Category Archives: Mental Illness

Hope in God

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This month is suicide prevention month.

Many people will let it pass without giving it a second thought. Not because they’re insensitive. Not because they don’t care. But because they’re lucky enough never to have been touched by suicide or the affects of it. They’re lucky enough never to have lost someone to it. They’re lucky enough never to have contemplated it. They’re lucky enough to have never tried it.

Some of us are not so lucky.

So this month touches us deep down in our souls as we remember.

We remember those we lost.

We remember almost losing ourselves.

We remember the excruciating pain, the darkness, the emptiness, the confusion, the fear.

We remember silently crying out for help.

We remember the loneliness.

We remember what it was like to grasp at nothing, to imagine the world without us, to cry for our family and friends, to truly believe this world would be better off without us.

We remember that we didn’t want to die, but we didn’t know how to live anymore.

We remember a suffering so horrific that it left us writhing on the ground, agonizing in pain, and praying for anything, ANYTHING to make it stop.

We didn’t want to die. We just needed the terrorizing hurt to stop.

Some, like me, are blessed to be able to remember because we didn’t succeed in our attempts or desires to leave this world. Something stopped us. Something saved us.

I know God saved me. He intervened each time I wanted to end it all. In those moments, I didn’t know it was Him, but looking back I can see it. He sent someone or something that helped me to hold on a little longer.

And He used the time to help me heal a little more, to help me grow a little stronger.

I can remember in my younger years crying out to God and asking what I had done to deserve such suffering. I begged Him to take my depression away. I promised to ‘be better’, I promised to ‘be good’.

I wanted a reason for my pain. I needed someone to blame. I assumed it was my fault.

It was in the times of quiet, when I was exhausted from the tears, and the unending battle within, yet my mind would not sleep, that I was able to turn to Him and grow closer to Him.

I was too weak to pray, to move, to question. The anger and struggle had worn me out. So I lay in stillness and He used that time.

He spoke to me.

And I heard Him.

It was not my fault. There was no one to blame.

My depression is the result of a fallen world. God never wanted this for me.

But He used my pain to draw me close to Him. He showed me Jesus, who understood my suffering because He suffered so greatly. Jesus knew my hurt. He knew my struggle. He felt my pain.

And He told me to hold on to Him. He took my hand, validated my feelings, and said “You are not alone”.

He picked me up and told me He would fight with me. He told me we could conquer it together because nothing is impossible with Him.

He saved me. Again.

And now I am here today. I can share my story. I can share how things got better, how I got healthy.

I did it with Jesus.

It doesn’t mean life is perfect. I still struggle. I still have to fight my depression. There are still days when it’s hard to get out of bed.

But I know I can do it. God has given me the strength to fight when the war wages within. He goes before me and endures the hardest attacks Himself. He shields me from the worst of it.

And He gives me hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for the future. Hope in Him.

He reminds me He has a purpose for me. He reminds me that I’m here because He wants me here. He reminds me I’m not done.

Amazingly, He shows me how He can use my suffering to create good. He’s allowed me to help others who struggle with mental illness. He’s given me the strength and wisdom to counsel them, walk with them, encourage them, pray with them, love them, and point them to Him.

He’s shown me how He can take something so messy and horrible, and turn it to beauty.

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Because nothing is impossible with Him.

If you are struggling today, I encourage you to turn to God. Take the hand of Jesus, let God go before you, and fight your battle together.

It can get better. It will get better. Surrender it to Him.

And don’t stay quiet. Don’t suffer alone. God gives us people to reach into the pit of despair that we’re drowning in. They want to help pull us out. Grab that hand. When you climb out of that pit, grasping that hand, you’ll see not one, but many people behind the hand that pulled you out. People who love you, who need you, who want to help you.

Don’t give up. God’s got you.

 

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Thorn in the flesh

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I am currently reading a book by Charles Swindoll called ‘Paul: a Man of Grit and Grace’, which is about the life of the Apostle Paul. The chapter I just completed focused on suffering and the “thorn in the flesh” God gave Paul to keep him humble.

Though many have speculated, it is unknown what Paul’s thorn was, whether it was physical, mental or emotional. All we know is that it caused him great pain, and he pleaded with the Lord three times to have it removed. We also know that God’s response was ‘No’.

Each time He said, ‘My Grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness’.”    2 Corinthians 12:9a

At this point, Paul could have responded in many ways. He could have walked away from the Lord in anger. He could have wallowed in his suffering and given up on life. He could have refused to do God’s work until he was healed.

But instead he accepted his thorn.

So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10

Wow.

I don’t have another response to that, so just, “Wow”.

Paul’s faith and trust in the Lord was so strong that he simply accepted his thorn knowing that in his weakness, God would make him strong. Paul chooses to boast in his weakness so that God may be glorified. He accepts his suffering and trusts God’s promise that His grace is sufficient.

In ‘Paul’, Charles Swindoll writes, “The world needs more followers of Christ who embrace pain and hardship rather than deny it.”

So often people come to Christ and expect that life will suddenly be significantly better. They expect instant happiness, no more pain, and a life without drama. I’ve heard this and witnessed it many times. They think that after they accept Jesus, God will give them everything they need and desire. Then they get so angry and discouraged when that doesn’t happen.

This is why it is so important that those of us who are followers of Christ are open about our struggles. We must be able to show our suffering and reveal our weaknesses. Then we can also show how God uses our times of trial to reveal His grace and strength.

God never promised us a life without suffering. In fact, He promised us the exact opposite. Jesus told us that as His followers, we would face struggle, trial and pain. He was very clear that His way is difficult, but He also promised He would be with us and give us strength, and that our reward in heaven would far outweigh the suffering of this life.

Paul is an inspiring example of true faith and trust God, despite enduring much pain and suffering. Charles Swindoll writes, “The secret to Saul’s contentment was knowing Christ’s strength was perfected in his weakness.”

We all have a thorn in our flesh. For some it is a physical ailment. For others it’s a constant, sinful temptation.

My thorn in the flesh is my mental illness – the depression and anxiety I’ve struggled with since the age of 11.

For many years, my thorn caused me excruciating pain and suffering. I remember nights of sobbing and begging God to take my illness. I remember pleading with Him and offering to do anything to be relieved of the hurt that ravaged me from the inside out. I remember asking what I had done to deserve it, and then promising to be good all my life if He took it from me.

But He never took it from me.

As my suffering and desperation grew, I turned away from God and tried to numb my pain with alcohol, drugs and self-harm. I was drowning in self hatred, anger and hurt, and too many times I came close to ending my life. But in those times, He always saved me, even when I didn’t realize He was.

It was only when I finally turned to Him in my suffering, when I finally laid myself at His feet and asked for His grace that I learned how He could strengthen me in my weakness. In His grace, I found healing. In His strength, I found hope. In His love, I found joy.

And I began to understand Paul’s acceptance and contentment even when God did not remove his thorn.

I discovered that in my weakness, Christ’s strength can be made perfect. I learned that God’s grace in my suffering is sufficient.

He revealed to me how He could use my suffering and use me to bring glory to His name.

God has used my struggles with mental illness to help others. He has used me to help others who also suffer with depression and anxiety. He has given me strength to not only overcome my struggles, but to help others find hope, joy, strength and healing in Him. And that is an incredible gift.

I know that I will always be at risk for my depression and anxiety to attack. I will never be free of my illness as long as I am in this world. But now, with God’s strength and grace, I am prepared for it when it comes.

In fact, just last week, my depression began to surface, so I had to get into “battle” mode and put my fight plan in action. But it’s a battle I cannot win on my own. I am weak and I am broken. But when I turn to Him, He pours His strength into me so I can endure my thorn and battle my demons.

In His grace and strength, my weakness is made strong. With Him, I have nothing to fear, even when my thorn brings me to my knees.

Because of this, I, like Paul, am grateful for my suffering. It has brought me closer to God and allowed me to experience His grace, mercy, power and love.

 

Drop the Crutch

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I have spent two decades enduring the judgement of others because of my depression. I have witnessed looks of pity, looks of fear and even looks of disgust. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost a job. I’ve heard people call me “crazy”, “unstable” and “insane”.

And I have proved them all wrong.

Now my battle is not only with my disease, but with the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. I’m not insane. What’s insane is that there is still such a lack of compassion and understanding for those who suffer.

I am not defined by my depression. My illness doesn’t dictate what I am capable of or what I can achieve. And I want everyone who struggles with mental illness to know that about themselves.

It breaks my heart when the world tells them they’re not good enough and they simply agree. They pick up their crutch and limp away in shame and sadness.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Mental illness does not have to control your life. There are ways to fight it and win. Don’t allow yourself to use your struggles as a reason to give up or give in. There is help. There is support. There is hope.

I know this because I’ve experienced it.

I’m not saying it’s an easy journey. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and it’s a continuous battle. This disease is a vicious monster that can easily take down the strongest of the strong. It will rip you apart inside and poison your soul until you believe your life isn’t worth living.

I get it.

The pain I felt inside used to be so unbearable that I would purposely burn myself with boiling water just to escape that feeling for a few moments; I just wanted to feel something else, even if it was physical pain.

It’s brutal.

I get it.

But the fight is worth it. Don’t give up and let the attack overcome you. Don’t stop battling back. Don’t accept defeat and surrender.

It’s easy to give up on yourself and your life. Sometimes it does seem like the only option. And it can be easy to blame everything on your mental illness.

Didn’t show up for work? It’s because of my depression.

Missed your child’s first play? It’s because of my depression.

Stood up a friend? It’s because of my depression.

The world says we’re broken, so we act broken. Instead of fighting back, we use our illness as a crutch, as an excuse.

And yes, there will be times when your illness will honestly keep you from commitments. There will be days when you honestly physically can’t get out of bed. Believe me, I know. I once wet the bed because I was too depressed and out of it to get up to go to the bathroom down the hall. (How’s that for honesty?)

Depression is a horrendous disease that no one should have to experience. But if you do, if you are in that heart-wrenching battle, keep going. Keep fighting. Find support. Ask for help.

If you do, each day will get a little better. Each day will get a little easier. Each day you will get a little bit stronger.

Until you can finally stand on steady ground.

And you can finally drop the crutch.

 

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Trying to be Fearless

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This time of year makes me anxious. Actually, scratch that – this time of year scares the hell out of me. Not because it’s getting colder and ice and snow are on the way. Not because the days are shorter and darkness comes early and leaves late.

It’s scary because this is the time of year that my depression usually attacks. It’s not predictable – I don’t know what day or time it may surface. It’s possible it may not show it’s ugly face at all. However, based on past experience over many years of this war, it will likely appear sooner or later.

This time last year I was living at my parents’ house, jobless, collecting sickness benefits, applying for disability, and sleeping more than I was awake. It was a nasty time. There were specific things that lead to such a dehabilitating breakdown a year ago that are not an issue now, but it doesn’t mean I am safe. There is no security with depression.

However, things are much better now than they were then. I have a job that I love where I am surrounded by good people who treat me well and are positive influences. I am living on my own in a nice house, with a great roommate and two beautiful dogs. I have a little side business of creating and selling jewelry that is doing better that I ever expected. I am going to a new church and co-leading a women’s Bible study, where I am getting to know some amazing women. I am actively trying to meet new people and develop strong friendships.

Yes, I am miles ahead of where I was a year ago.

And this year, in the face of a possible battle with my depression, I am trying to be fearless. I am being proactive and building strength and support in order to fight if the need arises. I am getting ready to face it head on instead of hiding under the covers.

So, what does it look like to be fearless in the face of depression?

In the last couple of weeks I have read a few articles on comedian/actress Sarah Silverman. While her talent and humour are to be applauded, they are not the main reasons I admire her. I admire her because of her willingness to openly discuss her struggles with depression. She does not shy away, but is becoming a huge voice for those who suffer with mental illness. She is brave to speak up, especially since she is in an industry that centers around image.

To me, she is fearless.

Some have said I am brave for sharing my struggles with depression, for writing this blog, for being vulnerable. And I suppose at times, I am brave.

However, I still hide my depression from many. No one I work with knows about my illness. And there are still times when things are bad that I suffer in silence. I disappear into my torturous world for however long it lasts and hide it from everyone around me. I convince myself I am keeping it secret to protect them. But am I really?

Often when people find out that I deal with depression, they are surprised. They say they never would have known because I am so happy and positive all the time. They don’t realize how hard I work to be happy and positive. It does not always come naturally or easily. They also don’t realize that on some days, I wear a mask. I am a great pretender.

Does this make me fearless? To pretend things are fine when they are not?

Some days and in some cases, it does. There are certain situations when putting on a mask and hiding what’s going on is necessary. And in some cases, I have ‘pretended’ my way to feeling better for real.

But I also believe that being fearless is being real. Being real about what I go through and allowing others to hold me up. It doesn’t mean I have to let the whole world know what’s going on inside, but it’s letting in those I trust and those who care about me.

So often, people who are viewed as fearless are those who jump out of planes, climb mountain sides, run into a burning building to rescue others, or go to war. And I agree that those people are fearless.

But fearless doesn’t always have to be so big.

Fearless can be asking for help during tough times.

Fearless can be honesty with those around you.

Fearless can be sharing your struggles.

Fearless can be putting on a happy face when needed.

Fearless can be simply getting out of bed on a really bad day.

So am I fearless? I am trying to be.

I have had many many battles with my depression and I have won every one, so that helps in being fearless. But it’s a never ending war.

And I think fearless doesn’t necessarily mean being without fear. It can mean moving forward and facing your challenges despite any fear you have.

I don’t think I will ever be cured of being slightly afraid of my depression. But that does not mean I can’t stand fearlessly against it.

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Never Alone

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Last week was rough. My depression hit and beat me down. It was bad and left me weak and bruised. But as I always do, I got back up and fought.

It wasn’t a surprise hit. I had felt it coming for a little over a week. I readied myself for battle, took precautions and did all the right things to keep it from making contact. I told a friend what happening and asked for prayer, I got up and went to work every day, I kept myself busy and tried not to be alone, I did my best to eat well, and I kept exercising.

But this disease is harsh, fierce and unbelievably cruel, so even though I took all the necessary steps to defend myself, it managed to take me down. The climax was one horrific night of tears, anxiety and zero sleep.

I’ve realized over the years of dealing with depression that sometimes the best way of getting through is to just allow myself to take the beating and feel what I need to feel. So that is what I did that night. The next morning I saw my counsellor and once again started the journey to recover.

One of the worst things about depression is how alone it makes you feel. It creates an unbearable isolation that is difficult to break free of.

In the midst of my struggle and feelings of loneliness last week, I had a dream that brought such comfort and peace.

Dreams can be quite interesting. Sometimes they make no sense at all. But sometimes, like the one I had, they can be beautiful reminders at just the right moment.

I dreamt that I was writing songs for Taylor Swift (yes, I know that’s crazy), and I was writing a song called ‘Never Alone’. It started out as a song about being with your soulmate, but as I continued to write in the dream, it became about something completely different.

It became a song about God, and how because of Him, I am never alone. It illustrated how He is always there and will never leave me.

I awoke from that dream feeling protected and loved. It was a reminder that I desperately needed. That it doesn’t matter how bad my depression gets or how physically isolated I feel, I am never alone. He stands beside me, holding my hand, feeling all of my pain, fighting my illness with me.

A few days after that dream, I had another reminder that God is always with me. After my grandfather passed in July, we had bookmarks made with his picture and a Bible verse on the front, and his obituary on the back. That day, as I opened the current book I am reading, I stopped to look at the bookmark, and I read the verse below Papa’s picture.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

I am never alone. God is always with me. My Papa took a moment to remind me of that from heaven.

This life is not easy. We live in a broken world that is filled with sorrow and pain.

But every moment of pain we feel, He feels too.

Every moment of sorrow, He cries with us.

And because of Him, we have love. Our world may be filled with hurt, but it is also filled with love.

His love that will shine through each of us if we allow it to.

His love that will make us feel whole again.

His love that will strengthen us.

We are never alone.

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Creating a Ladder

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My last post on here left a few people worried. That was not my intention and I apologize to those that I made worry. It was a post meant to share what it can be like to be in the middle of depression. One of my life goals is to help others understand what depression is, and to help those who deal with it feel less alone.

My last post made some worry that I was unwell again. I won’t lie – when I wrote it I was having a difficult time. I had a few bad days, one of which was spent in bed, but I pulled myself through and the depression didn’t last long.

I try to tell my loved not to worry about me.

The thing is, I will always have this disease, and I’ve accepted that. There are going to be times when my depression attacks and I fall to the bottom of the well.

But there is no need to worry.

Over the 20+ years that I have dealt this illness, there have been some horrific times, and yes, I have given people reason to worry. I know that. But now I am asking them not to. Because no matter what happens or how dark my world gets at times, I know I will always be ok.

I know this because over the last few years I have created a ladder. This ladder sits in the well and it stretches from the bottom of the pit all the way to the opening at the top. This ladder is why you don’t have to worry.

It took me a long time to create this ladder. It was built through years of struggle, pain, treatments and tears. There were times when the materials I used weren’t quite strong enough and rungs on the ladder broke when I tried to climb.

But the ladder I have now is solid. It is strong. It will not budge.

This ladder is what I use to climb out of the bottom of the well. Sometimes it takes a while for me to attempt that first step. But as I start to climb, I gain strength and I move faster.

Each rung is a step of healing. Each rung takes me farther from the darkness and into the awaiting light.

Getting out of bed is a rung.

So is taking a shower.

And allowing necessary tears to fall.

And asking a friend for prayer.

And writing on my blog or in a journal.

And making a counselling appointment.

And asking for help.

And eating healthy.

And going for a walk.

And talking to someone I trust.

And spending time with loved ones.

And understanding that this disease is not my fault.

And knowing that God has given me the strength to survive the darkness.

And that He has given me the strength to reach the light.

These are all rungs of my ladder. The ladder that takes me from the depths of my depression to health and healing.

I am going to deal with depression for the rest of my life. Mental illness is a reality in my world. I can choose to let it control me, conquer me, destroy me.

Or I can choose to climb the ladder I’ve created. I can choose to climb up out of the well.

Depression is an illness that is part of my life. It is something I will constantly struggle with. But I will not let it be my life.

Instead, every time is knocks me down, I will reach for my ladder, and I will begin the climb back up.

I encourage you to build your ladder. Life is short. Don’t stay at the bottom of the well.

You are worth fighting for.

You are worth the climb.

The Bottom of the Well

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a well? Water? That is it a source of clean, fresh water that can be life-saving to many people and communities around the world? That it is old fashioned? Or maybe, since it is not something that is used much anymore in our culture, you don’t think about it at all.

I do think about a well often, but unfortunately not in a positive way. I have often used the image of a well, particularly the bottom of the well, as a way to describe my depression.

When I think of the bottom of a well, the images that come to mind are a dark, damp, confined space. A well can be quite dangerous because depending of the depth of the water in it, a person could drown in a well. It can be a place of gasping for breath, struggling to stay above water, struggling to stay alive.

The bottom of a well would also be unbelievably lonely. A small space, deep down in the earth, where someone could be without anyone knowing. There is no way out, and no one to hear your cries.

Depression is like this. It’s dark, scary, and confining. And you are constantly fighting for your life, gasping for breath, feeling as though you are drowning.

And it is incredibly lonely. It’s an unimaginable loneliness because your brain tricks you into thinking that no one cares about you, and more importantly, that no one can understand what you are going through. The isolation that depression forces on you is suffocating.

And that is why anyone who deals with depression must fight against the isolation and the loneliness.

It’s the main reason I started this blog a year and a half ago. I wanted to help others who struggle as I have, (and continue to) with depression feel less alone. I wanted others to know that someone out there gets it, that I understand.

And I also wanted to help others find ways in fighting that loneliness.

When you’re depressed, your instinct is to isolate, but it is the worst thing you can do. I know this because doctors and counsellors have told me. I also know this from experience.

So, when I feel my depression coming, or when I am in the middle of a dark time, I fight my own instinct and find ways to feel less alone.

I text a friend and ask for prayer.

I meet someone for coffee or dinner.

I participate in something social even when it is the last thing I want to do.

I make an appointment with my counsellor.

I call someone I can trust if I feel up to talking.

I spend more time at work where I am surrounded by people.

I write on this blog.

All of these things help me climb the walls of that well. All of these things make me feel less alone. And suddenly things start to get better.

I always allow myself to feel or do what I need to do. If I feel like crying, I let myself cry. If I need sleep, I let myself sleep. If I want junk food, I eat junk food.

But the one thing I don’t allow for myself in times of depression is isolation. It may be what I want in the moment, but I know it is not what I need.

I know I cannot climb out of that well alone.

And I encourage anyone who may be reading this who is feeling like they are drowning at the bottom of well to do the same. Don’t go into isolation. Call someone, text someone, go outside, write in a journal, or get out of the house, no matter how much you don’t want to.

If you do, things will get a little better, and you’ll find a way to start climbing out of that well.

And take moment to look up. Chances are there is a hand reaching down to help you climb.

If things go off the rails…

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. In the last few weeks time has gotten away from me and as a result I haven’t been keeping up with things that are important to me – mainly writing and posting on here. I try not to use busyness as an excuse not to do something and I am not going to do it now. Yes, my life has been busy, but I could have found time to write. I just…haven’t. And as I was lying in bed just now, reading a novel, I suddenly got this urge, a need, to write immediately. Now the book sits beside and in the minute since I started this paragraph, I have come alive.

And it feels good. My passion has alighted out of nowhere and the flame burns again.

But this post isn’t about my sudden, uncontrollable desire to write (although I am thrilled with this feeling).

The last few weeks have been a time of change and transition for me. I am moving forward again, taking chances, challenging myself and pushing myself a little more.

I have again taken on more responsibility at work. I have a also started a completely new schedule. I have moved on from my comfortable, quiet morning shifts at the Lasalle gym, and I am now working afternoons/evenings at the Belle River gym, unquestionably the busiest of the three BeachWalk Fitness gyms.

When my boss first approached me with the idea of changing my schedule and working more at the Belle River location, I was hesitant and instantly nervous. I liked my quiet, relaxed morning shifts. I liked that I knew all the members coming in, their names, their jobs, the exact time they would be showing up. I liked the predictability of the shift, knowing that a conflict would be rare, and that something unusual or challenging happening was unlikely. I was comfortable. No stress, no worry, no surprises.

The reasoning my boss had for the change was that she wanted someone more reliable and mature in the later shifts. She wanted someone who could handle any situations or conflicts that arose with a calm and focused attitude. She wanted someone who wasn’t afraid to speak up when someone walked in without swiping their membership card, or when someone was too loud or swearing too much, or dropping and smashing the weights.

And she wanted me?

Yes, she wanted me. And although all the things she wanted me for made me nervous, she was right. I could handle them. I could be all those things for her. And the new hours meant more opportunity for sales for me, which meant more commission, which meant higher pay checks. I put my fears aside and said I was in.

The first week was tough. My body was angered by the sudden time changes. I no longer went to bed at 8pm and got up at 3:30am. My stomach battled me with the changes in the times I consumed my food. My stress levels heightened as I tried to figure things out in a new location and get to know new members. I felt like I was one step behind all week. And my body was exhausted with the changes. It did not handle the transition well.

But at the end of the week, I felt ok. I felt more than ready to handle the changes and any challenges I may face.

I am still nervous at the potential of added stress. In the past stress has always led to my depression surfacing.

But what if it doesn’t this time? I am challenging those thoughts and fears. What if this time stress leads to me rising above it and knocking it out?

I could do it.

However, I’ve added another change to my life. At the end of this first week of this new schedule, I moved out of my parents’ home. I am renting a room in a home in Tecumseh now. I have a roommate, the owner of the house, so I am not alone. But it is definitely not as safe and cozy as it was living at Mom and Dad’s.

Am I nervous about this? A little. When I moved into my own place at this time last year, things didn’t go so well, and I ended up quite ill just 5 short months later.

But things are different this time. This time I am in a job that I love where I feel appreciated for the work that I do. Last week my boss told she wants me at this job for a long time, so she wants me to be happy in my shifts and with what I am doing. She said if I am not completely happy, then we need to change things immediately. How incredible is that? I’ve never had a boss say something like that to me. She will actually do anything to make sure I don’t leave. What an amazing feeling.

I have never felt so valued and wanted in a job before.

And there is a small part of me that wonders if she’d feel the same if she knew about my disease.

But I am shoving that part away for two reasons…1. My disease is not me. The person she has known and worked with for 4 months is me. 2. I believe the answer is no. I believe if she knew, all she would want to do is help in any way she could. She is that kind of person. And I am not going to let bad experiences with former bosses allow me to put her in that category too.

After moving into my new home on Saturday, I took my dad out to lunch. We talked about my life and the changes and all that was happening.

He said to me, very sincerely and lovingly, “If things go off the rails, you let me know”. In other words, “I am here and you can always come back to our house if you need to”.

It’s one of the most beautiful and thoughtful things I have ever heard. He didn’t make a big deal out of it or get emotional. He was simply saying, “let me know if you need me”.

I don’t believe things are going to go off the rails. I believe I am on the right path, and I am doing the right things to stay healthy.

But how fortunate am I to know that if things do go off the rails, someone is there to catch me before I crash?

Dear Little Girl

A few weeks ago, my counsellor gave me an assignment to write to myself as a young girl when my family was living in the Caribbean. We lived in St. Kitts for nearly 4 years, and the reason my counsellor wanted me to write to the girl I was then is because I still have wounds that have not fully healed from the time I spent there.

I was 8 when we moved there and 12 when we moved back to Canada. I went to an island school where I was one of only a few white kids. I was harassed and bullied because of the colour of my skin. I was called names and purposely left out of things. I was hit a few times by other kids, and even spat on once. I had a few friends in the beginning, but they quickly dropped off as they were ridiculed for playing with ‘white people’.

I was so excited when we moved back to Canada because I thought I would just fit in here since it was my home country. It didn’t work out that way; I came back with a funny little accent, a mix of English, American and Kittian, I was incredibly shy, and I was more than a little damaged. I was once again bullied and harassed.

It has been nearly 20 years since we left St. Kitts, but there are still things that, even today, will trigger a memory and open up old wounds. And that is why I wrote to the little girl I was. And here is what I told her:

Dear Little Girl,

I know life is hard for you. I know you feel completely alone and unwanted. I know you are confused and wondering why they are so mean to you. I know your days are filled with sadness and dread, and your nights are filled with tears and anxiety. I see you withdrawing, isolating yourself more and more, shutting out the rest of the world. And I understand.

I wish I could hug you and comfort you. I wish I could wipe your tears and hold your hand. I wish I could stand beside you and stop those who hurt you. You have no idea how much I wish I could make things better for you.

What I can do is tell you that you will survive this. It does get better. The pain, sadness, emptiness and anger you feel will one day begin to heal. You will learn from what you are experiencing. This hurtful time will teach you to be kind, compassionate, giving, nonjudgmental, and generous. It will cause you to develop a heart for those who are treated unfairly, those who feel alone, those who feel unloved. You will one day fight for them in the way no one fought for you.

I warn you that things will get worse before they get better. You will struggle more and face challenges that you can’t image. You will experience pain that you are not sure you can survive. But you will survive. There is a strength in you that you cannot fathom. This strength will surprise you with its power and determination. It will come barreling through during times when you don’t think you can go on. You will be on the edge, ready to give up completely, and your strength inside will fight its way to the surface and fight for you when you don’t feel you can fight anymore.

You will never give up, no matter how much you may want to. You will come dangerously close to ending it all, but you will never follow through. Something will always stop you. Your strength, your will to live, your love, and your hope. You will hold on to hope during times when you are not sure it even exists. You have a fighting spirit, a fire in your eyes, and no matter how many times someone or something tries to put that fire out, a spark will always remain.

Precious girl, you will experience such love and joy and peace in your life. You will know heartache, but the happiness you experience will push you through that. The hope you have and the strength within you will get you through things you never thought possible.

And you, darling, will experience the greatest love imaginable when you find Jesus. Knowing Him, trusting Him, accepting His unconditional love will give you a peace that will cradle your soul. He will be your rock, your stability. He will carry you when you are too weak to keep going. He will whisper His love to you when feel unworthy or unwanted. Through Him, you will find purpose, a reason to live. He will give you courage and will always walk beside you. He will turn a light on inside you that will shine out of you and allow you to live the life intended for you.

Knowing Jesus will not mean life will be easy or that you will always be happy. You will suffer and face difficult times. You will cry out to Him in dark times, begging for the pain to go away. But be patient. He will use your struggles and your suffering to create good things. He will use you to help others, to comfort others, to listen to others, to lead others. Take comfort, sweet girl, for He has a plan for you.

Little girl, I ask you to be brave. Those who are hurting you don’t really know what they are doing. They are just young too. Their actions and their words may stick with you and create lifelong wounds, but those wounds will help you create good. Those wounds will help you love. Those wounds will allow you to help others.

You are here for a reason. You have a purpose. And that purpose is so much bigger than what is happening right now. You are strong, stronger than you can possibly imagine. You are a beautiful, precious child of God’s. And you are going to be ok. Have courage, little girl. I promise it will get better.

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This is me, about age 9, at home in St. Kitts with my dog, Freckles. That ugly brown dress was my school uniform.

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The Good Tired

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As many of my regular readers know, on October 4th 2014, I walked out of work and went straight to my doctor because my depression had once again become too much to bear. My doctor first put me on a one week leave of absence, which quickly led to being off work indefinitely. I quit my job and wondered if I would ever be able to work full time again.

In all honesty, I thought I was done. I had reached a point where I believed I couldn’t function in a regular full time work environment, and thought I would have to be on disability for the rest of my life.

For three and a half months, I struggled with my next steps. I wasn’t working, I wasn’t healing as well as I had in the past and I was exhausted. Every moment of every day I was exhausted, even though I was doing nothing. I spent 75% of my time sleeping, which led me to feeling even more tired.

Exhaustion is a symptom of depression. It is unfotunately a very big part of depression. No matter what I could not feel energized. Yes, the depression was zapping my energy, but the fact that I had nothing to do was also stealing it.

I started to find ways to fill my days. First I did puzzles and played games on my iPad to get my mind working. I would try to plan something for each day just to get myself out of bed, even if it was as simple as going to the drug store for toothpaste.

I started making jewelry, just for something to do, and it became a hobby I really enjoyed. I filled many days creating earrings, bracelets and necklaces. I spent many hours browsing beads, wires, clasps, charms and pendants at Michaels.

I continued leading the Three Rivers Windsor gathering every Sunday evening, one of the highlights of my week.

But I was still asleep more than I was awake. And I was still always tired.

In January, I started casually looking at part time jobs as I was beginning to feel ready to try and work a few hours a week. I applied for one job on the evening of January 8th for a part time position at a gym called Beach Walk Family Fitness. Within the hour I had a response in my email and an interview set up for Tuesday January 13th.

On the 13th I had an interview at 11am. An hour later I was asked to go in for some training that evening. I began working/training the next day, and worked every day for the rest of the week.

It all happened really fast and I can admit I was overwhelmed. I went from not working and barely doing anything, to working 5 days a week, shifts ranging from 4-8 hours in length. Now I was really exhausted!

But it was a completely different kind of exhausted. For the first time in a long time, it was a good exhausted. It felt good to be tired. It was an earned tired. It was an ‘I was busy and I accomplished something today’ tired.

My head would hit the pillow at night and I was asleep almost instantly. There was no tossing and turning, no mind spinning out of control, no waking up throughout the night.

It was a good, honest, ‘I need this’, sleep.

And it was a sleep I woke easily from, which was something I hadn’t experienced in many months.

These days I still feel tired, but it is that good tired. It is the ‘I accomplished something today’ tired. It is the ‘I am living my life’ tired.

I am energized while I am awake, and I fall asleep easily when it is time for bed. I am waking up when I need to, on time, and I am falling asleep naturally when my body and mind are tired. I am no longer taking a sleep aid every night. In fact I have only taken a sleep aid twice in the last month and a half.

And it feels good. I feel good.

Before I was desperately trying to fill my days. Now I have so much I want to do and can’t always fit it all in. How great is that?

I feel alive again. I feel useful again.

And I love my new job. I had only been looking for a part time job with about 15 hours a week. With this job I have been working 25-32 hours a week since I started, and I actually want more!

This job has been a blessing. It has helped me in the healing process and helped me to feel whole again. Every day I get to meet new people. Every day I get a chance to get to know someone new. Every day I get a chance to brighten someone else’s day with a smile or a warm greeting or a listening ear. (You’d be surprised how many people open up to gym employees). And I love it!

I feel helpful and useful. My manager is continually giving me more stuff to do, and I am continually asking for more responsibility. I am being handed admin duties, and I am being given information and tasks that most employees don’t have. I am being told that I am liked and trusted.

I feel valued, and I feel appreciated, two things I didn’t often feel at my last job.

And I am feeling the good tired.

Life has turned itself around, and I once again feel as though I am on the right path. I look forward to getting up in the morning.

And it is great.

 

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