Thursday
Feb062014

Depressed and Christian Day 5

 

And then there are days like today. Days when I open my eyes and no unseen force is acting against my body making it difficult to rise out of bed. Days when I can brush my teeth without talking myself through it, "You're almost done, Chaka, you can do it." Days when my thinking clears and my mind feels sharp, alert. Days when I feel I have arrived at that destination called normal.

My problem on days like today is that too often I sit in a holding pattern, not trusting that this feeling will last. I hold my breath and wait for the other shoe to drop.

And the truth is...the other shoe will drop some time. Such is the nature of the beast.

And the truth is that as I remain waiting for some unexpected circumstance to rattle my susceptible psyche, I also remain outside of the will of God. As surely as the scripture that told me to "Rejoice always, Pray continually, Give thanks in all circumstances" applied in the midst of my struggles, it applies in this place of rest I find myself in today.

It's funny, but I've never thought of it that way before. In my practicality I tell myself, "It won't last, so don't get too comfortable here."  In doing so, I miss the point that true joy is not tied to my circumstances, true joy is found in trusting God in all the twists and turns this journey takes me through.

Victory is not found in arriving at this place on the other side of depression, rather victory was found every time I remembered to thank God for the things he was doing behind the scenes that I just couldn't see, victory was found every time I chose to rejoice in who God was instead of mourning that I wasn't enough, victory was found every moment I chose to trust and obey God rather than rely on my feelings. And today, on a normal day, I claim the same victory I had as I walked in the midst of depression. No more and no less because God is unchanging.

For those of you who have tuned into the saga of my life these past five days, I thank you for coming along and pray that my journey was useful to you in some way. I wish you His joy and His peace as you continue to navigate your own.

"Rejoice always,  pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances. For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

 

Thursday
Feb062014

Depressed and Christian Day 4

This week has been a good week. That sounds funny coming from me, doesn't it? But truly, this week has been a good week. I'm not saying that this week felt good. Decidedly, there were times that it felt very not good! But, the expectation that things need to feel good before you can appreciate their value is, at best, juvenile. This week I remained in God's will, and as his child, that is what I am here to do. And thus I can say, "It has been a good week."

Today, the sun is shining and I got the chance to brave the negative temperatures to go and work out at the community center. It felt victorious. As I drove along in my swagger wagon (my minivan for those of you not as hip as myself), I reflected on my scripture for the week: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances..." and I was struck by all of the action words used in the verse. It says to rejoice, to pray and to give thanks. These are all actions that are not dependent on my feelings. My feelings are us unreliable as sunshine during a Nebraska winter! And for God to command me to do anything based on sentiments outside of my control would be like him telling me to "be wealthy always" or "be healthy always" or "make sure that everyone likes you all of the time." God does not ask the impossible of me.

For some of us, it's time to understand – perhaps for the first time – that joy and happiness are not the same thing. Happiness is based on the right circumstances at the right time, while joy is a "mindset rather than a particular set of circumstances"; joy is an attitude of gratitude and a hope in the goodness of God and his promises, that can remain unaltered despite our darkest moments. Obviously I am speaking to fellow Christians when I say that joy in the Lord is powerful and gives us both courage and stamina to face life's most dire challenges. Rev Bruce Goettsche writes that joy comes from:

  • knowing that you are loved by God
  • knowing that you are forgiven not because of your penance but because of His grace
  • knowing that no matter what happens, you are going to be alright
  • knowing that no matter what the world takes from you, it cannot take that which is most valuable
  • knowing that this life is but a training ground for the lift that is to come

Choosing to rejoice is a choice everyone empowered by the Spirit of God can make. And so are the next commands of the scripture to pray and give thanks. Note that the scripture does not say to give thanks for the circumstances (though as a Christian, I am especially thankful for some of the hardest circumstances that have helped to shape both myself and the people I love). But the scripture says to give thanks in the midst of those circumstances. Thank God for his grace, his mercy, his salvation, his redemption, his love, his wisdom and on and on and on. Thank God that in every single hardship he is working to benefit those who love him! Romans 8:28 tells me this is true.

And that's where I sit on day four of my challenge to myself to meditate on 1Thessalonians 5:16-18 –  at peace and trusting that God will grow something beautiful from all of my mental manure.

 (May He bless you and your crap as well)

To be continued...

Tuesday
Feb042014

Depressed and Christian Day 3

All right, Day three. Day three of meditating on, "rejoicing always, praying continually and giving thanks in all circumstances." Day three of meditating on it while working through depression. I'm going to try and write without playing to an audience as if this is just between God and I and not something I will be posting on the internet. God knows my aim in writing this was to sort through this scripture in a way that was not only beneficial to myself, but also might be beneficial to others. Prayerfully, through the use of a public forum, I can connect with someone else and infuse in them the reality that they are not alone. We are not alone.

My more cringe-worthy moments this week come from talking with people who started out the conversation with, "How are you?" The question itself is appropriate as a conversation starter, but makes me cringe when it's asked in a tone best reserved for patients in full body cast who have been on the receiving end of some intense trauma. It is asked as if the asker is afraid that I might break into a zillion pieces, or worse, as if I might lose all control and begin to babble incoherently. More than likely, my pride is kicking in, but I want to remind people that I'm the same Chaka they were dealing with last week and the week before – before they knew I was struggling with depression. Don't handle me with kid gloves, it isn't necessary.

And don't spout spiritual platitudes at me. I don't want to hear about, "claiming healing in Jesus' name," or "having enough faith to heal," or "rebuking the depression." Intentions may be good, hearts may be sincere, but platitudes are not helpful. As a matter of fact, none of the things you tell a depressed person will magically lift them from the grip of the beast, but spiritual platitudes are among the things that have a negative return and are therefore best kept to yourself.

That being said, there are things you can say or do that might be helpful. Tell a person you love them and they're not alone when the bottom sometimes falls out of things. Talk to them like they are regular people who are struggling through a problem like regular people do. Don't just tell them they need to get out, go and pick them up and take them shopping or out to lunch or out to the gym. Don't shun them; as long as you're not spouting trite nonsense, simple encouragements go a long way. You can ask, "Do you need anything?" And lastly, please, try not to take it personally! There are times when a person is dealing with situational depression and if you are part of the situation, then perhaps you have some control over changing it. But if depression is caused by a chemical malfunction in my mind (usually brought on by winter in my case), it has nothing to do with you, so please don't take my well-being upon yourself, the most you can do is walk alongside me as I wade through the muck.

And for all who fight the good fight with me, my hope is that you'll take good care of yourself, be patient with yourself and get yourself to a health care provider if the funk does not lift.

Today, I did not want to write anything. Today, I am home with four children because school is out for snow. I actually got down on my knees and cried to God in prayer for a little while because I desperately wanted to go back to bed and wouldn't be able to because I was needed. In deference to the scripture, I thanked God for this situation and continue to lift up prayers to him for his strength to carry me through the big and little tasks necessary for the day (algebraic word problems are seriously difficult with a muddled brain). I didn't exercise yesterday and I should have, I do believe I'm paying for that today. Exercise doesn't cure, but it definitely helps.

So that's where I am; not feeling particularly eloquent, but rather, spectacularly exposed. May God be glorified in the midst of it all.

 

Monday
Feb032014

Depressed and Christian Day 2

I want to talk about yesterday and where I am today. Yesterday, I felt like an exposed wound, all grotesque and festering for others to see. Truly, it is not easy to talk about my weaknesses as I'm mucking through them. I would much rather talk about my perceived weaknesses in hindsight as I'm peering back from a vantage point of towering strength. But, alas, I closed my eyes and pressed 'enter', thus posting my business all over the internet. And, I challenged myself to do it again today and tomorrow and the next.

Yesterday was one of my more minor episodes of depression, if I had written this a few weeks ago, I would have told you about sitting in my basement wrapped in a quilt in the middle of the day weeping uncontrollably as I watched a documentary about a group of people who struggled with bipolar disorder. The insanity was that I was actually jealous at that moment that they at least get to "enjoy" their manic periods with great bursts of energy and creativity while I only got the downside. Yep...new low point for me. And another painful, deeply personal admission now aired publically for possible ridicule. Yikes!

Yesterday, I was functional. I was able to ignore the oppressive funk dampening my higher processes and keep moving. The most visible sign of my mental state was the lack of patience I had with my two oldest boys. As home schooled kiddos, they were in danger of lying in the wake of my more percussive mental eddies and so, I gifted them with the peaceful absence of my presence. Simply put, I stayed away. But I kept moving; I wrote, I studied, I meditated, I prayed, I rested, I worked out (went for a run and used the elliptical) and I ate uber-healthy (I'm talking fruits, nuts, raw veggies and plenty of water). I wanted to mention my eating and exercise for those who think that depression can always be cured by diet and exercise – it can definitely help, but is not necessarily a cure all.

But yesterday, as I faced each everyday task – made a daunting challenge through the lens of depression – there was a difference in my attitude. The scripture Rick Warren had challenged me with was ever present at the edge of my conscious thought: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances..." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. As I retreated to my room to escape the difficulty of interacting with my children, I thanked God for his presence in the moment and that his love for me was unchanging. As I read the supportive comments on Facebook, I rejoiced that my honesty prompted by seeking God's truth had been effective in encouraging both myself and others. As I worked out, I remembered God as I made my way around the track and was thankful that I had legs to move and a strong heart that allowed me to be active. And most telling, as my youngest son, Landen, struggled in his sleep and I laid down in his bed with my arms around him concerned yet again for the fragility of his heart, I thanked God for my boy's small, sweet face and his little body and that I get the privilege of being his mama.

Let me be completely honest, my brain was still groggy by the time I finally went to sleep last night and, today, the gray dullness lingers in my mind as I deal with another grim Nebraska winter day, but, there was a change in my focus from meditating on the scripture: "Rejoice, Pray, Give thanks." And that change in focus led to a day in which I brought glory to God through my depression, not despite it. The unimaginable happened, my depression actually brought God glory.

Now, onward I go.

To be continued...

Wednesday
Nov272013

Depressed and Christian

 

I am a person who deals with depression. I am a Christian who deals with depression. There are days when, for no apparent reason, the beast strikes and, under its weight, I can barely haul myself out of bed to take care of my children. There are moments, like this morning, when some minor or major disappointment elicits a disproportionate response from the stress mechanisms in my brain causing them to generate some smoky haze that befuddles my brain, clouds my thinking, slows my reaction, numbs my desire to do anything and makes me want to hide under my covers. I am a Christian person who deals with depression. I am a Christian person who deals with depression who is often embarrassed by my inability to battle the beast with scripture and prayer and discussion and sheer willpower.

This morning, after the gloomy fog had already taken up residence in the grooved recesses of my gray matter, I came across this scripture in Rick Warren's "The Daniel Plan Journal": "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. I read the scripture and thought to myself, "you have to be stinking kidding me." Of all the scriptures to be confronted with this morning? Why couldn't I have come across Jesus' gentle admonition in Matthew 11:28 to "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened..." Instead I was faced with the daunting prospect of rejoicing, praying and giving thanks; any one of which might cause me to pull a muscle in my present state of mind. Honestly, asking me to run a marathon seemed just about as likely to get done. And, if that wasn't difficult enough, Warren then writes, "Write a line of gratitude about a few of the challenges you are facing." By that time, I wanted to cuss.

But instead of cussing and shaking my fists at the heavens, I decided to try and approach this command to rejoice, pray and give thanks from a strictly clinical stance. I would say personal, but to be personal I have to inject emotion and self and right now that would be about as helpful as asking my seven year old to take over my duties as mom for the day, my feelings might just lead us all down the rabbit hole. As a matter of fact, I won't even get very far dissecting the scripture today, what I have written is already a Herculean effort in my present state of mind. I'm going to take this week and meditate on this scripture and try to write about where it takes me between now and Friday.

And that is my response to Warren's challenge to write a line of gratitude about a challenge I am facing. My more concise response is, "God I am grateful for the challenge of dealing with depression because I have the chance to reach out to someone else and let them know that they aren't alone. I can tell others that maybe together we can navigate the dense fog of this mental funk and figure out what it means to live out the mandate, "rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances..."

To be continued...