Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"Yes to God" Chapter 4... Ms. Happiness
Isn’t interesting. Every week I have started to write this post, read the week’s chapter, thinking that there is nothing in it that applies to me.
God always proves me wrong. You think that after 4 weeks of this, I would get the point. Maybe I will eventually. Though, it really is kinda cool to watch how God blows my skepticism out of the water each week… and you know when He usually does it? When I start going through the bible study questions at the back of the book! (thank you Lisa for putting those in there!!!)
This week’s study has been a great joy for me. I mean it. JOY!!!
I can say that I have fallen into the categories of trying to make myself happy, looking for someone I love to make me happy, and to derive happiness from the things I have or do. None of it worked, though I could pretend at times that they did.
Lisa wrote: “Though often well concealed, depression is a very real problem in many seemingly happy homes across the country. No one is immune to this problem no matter how happy she may seem on the outside.”
That is what I have done for years. I have pretended I was perfect. I have pretended I was confident and assured walking into different situations. I have pretended I was happy. For years. Slowly the perfection and confidence masks started slipping off, even if it was only in the privacy of my small group, or close friends. But even with my friends, I kept up that mask of happiness.
I have struggled with depression for years. About 15-20 years of my life. I am only 35. That is a long time to struggle. That is a long time to keep up that mask.
It took a lot to get that mask to fall into pieces.
Even in a small group that I trusted and a very close friend of mine didn’t get me to drop the mask. Until a particularly bad day of trying to keep going when all I had nothing left. That night my best friend and I were talking on the phone. When there was a lull in the conversation, she asked me how I was doing. I told her fine. Things were going good. She paused for a minute, and then said again, “How are things really going?”
At which point I told her to hang on for a minute, I got up off the couch and locked myself in my bedroom, and completely broke down. I lost it and couldn’t keep the mask up, not with her. Gwen let me cry, and then held me accountable to getting help… at least talking to my small group leader who could do some non-professional counseling.
That was the beginning of the road to recovery for me. A lot of the journey you can see from my blog here. Before I started my blog there was about 2 years of slow progress full of many very low times.
Lisa asked the questions, “Stories such as this often leave me to wonder if… we act happy on the outside to please others, silently leaving us to hurt on the inside? Do we mask the way we truly feel with medications and facades, hoping that no one will dip deeper to find out what’s really going on with us?”
I can answer those questions with a resounding YES!!! I know that I did. I didn’t want my husband to see how much I was hurting, and have him know that he wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t want my friends to see what a mess I really was. I didn’t want people to know that I was depressed… because Christians were supposed to be “filled with joy if they were filled with the Spirit.” At least, that was my impression. There were Christians I knew who were struggling with depression, and I didn’t find any fault with them. I was able to give them grace and understanding, but I wasn’t able to extend the same to myself.
I didn’t mask what I was really feeling with medications until quite a bit later. But I did put up the facade, and at times when things were way too painful and I just wanted to forget them for a while, I would turn to a couple of stiff drinks to numb away the pain. Later that only added to my depression because I beat myself up for using alcohol as a numbing agent.
When I finally did get some medication and started trying different anti-depressants… well, that just made things worse, not only because they weren’t helping, but they gave me access to medication that would give me a way out.
In October 2007, I sank so low I didn’t any options but suicide. I was prepared to take all my medication at once, along with some alcohol, just to make sure that I never woke up. I even had the day planned, because I had to do it when no one would find me until it was too late.
It was only by God’s grace that I mentioned it to a friend. Within 48 hours I had been convinced to talk to my doctor who was prescribing my anti-depressants, and within 12 hours of that, I had been admitted to the hospital, on the mental health unit, basically under a suicide watch.
I was so ashamed to be there, that all I could think about was getting out, getting at my meds and doing what I had planned on in the first place. Eventually as I was put on the right medication, and as I was shown by the staff there that there was still hope, the shame didn’t leave, but the strength of the suicidal thoughts started to ease.
Looking back now, I can see so many positives resulting from my stay in the hospital. I finally was connected to a psychiatrist who actually could help me get on the right medications for me. I was connected with a very gifted Christian counselor, Tricia. This past year has been one of amazing recovery and healing for me. It hasn’t been easy. It has been incredibly healing.
The point of sharing this is to tell you I have found the source of joy. I had Him all along, I just didn’t see the joy that was supposed to be there. Even when friends encouraged me with scripture or anything else, I would discount it, I wouldn’t believe them.
Even in the last few weeks God has broken some tight suffocating chains. He has set me free in new ways. God has done some amazing things, and now I am confident that He will do more and more as I continue to follow Him.
The verses that really hit me, that really spoke to me where I am at right now in my life…
“You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.”
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him, and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1Peter 1:8-9
I am finding moments in my life now to rejoice over. To dance because God has given me such a gift of joy. I love Him and believe in Him. He has changed me from the inside out. I am a different person than I was a year ago, than I was even 4 months ago.
I can’t describe the joy I feel this day!
That isn’t to say that there aren’t bad days, or that I don’t struggle with depression. I have bad days. I hurt in response to circumstances around me. I get depressed. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. But I still have a joy lingering deep down inside.
What has changed? I have been able to set my hope fully on God. I have been able to get my eyes off my self, and onto Him. Even when I am overwhelmed by negative thoughts, and the lies I have believed for so long, I have hidden His word in my heart. I keep craving His word, and have found it easier and easier to memorize it. When the negative thoughts come, when the enemy tries to convince me that I am worthless, nothing, useless, shameful, usually I am able to counteract that with scripture. Not to say that I do this all the time. There are days that I suffer defeat, but each day is a chance to start over, refocus, and even if I am depressed, to cling to the truth of who God is and who He says I am.
No matter how I feel, I know and believe that God is good. He is in control. He already has the victory, and I am in Him, so I have the victory too. Even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.
I have found true one of the very last things Lisa says in this chapter.
“When we go to the real Source of joy, we find the answers we need to secure our contentment in life forever. This joy cannot be revoked, and it won’t be changed accoring to our circumstances.” [emphasis mine]
I hope and pray that you will find this true as well.
The first three verses of Psalm 30 contain an incredible promise. If you are not able to say these words now with any certainty, you will be able to in the future. It is a promise you can hold onto. I have. Even when I didn’t see it or believe it. And I can say that now I do see it, and I can say these words with a full heart.
I will leave you with the best parting gift I can. God’s word to you.
“I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
O Lord you brought me up from the grave;
you spared me from going down into the pit.
(NASB says in the last line: “You have kept me alive, that I would not go down into the pit.”)
(Please join us for more posts about this book “Behind Those Eyes” by Lisa Whittle at Leila’s blog)