I alluded a few days back to the fact that God has put some “tough” blogs in my heart to write. As a matter of fact, *this* one is one that I’ve really been avoiding for a long time. I thought if I pushed it off, the “calling” would go away.
Oh boy…I was wrong.
Not only did God tell me that now was the time, He made it loud and clear. Yesterday’s post about Him finding me in a book of fiction and then asking me to do something out of my comfort zone was also the final push to get this one done.
I’m a writer, NEVER a talker. The majority of the time, if I have something to say I’m going to write and seldom sit down and have the conversation. Before I was able to write this particular post, I HAD to sit down with Kevin and have some very tough conversations. I didn’t want him blindsided with some of the content of this post. Though he said he never wants to “edit” what I write, I did feel like I needed him to know which direction I was going. It was just an incredibly deep conversation. One that should have happened YEARS (yes, YEARS!) ago.
For the most part, the gravity of this post is the depths to which it takes me. Many times I write things that leave me feeling a bit vulnerable, this one takes it to a whole new level.
I’ve said often that I should stop being surprised with how God gets my attention because He does show up in some of the strangest ways. Ways that leave no room for doubt that He was talking to me. Though I’ve felt led to write this post for so long and was completely disobedient to His calling, I now can’t get anything else done until I’ve made it happen. Again….He got my attention in the craziest of ways. This time it was again in the pages of a book of fiction. Again, one by Karen Kingsbury.
While “Sweet T” was here visiting not only didn’t I blog, but I also didn’t spend much time reading for pleasure and relaxation. The first night she was gone, I decided I NEEDED to read a book. I was feeling emotional from her leaving and I needed to “zone” out in a good book. I wasn’t for sure if I had any library books left in our basket. When I looked, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see one. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even remember checking it out. It actually somewhat struck me as odd to the point that I pulled up our library account online to see if I did indeed check it out. It wasn’t that it was a strange book, it was just more along the lines of not remembering when I got that particular one. Happy to have it, though still a bit surprised, I couldn’t wait to read it.
It didn’t take long until the book literally took my breath away. I easily get swept away in books, which is why I finish them so quickly and so often. Yet this one gripped me in such a different way. As I turned the pages of the book, I was agitated in a huge way. Beads of sweat covered me and my breathing was rapid, though I couldn’t put it down. It wasn’t a thriller. It wasn’t anything of the sort. It was a typical Kingsbury book. What was happening was that I was finding myself in those pages. Finding myself in the deepest, darkest times of my life. The days that depression overtook me in such powerful ways and with a grip that wouldn’t release now matter what I did.
As I read the voices in the character’s head, it was as if I was reading my own thoughts. When she, Maggie, would describe the breaks with reality, I was feeling it just like it was yesterday. What got me so deeply was for the first time EVER there were words to my feelings during that time of my life. For all of that time, I needed Kevin to understand me but couldn’t find the words to describe the place I was in. For the first time, those words were there.
I read a large portion of the book in a near panic attack. Literally. It was that powerful for me since I had been there.
The great thing about the book is that it ended well with the character whole, her marriage restored, and her faith in Christ complete and thorough. The same ending as my story. Yet, the journey of getting to that point just took my breath way.
In the story, Maggie left her husband Ben. She thought HE was to blame for her problems. She blamed HIM for not knowing and seeing her. She walked away from their marriage and checked herself into a therapy center with no intention of returning to him. While reading through her thought process and Ben’s reactions, I found so many parallels to that time in my life. Her struggles of not being able to make him SEE HER for HER caused such a gut-wrenching reaction in me.
I understood for the first time that to this day I think I was still holding onto some unhealthy resentment towards Kevin. I didn’t realize it until I was reading the book and finding rage and frustration rising within my own heart. It’s amazing the things that God revealed to me as I read along with such a work of “fiction”. A big portion of what I had to do last night by the Holy Spirit’s guiding was to admit to Kevin what the book revealed to me. I had to make the decision to release him from the resentment that I had been carrying. I had to share some deep, painful memories. I had to be honest with him about some of that time of my life. I had to be willing to share so much of me that I wanted to keep hidden.
Hidden. Masks. Those two words can greatly describe that time in my life.
I was the QUEEN of staying hidden behind the mask. Yes, a few people knew me well enough to know that something was seriously wrong with me. However, in general, just like the character in the book, I was a PRO at having a smile on the outside in public, but at home behind close doors I was something incredibly different. The outside world didn’t see much more than an exhausted mom.
What they didn’t see? They didn’t see the mom who was literally dying inside. They didn’t see the mom that was well beyond just a bit sad or discouraged. They didn’t see the mom that went from moments of complete despondency to fits of rage. They didn’t see the mom that even to this day is missing large portions of her memories. I can look at pictures and KNOW I did things with the kids (and LOTS of things), but I don’t have the actual memory of doing it. They didn’t see the mom that would never get out of bed for days in a row. The mom who would hide in her closet because reality just seemed to hard to face. They didn’t see the mom that thought her mind was splitting into pieces. They didn’t see the mom that was so deep in an abyss of darkness that she could literally almost feel the breath of Satan on her neck and the light of Christ seemed so far out of reach. They didn’t see the mom that entertained thoughts of suicide many more times than she cares to admit.
It was excruciating. Just like the character in the book, the greatest struggle I had during that time was the fact that I was a Christian and battling clinical depression. After all, can’t we pray everything away? Can’t we solve EVERY problem with a little bit more faith? The more I thought of that, the more I thought something was wrong with me. I began to lose all aspects of my faith. On the outside, you would never know it. Again….hidden….masks. I could walk the walk and talk the talk for people to believe I was OK. Yet, I was anything BUT Ok.
Praise God---I am NO longer in that dark place. God has absolutely given me victory over that darkness. To this day, I’m not sure what my trigger was. Perhaps it was a combination of postpartum depression and depression that can be hard to manage with SLE (lupus). Whatever it was, I needed help. Yet, I thought “good” Christian girls didn’t need help. The LAST thing I needed to hear was to pray more, trust God more, or anything of the sort. NOW, I realize that getting “help” would have been much more than that.
I don’t know what changed or when the change took place in me. I wish I did. I asked Kevin some tough questions last night. One question was if he recognized when things began to turn around and he can’t pinpoint it either. What we know is this: I’m not in that pit of agony any longer. That is one absolutely positive thing I’ve learned in this last year of loss on so many levels (dad, miscarriage, family relationships) and numerous obstacles. IF deep depression were still a battle for me at this point, I can without a shadow of a doubt say I wouldn’t be here. That is a scary thought to admit. Yet, being honest (and vulnerable) it is the truth. Yes, I absolutely have days of overwhelming emotion and heavy grief but they don’t overtake me into that same place of suffocating darkness. Instead, I can feel the sadness, embrace it, and hold onto other positives. In that darkness, there were no positives.
The reason I was led to write this post is because I KNOW without a doubt I’m not alone. I KNOW that someone that reads my blog is battling this monster. The situations may be different and the triggers may be something completely different, but yet YOU are in that darkness and don’t know how to climb out. I implore you to NOT be the stubborn, weak person that I was. REACH OUT! Take down that mask. Risk coming out from hiding behind the smile that doesn’t reach your eyes. As a matter of fact, I write these words with my heart being heavy for some specific women in my life right now. Because I’ve been there, I think I feel it with others much easier. My heart is heavy and I walk with you in empathy. Don’t buy into the lies that you are just a weak Christian and that you don’t measure up. Lies. PURE lies! I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Those lies DESTROY.
Now, looking back I feel blessed in ways that words can’t express. God saved me. If I’m brave and honest, I can go back in time and pinpoint times and situations that could have ended much differently. I can remember how much darkness surrounded me and the voices that were so loud at the time. Then---I couldn’t feel any hope and I sure didn’t see any light. Now---I can look back and say that the light HAD to be there and WAS there. My eyes were just closed.
I admit to struggling OFTEN with that time period now. I can’t get that time back with my children. I can’t get that time back with my husband. I can’t erase every bad memory and I can't remember things I do want to remember. I suffered greatly in my spiritual walk and missed MANY opportunities to be of service. Many times, I get VERY down on myself for all of that wasted time. Satan often uses that time frame and my raw emotions that are wrapped up in it to reach me and make me ineffective now. I’m learning to fight back against him and claim the REAL victory that Christ provided.
I don’t know why God pulled me out of that pit. I don’t even know why I went through it to begin with. What I know is this: there is a reason. There is a purpose. He didn’t have to save me from the darkness, but He did. He spared me. He literally saved my life. I sometimes get scared to think about what could have happened to my children. Yet, I’m so overwhelmed with gratitude that He protected EACH of us.
For that person reading that feels the darkness: please don’t give up. Your victory is also waiting. The darkness CAN end. The distance between you and God that feels so much bigger than a vast abyss really isn’t as far as you think it is. I promise you!
For those reading that haven’t experienced the overwhelming aspects of depression, LOVE on those that are facing it. Part of removing the stigma of getting help for depression begins with us. We have to make the person suffering understand that getting help is not a sign of weakness (like I thought!). It’s actually a sign of strength (which I didn’t have!). Depression is more than just a spiritual issue. We wouldn’t dare condemn a person for receiving treatment for cancer. Getting help in whatever form necessary for depression is no different. Even if you aren’t sure if someone is just discouraged or depressed, offer encouragement. It might just make the difference that is needed. Something little becomes BIG when God is in it!
On a side note, the book itself is called “When JOY Came to Stay”. Though the book title has a double meaning ( and one I don’t want to give away if you ever want to read the book), I’m so overwhelmed that JOY has come to live in my heart. For a long time after the darkness lifted, I was still in a panic that it would return. I no longer even live in that fear. I truly feel victorious and there is nothing I have ever been more grateful for in my life.
In closing, (about time, right!?)…. just to further show how God used this book and His timing to get my attention let me leave you with this last thought. I described earlier how I don’t remember picking up this book at the library. Guess what else? I’ve read the book before. I normally don’t have any trouble remembering which of her books I’ve read. Yet for some reason, I was WELL through the book before I realized that I had already read it. I came to very a pivotal point in the book and I immediately had a flash of what was coming next, something I shouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it. Without a doubt, God chose this time for me to read it, feel what I’ve felt, have those deep conversations with Kevin, and write this post. He is demanding my obedience, even though I feel extremely vulnerable in sharing such a big part of me. A part that I don’t like the world to see. We all like to be seen as strong, capable, and WHOLE….it’s hard to share those parts of us that are anything but! If nothing else, I can finally say I was obedient to His call. The rest is up to Him!
A verse that I held on so tightly during the time and one that I still cling to today: (then) it was my hope as I tried to cling onto a “ray of light” and (now) I know it was reaching me deeper than I thought. Now, it’s my life-line for when I step out in faith (like right now!).
“This is my command---be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 He WAS with me in the darkness and He is continuously with me now----no matter the situation or what He is asking of me. I trust that!