When Devin found himself without a job, as much as I fought to stay positive, I internalized more of the stress than I realized, or was willing to admit. As we searched for direction as to what to do and where to go next, I found myself constantly playing all of our alternative futures in my head. Being one that doesn't handle change all that well (read: horribly) picturing all the different directions our life could go did not do good things for my psyche.
There where many a night where I was kept awake while negative thoughts advanced on my sleep-deprived, vulnerable brain. These things (change, stress and fatigue) are all triggers for my depression, so as I enter into September I'm trying to make a game plan to nip this in the bud before I go down the dark rabbit hole again. Loosely, the plan includes:
- Exercise (never underestimate the power of endorphins to cheer you up and help you sleep)
- Eating more fruits and veggies (thanks to the Daniel Fast, this doesn't seem so daunting)
- Serving others (It is amazing how focusing on helping someone else distracts you from you own worries and makes them fade in contrast)
- Continuing my mornings of breakfast and devotions on the porch (I've keep that schedule since "completing" Goal #30 and I can't imagine how worse off I might be emotionally had I not been spending this time with the Lord)
- Staying transparent about how I'm doing emotionally with my husband and my accountability partner.
- Remembering that I've been through this before and made it to the other side and that I can do it again (with God's help and the incredible blessings of the family and friends that He's given me in my arsenal).
I don't share this to have an "oh-poor-Jen-pity-party," but because I remember what it was like to be extremely depressed and to feel completely alone - to feel that no one else could understand. Four years ago, when I was in my darkest days, I didn't talk about the fact that I was in counseling, or that I had a psychiatrist who prescribed me anti-depressants, or that I felt an overwhelming hopelessness. I feared that if people knew, they would think I'd gone and flew over the coo-coo's nest.
Eventually, I realized that I was not alone and that other people do struggle with this. Once I opened up to those closest to me and sought help through a blend of Christian counseling and medication, the isolation began to slowly, slowly fade and the fog of hopelessness I'd been engulfed by began to lift. All praises to God that I haven't had a serious attack in nearly four years.
There is a certain stigma surrounding depression, especially (I feel) in the Church. People just don't talk about it or understand it all that well. That's why, when its appropriate, I try to speak openly about my own experience with depression, in hopes that someone who has not felt comfortable with sharing their battle will have the freedom to do so. I remember feeling alone all too well and I don't want to miss the chance to give someone else hope.
My depression is not in the least-bit fun. Even though God has brought good out of it, I don't know if I'll ever be able to call it a "blessing." Given the choice, I would selfishly choose not to have this battle. However, God has allowed it in my life and He has certainly used it in the past to bless and encourage others and to strengthen me and for that I am profoundly thankful. It is a strange paradox to wish you didn't struggle with something, but to be thankful that God has used it for good.
Q4U - How has God used a struggle in your life as encouragement for someone else?