I’m not sure if anyone out there is interested after my half-a-year hiatus, but I feel compelled to write this regardless. Interest or not from the majority, I’m positive someone, somewhere out there needs to hear this. So here it is. My story. Where I’ve been, and what happened when I lost myself.
A few months ago I found myself in a place I never thought I would be.
Not the often overly optimistic, uber positive, me.
And yet, there I was…
Not just a little bit of sadness, but a heavy, thick darkness that had silently crept in over the summer and slowly infiltrated my soul until it clenched me in a nearly unbearable grip of despair. hopelessness engulfed me, and joy was a vague, distant memory. It literally felt as though I’d lost myself, and I found myself wondering where I’d gone and how I’d ever get myself back. Was it even possible?
It certainly felt impossible, daunting at best.
The past couple months have been dedicated to healing, and I’m happy to report that I indeed was able to find myself again.
To clarify, I’m not telling you all this so that you’ll pity me. On the contrary, I share because I’ve found that the more I share this part of my story with others, the more I realize there are so many women out there fighting the very same battle.
And yet, often times, you would never know it.
Everyone’s kind of hush-hush about depression. Like it’s something to be ashamed of. Guess what? IT’S NOT.
So I guess I’m writing this to anyone who’s ever felt them-self in the desolate valley of depression and felt alone and misunderstood and disappointed in themselves. I’m here to tell you, it’s ok. You’re going to be ok. It doesn’t last forever (praise the Lord). But more importantly:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
There are other women who feel like you. Find them. Talking to someone who understands how hopeless you feel is an invaluable treasure. Get the help you need, there’s no shame in seeking help.
YOU’RE WORTH IT.
Let yourself heal. Find yourself. It’s possible. You’re in there still.
And tucked away, buried beneath the oppressive sadness, there are lessons to be learned. Lessons that will make you stronger. Trials have a way of doing that…making you stronger. They’re God’s way of refining us I do believe. And while your lessons may be different than mine, I thought I’d share mine here:
Lesson 1 – When I am weak, He is strong. I could recite this from memory prior to my bout with depression, but until I experienced it, I don’t think I truly believed it. we are not designed to carry the burden of all our problems, but God is. Repeat after me: “HE is strong. I am weak. He IS strong. i AM weak. He is STRONG. i am WEAK.” Got it? Good. Cling to this anytime you feel inadequate, depressed or not. But don’t just cling to it…believe it.
Lesson 2 – As christian women, we are often told to “be joyful always.” I felt so much shame (which comes from the enemy by the way) because I literally could. not. feel. joy. In anything. Guess what? True joy is found when we process all our emotions in a healthy way. Take time each day to inventory your emotions. Check in with yourself. Label how you’re feeling and decide how you’re going to deal with it, either through prayer, using your voice and talking to someone, or taking action. Whatever it is, do something so that those emotions don’t sit inside you and fester, and instead, you are able to experience true joy. always. (If you’ve seen the movie Inside Out, you’ll know Disney nailed this lesson.)
Lesson 3 – Serving selflessly is NOT the same as dying to self. This whole “dying to self” bit is NOT how God wants us to live and is completely misunderstood (in my opinion, of course. i’m holding myself back from going all theological on you, so if you want me to lay this out in more detail, leave me a comment below, and I’d be happy to). Does He want us to serve others? You bet! Does He want us to put others before ourselves? You better believe it! But you better also know that serving selflessly does not mean stifling who you are and losing your identity as the beautiful, unique woman God designed you to be. Find a balance between serving (and as moms and homeschool moms serving is a constant thing) and being the person God designed you to be. You don’t have to lose yourself to love and serve others. In other words, make time for you! The next lesson sums that up fairly well.
Lesson 4 – This lesson ties in with the one above, but in order to serve and to love your family and others, you need to take care of YOU. This means carving time for yourself out of your busy schedule. Whatever that looks like for you whether it’s a 15 minute walk around the block, a coffee date with yourself or an afternoon browsing the shelves of the nearest bookstore…just make the time. This also means cultivating your own hobby/hobbies, which i know can seem next to impossible. but it’s critical. don’t give up the things you love, you were designed to enjoy life too, just like everyone you’re serving; and think of it this way, someone in your life is going to get enjoyment from your hobby as well – whether they’re enjoying your work of art, listening to your music, enjoying a more energized you, playing golf with you, etc. see? now suddenly that hobby of yours doesn’t seem so selfish does it? it’s all perspective. and the simple fact that YOU. MATTER. TOO. believe it. own it.
Lesson 5 – mindfulness is a useful tool if you have a brain like mine that likes to think waaaaay to hard about things, reenacts recent encounters with people over and over and over, and just generally has a hard time living in the present moment. sound like any of you out there? yes? i thought so. start practicing mindfulness. start easy. for me, it was when i have my coffee in the morning. sit with your coffee (or whatever, pick something) and go through all your senses. what does your cup feel like? not just hot, but smooth, or textured. what else can you feel? the chair beneath you? the way you breath? let’s move to sounds. you’ll be surprised what you can hear when you really listen. it might be the way your cup clinks when it hits the table. or the kids in the other room. your breathing, there it is again, you can feel it AND hear it if you listen really hard. i think you get where i’m going with this. by going through all your senses, you are literally focused on that moment and that moment alone. this has been an invaluable tool for me. practice it consciously and pretty soon, you’ll find yourself living increasingly in the moment. what a relief. friends, if you get one thing from this post, let it be mindfulness. even if you’re not depressed, this is just such a useful tool. we all have trouble living in the moment in today’s busy world. this is a remedy for that. live your life NOW.
On top of all this, never, NEVER stop trusting God, and the simple fact that God uses everything, EVERYTHING, for the good of those who love Him. This is the truth. Hold onto it like there’s no tomorrow, He is faithful, and trials are for but a moment. And during those trials, those valleys, those dark holes of despair, He never leaves you, never forsakes you, never stops loving you.
Believe it. Know it. Own it.
Lastly, below are two things I never let go of during my battle, a verse and a song. perhaps they can help someone else too. that’s my hope anyway…
Erica - Thank you for being so brave to share your story. Please know that I have been encouraged through your words. I don’t want to take up much space but I too have been through something similar this past year and I have declared to be DONE! I want myself back. I want to see the joy that God has intended for me to experience and I want my zest back. I am going to claim this as my own and put 1 foot in front of the other. I am not going to let Satan take over my head and my heart any longer. The light that shines in me is only going to get brighter. Thank you for your inspiration! ????
Kendall - Love you always <3
Loni - THANK YOU!! For sharing….and for your honesty!! I know there are so many dealing with this. And you’re right…as a Christian woman we feel…or I feel…so guilty when I cannot find the Joy….when I have so much to be thankful for….so many blessings. I’ve felt A LOT of guilt this past year…and sadness…I’ve felt “grey”…..Nobody is alone. Sometimes we just need a reminder. And we can’t do it all by ourselves.
brie - Stacey, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this. Such a beautiful post. I hope you know how many people will feel less alone because of this. Thanks for sending your light into the world ?
Patti - So well written stac! I love how you simply told the steps,I am sure this will help anyone that reads this, depressed or not. Keep writing I think it is a art for you, and you need to keep sharing. You will be blessed for sharing. Welcome back. We love you!