The Detox Diaries: Grayness

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Gentle Reader,

I wondered if it would come.

That sense of sorrow, so deep it crosses into the confusion of numbness. That pain so awful it pushes with a physical ache into my heart.

Depression.

It always lurks, somewhere in my mind. Some call it pessimism, some call it a melancholy personality. It is both and neither. I have to work, every day, to push the grayness out of my eyes and see the sun. Some days the grayness is splotchy and it’s easy to overcome. Other days I feel like I’m trying to look through a blanket. Those days are hard.

As I lay awake in bed last night, trying (unsuccessfully) to get to sleep, the grayness invaded. I was unprepared for the onslaught. My chest hurt. The tears began.

I wasn’t sad about anything. I was just sad. That’s the difference between situational and clinical depression. And before anyone suggests that I need to deal with some sin, trust me: confession is often the first thing that pours from my lips. When there’s nothing to confess and you’re still sad, the only logical conclusion is that the sorrow is not connected to anything in particular.

The sorrow just is.

A few deep breaths and a, “Help me, Jesus!” later, I reminded myself of what was happening in my body. Without the Cymbalta and the hormones, I am, as Jackson Browne puts it, running on empty.  I don’t go back to the doctor until the beginning of August, so I have to ride this roller coaster for another month. Yes, diet and exercise help. Summer is the worst time of year for me (I hate the heat and always have), so I was just telling Chris that I wanted to make sure we get a walk in this evening when it’s a little cooler. I’ll be eating…sigh…avacado as part of my dinner. (Gross). I’m aware of what I can do naturally.

But you’ve got to understand something. All the diet and exercise, and even all the antidepressants and hormones, don’t make this thing go away. The grayness won’t flee because it’s confronted by some Omega-3 rich salmon. The consequence of living in a fallen world is, for me, a broken brain. I am always going to battle depression and anxiety this side of Eternity, unless God sees fit to heal me. Thus far, He hasn’t.

In a way, that’s okay with me. I don’t relish the feeling of my feet being like bricks, so that every step takes monumental effort. I don’t like crying at the drop of a hat. Honestly, though, I’m over the stigma. I really don’t care what anyone thinks about my being depressed and anxious; anyone who wants to give me some input or suggestions may do so, but I’m going to shrug off any negativity or judgment. I refuse to take that in.

You know why? The grayness pushes me toward the Source of all light. I can’t see clearly, I can’t understand rightly, and so I turn to God, time and time again. If this battle is what it takes for me to stick close to Him, then fine. I am His beloved daughter, and He’s happy…no, He’s delighted to have me around. My struggle and need doesn’t surprise Him or put Him off. He’ll gladly hold my hand.

He’ll even carry me when I can’t see to take another step.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

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Happy Anniversary!

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Gentle Reader,

I had an anniversary with God yesterday, though we’re celebrating today. Two years ago, on September 19, at around 6 o’clock in the evening, He stopped me from committing suicide.

I’ve heard that it comes off a bit morbid to celebrate a day like that, but I can’t help it. September 19 will always be important to me. I think it’s important to God, too. That day marks a change in our relationship. I’m not any less of a sinner than I was two years ago. I’m not in possession of some secret to living a great life. I still miss the mark, sometimes intentionally. I still struggle with those dirty words, “obligated” and “perfect.” I still experience conflict, anxiety and dark moments of sadness.

But that day…I came to the end of myself. Staring into the pit of evil, I saw with striking clarity just how much I didn’t know, how much I didn’t understand. I knew that I couldn’t pull myself up. I had to start talking – to God and to people. I had to start being honest about how clouded everything was. Most importantly, I had to learn how to punch the Devil in the mouth. I had to learn to stop buying into his garbage, his lies, and start standing on the truth of what God says. It’s a process. Some days are better than others. But I move forward. And that’s what counts.

September 19 also reminds me of the way the Lord has preserved my life throughout the years. I could have died in utero. I could have had a negative reaction to the anesthesia used during my first surgery and never woken up again. I could have died in a school bus accident. But I’m still here. Bless the Lord, O my soul!

This is a happy day. This is a joyous day.

Dear reader, whoever you are, I want you to know that there is hope. If you feel beyond the reach of light today, please know that you are not! I know that it hurts. I know you are tired. I know that you don’t know where to turn and you feel every emotion so intensely that you’re actually numb, and that confuses you. I know that you just want it to stop. From your place of hiding, where you lay curled up in so much pain, cry out to God, even if it comes out as a whisper. He WILL hear you. He WILL respond.

I don’t know what the path will look like for you. Each person’s story is different. But you are alive for a REASON. Have you been prescribed medication? TAKE IT. Are you seeing therapist? KEEP THE APPOINTMENTS. If you don’t have medication or a therapist, GET BOTH. Journal, sing, go for walks, sit in silence. Sleep. Eat. Most of all, listen to the Spirit. Listen to the Voice of the One who made you, who knows you intimately. He WILL be faithful to guide you to a place of healing. He WILL take all this sorrow and fear and use it for something good; your story will touch and influence others.

If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking to, call this number: 1-800-273-8255. There is someone on the other end 24/7. Please, my friend, don’t let the inky waves take you down. I know you have no strength – God does, and He will pour into you exactly how much you need for that day, even that second. Despair is NOT the end!

My journey to faith. (15)

There is Freedom

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Gentle Reader,

With Independence Day tomorrow, it seems appropriate to write something on the topic of freedom. At the same time, the political expression of my theology often leads to awkward or heated exchanges. (I’m a hardcore pacifist and honestly can’t see how the ethics of Christianity can lead to any other conclusion. A feminist of the old-school sort, meaning that men definitely aren’t evil but women should be treated with real fairness and respect. Against capital punishment. In favor of European-style socialized medicine. Against abortion).

So I’m not going to write about any of that.

I’m also not going to write about how the Revolution wasn’t this glorious, holy, just war that some think it is. I’m not going to write about how the phrase “Christian nation” has several layers of meaning may of which those Founding Fathers of ours may well have scratched their heads at. I’m not going to write about the lack of prayer in schools, how God’s purposes are somehow tied to our national interests or how legalizing homosexual marriage rips at the heart of all that is sacred (which I don’t believe, but that’s a big topic for another post).

And of course this is all completely tongue-in-cheek.

Looking back over the last year, even the last six months, I am…breathless. The Lord has brought me into confrontation with my fears and vices time after time. Occasionally He’s been quite blatant, such as when my mother spoke the words, “You can’t spend the rest of your life avoiding things that scare you” (or something close to that). Most of the time, He’s been more subtle. But I see, day after day, the way in which He’s been peeling back the layers. Taking down the wall of wrong-thinking and false-believing. Forcing me to confront things like:

Gossip

I’m not sue that we ladies realize just how many of our relationships are built on talking about other people. It seems that nothing bonds two women together faster than being snippy about a third. I’ve become more and more conscious of this over the last few weeks, and have resolved to avoid speaking about anyone in a non-honoring way. And to make it right when I forget that resolution.

Drama

While I don’t consider myself a drama queen, I have consistently chosen to forge relationships with those who are. Maybe it’s because I battle an overbearing sense of guilt and want to “fix” things. Maybe it’s because I’ve never believed myself to be worthy of healthy people. But over and over, I find myself getting sucked into places where I have no business being. No more. I’m done with that.

Confrontation

Yes, I have had to confront my fear of confrontation. Part of the problem is that I simply don’t have the first clue how to respond in many situations. I need time to assess what the other person has said or done, to decide if there was any sense or value in the words or actions and to formulate a response accordingly. Some call this being “level headed,” and I am grateful that I’m not emotionally explosive. But there are times when I need to say something, regardless of whether or not it comes out eloquently or whether or not the other person takes it well.

Friendship

My social circle has shifted. We’re not the same people we used to be. That’s a good thing; who wants to stay exactly the same, never growing or changing? There was a string of years where Chris and I were always busy on the weekends. Our tiny apartment and then our little house were usually bursting at the seams with people. I genuinely cherish those memories, but I’m ready to let it go. I no longer expect having relationships with people to look as it did in high school or college. And I’ve never had the desire for friends a mile wide and an inch deep. Give me a few people who know who they are and where they are going.

Work

I believe in libraries. I believe in having access to all sorts of information from all sorts of viewpoints. I don’t agree with all of those viewpoints, but I like being able to look at them and figure out exactly why I don’t agree. I threw off the last vestiges of shame about my job this year. If you don’t like that I work at a library, if you think that’s lame, then…well, you’re probably lame and that’s not my problem.

Work 2.0 

People who want to slack off can smell a good work ethic a mile away. This has been a problem for me for as long as I can remember. I was always the kid who ended up doing all the work in a group project. (Loathe group projects). Now I’m the coworker who will pick up the pieces and make sure it all gets done. I think it’s time to start letting things go. Letting others feel the pinch. It sounds mean, but it’s not. We’re all adults and we should all be able to take responsibility.

Writing

I’ve gotten really excited about the blog. I’m writing in my journal frequently. I honestly don’t think I have a book in me right now. Short bursts on wide-ranging topics are where I roam. And that’s okay.

Hair

I flat-iron less and less often. I only washed my hair once last week. Letting the curls go and do their thing is a BIG DEAL. I’ve always fought them. Always wished them away. Always wished I had thick, straight, red hair. I’ve got fine, curly, brown hair, and it’s developing a white streak on the right side. I can honestly say that I now love the curls just as they are.

Money

It comes. It goes. Bills get forgotten. Mysterious overage checks arrive in the mail. Stewardship is a fine thing, but, at the end of the day, I have to trust that God will meet all my needs. Most days I do.

Salvation isn’t just about Heaven, although I’m very much looking forward to being there. Salvation is for right here, right now. It does no good to know a lot about what God has to say based on the Scriptures and then never go that step further and try and live it out. Head knowledge doesn’t give you anything but answers to trivia questions. Asking the question, “Now what?” brings freedom. Allowing the Spirit access to all the secret, difficult places brings freedom. Submitting to His authority brings freedom. Obeying His guidance brings freedom.

Are you freer than you were a year ago? Six months ago? A week ago?

My friends, Jesus didn’t come to earth in the mystery of the Incarnation so we could keep on living in those same musty prison cells. No! He came to set us free.To make us into the people we were meant to be. He transcends race, class, gender and country. He extends that beautiful, nail-scarred hand to each of us and waits for us to let Him pull us out of the mire.

Whatever it is you think is keeping you safe probably isn’t. The thought that you have about God’s boundaries ruining your freedom isn’t true, either. The safest, freest place for you to be is not within your carefully constructed, sterile little world where you plan for every contingency. (As the possessor of four mental illnesses, I know what I’m talking about). If you want freedom, go where God leads. No matter how painful it is in the moment. No matter how scary. No matter how little you understand.

Take that hand.

Step out into the light of liberty.

My journey to faith. (15)