No Shame in Brokenness

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Yesterday was the first day in about a year that I felt like my depression had come back. Everyone has something they struggle with and this is the main temptation I face.

There is a part of me that feels ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian and can spend a whole day crying, fighting thoughts of self harm and thoroughly doubting that I have a good future. But I have no reason to be ashamed. Jesus has taken my shame away; in my weakness He is strong.

So I am praying that Jesus catches your attention through what I’ve admitted. Your deepest darkest parts, your lying, stealing, jealousy, pornography, unforgiveness, bitterness, reckless and any other temptation you fight is His strength.

Keep rejecting your temptation, keep trusting in the grace of Jesus to pull you through. Keep on telling Him how you feel. Yet at the end of the day come back to praising Him. He is our strength.

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13 Niv

photo credit: col_adamson via photopin cc

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Supporting Someone with Depression

I have lived with someone suffering with depression for six years, at the start of their illness I didn’t understand how to help them, I was at a loss about what I should do. Thankfully now I have a much clearer idea of what we can and what we shouldn’t do when supporting someone. So here’s a list of some of the most important things I’ve learnt.

You are not responsible for their actions/mood/happiness The reality is that small things can tip a person with depression over the edge and into an awful place. I remember that if I sat in “the wrong chair”, my Dad’s day would spiral out of control. I felt responsible and so guilty that my actions caused this. The fact was that there was no way of knowing which chair was the wrong chair – I did not cause the bad mood, the illness did. Do not take responsibility for someone’s mood, for even if you acted perfectly all day everyday their mood would not improve. We can at the most support and love someone with depression but we cannot be responsible for them.

Protect yourself. one of the most important ways to be there for someone is to not become worn down and depressed yourself. Take breaks, laugh lots, make sure you have good supportive friends around you, move forward with your life goals and make your own health a priority. Depression tends to suck joy out others – make sure you fill up your own joy and happiness regularly!

Do not define the person by their illness. Whenever possible treat the person as you would have done before. In your own mind don’t see them as a new or separate person now, keep in your thoughts the person before the illness. This will be hard for you, expect to grieve a bit for the person you are missing and let yourself feel that. But don’t give up – keep remembering your loved one at their best.

If you are a Christian pray for them. I debated leaving this one out, but I have honestly seen such an improvement since praying for protection from God because of what Jesus has done, I would just feel dishonest if I left this out!

Do not feel guilty. I felt crippling guilt that I couldn’t make my Dad smile, that we had no relationship and barely spoke. I felt like I needed to do more, even though I did my best. Don’t fall into this trap, you are there loving them and caring the best you can – there is no reason to feel guilty. You can’t make a blind man see colours, no matter how hard you tried and there would be no case for guilt – it’s exactly the same with depression.

Forgive hard, forgive often. This will make hardly any difference to the person you are caring for but will make all the difference to you. Be generous with forgiveness and you will quickly feel better yourself.

Do not allow yourself to be abused. If you are being emotionally, physically or in anyway abused by the person you are caring for stop taking it. Depression is not an excuse and you are not helping them by letting them get away with it. Leave the situation and it will benefit you both.

This is not a perfect list, or a complete one. I may be totally wrong in some points or for certain situations but I have needed to learn these things myself and I truly hope they will help others too.

How Depression stole my Faith

This is my testimony about how my faith was affected by the illness depression. Another blogger (who also focuses on hope!) asked me if I had any posts about how my depression changed after I met Jesus and so here it is!

The first thing I have to say is that becoming a Christian did not heal my depression, I was a Christian before it happened. In fact, my illness causes me to completely lose my faith.

I suffered from reactional depression caused by watching my dad and sister battle with suicide, my stress levels rocketed and my brain chemicals got out of balance. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I stopped feeling any emotion apart from despair and simple things became impossible to me. Getting out of bed felt like the hardest thing I’d ever done.

Why did I lose my faith? Because I had conditions attached to being a Christian. Life had to make sense, life couldn’t be difficult and Jesus had to answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to.

I walked away because my faith was shallow and I started to play games with God. I put myself in situations I knew would hurt me, surrounded myself with a relationship that I knew was abusive and thought “if I stay here God will have to break in and rescue me”. He didn’t and all that happened was I got hurt really badly.

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When Jesus didn’t rescue me I decided He didn’t exist. I turned my back on him and things got worse, oh so much worse. I toyed with suicide and lived a secret but very reckless life.

I lost my faith and religious set of rules to this illness. I got secular help in counselling and medication. I never once mentioned to my counsellor that I used to have a faith.

I was empty; even when the drugs worked and I could function again I was so, very empty.

I am so glad my story doesn’t end there! Jesus found me, not religion or faith or a massive conversion experience but a relationship with Him saved me.

I became so down trodden I was ready to either end my life or try one last thing. I had a feeling deep down that if I read the bible all the way through maybe things would change. So I started, manically, hectically and angryly to read and underline any verse that spoke of suffering and God turning His back on people. I didn’t like the promises and praises but I read the verses none them less.

Slowly, but by bit, chain by chain, lie by lie, my mind got clearer. I had started reading in a place where I wanted to throw my life away; I chose to give it all to Jesus rather than just kill myself. The more I read about Jesus the more I could see He understood the things I was struggling with.

He suffered more than I did and I couldn’t argue with that. He didn’t need to suffer but He chose to so He could trade places with me; so that He could pay the price for my mistakes. It felt like He hadn’t turned His back on me, but that He knew I would go through these things so thousands of years before they actually happened He suffered and died so He could help when I needed Him.

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I wanted nothing to do with clichés and religion and the prosperity gospel but I wanted Jesus. I read books and books by missionaries who really knew Jesus and knew that to really know Jesus you had to understand suffering.

Everyday since then it has been a two-step forward one step back type of journey of knowing Jesus. The man who died and came back to life. The man who knows me in and out. The man who rescued me.

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Expecting the Worst and Terrified of Good News

So, yesterday was the first time my Dad has been home in a year, he’s in hospital for chronic depression and the last 6 years have been tough. To read a bit more check out my post from yesterday here.

I had no idea how it would go, and I was nervous, scratch that I was plain scared of what may happen to him emotionally when he came back.

It went well. I mean REALLY well! He wasn’t stressed by the small things which would have sent him over the edge, he was laughing, he even helped me make some of my invitations for my wedding. WOW how blessed were we yesterday! Yet I found myself reacting very strangely…

I was comfortable when I expected it to go wrong, yet when how well it went sunk in I suddenly became terrified deep, deep inside.

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Why would someone become terrified of good news? I think it’s because they fear the fall back to where they were before.

I love the feeling of having my Dad back, someone to protect me and care about me and not someone for me to worry about; yet the thought that I may have to go through the emotions of loss that I face when he has a turn for the worse make me want to run away from the good situation and the possibility of pain.

I have been told in the past that this is not trusting God. I disagree. This is a normal reaction to trauma and suffering and I know I couldn’t stop it if I tried. What matters is what I do with my reaction, and that I trust God with my actions.

I believe that it is not your emotional reactions to life which show your faith and character – it’s the actions you chose to live out once your reaction has surfaced.

So here are the actions I am chosing today…

  • To be thankful for the fact my Dad is alive! This is a miracle
  • To forgive myself for being afraid, that’s what Jesus has done
  • To remember the good times from yesterday and treasure them no matter what happens tomorrow
  • To think about the promises that God has for my future – they are awesome!
  • To stop myself preparing for the worst case scenario and leave Jesus in control

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Day Release from the “Funny Farm”

This is part 2 of my series on how good things can come from AWFUL experiences.

I may have used a bit of poetic license on the title… perhaps it should have read “a day visit out of the mental hospital with two minders” but that didn’t sound as catchy to me. So yes, today is the first time my Dad has come home for a whole year, he’s been in a high security mental hospital two hours away, so our contact hasn’t really been frequent and I am feeling lots of things about it.

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In fact I am shaking, all the memories of the panic and paranoia whilst he was at home is getting to me. I don’t have any idea how he will react, or how we will react either and I really don’t want to think about it.

I’m hoping to update you with the truth of how God has used this situation once I have got my head around it – but I also want to show you my honesty for right now. I am feeling awful, full of fear and despair and memories I wish, well, memories I wish I couldn’t remember.

However I am setting my hope on something higher and I want to remember some amazing truths which came from a comment on my previous post….

“I deal with a similar situation. I too had a childhood that kept me on high alert, depressed, and emotionally alone. When I was in high school I would always sense when something was about to happen…. As the years went on, if someone was sick and I would pray for them I would have a “sense” of their healing or their death. And like you I’ve been pretty on the mark. This has caused me to one be sensitive to seeing signs and warnings that opened my eyes to seeing God in ways that many don’t. But this has also caused me to panic in fear that someone else is going to pass.… I know this is long and seems depressing, but the truth is through these experiences that always led to heartache and loss, I became dependent completely on the Lord. I am able to see His Voice in ways that  I would never trade. But I’ve also come to realize that every moment of my life, (and yours) had been preplanned. God knew exactly where and what I’d be going through and He purposed GOOD for ALL of it. Just like Joseph going through years and years of what appeared to be undeserving punishment, it was actually Gods plan all along, that He told him in advance. Genesis 50:20 has given my past a purpose, and I pray that you know that although your life here as a child was hard… and “the enemy planned it for harm, God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

You have PURPOSE! Jesus chose you and KNEW you would glorify Him and by doing so you will Shine HIS LIGHT among other women who are where you once were. … You have the Creator of the Universe living inside of you. Remember that when the days get hard. You are CHOSEN!”

This blogger has not had an easy time and some of the details she shared in her comment are really distressing – yet through it all she can still say this. Check out her writing here, you won’t regret it!

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Staying Happy when Life’s not Right

When I was a teenager my Dad had a breakdown and suddenly my reasonably normal life turned into a terrifying place full of suicide attempts and hospital visits. I have always been a worrier and I decided that the best way to protect myself would be to imagine the worst case scenarios and expect that to happen – that way I couldn’t be taken by surprise. It seemed to make sense – and most of the time I was right. If I saw a police car driving in the direction of my house I would assume it was because my Dad went missing – and usually it was because he had. If I woke up in the night I assumed that my Dad had slammed the door and left, or that he was trying to drink himself to sleep – I was nearly always right about this one (I sleep deeeeeply).

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Did my method protect myself? I thought that it would as so often I was right about my fears, but the actual result was that I became depressed myself. I suffered from reactional depression, which is a depression brought on by the situation I lived in. I was in a constant state of panic and my body over produced adrenaline, this meant that all my systems went out of whack – most importantly my limbic system or my brain. It’s complicated but the chemicals which help you to think, and help the nerve endings in your brain to work, leak out of your brain when there are high levels of adrenaline in your body, meaning you become depressed and simple tasks become a struggle. At university I studied Biomedical Science and when I learnt more about reactional depression I saw the massive danger in expecting the worst and keeping adrenaline levels high.

So this brings me to the next series of posts I am hoping to write. I am, again, in a situation where the health of someone I love keeps getting worse and the temptation to “protect myself” by expecting the worst is kicking in….. So in an effort to see the hope I have (in Jesus!) and not to get negative I am going to post stories from my life about how good things, sometimes even amazing things, have come from the worst times. I would absolutely love to share some other stories too so if you have any inspirational, hope filled experiences I can include please, please leave a comment below 🙂

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Depression Days are Over

After a time of massive trial this is what God had to say to those people who ran to Him because of the trouble. These are amazing words and I hope they brighten your day!

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 Jeremiah 18-21

“Again, God’s Message:

“‘I’ll turn things around for Jacob.
I’ll compassionately come in and rebuild homes.
The town will be rebuilt on its old foundations;
the mansions will be splendid again.
Thanksgivings will pour out of the windows;
laughter will spill through the doors.
Things will get better and better.
Depression days are over.
They’ll thrive, they’ll flourish.
The days of contempt will be over.
They’ll look forward to having children again,
to being a community in which I take pride.
I’ll punish anyone who hurts them,
and their prince will come from their own ranks.
One of their own people shall be their leader.
Their ruler will come from their own ranks.
I’ll grant him free and easy access to me.
Would anyone dare to do that on his own,
to enter my presence uninvited?’ God’s Decree.

22 “‘And that’s it: You’ll be my very own people,
I’ll be your very own God.’”

In people’s lives it seems that awful circumstances, pain and grief can either cause people to run as far away from God as they can or to deliberately push closer to Him.

If you are trying, even the tiniest bit, to love God throughout your trials this promise is for you – BE ENCOURAGED! 🙂

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