Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression - it's personal

With the recent suicidal death of Robin Williams, social media has lit up with discussions and opinions on depression. If nothing else, this outlet allows us to speak our minds. Most often, I am grateful for the freedom but, sometimes, I just shake my head at the opinions. Yet, I'm now adding mine to the mix. I do so with trepidation and prayer. I'm aware that my opinion and my experience is my own. I am unqualified to speak of others' experiences with this issue and, likewise, others are unqualified to speak of mine. With that said, I hope to share my struggles and encourage you with my own experience with feelings of despair.

I'm no expert on this complicated subject, but I know my own family, in particular, has struggled with it gravely for generations. My own sweet mother had very severe struggles with it and I've sought to be an overcomer from my own struggles for much of my adult life. I have many relatives who have struggled with depression. I've even thought of my family's depression as a curse and have been purposeful about breaking that cycle in my own life. I am not ignorant of the enemy's plan to kill, steal, and destroy mankind. If he cannot take our lives, he will certainly try to take our peace and joy and keep us bogged down with despair. My own personal experience is also that my imbalance of hormones has contributed greatly to my physical and mental health. I have attempted to treat that imbalance with physical and spiritual care and God has given me a great measure of peace and freedom as I look to Him for help.

Again, I dare not diagnose anyone else's experience; this  reflection is just from my family perspective and experience. I share it, not to make anyone upset or to say I have the market on perspective, but to just give you mine and to, hopefully, encourage someone who may be struggling or at a low point.
The entire book of Psalms reminds me of how my own struggles and those of King David can be paralleled so often. But I can deeply identify with Psalm 18 and often call it a mirror of my own life's journey. It is particularly personal to me. In true Message-style translation, I offer my personal Psalm of Praise.

In my distress I cried to the LORD and He answered by moving heaven and earth to make me know He is for me. He reached down with His own loving hands and drew me out of the deep waters and rescued me. I had/have nowhere else to go, but to the LORD, and He is faithful. It's out of knowing that faithfulness that I keep a vigilant and determined eye towards my God. With a deeply grateful heart, I seek and worship Him and find The Messiah in the mystery of my mess. 

It's not a formula or an antidote to depression, but, for me, it has been my life preserver. My focus on my Life Guard pulls me to safety when I am sinking. If you reach out and can't find Him, please keep reaching. I have discovered that He is faithful to reach down with His own Hand or to put many human and/or angelic hands around me to walk with me until His Joy brings me peace and His strength holds me up in and through the despair that threatens to drown me.

I cannot count the number of times, as a child, that I tried to console my mother as she wailed and screamed, while I thought it was my responsibility to keep her alive, to somehow prevent her from having a nervous breakdown. She reached many low points, yet loved God with her whole heart. There was a war going on in our home and it was from the enemy. Whether it was physical, mental, or spiritual - or all of the above - I know not. I just know that it was real and it crippled her and affected our family. It was much later in her life, that she was able to get some kind of mental balance with medical care and God's constant love.

In my 20's, I started struggling with some of the same emotional issues and behaviors my mother had struggled with. It wasn't until I had tried many medications to no avail, and finally came to a crossroads of surrender to my LORD, that I finally began to experience some sort of victory over my struggle. I sat out to study the faithfulness of God, the truth of Who He is, and the wonder of His healing power. I took an honest look at myself and realized that I could choose to rely on myself and my feelings or I could learn to lift my head up and change my focus in my times of despair. With constant discipline and practice, God kept my head and heart lifted higher more often than He allowed me to remain downcast. I realized that, if I followed my emotions and reacted to them as the enemy had tricked me into doing so many times before,  he would eat my lunch every time I took the bait. If I allowed all the compassion I felt for others to overcome me, I wouldn't be able to make it out of bed in the mornings. I decided I would praise God - not for - but in and through the way I felt until I looked and listened to Him and His truth more often than I relied upon my limited ability to navigate through my feelings and struggles. God reminded me that there is always hope in Him and that the enemy's deception that I had no choice to overcome my struggles had no power over me. I cannot say I never feel sad - I do - but I can say that my God is the Victor and He is always faithful to help me when I call to Him.

I am, by no means, suggesting that other people don't have enough faith or trust in God to experience freedom. I'm just saying that my experience is that He is faithful and He always extends hope. He has given me hope. He has given me life. He has lifted me out of my despair. I pray He does the same for countless others. Keep calling on Him and never ever give up in a moment, or moments, of despair. Keep looking up and reaching up. I believe God is compelled to reach down when we reach up to Him. My story is that He has been faithful to do so.

My heart hurts for Robin Williams and the pain that led him to suicide. My heart hurts for so many others that struggle day in and day out with depression. Yet God reminds me that He is always bigger than depression. I think of depression with a little "d".  I think of God with a Big "D". He is the Divine Deity, the Deliverer, the Difference-Maker! I put all my hope in the Big "D" and come against the little "d" in the Mighty name of Jesus. The little "d" has cheated far too many people for far too long out of peace and joy. The Big "D" is able to offer hope in the face of despair. God cries with those who despair and He wraps His loving arms around us. Oh, how I hope you know His arms are there and you are able to feel the salt of His tears and the strength of His arms.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


I don't know who invented hashtags, but I'm a big fan. Many people dislike their randomness, but that is just what I embrace. I kind of feel like a hashtag is a way of not worrying about conjugation, grammar or logic and being able to be creative with a little fun or sometimes snarky snippet. I'm sure the geniuses in the social media world (I say that seriously, not as an insult) intended it to be used in a particular way, but my random mind likes to use it in my own random ways. A hashtag gives me license to do just that - to blurt out my randomness without fear of the hashtag, grammar, or perfection police telling me I'm doing it all wrong.  Maybe I am, but it doesn't matter. When I hashtag, I usually smile. I hope it becomes infectious and others start to smile. I hope they embrace their own random hashtags.

For a middle-aged person (it's taken me some long, serious honest introspection to admit that at 50-something I am "at least" at middle-age), I realize my admiration for this newer generational phenomena is a bit strange. But I love to be able to express thoughts and ideas in new and engaging ways and, to me, a hashtag is just that - an unusual, but effective, means of expression. All I can say is #MorePowerToIt. One condition I've put on my own hashtags is that of capitalization for the next word. I realize that's not really the way to do it but, #ItMakesItEasierToRead.

All this talk about hashtags made me wonder what kinds of hashtags I would use as a nutshell expression for who I am, for what matters to me. I've utilized the remainder of this post to paint a random picture of just that. I hope it tells a story!