Saturday, September 5, 2015

Depression, Letting Go, and the Power of Positive Self-Talk

I have wondered for weeks how to begin a post like this. I have had weeks where I've been itching to create this post, and weeks where I've told myself that if I write this post, I'll be cut off permanently from society, which is a lie straight from the pits of hell.

In June, Andrew and I, along with the assistant principal from my school, took 20 students to Peru. It. Was. Awesome. Even the Amazon, which I don't really ever want to do again. I can at least say that I've been there and slept (or rather, didn't sleep) 4 feet from a giant porcupine that I was sure was about to jump on me and kill me at any second. 

When we came back, however, I got really sick. And I mean really sick. Like pale, sweating, freezing, 10-feet-from-the-bathroom, can't-move-without-feeling-like-knives-are-stabbing-my-temples sick. The first night, I thought it was the flu. But Andrew never caught it, and two days later I was still sick. After blood-testing for malaria and Hepatitis A, determining I had neither, and chalking it up to possible salmonella poisoning and something else I'd rather not share publicly, I began to get better. 


But for some reason, mentally I began to feel like someone had picked me up with a crane and dropped me into a pit darker than anywhere I'd been before. 

So I started to withdraw from society. I didn't want to hang out. I didn't want to see anyone. I wanted to sleep (I slept a lot), cuddle my cats, lay on the couch with my husband, and I had a desire like I'd never had before to dive deeper into Scripture.

I had no clue at the time why God let me sit in this pit where I couldn't see anything, but I could feel him slowly begin prying my fingers from things I had held onto for so long. And for once, I let Him. Control is my biggest idol. Controlling people. Controlling my running. Controlling my job and my classroom. Controlling my body and how I look. 

Depression has taken many good things from me this summer. It's taken friendships. My heart has wanted to crack open from friends who didn't understand me or were upset with me. It's taken running. If you've ever run before, you know that the one thing it takes even more than physical endurance is mental endurance, which I had almost none of. It's taken my body. I've gained weight (not much, but enough to where I notice it), and I've lost all the muscle I worked so long to gain. It's taken my desire to eat right. My summer months were filled with large Cokes, donuts, and greasy hamburgers. At times I felt like it took my sanity on the days when I would sit at home and wonder if I'd ever feel like me again.

But there's one thing it never took. My desire to live and to follow Jesus. If anything there were times when I literally could feel him there, taking things from my hands and replacing them with his Word and his love. 

And my husband. My wonderful, awesome, loving husband, who has always sought to understand me. I know, and I feel it within the depths of my soul, that one day when we're both gone, he will stand at the gates of heaven and God will reward him for loving me and leading me as one of his daughters so well. I have seem him grow so much this summer. 

One day, I was talking to my mom on the phone and she found a Christian therapist online that she suggested I see. (I am so thankful for this, mom, you don't even know!) So I called her, and I love her. If anything, she's helped me understand what I am going through and helped me let go of the things God, through this depression, was gently taking from me.

After I was instructed to give up my second job and, in my therapist's words, anything that I strove to be a perfectionist at or worship as an idol, my therapist began to teach me about positive self-talk. 

One of the most difficult things to do is stop negative self-talk. And I began to realize that I was living in this cycle of sin my whole life where I continuously had told myself, "You suck at this. You have to do better. You have to do this, this, and this. You're not pretty enough, strong enough, thin enough." 

So I was instructed to actually say kind things to myself in my head (or aloud) every day. Not self-worshiping, but just reassuring myself using things that God has said about me in Scripture. You are beautiful. You are loved. You're enough. 

And I'm slowly getting better. I'm learning how to run and work out healthily (isn't it strange that there's a healthy and an unhealthy way to work out??). I no longer take my GPS watch with me. I no longer time myself or check my distance. I do it for fun and down time. I breathe deeper when I'm at work. I'm way less stressed (most of the time). I let my husband lead me. I cry when I feel like I need to cry, because this whole process is painful, man! I've dropped to my knees and asked God to bring someone who understood and have literally had 3 or 4 friends seek me out to either study Scripture or just hang out and talk. (Jesus is so good to us). 

Talking about depression is so looked down upon for some reason. But I can bet you if you walked into a room with just 10 people in it, at least one other person has struggled with it at some point in his/her life. Our country has one of the highest depression rates in the world, and it's because we try so hard to control EVERYTHING (don't get me wrong, it's an actual chemical imbalance), but I wonder if it would be better if we just were allowed to stop and breathe. If we'd be better if we were allowed to talk about it without being ostracized. In 2010 alone, over 38,000 people chose to end their lives because the pain just became too much. What if we talked about this? What if more stories were shared and more people asked the question, and truly wanted to know, "How are you doing?" What are we so afraid of?

I wonder. 

So that's my story. It's long and winding and confusing, but that's what's currently in my head. And if sharing it helps one person, then it's worth it. You're worth it. 

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." - Eph. 3:20-21

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