Dedication: To all the women and men and children who are struggling with depression
Trigger warning: Before reading this post, please be aware that it contains descriptions of childhood rape and other forms of abuse.
Putting Robin Together Again
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. That’s what they say anyway. But death seemed like a sweet release from the nightmare I was trapped in. This is my story, my journey into overwhelming darkness and my struggle to find light again, to find hope and peace. This is my story of faith.
Looking back I realize I was always a little depressed, even as a child. There was a lot of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather. He was the monster in the dark. I was afraid of him, of what he would do next. Memories of the first time he molested me haunted me all my life.
The only sound in the dark bathroom was my step father’s heavy breathing. I was on my knees on top of the clothes hamper. He had lifted me up there as if he were placing me on a carousel ride at an amusement park. Only I wouldn’t be waving at him as I went round and round, smiling as I saw his face among the other parents watching their children.
His face was close to mine now, his breath hot against my ear. He was frustrated again and pulled slightly away from me. I closed my eyes and cried quietly, a sniffle escaping now and then. My chest quivered as I gasped for breath between sobs. He had told me to be quiet when he called me into the bathroom. My eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the darkness when I had entered, but I could see him in the dim light. The little bit of moonlight coming in through the window shone on his bare chest. I instinctively knew as children do when something bad was going to happen. Now kneeling on top of the clothes hamper something very bad was happening. He was trying to push something inside of me again. It hurt. He pushed harder. I didn’t understand what he was doing, but I knew it was wrong. Little girls aren’t supposed to see their father naked. Little girls aren’t supposed to be on top of a clothes hamper in the dark with their dress shoved up and their panties lying on the floor.
He preyed on my innocence. He would lie peacefully in wait for me, ready to strike without hesitation. My eleventh birthday was no exception. I had spent the night at a friend’s house the night before my birthday. I felt a weight bearing down on me as I walked home the next morning. I knew he would be there, quietly watching me, quietly waiting to consume me.
My mom had reminded me the night before that my stepfather would be home so I needed to be back early. He didn’t like it if we weren’t home when he came in off the road. He was a truck driver and felt like we should be there to enjoy his presence whenever he was home. I hated it when he was home. When he was gone the house was noisy and lively. With five kids at home there were always a lot of other kids hanging out at our house. The telephone always seemed to be ringing, the television loudly competing to be heard over all the chaos. But as soon as he came home it seemed like a funeral parlor. We weren’t allowed to have friends over, none of our friends wanted to come over anyway when he was home. The house always had to be in order and quiet. I always tried to make myself invisible when he was home. If he didn’t see me or hear me, then maybe, just maybe, he’d leave me alone.
I saw his truck in the driveway a block away as I headed down the hill toward our house. Just the sight of his truck filled me with dread. As I neared the front porch, I could hear the television playing through the screen door. I quietly opened the door and slipped inside. To my relief my stepfather was asleep on the couch. His boots were lying on the floor next to him. His shirt was off and wadded up behind him, his large belly hanging over the edge of the couch. I glanced at his face making sure he was asleep and hurried into the kitchen. My mom was at the sink doing dishes. I gave her a quick hug and told her I loved her.
“I love you too”, she said hugging me in return. “And happy birthday”! she told me giving me an extra squeeze.
“When can I open my presents”? I asked with excitement.
“Not until after you’ve blown out your candles”.
“Or now”, I teased her.
“Nice try, but not until later”, she said laughing.
Like a violent storm suddenly unleashing itself on a bright day, my stepfather yelled for me to come to him. He sounded angry. I looked at my mom, my heart sinking as she nodded for me to go see what he wanted. I stood in the doorway and waited for him to say something.
“Come here”, he demanded. I slowly crept closer, watching his face as I neared him. He never took his eyes off mine. I came to a stop in front of him, my heart beating quickly as I held my breath and waited.
“You think you’re special”? he demanded. His eyes bore into mine as he waited for a response. My brain scrambled for an answer. I looked down at him as he continued to lie on the couch. His face was slack, but his eyes hardened with contempt. I remember thinking I was something important in the small world of mine, maybe not special, but something good. Just before I could latch onto that thought, he blew it away.
“You’re nothing”, he told me “definitely not special, not even important”. He sat up and studied me for a second, like a vicious bear getting ready to deliver a final blow to his prey. I remember feeling the sting of tears welling into my eyes. ”You’re just a little speck of dirt”. There it was, his final blow. My lips trembled as tears ran down my face.
“Go get a bowl of hot soapy water and wash my motorcycle”, he said. He sat back against the couch and lit a cigarette. He seemed pleased with himself now, satisfied with his kill. “And while you’re cleaning it”, he continued “I want you to remind yourself how worthless you are. You ain’t something special just because it’s your birthday”.
I ran to the kitchen and looked for my mom, but she was gone. I began to cry harder as I filled a bowl with water. I carried it into the living room and headed towards the front door with my eyes cast down.
“You better do a good job, or you won’t be opening your precious presents later”, he called after me as the screen door closed.
As I stepped off the porch, I heard the sound of kids yelling on the corner. They were playing kick the can. The sun was bright behind them as they ran around trying to head each other off. The sound of the can hitting the pavement was followed by shrieks of laughter. I watched them for a moment, jealous of their lives, angry with mine. As I washed my step father’s motorcycle, I began to feel ashamed for thinking I was a good person. I began to feel like I deserved to be treated badly. He’s right I thought to myself, I’m worthless. Guilt overwhelmed me for thinking otherwise.
Life’s Little Lessons
When you tell a child they’re not special they believe it, especially when it’s a parent. It stayed with me all my life. Once guilt set in I began to think I was guilty for everything that happened to me. I tried to be as unnoticeable as possible. If no one could see me, no one could hurt me. A behavior I carried with me for many years.
I did attend church when I was a little girl. I loved Sunday school. I always felt safe there. I learned the words to Jesus Loves the Little Children, and read stories about His kindness and love. I remembered looking at the picture books of Jesus surrounded by little children, some sitting on his lap. How I wished I were one of those children. I knew He would never hurt me.
When I was around fourteen my mother and stepfather divorced. I remember him packing up his things to leave. I was tempted to go in there and help him. I was worried he would change his mind and decide not to leave. Once when I had overheard him say we wouldn’t be able to make it without him, I piped up and said we’d all pitch in and be fine without him. I had spoken without thinking and thought he would be angry, but he just laughed. He didn’t think I was serious. But he did end up leaving. There were no tearful farewells, just a welcome sense of finality.
My mom didn’t know about the abuse. No one talked about things like that then. And children rarely tell. They live in fear of what may happen to them if they do.
My mom was a hard working woman. She put food on the table for five kids, we never went without anything. When she wasn’t working she was always home with us. I’m sure we drove her crazy! Four girls and one boy, and one bathroom! There was a lot of drama with four girls. Someone was always yelling at someone about something. All the neighborhood kids hung out at our house, but my mom never complained. One neighbor thought my mom was running a halfway home for wayward kids! My sister Kim, who escaped the abuse, was bursting with confidence. She took me under her wing. When we were little she always did things for me she thought I wasn’t capable of. Whenever we were getting ready to go somewhere, I always stood back and let Kim open the car door for me. That was our ritual. Then one day my mom said “Robin, you can open the door for yourself”. So I did from then on, but I missed my sister opening it for me.
Even though my stepfather was gone, he had left me emotionally fragile. I had no confidence in myself, no sense of self-worth. I was broken. I had a difficult time making friends of my own. I didn’t think people liked me and I was surprised when they did. I expected the worse in people and the worse in myself. I was quiet and withdrawn. My mom once said I was a somber child. I thought she said sober. So when people asked me why I hardly ever smiled, I told them I was sober. I always wondered why they looked at me so strangely.
Relationships with men were always a problem. My stepfather had demeaned me for so many years that I believed that was normal. That’s what I was comfortable with. I seemed drawn to men who were abusive. After years of this I somehow managed to meet a good man. I was always marriage shy, but I decided to finally take the leap. That was monumental for me. Trusting someone unconditionally with my heart.
I know now that was unrealistic, husbands and wives are going to let each other down, say things that are painful and do things that hurt one another. But I had put so much faith in my marriage that when it began to fall apart it was more than I could handle. I didn’t have a strong emotional foundation to endure it.
On top of all the pain of a failing marriage, people I thought I could always trust betrayed me. Then my son began distancing himself from me and he wouldn’t allow me to see my beautiful granddaughter anymore. She and I had always been very close. She stayed with my husband and I so much she called me mom. I always had to remind her I was grandma. I had always had a good loving relationship with my son too, so I had a very difficult time dealing with what he was doing.
I remember when he was around three I was reading him a bedtime story, and he fell asleep snuggled up next to me. His little cheek was pressed against mine. That was such a perfect moment. I told God I could spend eternity with him in my arms like this. He always knew without a doubt how much I loved him. I couldn’t understand why he was doing this to me. I felt like he didn’t love me anymore. I couldn’t cope with that. My children were everything to me, they were my world. I began to feel like I was a terrible person, that there was something wrong with me. Otherwise why were the people I loved so much hurting me so badly. Just like I did when I was a child, I rationalized I deserved it, that I was unworthy of love.
Months of this went by, and I found myself feeling more insecure and sadder. Nothing was getting any better. My job performance became affected, marital problems left me emotionally drained. I missed my son, I missed my granddaughter. The hurt from what he was doing was tearing me apart. I carried that with me every minute of everyday.
My feeling of depression grew until it became overwhelming, it was incessant. I felt like crying all the time. I had no desire to get out of bed or eat. When I did get out of bed I stayed in my pajamas all day. I had no interest in anything anymore. I didn’t know where to turn, I began to shut down.
Depression is a relentless cycle. The more I thought about what was happening, the worse my depression got. The worse my depression got, the more I would think about things. There’s no escape. People would say “just stop thinking about things”. Really?! Thanks, why hadn’t I thought of that? You can’t turn depression off like a faucet. The faucet is broke. I wanted so desperately to be myself again. I was willing to try anything. My doctor put me on anti-depressants, but they didn’t seem to work, so he’d try a different kind. Each time I’d think please God let this one work. I literally begged my doctor to help me find a way to end my depression. My mind was in overload. My brain couldn’t find a place to land. So many thoughts were running through my head at one time, so much pain. I began to feel trapped in this dark feeling of loss. Trapped in my own mind! Depression eats away at your brain, at every thought, until there are no thoughts left, just utter despair.
The weight of sadness became so real I could actually feel it bearing down on my chest. It was no way to live. Who wants to spend every minute of every day feeling that way? I began praying to God that I would die during the night. I begged Him to let me die in my sleep. But I always woke up. I was so angry for still being alive and having to endure another day. I was scared to be alive, scared of what was happening.
After about a month of this I was taken away to a psychiatric center in handcuffs. I’ll never forget the traumatic events of that day.
“There are people outside waiting to talk to you Robin”. The woman on the phone told me. “I’ll stay on the phone with you until you go outside, just do what they tell you”.
“What are you talking about”? I asked.
“Just go to the door and open it”. This time her voice took on an authoritative tone. I got up off the couch and looked through the peep hole. A uniformed police officer was standing off to the side of the front stoop. He was peering around a tall hedge, his hand resting lightly on his gun. I quickly backed away from the door in shock, stumbling on my housecoat.
“What did you do”? I cried into the phone. “Why did you call the police”?
“They’re going to help you Robin. Open the door”.
“No, no”! I cried, “why”? I felt like I was suffocating as I gulped for breath. Tears covered my face and fell like rain onto my chest. I tried wiping the tears away so I could see, but they were falling so fast it was of no use. I stumbled down the hallway trying desperately to brush the tears away, I reached my daughter’s room and crouched near a side window. I slowly peeked over the window sill. Another police officer was standing just outside the window, but he didn’t see me. He was looking toward the front of the house. He too had his hand resting on his gun.
“Robin”, the woman said. “What are you doing now”?
I was gasping for breath, afraid to move, scared I would be shot. “Why”?I whispered to her. “Why have you done this to me”?
“It’s for your own safety”, she said sounding aggravated. “They’re not going to leave until you go outside. You don’t have a choice”.
“I never said anything about wanting to kill myself”, I whimpered. I slid down to the floor and covered my mouth with my hand, my fingers pressed hard against my face. I didn’t want the police officer outside of the window to hear me sobbing. I couldn’t grasp what was happening to me. I hated this woman on the phone, this woman who had no idea who I was. She didn’t know anything about me. Yet she reached into my life with her jagged pretense and ripped a hole in it. I was shaking frantically, my hand barely able to hold onto the phone. I could hear the woman on the phone saying something but I wasn’t listening. I looked around my daughter’s room as I crouched on the floor. Just hours before I had came into her room, kissing her cheek softly as I woke her up for school. She had put on cotton candy scented balm before she had went to bed the night before, I could still smell it as I had bent down to kiss her. But now pressed against the wall of her room I felt like an intruder wreaking havoc into the lives of the family who lived there. What would they think of me huddled against the wall while policemen waited outside to take me away?
“Okay”, I told the woman on the phone. “I’ll go outside. My daughter Mariah will be home soon and I don’t want her to see any of this”.
“Good”, the woman said. The compassion she had feigned earlier was gone now. She seemed anxious to be rid of me. I imagined this would make for interesting conversation when she sat down to dinner tonight, clucking her tongue as she recounted the events, all the while feeling smugly superior that she had saved the day.
I opened the door slowly. “Put the phone down”, an officer commanded. I was confused and wasn’t sure where to put it down at. I was still thinking like a human being, but I had lost that distinction when I opened the door. “Now”! he yelled at me. I quickly put the phone down near my feet.
“Come down the stairs and stand here”, another officer snapped as he pointed to an area in the yard. I did as I was told and quickly ran down the steps, my bare feet slapping against the concrete. I counted a total of five officers. Two squad cars were parked in front of the house, a third parked on the side.
An officer walked behind me and told me he was going to handcuff me.
“Why? What did I do? What’s happening”? I sobbed.
“Put your hands behind your back”, he ordered.
I had never been handcuffed in my life. The weight of the handcuffs rubbed against my wrists painfully as he tugged at my hands. With a quick jerk they snapped into place. I stood on the front lawn feeling like I was on exhibition, a freak sideshow in a circus. Cars slowed down as they passed the house, some almost coming to a complete stop to get a good look at me. I turned away from the road to avoid their gaze. I felt ashamed, even though I had done nothing to be ashamed of. The curtain from the house next door was discreetly parted, but I could still see the face of my neighbor staring at me through the window.
The police officers were standing around talking to one another now. Every so often one of them would laugh and shake their head. They were acting like they were at a neighborhood barbeque casually talking about a football game.
“Can one of you put me in a squad car please”? I begged. “I don’t like being left in the yard for everyone to gawk at”. They turned and looked at me, appearing annoyed that I had interrupted their little hen party.
“We’ll put you in when we’re ready to”, an officer spat at me. He looked at the other officers gathered around him and laughed.
“What have I done”? I cried. I was angry now, angry with the woman on the phone and angry with the police. “Is this because I’m depressed”?Fresh tears rolled down my face. “Is this helping me? Is it”? They looked at me with no empathy, no compassion. I could feel my anger growing as they stood there watching me with amusement. This morning I was a wife and a mother, a so called respectable citizen. Now I was a circus clown in handcuffs.
Eventually an officer approached me and steered me to a squad car. “Where am I going”? I asked him. He didn’t say anything. “Can’t you at least tell me where you’re taking me”? He placed me in the backseat and slammed the door without saying anything.
I couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening. Why am I being treated like I’ve done something wrong, like I’m not worth one scrap of kindness. I hung my head and began crying. The officers were talking to one another now as we drove down the road. One of them laughed and said something about the “crazy ones”. So that’s it I thought, I’m crazy. That’s what they think. “I’m not crazy”, I stammered through my tears. I sat in stunned silence as we drove through town. My mind was blank now, void of any hope of being rescued from this hell.
I saw the hospital looming ahead as we continued to drive. The patrol car slowed down and turned into the entrance marked “Emergency Room”. “What are we doing here”? Neither of them responded. “Why are you ignoring me”? I yelled in frustration. “Don’t I have any rights”? We came to a stop in front of the crowded waiting room. They each took an arm and marched me through the sliding doors. They paraded me through the waiting room like I was an infamous outlaw that had finally been apprehended. All that was missing were the flashing lights of cameras and the urgent voices of reporters asking how they did it. They stared at me in my handcuffs and bathrobe as we made our way to the admissions counter. The admissions clerk looked at the officers as they gave her my information. Now and then she glanced at me, then quickly looked away if I met her gaze. It reminded me of an old joke I had heard before, “don’t make eye contact with the crazy people”.
When they finished admitting me, the officers led me to a room at the back of the emergency room. They finally removed the handcuffs when the security guard arrived, apparently relieving the officers of their claim on me. The security guard stood outside of my room with his hands behind his back. Now and then he glanced at me as if making sure I wasn’t planning to escape. The only furnishings were a hospital bed and a small stool with wheels on it. There were no cabinets in the room, no medical equipment hanging on the walls. This was a room for people like me. A room with nothing I could use to hurt myself or anyone else. It didn’t feel like a safe room, it felt like a holding tank. I sat on the bed and waited, not sure what I was waiting for.
“Can I call my family”? I asked the security guard. “I know they’re wondering what happened to me”?
He looked at me and said it wasn’t up to him, that I’d have to wait for somebody from the hospital staff to talk to me. I sat there and waited, lost in my thoughts. Finally, someone entered the room with a clipboard in his hand. He sat down on the stool and glanced at his paperwork.
“How are you doing…” he glanced at his paperwork again “Robin”?
“How do you think I’m doing”? I responded angrily. “How is this supposed to help my depression? If a person wasn’t suicidal before, this would definitely make them consider it. I never told that woman on the phone I was going to kill myself. She wasn’t even the one I wanted to talk to. I was trying to call Gina my social worker at the cancer center”. I didn’t give him time to interrupt me. Maybe he would let me go. “I just wanted to talk. I was having a bad day. But Gina wasn’t there, another woman answered the phone. I told her I’d call back but she was practically begging me to talk to her. She seemed so desperate to talk, I practically felt sorry for her. So I gave in, I told her I had been feeling depressed lately. She started asking me all these questions over and over, I was getting confused”. I started getting angry just thinking about her. “So she called the police and then I was being hauled off like a criminal”.
The man with the clipboard looked at me for a moment. He didn’t seem to care one way or another. I had no control of my life anymore. What was happening?!
“You’ll have to wait here awhile longer until we get you processed into the Stephens Unit”, he said blankly as he scribbled something down.
“What?! The Stephen’s Unit”? I had heard people refer to the Stephens Unit before. It’s where the crazy people went. “Why? Why do I have to go there”?
“It’s just for a few days”, he replied “somewhere you can feel safe while you sort things out”.
“I feel safe”, I babbled. “I feel safe at home”.
“It will be ok”, he said absently.
He tried to reassure me, but his voice trailed off as he scribbled something down again then left. I felt like I was having a nightmare, but there was no one running in to comfort me.
I went to the doorway of my room and called out towards the nurse’s station. “When is someone coming to get me? What’s happening?” But no one responded. The security officer turned to face me, a look of aggravation on his face. “Don’t look at me like you know me”, I told him. I began to cry again. Nobody there knew me, yet they all treated me like they did. Like I was just some crazy lady they hauled in off the street, unworthy of compassion, unworthy of respect. “I’m just depressed”, I cried. “I’m not crazy”.
I was put on a ninety six hour hold at the Stephen’s Unit. It was all so surreal. There was no empathy or compassion from the staff. One staff member, Rene, seemed hell bent on making my time there miserable. One time in particular she refused me my right to make two phone calls a day. The psychiatrist was arrogant and uncaring. He threw me out of his office when he became exasperated with me. It became painfully clear that people with mental illness were thought to be undeserving of any real concern. We were made to feel ashamed and somehow unclean.
I understand it now
The vacant shuffle down the hall
Silently making our way nowhere
Just another stain on the wall
I went back home still depressed, still feeling hopeless. My family didn’t know how to deal with me anymore. They became frustrated with me. I became needy. I needed emotional support, someone to put their arms around me even when they didn’t feel like it anymore, to stay and comfort me when I was at my worst. But I had exhausted them.
Eventually I lost my job, my marriage, my home, my car, my son still didn’t want to have anything to do with me, and then I lost all my belongings in a tornado. I sat in the ruins, just like I sat in the ruins of my life. I remember lying on the couch one night in a little trailer after the tornado. I was surrounded by donated items, even the couch I was lying on was donated. “Whose life is this”? I cried. Nothing was familiar anymore. My life had changed so much in such a short period of time it was unrecognizable. I felt like such a failure, depression consumed me even further. I began to feel overwhelmed with self-loathing for being depressed. I hated myself, I hated my depression, I hated my life. I had no life anymore.
Some people think that people who are depressed are just feeling sorry for themselves. I was told that. I wish it were that simple. We’ve all felt sorry for ourselves at one time or another and bounced back. But depression is not the same thing. When you’re depressed, you’re sorry you’re alive. You’re stuck somewhere between life and death. You are the real walking dead.
“I want to hide under a bed, in a ditch, deep in a hole in the ground
Somewhere no one can find me, hurt me, somewhere I can’t be found
I want to be swallowed up, somewhere dark, somewhere I can’t move
Wrapped up tightly, barely breathing, I want to be consumed”
I tried to hide from my depression just like I tried to hide from my stepfather when I was little. I actually tried to hide in a closet from it. If it couldn’t see me, it couldn’t hurt me. Depression was the monster at the door now. I was terrified.
My little bit of sadness in the beginning turned into Major Depressive Disorder, also known as Clinical Depression. Clinical Depression is the more severe form of depression. I’d take my pills faithfully. I put a lot of faith in those little pills waiting for them to do big things. But I stayed the same crazy me. That’s what people say when you’re depressed, that you’re crazy. I probably did seem crazy. When you’re depressed you don’t react realistically to difficult situations. I was already on an emotional roller coaster, so I just drug everyone else along with me kicking and screaming.
I felt like I had been dropped into someone else’s miserable life. There were so many voids in my life now, and nothing to replace the emptiness that was left. There was no semblance of my old life, nothing for me to drop anchor on.
Eventually I began to see a therapist, a mandatory therapist. I had no choice other than to go, or I’d be taken to a unit. There was no way I was going back to the Stephen’s Unit. My therapist once asked me why I felt like giving up. I tried to figure out a way to describe it so that she would understand. I said I feel like I’m holding onto a rope while I’m dangling over a cliff. Below me is a bottomless pit of darkness, above me is my life of darkness. I’ve been holding onto this rope for so long, struggling so hard not to fall, so afraid I will, so worn out. Then one day I looked down at this bottomless pit of darkness, and looked up at my life of darkness. I thought “why am I struggling so hard not to fall? There is nothing up there for me anymore, just unrelenting pain. Holding on is becoming unbearable, it would be so easy to just let go of the rope”.
Sometimes I would lie in bed for three days at a time. I barely ate, my weight began to drop dramatically. Life had no meaning anymore, it was just painful dead weight. I could not cope with everything that was happening. So what does a person do when they’re suffering so much? They try to end that suffering even if it means they’ll die in the process. It wasn’t about wanting to die, I didn’t want to die. But I wanted so desperately to stop hurting.
So one day in desperation, feeling like this would be the way I’d always feel, I mixed a cocktail of pills. I had them in a glass ready to pour them down my throat. But before I did I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t go to hell if I killed myself. I knew Jesus loved me, I learned that in Sunday school, but I felt abandoned by Him too. I got the phone book out and searched the names of churches. My intention was to speak to a pastor and ask him if I would go to hell if I killed myself, and if he said yes, I made up my mind to keep calling other churches until I got the answer I needed. I needed the answer to be no, I needed permission to kill myself. But God had other plans for me. Out of all the churches listed, and there were a lot, I was guided to a specific church. It was the first church I called and after speaking to a pastor, I didn’t need to call any other churches.
A woman had answered the phone. I asked her if I could talk to a pastor. A man came on the line and asked me if he could help me. I thought yes, somebody please help me. But I came right to the point. I asked him if I would go to hell if I killed myself. He was silent for a moment. He asked me to come to church that evening, that he would like to talk with me in person. His whole demeanor was so comforting, something I needed in my life. I almost changed my mind. I didn’t want to drag myself out of the house. But something in his voice got me on my feet. I met with him that evening at the church, we talked about everything I had been going through. He gave me some books to read about healing the spirit. He prayed for me and invited me to come back. He never did answer my question, and I didn’t ask him again. I didn’t want to know anymore. It didn’t matter. I found an answer to my prayers that night. So I started going to church there. Sometimes it was difficult to get out of bed and get dressed, but I felt like that was where God wanted me to be. I felt hope, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. But I often began crying during services, still dealing with depression.
One evening as I was reading my bible, I began crying. I wanted Jesus to hear me, to help me, to deliver me from this bondage of depression. I got down on my knees and imagined myself at His feet as He was on the cross. I begged His forgiveness. I gave Him my shame, my guilt, my sadness, my hurt, everything I was feeling. I laid it at His feet, and I prayed like I had never prayed before.
Now this is what I call my miracle. I felt such a feeling of love encompass me. I felt cocooned in love. As I sat up, I felt like a weight had been lifted from me. I stood up effortlessly, as if Jesus were lifting me to my feet. When I walked it seemed like I was gliding. I also felt like I was cradled in his arms. I could actually feel the sensation of his arms around me, just this wonderful amazing tingling sensation of comfort. It changed my life. I knew without a doubt that God had intervened.
Peter 4: 2 — 13
“But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when His glory is revealed”. And His glory was revealed that night!
I wrote a song about my experience that night;
“My mind can’t hold another thought,
my heart another hurt
I can’t hold on, I can’t go on
it’s more than I deserve
My precious Jesus to you I cry
Oh Jesus I beg you why
Why keep me here, just set me free
and carry me home to thee”
And Jesus said
“Give me your thoughts
Give me your hurt
Give me your pain to bear
I gladly took them to the cross
So lay your troubles there”
I saw my savior on the cross
I fell down at His feet
I gave Him all the pain I held
and then He sat me free
My Jesus set me free
“My precious Jesus to you I cry
oh Jesus I know why
Your love for me set me free
for me you chose to die
And that I don’t deserve
I understood now what it meant when people said Jesus would set us free. Free from ourselves, free from our own bondage. There is sweet freedom in surrender, and I had surrendered it all to Him.
I couldn’t wait to tell people. I kept checking the bottom of my feet to see if there was some physical reason why I felt like I was gliding. Nothing looked out of the ordinary, but it was an extraordinary feeling. I’d catch myself glancing at my shoulders just loving the feeling of comfort. Halfway expecting to see someone’s arms around me, but there was no one else there except Jesus. I didn’t have to see Him, I could feel Him. All I had to do is open my eyes to Him. He can open your eyes to Him if you just seek Him. I wrote the following poem
Open Your Eyes To Him
“Where’s this Jesus”?, a man beside me asked
“This Jesus I can’t see
The man you put your faith in
He’s invisible to me”
“Where is His love?
Where is His grace?
I’ve never even seen His face”.
“Prove to me this Jesus
Is really here among us”
I told the man beside me
“If you want to see Him
Open your eyes to Him
If you want to hear Him
Listen for His voice
If you want to feel His presence
Seek Him in a prayer
Then you’ll know I told the man
That He is everywhere”
“He’s the hope you feel when sorrow plagues you
He’s the whisper in your ear
Telling you to lean on Him
He’s the courage in your tears”
“He’s the hand you feel when all seems lost
That guides you through your pain
He’s the morning dew, the evening dusk
He’s the rainbow through the rain”
I had opened my eyes to Him in a way I never had before. I was overwhelmed with peace.
The following Sunday at church I told a friend about my miracle. She smiled and said that Jesus had been carrying me. That reminded me of the beautiful poem “Footprints in the Sand”
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed during the most troublesome times of my life, there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when I needed you the most, you would leave me”
The Lord replied “my son, my precious child, I love you, I would never leave you.
During your times of trials and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you”.
Jesus had been carrying me. He had scooped me up in His arms when I couldn’t make it on my own. He had carried me through one of the most difficult times of my life. God had a purpose for me. I was overjoyed. I thought “do people know how amazing God is, what He’s capable of doing”? I had never had a close relationship with Jesus before, but I was beginning to understand what that meant.
Someone warned me that I was on the mountain top right now, but there would be times I would be in the valley again. But I didn’t want to think about that.
I found out soon enough she was right.
God still allowed trials of depression in my life. I found myself dangling over that cliff again, but I would hang onto that rope even harder now, I knew God had a plan for me, but I found my trust in Him wavering at times. That’s when I would cry out to Him.
“God I know you love me, I know you have a plan
But can’t you see I’m suffering, how sad and bruised I am
Can’t you hear my screams? Can’t you hear me shout?
Why have you denied me God? Why have you shut me out?
God I’m so afraid now
I feel the darkness closing in
Are you listening to me God?
Can you hear my cries within”?
It was during times like this that I would think back to my miracle, to all the God moments I had. I trusted Him to get me through this and He always did. He had a purpose for me. He had a plan for me to get better. I couldn’t keep sitting on the sidelines waiting for God to fix everything. That’s not how it works. So I decided to admit myself to a psychiatric hospital of my choice. Somewhere I could confront my issues somewhere safe, somewhere people weren’t exhausted with me.
I wasn’t thrilled about going to another hospital, but I felt like that’s what I needed to do. I prayed to God to help me get through this, and He did. It wasn’t easy being in an environment like that again. Most of the staff were indifferent and apathetic. Not many people know how to deal with those suffering with depression. I needed compassion, but was often met with intolerance and impatience by staff members. I often cried, frustrated and upset with the treatment I received at the hands of some interns. Attending group meetings was mandatory. It was in this setting I found strength. There were people there who had been hanging onto that rope too. They had survived. So could I. God gave them the courage to cling to the rope and overcome their fears. I knew He would do the same for me.
The psychiatrist was awesome. We talked about everything, what had happened in my childhood, what I was struggling with now, and my fear of what the future held for me. He reminded me every time I saw him that I was a good person, that I wasn’t a failure, that I had potential. He told me what people had done in the past to hurt me was on them, the burden was theirs not mine. I needed to quit feeling guilty about things that were beyond my control. He genuinely wanted me to get better, to live the life I deserved. That’s one of the most difficult things to believe when someone’s been so depressed, that there’s a future without depression.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11
While I was still there I had noticed a girl walking through the hallways, something about her caught my eye. She looked so sad and lost, she seemed so defeated. She reminded me of me when I had thought all was lost. So I wrote her a note. I told her God loved her, that He is always there for her, I wrote things would get better. I handed her the note as I passed her in the hall one day. She looked at me with confusion, but I just went on past. I didn’t want to offend her or put her off by preaching to her. I just wanted to give her something to think about. I hadn’t noticed her in the hallways after that, and thought she may have left. But one day as I was waiting at the nurse’s station, she walked over to me and thanked me, she said the note had helped her. Then she was off down the hallway again. I never did see her after that. I hope she found the peace she was looking for. God had a purpose for me being there.
I went back home still feeling a little shaky. I felt like I was in remission from some horrible disease and worried it might come back. When I begin to worry about things, which I tend to do a lot, I remind myself of the following scripture…
Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything, tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Jesus Christ.
I’ve had to remind myself of that scripture many times. It puts things into perspective for me. It does quiet my thoughts and my heart.
But I still missed my old life. I longed for the way it used to be. I found solace in reading my bible, especially one night in particular. I was curled up in my recliner reading my bible as I did every night. I had the “church channel” on. I was waiting for Dr. Charles Stanley’s program to begin. I loved listening to his sermons. His program wouldn’t be on for a little while so I had the volume turned down so I could read my bible without any distraction. Every now and then I would glance up to see if he was on yet. I still had the TV turned down so I had no idea what they were talking about. As I read my bible I came across a passage I found very profound.
Isaiah 55:5 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than your thoughts”
I kept reading that passage over and over again. I felt like God was trying to tell me something. I had kept asking Him why I still had trials of depression, or asking Him why couldn’t things just go back to the way they used to be. I didn’t understand. But after reading that passage I understood. I understood it was impossible for us to understand His decisions. He wanted me to know it was impossible for us to try to figure Him out. His ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours, beyond the scope of our understanding. So I just had to calm down and trust Him. I read that passage over several times wanting to make sure it was firmly planted in my mind. After a few minutes I glanced up at the television. My heart skipped a beat when I did. The same passage I had been reading over and over filled up the entire screen. Was it a freak coincidence someone had been talking about that same passage on television as I had been reading it in my bible? No. Nothing with God is a coincidence. God knew this passage was important to me and wanted to make sure I got it. He didn’t want me to exhaust myself spiritually asking why all the time. What a God moment!
He had His reasons for allowing trials in my life, I understood that now. He was perfecting me. God was teaching me things I needed to experience to gain knowledge for His plan. We don’t learn how to ride a bike after one try. We fall down and get back up. After each trial of falling down and getting back up we’re perfecting our knowledge of how to ride a bike. God was perfecting me according to His purpose.
James 1:4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.
I began to see a beautiful thread of my past, present and future weave a thankful life for me. I had been so consumed with past pain and sorrow that it was affecting my todays and tomorrows. I began to find thankfulness in my past. God was there right beside me when I was in pain, yet He was also beside me when I was filled with joy. He was there during my accomplishments too. He blessed me in countless ways. He always provided for me. He was, is and will always be in every breath I take. My past is filled with His love for me. I dwell on Him and all the blessings He gave me. All my yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows are blessed with His love. I’m thankful for that.
I felt like a small child who had suddenly came across an old trunk filled with discarded presents I had forgotten about. Here was playfulness! I could almost hear the giggles as I lifted the lid bit by bit. Here’s Joy! Oh how I had missed joy! I closed my eyes and took in its sweet scent, it smelled of lilacs and bubblegum. I found merriment tucked between Christmas and birthdays. I felt the carefree pleasure of friendships holding my hand. There were soft kisses from my mother wrapped in pride and tenderness. Oh! One of my favorites! The gift of wonder, I had spent countless hours looking through its kaleidoscope of mystery and magic. And there was love. So much of it. It was carefully placed in several jeweled lockets, each from someone special in my life. I held on to these beautiful gifts God had given me. I never wanted to lose them again.
As long as I continued to hold onto my anger at people for what they had done to me I would never get better. I know that’s hard to do, it doesn’t mean you’ll forget or have to allow them back into your life. Forgiveness releases that power they have over you, the power to cripple you emotionally. I needed to forgive them, and forgive myself too. I was angry at myself too for hurting the people I loved when I was too consumed with depression to realize what I was doing. When you’re drowning you grab at the closest thing to you to keep from being pulled under. The closest thing to you is usually someone you love. I dragged them down with me as I flailed around in desperation looking for help.
We have to learn to forgive ourselves or we can’t experience the fullness of His love and peace for us. The weight of it will crush you. It’s sometimes harder to forgive yourself than it is others. But I remind myself I am a child of God. Like all children I made many mistakes, but God always forgave me. If God almighty can forgive me I can learn to forgive myself too. It would be impossible for me to fulfill His purpose for me if I were dragging the baggage of unforgiveness behind me.
Depression is like a sleeping giant when you’re feeling better. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to take much to rouse it from its sleep. But it awakens with a vengeance. It comes roaring at you with everything it has. It knocks you down into a pit again while your mind is in agony. But instead of drowning in darkness again, Jesus sweeps me up into His arms. This prayer helps when I begin to feel the darkness closing in.
Open my eyes to the beauty of your presence all around me.
Help me to focus on your light so I won’t stumble into darkness or fall in by the weight of my own despair.
And if I do, I know before I raise my hands you are there holding onto me, lest I be swept away forever.
Let me not look for peace in the darkness,
But look for peace, love and strength in your light.
Acceptance is difficult. It implies that you have given up. It reminds me of the Serenity Prayer.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
The difference was hard for me to grasp. I kept thinking about the things I couldn’t change, and I didn’t try to change the things I could. When you’re depressed your life is on lockdown. You’re a prisoner. All I could think about was how awful it was to be stuck in that cycle. I didn’t realize I could free myself with God’s help. That’s where wisdom came in.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”.
Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Once I was capable of really understanding this, I felt better. I can see the difference. I am the difference with God’s love, peace and mercy.
My divine purpose began with my trials of depression. My spirit was broken, my life was broken, and my heart was broken. That night when I laid everything at His feet, when I felt like I absolutely could not go on anymore, I took a leap of faith. The love for Jesus I felt as a child was still with me, it took a horrible storm in my life to awaken it. But it sprang forward like lightning and thunder that night when I got down on my knees. He snatched me out of the storm and gave me refuge. And what sweet refuge he gave me that night. He cradled me in his arms until the worst of it had passed, and I’ve been taking comfort and refuge in Him ever sense.
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.
God allowed trials in my life for a reason. He allowed me to experience the terrible depths of depression, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to understand what other people are going through with their own depression. You have to walk the walk before you can talk the talk. If He had allowed a simple trial I wouldn’t have reached out to Him with such need. I wouldn’t be able to testify how He had lifted me up from the pit of depression. I believe this is God’s purpose for me. He wants people to know, no matter what kind of trial you’re going through, even the cold darkness of depression, He is the light
“Even when I walk through the darkest valley I will not be afraid for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.
I can’t imagine trying to cope with my depression without God. It is said hell is darkness without hope, a separation from God. At first I was separated from God when I was depressed, my life was very dark and without hope. It was my hell on earth. But God delivered me from hell and gave me light, warmth and hope.
“He’s the hand you feel when all seems lost
That guides you through your pain
He’s the morning dew, the evening dusk
He’s the rainbow through the rain”
After the fierce storm in my life, after all the rain, I finally saw the rainbow. The storm is over, but it still rains in my life at times, as it will for everyone. Seek Him before the rain, during the rain, and after the rain.
Like me favorite saying, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”.
I came across this prayer and thought how beautifully it describes the power of His love
“Father I cry out to you, lift my eyes to see hope rise
I cry out to you, change the colour of my thoughts to a rainbow day
I cry out to you, blow away the dark clouds to bring your light
I cry out to you, break into my heavy heart and breath your life into me
That in the morning I may rise to a rainbow day
Full of your light and breathing your life
Lord I cry out to you”
I hope this gives others suffering from depression a sense of hope. You aren’t alone. God cares about you. In the darkest depth of depression, He cares about you.