The week of Christmas, I remember thinking, "I am SO thankful that I feel myself this season. That I can fully enjoy the season."
We returned from a 10-day holiday in the Rockies at my in-laws home. It had been a joyous and wonderful time--meeting my now sister-in-law Cath was the highlight. But as I settled into life's routine and the Christmas decorations were packed and put down in the basement, the fog began to roll in.
Hadn't we kicked this Lord? Hadn't we come so far and figured out the "solution?" Fear gripped my heart. Stories of some of my friends flashed through my mind--the ones where they described how it took years and years to find the correct medication. Was it going to be like that for me? Would medication work for a few months and then plateau, leaving me in the fog once again.
But maybe was just the after-Christmas blues. The letdown. I'll wait a week and see what happens before calling my psychiatrist and messing with meds.
But then a day hit that I just could not endure alone. I called Kelly and began to cry. "It's back. I'm feeling it all over again."
Thank God for friends who have "been there." She calming began running through different things that had changed in the last month. Triggers.
Lack of sleep?
I'd been going to bed late, not sleeping great (since I wasn't at home). It was that kind of interrupted sleep where children wander into the room the middle of the night and you go back to sleep, but the interruption of sleep builds into exhaustion over several nights.
Changes in diet?
Um, hello! It was Christmas right? The kitchen counter top had boxes and cans and bags of sugar-rush treats and my hands kept grabbing for more. Lack of self-control after weeks of depriving myself on the Candita diet.
Negative. It was lazy holiday.
Kelly described how key things like sugar, diet and sleep can affect depression in big ways.
I was relieved. Maybe it was just those daily-life habits that were out of balance.
I was bummed. SHOOT! It's never just as simple as taking a pill! There would have to be some discipline and effort and self-control required of me for long-term health.
So I jumped on the treadmill, went on sugar-detox and drank a ton of water. Within two days I was feeling myself again. Thank you Lord, for wise friends.
So now, when I have a couple of low days in row, I go through these questions. These days, it's typically exercise. I find if I go four days or more without running, the fog begins to creep in. A quick jump on the treadmill and the endorphin rush seems to keep the fog at bay. Looking back--from my teen years on--I think running is what kept "depression symptoms" hidden. I was a cross-country runner and ran a marathon in college. I think running is probably what kept me balanced for a long time.
"Dark days" are especially hard at that time of the month, ahem. But this true for many women. Sometimes when I am down, a quick panic rushes through me. Am I sinking again? That fear. A disbelief of sorts--that God would somehow turn things back. Spiritual amnesia of what God has done.
But then I recall something my psychiatrist had said, "Our lives will never be perfect. There will still be hard days. The point is that those days are few and far between. And that there are more good days than bad."
Everyone has "down" days. It's the nature of life--being human and experiencing the ebb and flow of life--it's ups and downs. It's life outside the Garden--where all of life was in perfect harmony with God. Like so many other things in life, depression is one of those awful things that we have here on earth because of sin, the fall of man.
Let me be clear, I'm not saying I have depression because of something I did or didn't do. I'm saying that the hardships and pain and death we see and experience here on earth are because of that first original sin in the Garden. This act that separated us from God. Because of sin, we live in a broken world, in broken bodies. There was no depression in the Garden or in Heaven, because the presence of God brings perfect health and joy. The way we were created to be with him, originally.
That's why we have Jesus--our savior--literally saving us from the death of sin because he paid the price of our guilt on the cross. I am so thankful that because of Jesus, I will one day be "whole"as he created me to be. God's provision of family, friends, medical professionals, medication have provided a band-aid of sorts here on earth. A means to help me continue living His plan and purpose for me. But one day....there will be no medication, no sweating on the treadmill, no longer striving and fighting against sin's collective pull on my human life. Why?
I'll be Heaven, sitting on the cool grass next to Jesus. I'll be working on a crafty hand work (knitting, embroidery, maybe). Conversation will be easy and enjoyable. No fretting over life's struggles, what to do, give me your advice, Jesus. It will be a perfect, joy-filled moment full of life and laughter. And we will remember this particular season of my life, but not in a sad way.
Then, Jesus will show me. Like a old home movie, we will watch the "bigger picture" of my life. All the small moments put together in a continuous story--the hard moments and the joys.
And I will understand.
He will say, "And that is why. Do you understand now, Janna? Why I allowed you to experience depression? Look at the beautiful result. I am so glad you stuck with me. I was there with you all along the way, making sure you never fell completely into darkness. We made it through together and I'm so proud of you for continuing to seek me even at your lowest point. You didn't become bitter or blame me. You knew I was the solution and you kept on walking, even in pain. And now look at the result. Look how I made beauty from your ashes. What Satan meant for death and destruction, I used for good."
From Isaiah 63: 1-3
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn...
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
I'm literally crying as I type right now. The last four paragraphs of this post have flowed from my fingertips to the keys without thought or creative construction. It's as if God has spoken to me through sharing this with all of you. This was evidently part of journey as well--healing through sharing with others.
I'm not sure what "good" will come from this season of my life--what result, how it may cause me to be more effective in His purpose for me. But I know it will. I cling to that promise. And I know one day I will understand.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12
Love this version from The Message:
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!