I hadn’t planned on writing this post, but after receiving an e-mail last night, I decided it was a necessary thing to do.
I received an e-mail from someone who has been reading my blog entries for a while. So as not to misrepresent what was said, I am copying and pasting the e-mail, minus the name, into this entry before I comment on it.
“Dear Becky, As I have read your last few entries, I have had a growing concern for the place you are in right now. Your writings from as soon as a few months ago are starkly different from those of the last few weeks. I have no way to say this except to be blunt so please take what I am saying here as something that is said in love. It seems that you have taken your life out of the hands of Jesus even though you claim to be His child. A true follower of Jesus would not allow the circumstances of life to get them so down, at least not one who is really trusting. I urge you to rethink your commitment to Jesus so that you are not writing things that would make Him look bad. There are people who would love to talk to you about these things and you know I am one of them. I just want to see you restored and Jesus’ name lifted high instead of being dragged down.”
Before I respond to the above words, let me be very clear that I understand where this person is coming from. I do not hold these words against them in any way nor am I upset over them. I know they came from good intentions; however, I don’t think this person really understands what is going on.
A while back, I was taking a class on the book of Job with a pastor/friend of mine. As we were going through the book, several times he told us stories of a period in his own life that he dealt with depression. I will never forget those stories for they are similar to some of my own thoughts and feelings. I also vividly remember him saying, “I was a pastor. Pastors shouldn’t be depressed. A pastor shouldn’t tell his wife that he is going out and is not sure he will be coming home. A pastor shouldn’t ride his bike down the middle of a busy highway in hopes of getting hit so that life would be over. At the end of that period of my life, I had a very different empathy for people suffering from depression. Before that period, when someone would come to my office and tell me they were depressed, I would think something along the line of just get over it…look at all you have going for you. I realized, after going through it myself, how wrong I was in saying those things.”
I remember thinking after sitting through that class and hearing his recollection of his own battle with depression that maybe this isn’t my fault after all. Maybe, this thorn that has plagued me since teenage years isn’t something I always have control over. Believe me, I have tried to will this away. I have told myself, “Just think happy and happiness will follow.” It hasn’t worked–ever. In the 30+ years that I have dealt with this beast, not once have I been able to talk myself out of it.
When I received that e-mail last night, at first I was upset. My flesh wanted to shoot one back, asking if that person has ever experienced a bout with depression. I did not do that, thankfully. Instead, I read over the last few posts I had written and I realized that, if one isn’t really familiar with this disease, then I could see how my entries could be misunderstood as being written by someone who had given up on her faith and God in general. That, though, is just not the case. I am clinging to God with all I have and trusting that, even if I let go, He won’t let go of me. Do I wish I wasn’t going through this valley? Absolutely. Do I sometimes wish I could put an end to all this? Definitely. Would I follow through with that? I hope not…and that is honestly the best I can do right now.
So, why bother to write then if my writings are making my Savior look bad?
I write because it helps me process. Getting thoughts out of my head and in concrete written form makes me think through the words I choose. If left inside my head, those thoughts have little organization and tend to grow larger and more menacing. I also write because at some point, when this darkness of this valley starts to fade, I will have a record of the fact that it didn’t last forever (even though right now I feel it may). I also write to be honest–with others and with myself. I could put on a mask and pretend everything is going perfectly in my life. I could write how wonderful things are and how God is just always blessing me with wonderful days and happiness, but those words wouldn’t be true.
I lived many years pretending that things were all good. I went to church and wore a mask that told people things were going well and life was just peachy. Wearing that mask, though, got very tiring. Not too long ago, I decided it just wasn’t possible for me to pretend anymore. My writing reflects the thoughts in my head, but not always the beliefs in my heart. I want to be transparent in my writing. I want it to accurately reflect where I am and where I am headed. I hope by doing that, those who read it will not only understand a little better how difficult clinical depression can be, but also that they would pray for and reach out with a little more understanding to those in their lives who may be going through the same thing or having the same thoughts.
To be honest, sometimes I don’t know how to even put into words where I actually am without sounding like I have given up completely, because sometimes I want to give up completely. What stops me from doing that? For the longest time I wasn’t sure what kept me from taking that step. This past Sunday, though, I think I learned why I haven’t taken that step (at least in the last 15 years). The Vertical Church Band recently released their second CD. One of my favorite songs on that CD is titled, “The Rock Won’t Move”. We sang this in worship Sunday; we have sang this many times before. This time, though, a group of words really hit my heart and brought tears to my eyes. They were as follows:
“When the ground beneath my feet gives way and I hear the sound of crashing waves, All my world is washing out to sea, I’m hidden safe in the God who never moves, Holding fast to the promise of the truth, That YOU ARE HOLDING TIGHTER STILL TO ME…”
Even if I let go, God is holding tightly to me. Even when it seems I have reached the end of my rope, I have to believe that God will be there to catch me if I let go. Depression, though, if you’ve read any of my recent entries, does distort the view of reality.
It’s the nature of the beast.