Pills of Grace

Little yellow pills of grace, I call them. I tell her about them as we walk along James Street, heels hurting our feet, fall wind blowing our hair around us.

I tell her the story of the nurse’s hand, of the time I resisted swallowing those pills, of the way that I thank Jesus His hand isn’t absent from any doctor’s written prescription.

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Somehow in this Body of Believers we forget that our brokenness won’t always be made Whole this side of heaven.

I think honouring Jesus can be found in tears and in staying under the covers because the world is too heavy today. I also think Jesus is honoured when I swallow my pills, climb out of bed, and laugh because I feel joy again.

My story might not be your story. You story might be that your cross is to carry the heaviness of depression and offer it to Jesus each day you make yourself climb out of that bed. And I would never tell you that you’re wrong, sweet friend because when our heart’s desire is to Honour our Maker, how can I fault you in the way that you do that? Your story is your story, and I promise to listen and meet you as you share that with me.

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And I hope you’ll offer me that same space. Won’t you meet me there, too?

Because my story is that Jesus’ hand of redemption sometimes finds itself holding bright yellow pills. Bright pills that seek to fix this brain of mine that was birthed into a broken world that won’t be fully healed this side of heaven. Somehow, though, there’s healing in this brokenness. Somehow I am given eyes to see Life again. Somehow, I get out of bed with hope blazing at these fingertips and feet that can walk towards that Light again.

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Jesus works in mysterious ways. He brings Healing in the least likely of places.

And for me –

Healing is found each morning I open that pill bottle and swallow my pride and accept His grace. Grace that He’s found even in this. Grace that His arms have me –

that I am not my depression,

but a Child of the King.

 

I promise.

Dear Angie,

It feels strange to write my name on these pages. But a name – hearing it out loud – I think implies being known. Remembered. Seen.

So Angie. I am writing this letter in my dining room, having eaten my breakfast of avocados and eggs and sipping my Greek coffee. I feel the need to write this down – with tears in my eyes and my heart aching – for if you ever go through a season of darkness again. I hate to even write the words “depressive episode” because it’s stark. And so medical. But you know what I mean.

You’ve been through three so far, although you have only recently realized what they were. Life has been sprinkled with small other moments – but the biggest trigger, as far as I can see, has been change. Moving. Loss. Letting go.

Learn to recognize your triggers. And be gentle on yourself. I can’t say that enough. Don’t push yourself to be what you aren’t. There will be seasons for that, absolutely. But this is not one of them.

Sleep. Rest. Even if you don’t see life in flowers or colour – buy the flowers anyways. Sit in front of art anyways.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Sit in her office and cry and pay the eighty dollars. Because you need to cling to hope. Even if it’s a small, weathered thread. Cling to it.

Talk about it. Don’t hide it cloaked in shame. Shame destroys enough in this life. Don’t let it destroy you.

Immerse yourself in truth. Read truth – God’s Word – even if it doesn’t make sense. It will. Be prepared to fight. Fight those damn lies in your mind with everything you’ve got. Even if it makes you exhausted, and weep, and angry. Do it like your life depends on it. Because it does.

I can’t give you a timeline and I can’t give you answers. That’s the part that is the hardest, I know. I hate that.

But what I will give you is a promise. I promise yo11071779_10153037195309340_7575414725678016620_nu that when you come out of it (and you will) life will be all the more beautiful. You will overflow with joy and gratitude. You will dance alone in your car again. You will smile driving by a man playing with his dog. You will feel the blades of grass under your feet and smell fresh air and not be numb to it. You will wake up each morning excited for what is to come. Not so fearful you crawl back under the covers. You’ll see it in your face, even if others don’t, when you look at your eyes and your smile. There will be joy there again.

You will feel life again. You will feel Jesus again. You will be you again.

I promise.

So, so, so much love,

Angie

With a Thankful Heart

The other day I asked all of my clients to say something they were thankful for. Even with dementia, they all answered honestly – whether it was what was in front of them, the person next to them, or simply for that day. I was blessed to hear parts of their heart.

I was carrying this moment with me when I shared a struggle with my mentor. My depression has gotten so much better – my medication is simply, to me, a sign of God’s beautiful grace. But it’s still there. And I wrestle with that because I long to go back to feeling normal. And I wrestle with the why, and the how, and I fight the urge to figure it all out. And even more so, to fix it by myself. Continue reading “With a Thankful Heart”

Let Me Tell You a Story

I’m going to tell you a story.

Sit tight. Pull up a cozy chair. Curl your hands around a warm cup of coffee.

It was a reserve up in Northern Canada, with 1300 Native Canadians calling it home. Alcoholism was rampant; there was only one way in and one way out, and that was by bush plane. The reserve was about the size of two football stadiums, and each night as people wandered the streets, back and forth, they would toss pebbles onto the tin roof. With a ping they would trickle down the roof and back to the ground below.

A man named Carter Conlon, a pastor in New York City, was called. The men on the other end of the line begged him to come – although they only had enough money to pay for his flights. They asked him to minister here, to speak light into a town filled with darkness.

So he went. And he found himself in his small room, unable to shower – for there was one shower for all of the community – and with a basin filled with murky brown water to wash his face. A bowl sat in the corner for him to use as a toilet.

I don’t know what you would do in that situation. I’d mostly recoil. I’d inspect the mattress and sit in the middle of it, acutely listening for sounds of rodents underneath the bed. I might tear up at the unsanitary water and be appalled that I had put myself in such a situation.

But Mr. Conlon didn’t. Instead, he got down on his knees by the side of his bed and prayed. His prayer, a simple few words, stuns me every time I hear them.

“Lord. Thank you for seeing something in me to bring me to this place.”

Those words always rock me. 

I listen to this sermon that tells this story every season I am in the pit of depression. He talks about what deliverance looks like, and how to understand why God doesn’t always rescue as we hope He will. And he finishes with this story to remind us of one thing.

To thank Him.

To thank God that even in our pit of despair, He has seen something in me to allow me to find myself in this place.

It’s desperately hard. I wish I wasn’t in this place. And I know that God doesn’t desire that either, for He desires not to harm us but to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).

But He’s seen something in me to walk alongside me through this place. He will always, always, always be glorified in each place we are in. The darkness of depression is no different.

And so every time I hear that story, with quivering lips and tear stained cheeks I whisper my thanks. I thank Him that He will use it. He will be glorified. That He has chosen to use me in this story for Him and that His Light will win.

And in this season of darkness, that truth is no different.

 

Living in the Land of Should

I have a confession to make.

I live in this land called “Should.”

It’s not a place I’m happy to be in. In fact, it causes me a lot of stress. I spend more time “should-ing” – stressing over what I should be doing – instead of just being.

Depression makes this harder. It’s incredibly hard to be. Because you just think of all the things you should be doing. You think of the fact you should spend your time “wisely,” and “wisely” may mean not resting when your body actually needs it. Or it might mean not listening to your limits – but pushing past them, because those limits simply shouldn’t be there.

I’m dreadfully guilty of that. I’m guilty of pushing myself to be with people when I know my body needs a rest. I’m guilty of pushing myself to keep a clean apartment when it’s actually okay to spend time watching a movie because a little dirt never hurt anybody. I’m guilty of moving to another country because although it’s scary, and I know it’s not something I may want, it’s something I should want.

And you know what? All that living in the Land of Should has made me miss out on the life that God has placed right in front of me.

I’ve missed out on being. I’ve missed out on living presently.

So I’m packing my bags and I’m moving out from the land of Should. I want to sit in the middle of a fall day because the fresh air and crisp colours make my heart dance – instead of what I “should” be doing. I want to lay in the middle of my apartment and read, simply because it makes me happy.

God has given me this day. I want to begin to rejoice and be glad in it. I need to find out how God has made me – what causes my heart to dance in the goodness He has blessed me with?

Well, I’m packing my bags and I’m going to find out. 

On Suicide, Depression, and Swallowing My Pride

I was thirteen when it happened.

I woke up to yellow tape across the street, darkness heavy in the air. It was a blue shed where he had done it, and although I never saw the inside of the shed, I could easily imagine how his body was found. I heard the stories; how his wife found the note on the counter by his ballcap, and ran out to find him out back. The blue shed only lasted a little while, a stark reminder in the February cold of what had happened. One day, finally, someone in town bulldozed it away. The physical reminder was gone. But my questions remained.

I can still feel his wife collapsing in my arms at the funeral, and the questions that had been ringing in my ears since that Sunday rang even louder. How could he do this? How selfish can one person be to leave behind a beautiful daughter and wife?

There was an underlying thought that somehow, suicide and mental health and depression was linked to selfishness. Because, in my thirteen-year-old’s mind, what else could explain such an act?

And then, in my third year at university, there was the book. Dark Night of the Soul. And it challenged me; it challenged me to see from the mind of someone severely depressed. To see the darkness that shadowed their every move.

And then.

The darkness fell upon me.

I felt like I was drowning. While everyone else around me was breathing.

Every choice became a source of anxiety. I couldn’t even decide whether to eat dinner in the dining room or the living room without stress.

The heavy weight of sadness followed me everywhere. I would find myself weeping for no reason other than the sadness I felt. I would seek anything to lift the darkness I was feeling – my family. My friends. Prayer. The Word.

And nothing was working. Nothing that gave me life was giving me life. I didn’t look at a lake and talk to God about the beauty He must have delighted in to create it. I didn’t see Him in any of the places I had previously found Him. And worse; I felt like I couldn’t feel Him anymore.

So I found myself in the doctor’s office, the imprint of the nurse’s sympathetic hand on my knee burning a hole on my skin. I told the doctor about this pit of despair I was drowning in. I needed a lifeline because I so felt like I was drowning. There was an ethereal feeling, though – I found myself asking myself, is this really me? Am I the one talking to the doctor across from me about suffering from depression?

As I walked out of the doctor’s office, and a week later walked into a therapist’s office, I have swallowed my pride. The Lord teaches us humility in gentle yet painful ways. I am not as strong as I might appear. I need so much help. I am learning the verse from 2 Corinthians that I have written down is so true for my life these days. “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I say all of this because there have been two things that have encouraged me in this hard season, in this season of learning how His grace is sufficient for me. I have learned that I am not alone. Depression isolates you; but that’s the farthest thing from the truth. It has been such a ray of hope and encouragement for me to hear of other’s journies; to have people literally stop whatever they are doing to lay hands on me and pray. For each of you who have been there for me: from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

And the second is, whatever I am going through does not change who God is. I will choose to trust that He is who He says He is – even if, in this season, I don’t “feel” it. He is bigger and stronger than my feelings. And He has always, always, proven faithful in His sovereignty. For when I am weak – which these days, is every day – He. Is. Strong.

Sadly so many have struggled with mental illness and not sought help. I’ve been on the other end where I have sat and judged. It’s hard for me to even write these things because I know there are people out there who will judge – who will tell me that I need to pray harder, or “choose” happiness when I wish it was a simple as that. But I beg you – please don’t find yourself where I once sat. It could be you. I pray these words of mine encourage others to tell their stories; you aren’t alone. If you are feeling that darkness, let me lay down in it with you. If you are feeling alone, let me hold your hand and remind you that you aren’t. You’ll see rays of sunshine and joy again; and when you do, I will dance with you.