He fills the longing soul with good things. Ps. 107:9


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Da Blues

That really isn’t a good way to refer to it. Depression isn’t some dark color that spreads over your face, a bad mood, sad music, a time of the month or a negative emotion. It is real. And I’ve had it!

Besides delightful pregnancy hormones, I’m learning that a pretty standard depression trigger for me is exhaustion. There are many kinds of exhaustion, but for me this summer it was all the kinds combined, I think!

I guess the best way to describe it in my mind is like a cart being loaded up with bricks. (I’m the one pulling the cart. Or maybe I AM the cart… Whatever. You get the picture.) So for awhile, I can handle the bricks. I’m tough, and I have this notion that if I work hard enough and am organized enough I can pretty much pull whatever load I need to. WRONG!

Let’s just say that this chick had one too many bricks piled on her old rickety cart. The result? Exhaustion. Depression. Fall-apartion.

I won’t bore you with the details of the bricks. But it did involve a very LONG moving process, remodeling a house, and parenting 3 preschoolers with my husband out of town 4 days a week for 9 weeks. Okay. So maybe that doesn’t sound so bad to you. I left out a LOT of difficult details. But still - maybe you’ve got some super-duper cart that you bought at goodwill for half price and you could handle more than me. But mine just wore out, that’s all. We’ve all got to learn to worry about our own selves and our bricks, not every one else’s.

I think it was the closest I’ve ever come to a nervous breakdown (whatever that is). It’s a very scary feeling. For husbands, too. What to do with this sobbing woman begging you for help and trying to keep her head above water?

Why am I sharing this? Primarily because I’m an idiot and I just love for people to gossip about me. But also because I know that there are a few of you who know exactly what I’m talking about and it’s just good to know that it happens to the best of us. And we learn by sharing. At least I do.

I’d like to stop right now and say if you are the critical kind and those “If-she-would-this-or-that” or “She-must-be-this-or-that” thoughts are creeping to your mind in spite of yourself please go find yourself a blogger that tells all the happy stuff and criticize her. Or I guess if it makes you feel better about yourself to read about my imperfection, enjoy. But you may want to stop and read a little something else, as well: I Timothy 5:13, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:28-30, Proverbs 16:28.

I have very little tolerance for gossip.

The embarrassing thing is, I have a master’s degree in pastoral counseling, have written articles on depression, wrote my whole thesis on one of the issues of my struggle. And it’s actually very confusing, to try to diagnose yourself. You know you’re losing it, but since you know it, maybe you’re not really losing it but are really okay and just want attention. And it’s probably just that you’re incredibly weak and anyone else would have handled it all better and never let herself get to this point in the first place! In the middle of the darkness and heaviness and tiredness, thoughts are tangled and jumbled very easily.

So I knew that I should be exercising and listening to praise music and eating nutritiously and taking quality vitamins and all that other stuff. But I just got madder and sadder, because if I had the time and energy and desire to cook veggies and sleep extra hours and exercise daily and take vitamins and could actually find my praise cd’s and get the cd player to work - I WOULDN’T BE DEPRESSED!! And furthermore, when depression reaches the point that it is actually physically painful, you don’t even want to do what it takes to get better. Survival and relief become all-encompassing. I’m not saying that all of those things don’t help, but sometimes it takes some outside energy to get the whole healing process underway.

For me, the first step was a week with my family. I’ve never before experienced the intense falling apart I did with them. Mama held me. And they listened and cried and talked and let me splat it all out, then we began the work of finding solutions. (And Dad gave me some money for teaching clothes. That always helps. J) They told me things that I thought I already knew, and was embarrassed to be told, but needed to hear. And they worked!

Oh - that incredible acceptance that comes from being intuitively understood – known for all your ugliness and weakness and loved anyway. There’s nothing like it. It was healing like Charles Wallace drinking in the moonglow with his unicorn (Madeline L’Engle – A Swiftly Tilting Planet). It is the kind of acceptance that my Abba gives me. I know that and am learning to know it more. But sometimes I feel guilty because I need to experience it from a flesh and blood person I can see and touch. Maybe if I were more spiritually strong I could work out all of my struggles on my knees and not need the counsel and loving arms of another human to pull out of the darkness.

But He mercifully gave me such gentle clarity about that lie that we should do all of our healing and processing alone in a closet. He has chosen to use others as His arms and hands and lips. He has shown us so plainly the importance of the love of a neighbor and functioning as a connected body. But we haven’t always seen it done that way, so it’s easy to get confused. Be confused no more! He WANTS us to take advantage of those godly ears and arms He has placed near to us. Even if we have to ASK for the help.

That’s the toughest part. Asking. At one point - after trying to unload boxes from the car with my one-year-old in a pack on my back and the girls running around me - I broke down and called someone for some help (the physical labor kind). I almost cried as I hung up. It was embarrassing, threatening and very hard to ask for help.

And knowing who to ask for help can be tough, too. I remember feeling incredibly unsafe. Even some of my closest relationships felt unsafe to me. I knew I wouldn’t be understood and feared I would be wearisome and wondered if they would label me. And I’m talking about some people I’ve trusted and confided in for years! Depression does that to you. It takes everything and twists it like the s-shaped mirror in a fun house. But there’s nothing fun about it.

I think one of the hardest lessons for me to learn is to stop thinking that everyone else can handle so much more than me and do it so much more gracefully. II Corinthians 10:12 says that attitude is unwise. Ya think? The tyranny of comparison takes an already exhausted and depressed mind and whirls it around into a blinding mess. Who gives a flip if you can handle more than me? Here – take some of my bricks, then! (I can say that now, because I’m in a healthy state. That is NOT so easy to say in the midst of depression.)

Why is it so important for me to not be weak? Huh.

I am learning (ever and ever so slowly) that my weakness teaches me what strength is: Understanding another who needs. Asking for help. Accepting help. Accepting myself. Accepting that God accepts me. Knowing that not everyone else will. And being stronger because I have been weaker. It sounds so simple when He says it….”My strength is made perfect in weakness.” But it doesn’t sound simple when you’re already beating yourself over the head with a vacuum cleaner because you’re so spiritually pathetic!

I have also learned (in marriage, parenting, depression, life in general) that it is absolutely essential to hold onto the fact that the current ickyness is not permanent. Change will come. It’s hard to believe when you don’t have solutions, nor the strength to carry them out if you knew what they were. Just grit your teeth and believe it. That hope in itself can help you to eventually start the healing process.

Another hard lesson is that of saying no. Of actually dumping some bricks off your cart onto the road, even if there’s not a soul around to pick them up and they lay there forlornly calling your name. I came to the point that I absolutely realized that my health and my family were more important. Period. The trick is saying no or realizing the warning signs before you end up along the road in a heap of bricks and wheels and boards and nails and Kleenexes. And we journey on…..

Well, those of you who have stuck through to the end of such a barrage of words and thoughts must be true friends. Or you’re really bored and you need to get a life.

The weeks are slowly beginning to take the vague shape of a schedule again. My house is coming right along. And I have some important phone numbers handy for when I need them. And I had the most precious time with my Abba this morning – all by myself in a quiet room. See? It does get better - eventually.

Thanks for listening. I wish you joy.
Julie Waggoner said...

Wow Sarah---very well said!! I know exactly what you are talking about! I too have dealt with that several times the past few years!! Glad you are feeling better!

jenny said...

Reading this reminded me of our move 3 years ago with a 1 month old and a husband who was thrown into an intensive work schedule. I loved your emphasis on saying no, embracing weakness (so we can receive Christ's strength), and getting over what people think. I've struggled with those same issues...now I can see how I am a better person for being able to perceive weakness in others, to be quick to reach a hand out, and slow to use critical lips. You are on the potter's anvil but what a magnificent vase He is forming!!

Kimberly said...

THIS is one reason you have been missed, my dear! So glad to find you are back (and in a big way, I will say!:)

Thank you for putting words to this issue...and totally agree that exhaustion can be the tipping point...(one reason I so strongly believe in self-medicating w/Tylenol PM if needed...can't say enough for sleep:)

I totally get the L'Engle reference..so grateful for the soothing strength given by family/faith. And I applaud your courage and honesty...not always so good at that myself...thanks for not being a "pretender."

will have to reread everything...enjoyed it all thus far...wishing you and yours all good things...Welcome Back to Blogdom!

Regina said...

You know I've been there. Sometimes still am. (Right now Laila's teething, so I am VERY sleep deprived!) Wish I lived closer so we could be "family" for each other!

Bobbie said...

Thank you for sharing. We all have weaknesses and if others want to talk about others weaknesses them gossip is probably their weakness. I believe as mommies we have probably all gone through spells of depression. Some deeper than others.

Carrie said...

Feeling teary here.

tacomom said...

Thanks, Sarah, for this post. I needed to know others have been there. I thought I sensed something wrong even though I did not know you. I should have reached out but b/c you were surrounded by family...felt weird to. Next time I'll know better (not saying "next time" for you but for anyone).

Janiece said...

This post made me cry, I have had several "bad" months this year and I didn't know what to do, or who to talk to or...It is always nice to see that I'm not the only one going through tough times. Not that I would wish tough times on anyone, but you know what I ?!? PLEASE oh PLEASE call me if you ever need help or a break or a shoulder to cry on! I don't want you to feel alone here in Frankfort! Thanks so much for sharing this post, it not only has hit home, but also shows there are others in need as well.

katies said...

Oh Sarah, what a way you have with words. You must feel in a huge world. Please never hesitate to call, thats what we are for. I have gone through so much my self, And can sympathize to a degree. I will keep you in my prayers, Just always feel free to call for help if its for you or with your kids! Ps... Your music has been a great blessing to me!!

Catrena said...

Thanks, Sarah, for sharing your heart. Thanks for being so transparent and open. I'm sorry that I did not do more.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, All I can say is thank you for the post. It spoke, yes, shouted at me.

Phil & Sue Arnold said...

Sarah:I was visiting "Blog World" and found your's. I, too, could relate to your "Blahs". Not because I have a ton of children running around and in demand of my time, but because I don't. Isn't that silly? With Becky at GBS Phil and I are suffering from "empty nest". It's a real ailment, and it can hurt, real bad, lots and lots. I'll make it though. Thanks for your transparency. I'll be praying for you and your family. You're incredible.

Joanna said...

Thanks for being real. We need more people who are willing to blog about real life. And this is real. Believe me. I know all about looking up and seeing bottom. Life is hard, but God is good.

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