Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A tunnel with a light at the end

I felt compelled to give a little update after my previous, rather dreary post. But I think I should back up a little first.

When I was fifteen, I had my first bout of depression, brought on by a relatively small loss that I didn't know how to process. The experience sent me into a spiral of depression that would rear its ugly head off and on all the way through college. While this depression was partial hereditary, it was made worse by unresolved emotional losses, stress, and a refusal to seek help because I was too afraid of the stigma of going to counseling or getting on medication. Sadly, it was the Christians in my life that I most feared judgement from. This was mainly due to the fact that when my depression first started, I was told by a well-meaning, but misinformed, friend that if I just "had a little more faith", I would "snap out of it."

So my perception was that if my Christian circle knew about my depression, and the resulting doubts about God, they would think me faithless, crazy, or both. So I avoided getting help until I was so deep into my depression, and so miserable, that I didn't care anymore what others thought of me. I only knew that I wouldn't be able to keep my suicidal thoughts from turning into action unless I got help.

So the summer of my senior year of college, I met with a wonderful Christian counselor and she was able to help me learn how to manage my depression, work through my doubts about God, and process the severe grief I was experiencing at the time (in the course of a few months, three of my loved ones had died - my two grandpas and a dear family friend). I learned some of the things that triggered my depression and how to guard against them. I got on medication for a while in order to get the chemicals in my brain under control enough to process my struggle more clearly. And I learned that counseling is a helpful, healing, and heathy tool for dealing with the emotional trauma that is sometimes part of life. 

So why do I bring all this up? Because another thing I learned is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how bleak and hopeless and painful things seem, there is hope. Getting there takes work and the process itself can be really painful, but there is hope. Which is how I feel about this move. It hurts now, but I know it won't hurt this bad forever. The thing is though, I haven't been sure how to get through the tunnel to the light at the end of it.

When you're dealing with something like loss and depression, it's not just a matter of giving it time, or about finding something positive to focus on. It's not even just about trusting God. I believe my faith has played a huge part in helping me manage my struggle with depression and I believe it will help me through this most recent loss, but I've also learned that having a healthy understanding of how my mind and heart are designed is incredibly important to healing completely

Which is why I contacted my counselor, Bobbie, after writing my last post. She directed me to a book called The Grief Recovery Handbook. It has been very helpful as I learn more about how our minds and hearts process loss, how our culture is full of misinformation about handling grief, and how I can work through loss in an intentional, healthy way. It has been really, really good for me and I would recommend it to anyone dealing with a loss - whether a "big" one like death or divorce, or other types of loss like the end of a relationship or friendship, moving, a career change, broken trust, or anything else that is causing you to experience the pain of loss.

For me, loss is a big trigger to my depression and I'm fighting it by working through my grief in a healthy way. I have no wish to travel down that dismal road again.  And I always want to be honest about my struggle because I don't want anyone to avoid getting help because they fear the stigma, or feel alone, as I did. Counseling is a blessing, not a reason for judgement. While the circumstances surrounding depression and grief are different for each person, no one is alone in their struggle. Pain is a part of life, but if we're afraid to process that pain in a healthy way, it will taint the joy that is also a part of life.

"There is a time for every event under heaven... A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance." - Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for grieving. Which is good, because it sometimes takes a while to work through it. But on the other side of it, there is a time to dance. Maybe I won't be pulling out my dancing shoes every day, and maybe the tears will come more often than I'd like, but there is hope at the end of this tunnel. For me, and for anyone reading this who can relate.