldn’t stop hurting, but no real answers. Medications and treatments and theories were thrown at me, but nothing worked. And no one seemed to want to listen.

Not even God. He wasn’t listening to my pleas for help. Why, God? What do you want from me?

Chink. Clink. Bang. Pow. Smash.

One month turned into six and exhaustion began to wear me down. Chronic pain will do that. It tears up your resolve, emotional health, and spirit with every lingering ache.

I’d never experienced anything like it.

Flash forward to Christmas 2016. I spent that day in mental agony, certain it would be my last holiday with my family. I’d seen so many doctors since the birth of my son back in March. I had so many physical issues at that point that I could hardly keep track. And I simply could not calm the “what if” questions. They overwhelmed me.

The floor of my faith had shattered—I had no faith left in anything. Not medicine, not myself, not God.

2017 brought more questions. I was lost, in constant pain, and I couldn’t see my way out. Tests, biopsies, more tests, more doctors…it was a never-ending cycle of fear.

I had only one truth at this point—God had one thing for my life: suffering. Because suffering was the only thing I could see in the world. Fear was the only thing I could feel.

No, it didn’t matter that I had lived through a near-death experience. The living didn’t matter to me. It was the almost dying that mattered. It was the mess of the aftermath that mattered. I was blinded to everything else. I became paralyzed by fear.

I couldn’t factor it into God’s plan for my life. The plan where I was happily married and raising boys and teaching and writing books and singing at church and living—that plan. What happened to that plan?

I wasn’t living—not really. I was existing. I was floating in the black abyss, completely lost, questioning everything. Me and Jesus? We were no longer ok. I just knew that whatever His plan was, there was no good in it. And I couldn’t understand why.

I couldn’t reconcile what I once believed about the loving nature of God with the pain, suffering, and evil I saw in the world. Even though His truth and goodness were still there, I could not find them at all. With each incident that happened in and around me, especially medical issues, my spirit shattered a little more.

I’d never “believed” in depression—not really. I’d always thought that someone who “claimed” to have depression needed to get up and get over it.

Until I fell so far down into a pit of depression and anxiety, there was no way I could pull myself out. How naïve I’d been. How cruel my view.

Timelapse Photography of Clouds

What’s depression like?

It’s like living inside of a swirling, gummy black cloud. You can see through it to the life you had—the life you want—going on around you, but you can’t seem to find a way to push the fog aside to participate. You know in your rational mind what truth is, but your emotions take over and crush the very joy out of your soul. Joy, peace, happiness, hope—they are all strangled by fear, anxiety, and hopelessness. There is nothing other than despair. There is nothing other than your own feelings. It’s a very selfish state, even when you don’t mean for it to be. The blooming, healthy vines that once carried your thoughts and emotions are strangled by black weeds of destruction, killing hopes for the future and replacing them with a new truth—that the only thing to be believed is that the worst of any situation is reality.

I slipped as low as a person could go into the foggy, sticky, black pit. I had the thoughts no one talks about. I faked being fine for a very long time. I stopped writing, stopped singing, stopped dreaming or sleeping or laughing. I wallowed in my anger, so full of frustration that I, the one who had always been able, couldn’t do anything to fix myself. I was broken. I realized that I was doing damage to the people I loved most by talking about my fears, so I bottled them up as best I could. In fact, there may be those of you reading this who are surprised, maybe even shocked by my words. Maybe you’re re-evaluating what you think about me as a woman, a mother, a daughter of the Most High King.

And that’s ok. I can handle it because God can handle it.

I did seek professional help. I was treated by a wonderful Christian counselor for PTSD resulting from the trauma I’d experienced at my son’s birth and that was helpful for moving past that moment in time seared into my brain, but it didn’t really help with the big questions. I did try medication as well, but the side effects were, for me, far worse than what I was going through.

Please understand, this was not “just post-partum depression.”

This was a war—the kind waged in spiritual realms. I was under attack in all ways.

So I began to fight. I fought so hard that I didn’t think I’d have any fight left in me. I screamed in prayer. I searched. I became obsessed with finding and understanding my God again. I wanted to understand life again. I prayed like my life depended on it—because it did.

It isn’t my strength I fight with—it’s His.

I’m writing this for two reasons—1) Writers have to write what they know. And although I never would have thought it possible in my own life, I have come to know depression and anxiety, and 2) I write this because you need to know that if you, too, are a lover of Jesus and you are fighting through depression and anxiety, you are not alone. It’s not impossible for someone who loves Jesus deeply to experience the very depths of despair. Christians fight this battle, too.

And if this is you—if you’re fighting it now or you’ve fought it before, know that there is hope. I’m going to write in future posts about some specific things I’ve done to survive this season of my life and to learn from it. I’m going to write about how I found Jesus again—how even when I couldn’t see Him, He was right there beside me, just as He promised.

I’m going to write about how this strong-ish again, faithful, Jesus-loving wife and mama with grand plans for her life learned that God teaches us lessons in the ways we least expect. Sometimes He lets be weak so that His strength is supreme. Sometimes He lets us learn that He is faithful, even when we are not. Sometimes He shows us just how empty we are so that He can fill us with something so much greater. Sometimes He allows our plans to be smashed into a million tiny bits only to build new plans from those shattered pieces. The lessons are hard. Tear-stained, painful, belly-aching, heart-torn-open lessons that bring beauty from ashes. And sometimes that beauty looks nothing like what we’d planned, hoped or expected.

I’m not cured. Not a single day goes by that I don’t have pain in my body. It’s chronic at this point and still mostly mysterious. And I still struggle with the emotional war sometimes. But there’s more sunshine now—more light. More opportunities to celebrate His faithfulness when I trust Him. I can smile and laugh again. I can write again, and this post, the first in a very long time, is proof. I praise Him and thank Him for that! And if I’ve learned nothing else over the past three and a half years, I’ve learned that the fight with anxiety and depression affects far more people—Jesus-loving, God-fearing people—than I ever would have guessed.

Jesus hasn’t left you, child of God. God is still for you. His word is still true, despite what the enemy whispers in your ear and despite what your feelings are screaming at you today. I haven’t found a miracle cure or the answers to my tough questions, but I have found hope again. And that hope begins with simply saying, “I trust you, Jesus.”

So keep fighting. Keep praying. Keep reminding yourself that you are loved and God is good. Ask him to show you His goodness. Never give up because Jesus will never give up on you. There are questions, sure, but Jesus is the answer. Grab on to Him and fight the powers of hell with everything you’ve got. TRUST HIM. Know you are not alone. Know that there are others who know just how difficult, exhausting, and frightening the fight can be. I’m praying for you and I’m praying that these words are laced with grace from the Holy Spirit and that they’ll give you the courage to keep going. You might feel lost in that swirling black cloud of depression– but God sees you. He sees right through all of it to the very core of the soul in you He loves so much. He holds you. He has a plan for you. And He is the answer.

You are deeply loved by the Creator and currently prayed for by me.

Real Signature

Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Depression & Anxiety

Sob Story

We open on a distressed young woman, her heart racing with fear, her eyes welling with tears, her body racked with exhaustion from the constant emotional turmoil she faces.  Her life is a struggle, and she has no idea when or if her prayers will ever be answered.  She cries.  A lot.

Okay, readers.  How long do you give her before you tell her to get over it?  One chapter?  Five chapters?  Stick with her until the end of her journey?

In one of my novels, a romantic suspense, my main character finds herself in a situation that is so emotional, so frightening and so frustrating, that her outlook for a good portion of the book is bleak, to say the least.  She fights feelings of depression with every ounce of strength she can muster, yet isn’t very successful for much of the story.  She’s a real damsel in distress, and just like in any good romance, a hero will appear to help her out, but not before she’s gone to some really dark places within herself.

But it’s a normal, human reaction.  Her setting and issues really give her a great excuse.  Her circumstances are completely out of her control, and she feels lost.  In fact, I think that her reaction to the horror, anger, and frustration is far better than my own would be, if I found myself in the same situation.

But does a reader want to read a story about a girl who is truly suffering, even if her situation calls for it?  Can she still be classified as a heroine if she spends much of her time struggling against her own emotions?

The concern is not whether or not the reader will permit the leading lady to have her emotions, because they will immediately recognize the truth and organic nature of them.   

The concern is whether or not the reader will stick with the emotional roller-coaster that the story presents in order to find out whether or not our heroine is able to battle her circumstances to achieve her happy ending.

I recently made a few edits to my manuscript because I wanted my main character to be a bit stronger.  Even though I know how strong she is, I worried that the reader would find her to be too weepy.  I wanted her to cry just little less, and fight against her situation a little more, even if that meant I replaced a few tears with anger.

Anger seems a more powerful emotion than weeping fear, and therefore the reader would find her to be someone who refused to accept her situation, even though I had already written her to be a character of great faith (although desperate for answers).

Depression is powerful.  Conveying those emotions of hopelessness are necessary for a good part of the story, for the situation truly calls for it.  But deep inside her, even when she can’t see it, our leading lady is truly strong enough to become a hero.

Share with me: What do you think about characters who delve deeply into emotions?  When the story calls for it, are you willing to stick with it until the end to see if that happy ending is possible?  Or do you prefer your heroines to be just that, strong heroines from page one, with only slight vulnerabilities?

5 Comments

Filed under Writing