Last night was the last Bible Study for this term. I have mixed feelings about it. The night before I had another meeting. Both ended up being more stressful than I had thought – my fault not the meetings. I have a full day of meetings some of which I have no desire for. So I did not sleep well and I have woken with a headache (a by-product of the medication I am on).
I woke thinking about the above song. I was especially thinking about the line, “life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone”. In my 50s I am forced to completely restart. I have literally come back to my teenage years sleeping in the same bed, working in the same room, living in the same house. And I am not sure I can do it again!!!
I woke up sad. Some to-and-fro last night that left me emotionally exhausted. And I am struggling with the guilt of not doing more or trying harder. Simply getting through the day has been a struggle the last couple of days. It is all numb and emotionless. Yes, I am someone else’s villain. But the constant struggle is exhausting. I want to move on but God has other ideas – or, a least, I hope He does.
I have been thinking about stress. And what things trigger my stress! Often, for me, it has to do with uncertainty and sense of losing control. I get a feeling in my stomach that simply will not go away.
Currently I am sitting in the car, reading, and waiting for my parents who have gone to a medical appointment. My dad has had some health issues and I am glad I can be of serve to them. And I like that I get out of the house, especially in lockdown. The sun is out and I have music.
I am hoping to have a day of doing nothing much. Well, actually, I am hoping of doing some things that I want to do. I really want to work on my Rule of Life and I have a book I would like to read about the process. I am hoping for some clarity about things in my own mind. At the moment I feel very disempowered by the system which is not helping my mental health.
I did not sleep well. I had nightmares all night. And they were extremely vivid. I was having an argument with someone – maybe a discussion I should have in real life. The people in my dream were people who have hurt me or supported me recently.
Sleep for me is a “hit and miss” endeavour. Sometimes I can sleep really well but often I have vivid nightmares that leave me emotionally exhausted when I wake. I have woken with tears on my pillow. The dreams often follow me into my day. And the dream becomes part of my reality.
So I will try to be me today even with the emotional weight of the nightmare. I will try to simply be!
I have been feeling the absence of a friend in the last few days. The interaction, conversation, and intimacy of friendship. The friendship was not perfect and did not end well. My depression and anxiety, and my not facing them, did not help. But it was a long friendship with many shared experiences.
Sometimes life calls us to give up something good for a greater good. A sacrifice of love, surrender to Jesus. An emptying that is fundamental to following Jesus who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness”.
I had an insight this morning: Jesus calls me His friend so I need to learn to call Jesus my friend. Look for the intimacy, interaction, and conversation with Jesus rather than a human being. Friendship with a human being is a great good given to us by God. But “friendship with Jesus” is a greater good. So: spend more time with Jesus – pray! – and more time in serving others. More time to be a follower rather than an admirer. Make Jesus my friend.
I saw this on Instagram and instantly thought of the Merton quote: “who am I? I am loved by Christ”.
The above do not define me unless I allow them to define me. And they all call me to turn to Jesus and simply receive His love. I always have a choice to wear the mask that I am given by others or simply to be me.
I follow a number of “depression” themed Instagram pages. They are often extremely helpful. They echo what my counsellor says to me. But it is good to be reminded everyday. Of course, what my counsellor adds is Jesus. And I am thankful to have a faithful Christian who gives me guidance.
I have some real balance at the moment. I still feel “down” at times but I have learned to live with it and not let it stop me. I am still anxious but have some a “bigger view” that allows me to put it in a greater context. Most of that is thanks to a magnificent counsellor who has spent lots of time on me and has encouraged me. And a counsellor who has pointed me beyond myself to Jesus!!!
So what does balance look like for me?
I am by nature quiet. I am not a great talker and like to observe. In fact, I like to sit and read in silence! In the past, with anxiety and depression, I tried to act like I was the “life of the party”. And often looked like an idiot, which, of course, made me more anxious and then more depressed. I have accepted (and that is the real insight) who I am and that sometimes I like to sit and not talk. I like silence and alone time. I try not to be rude – I say “try” as I think I am often very rude. I need other people. But I would rather an intense conversation for a few minutes than a long conversation about nothing much.
I am weird and intense. I think the two go together. My interests are outside the norm. In the past I have tried to come back to the mainline. But, to be honest, the things that interest “normal people” simply do not get me excited. I can keep a conversation going about a particular sport or politics but that is not the conversation I seek. I like ideas, strange people, and intense conversations about Jesus and theology. I like talking about books on philosophy or theology. I will quote with a reference in a general conversation and I know that is really weird.
I have changed a lot over the last three months. And I am not sure where the next three will bring me! But the insights I have gained are a gift from God. And my personality is a gift from God. I might be quiet, weird, and intense but that also brings gifts that I can use for other people. God will reveal where things are going in His time. At the moment I am called to be open to Him and to live now for Jesus.
I have been thinking a lot about episode 1 of season 1 of The Chosen, “I Have Called You By Name”. I was struck by Mary Magdalene – abandoned by her religion and given up on herself. I really like the scene where she stands at the cliff and looks over the edge. I can really identify with her struggle.
Sometimes, for me, living with depression is like standing on the edge. Not that I want to jump but there is a feeling of being “unloveable”. I have very much felt like I am beyond being loved. I am so broken, so beyond redemption, that no person can ever really love me. They may say that they do but really they are just pretending. And when you have been abandoned by people it is very hard to trust people again.
I remember so many sermons about “anxiety” and “Give it to the Lord” that were really unhelpful. I have been told by a person, in a church, that all anxiety and depression is demon possession. I have often wondered if the person thought I should not attend. Religious people, with the best of intensions, give advice that is often very unhelpful. There are exceptions – and thank God for those – but there are also many who simply do not understand and do not identify with the struggle and the pain.
I have learned that depression is part of me. There is no “fix”. I have to live with it.
The part of The Chosen that really got to me this time was Jesus. At the end He embraces Mary – the person on whom everyone had given up and who had given up on herself. He calls her by name – an intimate act of love. No one – including me – is ever beyond God’s love. No person is unworthy of Jesus’ love – no person is unworthy of hope.
I am extremely thankful for the hope that so many people of faith have given me. Yet it is not them who give me hope. It is Jesus – His living presence with me now and always. His presence in the darkness – on the edge of the cliff. And it is the intimacy of the relationship that brings that hope. He has called me by name and I can call His name.
I know what is coming in The Chosen, that great line by Mary. But this week I am thinking about how a person who was a nobody is a somebody in Jesus. How I am loved!!!
Last night’s Bible Study went really well – I felt in the groove and it all worked pretty well for once. It came together very last minute. But, as if to punish me for enjoying myself, my brain turned on me. I dreamt of my past life – my favourite nightmare – and I woke really sad. It was an extremely emotional dream that was very vivid and intensely personal.
When I woke from the nightmare, I prayed. I find the silent moments of the night or early morning great times to pray. And praying with tears has become somewhat of a pattern for me. I know I need to stop telling God what to do. I need to simply be open to Him and let Him do all the controlling. I am very much at a cross-roads and not sure what to do with life.
I have survived two weeks that have been very stressful and emotional. I admit that I am surprised at myself for facing these challenges without going to pieces and without descending into darkness. I am think of rewarding myself for surviving but that, too, is causing me some anxiety. (I have lived so many years with a negative image of myself that I do not think I deserve any reward and I should be happy with what I have.)
So … I am not sure what I will do today. I think I will have a “desert day” – a “somewhat” silent retreat at home. Drink mint tea and read a book. It looks like there might be some sun out today so I could sit outside. I think I need a day of “no-thing” – a personal day with the Person.