oftentimes I hurry into bed so I can fall asleep before my thoughts catch up to me, clutching at me with their ugly, heavy claws. before the voice that sounds like me reminds me of certainties that aren’t even true: that my friends tolerate me but do not love me, that my words will fail me when I need them on the page, that the pain of caring deeply is not worth the joy of it, that I will always be better off alone, that I should flee far from love before I spend too much of myself on it.

these have been my nightly thoughts for the last month. considering the moments of joy, the care shown me by those I work with, the sheer number of birthday celebrations I’ve joined in on in the past month, you’d think things would at least even out.

but somehow it’s still there, the depression seeping in about the corners of my thoughts, and somehow I still find myself plastering on brave faces a lot of the time, and somehow when I crawl into bed at night I’m still hit with all of these certainties about myself.

I feel tired.

I’m tired of fighting it, but also tired of being broken and weak and staying that way.

I’m tired from over committing myself socially and from over committing myself to serve others.

I’m tired of giving in to the emotions that lie to me, and tired of crying in bed almost every night as I fall asleep, and tired of that damned voice assuring me that this will always be the case.

there are facts that contribute, certainly, to these feelings – I have a very fast approaching deadline on a draft of my sequel that’s keeping me from sleeping many nights.  I work full time now and have commitments half the nights of the week that sometimes stress me out.  historically I don’t manage my time and energy well, and I haven’t had much introvert-down-time lately.  but I can’t help but feel that none of that should be enough for the suicidal thoughts to come back the way they have been recently.

I know that I will be okay.  but right now I’m not.  and I’m tired of believing the voice that tells me not to say anything.

I ran this by my extraordinary sister before posting, and she challenged me to think about why I’m sharing it- if it doesn’t end with help or hope, is there value to sharing it with a world that might feel the same, but need some light?  and she’s not wrong, that it’s important to share things that bring hope.  so this is why I decided to still share (with amendments):

right now, when I think that I should just kill myself and have done with it, I’m usually only stuck in those thoughts for a few moments before I shake myself free.  but it used to be that I only thought about ending my life when I was – as Anne Shirley would say – in the “depths of despair”, and it was all very dramatic and non-logical.  and before that, I didn’t think these thoughts at all.  so it seems to me that the longer I’ve been fighting this, the harder it’s fighting me back, and the longer the shadow seems to grow.  and that’s not to say I haven’t had victories; honestly, in so many ways I’ve grown a lot, and have shaken off a lot of the darkness.  but it’s not all better.

it’s hard not to feel entirely and fundamentally broken, that despite every victory and every step forward in this struggle with depression, there’s always a step back, because that’s just how things are going to be.  I looked up that word – fundamentally –  because it was stuck in my head.  and it boils down to what something is at its core.  I want to hold onto the words of King David, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  but I struggle with “knowing full well” that God’s works are wonderful; other people, certainly.  but I have not learned to own this for myself.  “fundamentally broken” feels truer.

I have found that the busier I get, the more social I am, and the harder I work, the more difficult it becomes for me to tell people what’s going on inside my head.  I don’t want to look weak, I don’t want to look as if the workload is too much, I don’t want to look as if I’m fundamentally broken when I’ve spent my entire life trying to take care of other people and hold it together for their sakes.

so for me, even though writing about my struggles has always been a deeply helpful thing, it’s actually getting harder to do.  and I know that’s my enemy at work.  sharing my heartache has impacted others than just myself, and I’m sure he’d like to shut me up.

I wrote on the chalkboard by my bedroom door, “this, too, shall pass”, and I believe that.  what’s hard is feeling certain that it will also come back, as it always has.  not always this badly, of course.  but in some form.  sometimes much worse.  thoughts that tell me I am worthless.  thoughts that tell me everyone will see that I’ve failed if I ever break down.  thoughts that warn me not to tell anyone what’s going on if I want them to ever speak to me again.  thoughts that do not reflect what my creator thinks of me, but feel overwhelmingly true all the same.

I was singing the song “I Surrender” this morning and thinking about the line, “Lord, have your way in me”.  I know that he will.  I know his plan is vast and wonderful.  I know he has used my pain and will continue to do so, and I know that he is good and I can trust that.  I don’t resent the heavy feelings the way I used to.  but I’m wearing thin, and I don’t feel strong right now.

most nights it’s all I can do to hurry to sleep, to flee from the voices.

and most mornings I hurry about my day and keep busy enough that I barely hear them, and everything feels fine on the surface.

and by most evenings the voices have started again and I am so, so tired from the hurrying, and from fighting them.

I wasn’t going to share this with anyone.  it was cathartic for me to write it, and I was going to keep it like that.  I don’t want to be dramatic.  I promise, promise, that’s not why I share these things.  I am passionate about hearing and sharing stories, yes, but not about clickbait.  (unless it’s a facebook status.  sometimes I think I’m funny.)  but I don’t share my feelings – which are sometimes very painful to write down, and sometimes very soothing to write down, but always leave me very vulnerable when shared with other people – to get attention.

I share them because I have learned by doing so that I am not alone.

because for some reason, to help me cope, or to help others cope, my creator allows me to word things in a way that have made other hurting people say, “I feel the same, but I didn’t know how to say it.”
I share my feelings because people have said to me, “I didn’t think I could talk about it, but now I will.”
because people have said, “I had no idea you felt those things.  I thought I was the only one.”
because people have said, “I don’t struggle with depression, and I didn’t know how to relate to loved-ones who did. your writing has helped me understand.”
because people have said, “I tried to kill myself, and I don’t know how to tell anyone, and I need to talk.”

and I promise I don’t mean this to puff myself up in any conceivable way.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to open a crack of light into someone’s darkness, someone who maybe doesn’t realize the scores of people who love them and want to be there for them but don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to process through words what often feels like unbearable weight; without that outlet, I think I might have broken by now.  I am deeply grateful to the people who surround me and ask me how I’m doing, and remind me that I am loved when they see me, and have never, ever, made me feel disgusting or annoying or too broken when I share what’s crowding my head.  I know there are so many people who don’t have that, or who are so much more severely depressed than I am.  I could have it so much worse.  so I am grateful.  I hope that when I tell you that most people are willing to love, you will be encouraged to talk about the hard things.

so.  suicide.

we can skip the backstory on my decade or so of struggling with depression, and the years where I felt guilty even calling it that because I wasn’t cutting or trying to kill myself.  by God’s grace I’ve never gotten that far, thought I’ve thought about it a lot.  I’ve decided, and then undecided.  I actually just typed out the story of the first time I planned to take my life and then erased it.  I don’t think you need to know that.  I don’t think I need to talk about the details of the moment or the ways I decided to “do the deed” over the course of those hardest years.  what matters, I think, is that I’m still here.  and that you are, and you’re reading this, if suicide as ever appealed to you.

about a month ago was the first time I thought about ending my life in years.  thoughts of, “I don’t want to be alive” and “this is all just too much” have come and gone, sure, but I’ve been in deep enough pits that I can see mere potholes for what they are, at least.

this last time it was a different approach, one that seemed logical and causal.  I think it was the worst, because it was the hardest to talk myself out of, and the hardest to pinpoint where to lay the blame.  I’m not going to tell the story of how my brain reached the conclusion of, “it would probably be best and simplest just to end things.”  instead I’m just going to share what I wrote afterward, angry and exhausted.

 

dear Suicide:

you’re beautiful in theory.  you sound like the clear air after I’ve been under the covers for too long, or the quiet darkness when I close my eyes after a long, weary day.

you sound like the easy way out, and the hardest decision.  a little selfish, because you leave so many in pain in your wake.  but right, because some things feel too heavy to keep on bearing.

you sound like rest.  to be done with the pain and the heaviness.  an end of the weariness and the sharp aches and the tears and fissures in my heart.  what a thought.  full to brimming over with sweet possibilities.  and my savior at the end, of course.  a shortcut to that joy.

these are the sweet things you tell me.  these are your calls, your promises, your guarantees.

but Suicide, I need to stop listening to you, always beckoning me closer.

all the crowding thoughts, that tell me things won’t change, or need to change, I need to shut them out.  they all lead to you.  you don’t tell me how to fix things, only how to escape them.  I don’t think Jesus wants me to escape the hard things.

I think he wants to redeem them.

maybe with my help.

maybe that’s why I can’t quit.

that’s why I have to stay, even though you’re pulling.

I’ve said no once, twice, half a dozen times.  why do you insist?  why do you try to change my mind?

what if this is all so much bigger than I am?  what if I need to stay to do something, to bring God glory, to tell stories, and hear stories, and bless people and be blessed by people?  what if I’m a thread Jesus wants to weave through this city and the lives of the people around me and the literary arts?  what if, what if, what if?  why would you want to take me away from that, pulling at me with your sweet whisperings, or your alternating emotions and logic?

one day it’s, “but it makes sense.  you can’t fix this, you can’t be better; just cut it off now before you waste breath and time and effort.  you know you should quit while you can.  just make the rational decision.”  and another day it’s, “you know this is too heavy to bear up under.  you know you’ll break.  it hurts too much, it always will.  it will only get worse.  end it.  save yourself the heartache.”

but I won’t listen.  I won’t obey.

you’re a pretty door I won’t walk through.

you’re not worth it.

it’s really hard to say what is worth it, on the hard days.  so I’m making a list, of just a few things:

-little faces, splitting with love, and the cries of, “MISS LYDIA!” as they run on pitter-pattering feet toward me across a room.
-heads dropped on shoulders, looking at the stars, losing trails of thought and laughing about feelings.
-dancing in my room when I’m the only one home, pretending I’m Liza Minnelli in a cabaret club.
-knowing I’m the only one in the world who was trusted with someone’s secret.
-curling up in bed with pillows all around and a good book and a sense of total calm and real sabbath.
-crowds of strangers on a city street with stories etched on their brows and unknown eternities riding on their shoulders, full of endless possibility.
-the moment when the airline company sends you a confirmation on tickets you’ve just purchased, and you know you’re going to go somewhere.
-coming into a room and having someone grin and wave when they spot you.
-perfect, smooth pebbles worn down by salt water, and bright green leaves against dark wood after a spring rain.
-finding dried, pressed flowers in a book you forgot about.
-waiting for a polaroid picture to develop.
-the moment when the lights go dim in a theater and the orchestra quiets before the overture starts.

so goodbye, Suicide the Promising.  what you have going for you is an end.

I’m going to choose beginnings.

you lose.  you’ll always lose.

 

it’s World Suicide Prevention Day, the culmination of World Suicide Prevention Week.

two days ago I was at work and I got lost down a trail of ugly thoughts that ended with me saying to myself, “you are just weak and afraid, Lydia.”  I think the worst things I’ve ever been told are the things I say to myself.  I am so unkind.  maybe we need to stop listening to ourselves.

you, reading this: you are beautiful.  and valuable.  and the God of the universe stamped you with his image because he loves you, and he died to save you because he thinks you’re worth it, and he calls you his beloved.  he has made us his sons and daughters by giving up his own life for us.

and maybe you don’t believe that.  or you know it’s true but it doesn’t seem like enough- like living isn’t worth the pain of the day-to-day, when everything is going wrong, or nothing is but you are the world’s biggest mess on the inside.  I know those days.  today I’m writing from a good place; life is crazy and I’m in the middle of my own heartbreaks and frustrations, but I know I’m okay.  maybe you don’t know you’re okay.  but today, I want to stand in the gap for you.  today I know you’re brilliant and you have purpose, and you are a gorgeous, unique, funny, strange, worthwhile human being.  there are people who love you, or who will love you, people who will hurt with you and hold your hand if you let them.  and there is a world around you that is in need of you.  a neighbor who will need help up the stairs, or starving children who need your rescue plan.  there is a place that you are meant to fill on planet earth.  don’t quit on humanity yet.

don’t quit on me.

I’ll see you tomorrow.

 

~Lydia

 

p.s. I wrote something, this summer, when I was in a dark place.  it’s short, some weird fiction that deals with depression.  maybe it’ll speak to you.  maybe not.  you can find it here.

I wrote this the other day and it’s been milling around in my head since.

“how are you doing?” people keep asking me.  the flippant way (“what’s up?” “how’s it going?”) or the sweet way (“how are you?”) or the real-friend way (“how’s your heart lately?” “tell me how you’re doing.”).  it’s normal; people ask these questions, sometimes wanting to sit and hear the answer, sometimes hoping for a “good thanks, you?” in response.  and I just moved, and started a new job, and I have lots of really wonderful friends, so I get to answer this question a lot.

but I’m here on this blank “sheet of paper” because I don’t actually have that answer.  I don’t know what to say.  sometimes the “good thanks, you?” answer is all I’ve got, because people generally don’t have an hour to sit and listen to me try to unravel and understand my own feelings.  or lack of feelings.  my apathy and lukewarm or my kilimanjaros and mariana trenches.

I don’t even understand these places myself.  I wonder if even-keeled means boring, but I also don’t love the drama when I’m in the middle of it.  I’m my most creative when I’m at my darkest: the deepest ruts of despair and depression have historically brought about my most poignant creations.  and when I create – especially out of hardship – I feel like I’m doing what I was made to, down to the core of my being.  it’s like the natural outpouring of my soul.  Eric Liddell, the famous athlete, said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  and that’s how I feel about pouring out creatively.

but I don’t want to be sad, do I?  I just typed out three different versions of a sentence along the lines of “I love being happy but…” and the more I think about it, the less I think I do…?  I don’t know.  I think when I’m happy – placidly so, not because something amazing is happening – I feel shallow.  (I’m well aware how self-centered this may come across as.  I’m trying to figure it out myself, and that usually comes by writing about it.  this is weirdly personal.)

I’ve been in the throws of despair and hated it but still found a way to be deeply grateful for the feelings, thoughts, and experiences I’ve been given.  but maybe when things are good I don’t know how to be satisfied.

maybe this comes back to the thoughts I’ve been having recently about struggle.

I don’t want to live ‘struggle-free’.  what I want a is life that’s pulled along by the right struggle.  when I picture an existence that fuels and fulfills me and glorifies God with my particular gifts, I don’t picture white fences and easy-going conversation with the neighbors.  I just don’t.  something about that actually kind of makes me anxious.  this isn’t to say I want struggle for its own sake.  I certainly don’t want to toil on and on for the wrong thing, something pointless, or outside of God’s will for my life in the grand scheme, just so I don’t get too comfortable.

I’d just rather work hard with push-back for the noble thing God has set out for me than to either have it easy on the wrong path or struggle and tire but toward the wrong goal. I want the dignity and purpose that come from the right struggle.  I can’t imagine I’m meant for a ride without bumps.

and when things are too easy, or just feel like…nothing…I worry that I’m wasting beautiful time with stupid flat-lining.  I don’t know how to be grateful for “down time” when it’s a whole week or a month or six months.

maybe it’s a gift, this quiet in my spirit.  but it doesn’t feel like Holy-Spirit-stillness, it feels like I’m missing something, like I’m not pressing toward God or he’s not pressing toward me.  it feels like I’m doing something wrong because I’m not “sucking the marrow out of life”, as Thoreau would encourage me.  it feels like I’m just dog-paddling around in the kiddie pool.

I don’t want the kiddie pool.

maybe I don’t know what I’m asking for – I dealt with a lot of emotional shit last year (external and internal), and I’m not saying that was fun – but I don’t think I want to stay here.

I don’t want to look for God in the whirlwind and the fire but miss him in the still, small voice.  I want to learn patience, and quiet.  I want to learn to rely on his timing.  I want to learn what this “season” of life can teach me.

but this placidness kind of sucks when I don’t even know if God wants me to sit in faith or move in faith.  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.

so my update, when people ask:

I don’t know.  where I’m at, what I should be doing, what I shouldn’t be doing.  I don’t know if I should be grateful because I’m okay, or if it’s a warning sign that all I am is “okay”.  I don’t know if the quiet is convenient, aiding and abetting sinful distance from God, or if it’s a gift, after all the craziness.  and if it is a gift, is it supposed to stir up a restlessness in me that will push me toward God’s plan for me, or is it supposed to quiet my spirit and draw my closer to God in a time of rest?  I don’t know if pulling out my own hair because of boredom and confusion and apathy is better than suffocating myself with busyness and too many “yesses”.

what I do know is that right now I can’t create.  I can’t draw or play music.  I sure as hell can’t write.  not a scrap.  my fingers have only cliches and pedantic adjectives to offer.

I don’t want to demonize this period in my life, any more than I tried to demonize the hard times last year, or idolize the times that Jesus redeemed in their aftermath.

but it’s hard.  because it’s not hard.

as stupid as that sounds.

like Diana Goodman, I miss the mountains.

 

 

sometimes the hardest part about getting depressed is that it isn’t so much, “everything is going badly today, so now I’m feeling down”.  it’s more like, “for some reason, I can’t process any of what’s happening in a positive light, no matter if it’s good or bad.”  I’ve had some of the best weeks of my life interrupted by onslaughts of just crippling self-loathing, doubt, and depression, and the notion that there’s nothing I can do to combat any of it.  typically I just form myself into something that vaguely resembles a ball and cry for a while in a really pitiful, crumpled sort of way in the darkest corner I can find.

I think it’s important to talk about our struggles.  this generation is more encouraged to open up than any before it, as far as I can tell, and I’m glad for it.  (I do think it’s important to check ourselves for motivation, so that we’re not bearing our souls just for attention; unfortunately, social media can be an easy platform for self-pity-parties.  to my chagrin, I’ve hosted a handful of my own.  that’s not what this is.)  I’m glad that I live in a time where people are talking about hard things.

in that vein, I’ve shared a lot with y’all over this blog, facebook, and twitter.  writing helps me to process.  when I try to talk about my feelings, they come out in a jumbled, ugly mess with tears and fumbling words.  when I write them down, they make a little more sense.  in past posts, I’ve talked a lot about not having an answer to the things with which I’m dealing.  and that I think that’s okay.  I need to talk about them with or without a solution.

but to close out 2015, I want to share with you a story that falls into the hope-filled category.

I don’t have the answer to depression.  I don’t have the quick fix for self-loathing or the moments of hatred I have for this person God made.  but I do have a victory story.  a single, high-flying, epic victory that reminded me there *is* hope.

back in May (as I drew close to the end of those horrendous first six months of the year), I attended the 2015 TeenPact Massachusetts State Class as the State Coordinator.  it was my first year in the position, and after a really emotionally damaging week at staff training prior to the event, I went into the week feeling stressed, small, and inadequate in every possible way.  what I got for all of my anxiety was what was arguably one of the best weeks of my life.  the staff team made me feel reassured, encouraged, and valuable, and I was shown a lot of grace by a lot of people while I did a job that I’m still not good at, six months later.

half way into this amazing week, as we were driving from the capitol to our host home, something hit me.  the biggest freaking wall I can remember being hit with since maybe 2012, or 2013.  I wanted to hide from everyone I knew, cry myself to sleep and not wake up, crumple up and die.  I hated myself, my personality, my looks.  and the voice in my head, the voice that sounds exactly like my own, that pretends to be me, told me that everything I was feeling was logical and spot on.

I managed to make it inside the house (after an hour’s drive) without crying (something I’m proud of) and upstairs to “use the bathroom”.  I stayed away long enough that I knew the others would start dinner without me, and then I slipped into my assigned bedroom and shut the door.

what followed wasn’t pretty.  I quite literally crumpled to the ground, sobbed my heard out, and lay in a trembling ball for the next several minutes, wishing I could disappear.

it’s hard to realize you’re being attacked when the beating is coming from a voice that sounds like you.

when it’s your own voice telling you you’re worthless, it’s easy to think it’s a kind of humility to put yourself down.

when it’s your own voice telling you that everyone is just pretending to like you, how can you help but doubt every relationship?

when it’s your own voice, why wouldn’t you listen?

but then.  then.

“I know that my redeemer lives.”

a voice that wasn’t my own.  a voice in my head from no where (by which I mean, from Jesus), a piece of a verse from the book of Job, words I couldn’t shake.

“I know that my redeemer lives.”

again and again, I kept thinking it, seeing it, hearing it.

moment of bluntness.  I’ve had some really well-meaning friends send me scriptures when they know I’m depressed, without context, without saying, “I’ve been praying this for you”, or “this applies because…” and it feels like the cheap band-aid fix that Christians are allowed to get away with.  the word of God is mind-blowingly awesome, and has application for every situation.  but you can’t just slap it onto a friend’s hurt and smile and think you’ve done your duty.  (pro tip to my Jesus-following friends: relationships are important.  don’t just cite chapter and verse with a pat on the back.  it usually feels insincere.)

this wasn’t just a random scripture thrown at me.  this was the grace of God showing up to remind me that my. redeemer. lives.  redeemer.  saver of my soul.  lives.  present tense.

suddenly I felt like the Holy Spirit was there with me.  I didn’t feel all right, but I felt hopeful.

I got up, to my knees.

there’s a song you may or may not know called “break every chain”.  the verse states very simply, “there is power in the name of Jesus/there is power in the name of Jesus/there is power in the name of Jesus/to break every chain/break every chain/break every chain”.  it’s repetitive, which isn’t usually my thing, but it’s an incredible song, and you should look it up if you don’t know it.

I started saying it to myself, in my head, then in a whisper, then a little louder.  “there is power in the name of Jesus,” over and over.  and then I got this image of one of my old favorite Bible stories, from the book of 2 Kings, in chapter 6, where the prophet Elisha and his servant have been surrounded by an army of their enemies with orders to seize Elisha and bring him to their king.  verses 15-17 say, “15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

can you imagine that?  a heavenly host, surrounding the army that’s surrounding you?

I sat there on my knees with that image in my head, crying and calling on the name of Jesus out loud (side note: speaking the name of Jesus out loud makes all the difference, at least for me.  so does being on my knees), and my friends: it worked.

it was as if I could feel the devil being repelled.  as if reminding Satan that he’s already been beaten, that my soul belongs to one stronger than he, was a battle.  it was like a fight for my life, where the name of Jesus and the reassurance of his word were my weapons.  and I was winning.

real talk: I didn’t leave that room (when I’d fixed my mascara and came down to dinner pretending nothing was wrong) with any certainty that I’d never get depressed again.  I was shaky and may or may not have covered up a good many more tears that evening.  I felt pretty battered.

but I had – and still have – this hope that no one can take away from me.

for me, that hope only came from experiencing the tangible power of God.  from getting to actually see that he is stronger than the enemy of my soul.  it only came when he opened my eyes to the heavenly host encamped on the mountains around me, ready to fight.  for me.

I know that my REDEEMER lives.

I was a hot mess the following Sunday when our worship set at church opened with “break every chain” and I happened to be sitting in the front row, so everyone could watch me crying.  I also cried my way through Pastor Donny’s perfectly-timed sermon on the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and the bit when he casually mentioned the fact that God looks at us and sees his son’s righteousness, and not our brokenness.

over the rest of this past year, I learned a lot about my feelings.  for years, holed up in my bed or hiding in a closet, I’ve begged God to let me feel less.  less pain, less anxiety, less panic, less defeat.  it seemed like too much to bear up under.  it’s only been over the course of this fall that I’ve realized what a blessing my feelings are.  I don’t want to feel less love- I love strangers and friends fiercely and I wouldn’t want that to stop.  I don’t want to feel less of the empathy that brings me to tears when I read about terrorist attacks across the ocean or one-human-to-another brutality here on my own shores.  I don’t want to give up the excitement that I’m so quick to grab a hold of, about a piece of art or a snatch of music, or a book I can’t put down.  I don’t want to give up compassion for a broken world, which pulls at my heart with an often painful thrum, keeping me up some nights in tearful prayer.

I’m thankful, finally, for the feelings.  even when I think they’ll crush me.

the truth is, 2015 carried more darkness with it than any year I’ve known.  in sharp contrast, it brought more light than ever as well.  more people I love, more gratitude, more prayer.  more news and celebration, more frustration with the place I find myself.  I don’t know where I’m going or what I’ll be doing a year from now, but I’m learning who I was made to be.  I’m also learning that I’ve missed out on a lot of blessings by insisting that my own low view of myself was more accurate than what God thought of me, and I’ve missed so many chances to bless others and be used by God because I was stuck in my own rut of insecurity.  I’m tempted to be haunted by all the “what would have beens”, but I’m also learning valuable, difficult, huge lessons about the magnitude of God’s free grace.  free things are oh-so-hard for me.  accepting the unmerited gift that his mercy is has yet to become easy, but I’m learning.  learning to shut up and stop trying to pay God back for things.  learning that the obedience that comes from gratitude is the sweetest and most rewarding obedience.

this has been my year.  learning, learning, learning.  victories and humiliations, all for the glory of God.

so to close it, I wanted to share this victory of mine with you.  not because I’ve found the cure, or because I’ve gotten over self-loathing and depression.  I share it because it’s important to talk about the bad things, and it’s important to talk about the good things.  that’s where redemption comes into play.  by sharing with friends the things I struggle with, I’ve gotten to a place of knowing I’m not the only one, knowing I’m not unlovable, knowing I’ll survive this.  by calling on God’s name I realized I’ll beat this, because he already has.

please don’t despair if you’ve tried this whole God thing and you’re still depressed.  depression is complex, but it’s not hopeless.  I’ve called on God in darkness before, and occasionally it’s “worked”, but more often the crushing alone-ness didn’t let up.  you may not be at a place where you can even think about fighting.  maybe your first step is some help from science, and recognizing that you need outside help may be what you need; I don’t believe depression is a purely emotional condition.  for me, the necessary shift was calling up the already-not-yet of God’s victory over darkness.  I needed to say it out loud and I needed to know I had hope, for the next time.  because there were next times since then.  and there will be more.  all I want to convey is that there can be victories.  that this fight isn’t a futile one, just because it feels that way.  that the story doesn’t have to end badly.

so here’s the deal: if you want to talk, message me*, call me, text me, email me.  I may know what you’re going through, I may not.  let’s be vulnerable and live real life together and not pretend to be okay.  but let’s talk about the days when we are, as well.  that hope might be what someone needs.

thanks, 2015.  I liked you a lot.

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~Lydia

 

*(I’m notoriously bad a facebook messages (okay, all communication really) but I’ll do my best.)

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I do it continually.  Every day, all day.

And because my problem could be mistaken for humility, it’s easy for me to ignore it or forget that it’s a problem at all.

I need to talk about self-loathing.

I couldn’t tell you at what point in my life I started hating myself.  My family and friends love me, sure, and I’ve been raised all of my life being told that the Creator of the universe does as well- enough to die to save me.

I don’t know why that won’t sink in.

Most of you know that for the past five+ years I’ve struggled with depression, off and on.  During those bouts of despair, it’s difficult – it feels impossible – to remember that life is precious, and to call to mind the great things my God has done for me.  I don’t want to talk about the details of all that.  I don’t want to defend the reality of my depression to you or belittle it so I feel superior either: I know that it was not as bad as it could have been, but I also know that for me it was very real.*  I felt like I was distant from God on those days, and I felt like it was my fault- and that made me hate myself, and feel like there was a wall separating me from my Savior – a wall that I had to tear down before He could help me.  I’m making progress- or rather, Jesus is, in me.  We’ll see what happens.  I haven’t been seriously depressed for a couple of months, hallelujah.

But this post is about something different.

I’m not writing this because I’ve finally come to terms with God’s love for me and I’m “all better”, or because I’ve discovered how to get over this self-loathing that punctuates every aspect of my life.

I’m writing this because every day of my life it seems like it’s getting worse.

And I need to talk about it.

My church, ‘Aletheia Boston’, blesses me beyond belief.  I started going there in January and have since been challenged in my relationship with God, drawn closer to Him, and convicted about the sins in my daily life.  I’ve also made some amazing friends.  The people who surround me on Sunday mornings (and any other time I spend time with them) pursue God, and encourage me to pursue God.  My pastors don’t water down the truth (that’s what the church is named for, after all), and I love it.  I’ve never felt so keenly that I’m in the right place, even if I am among the quieter members of my family and slower to get to know people.

All that to lead into a sermon that Pastor Adam Mabry preached a few weeks back (you can listen to the podcast of it here)- a message about the value of human life.

Honestly, I couldn’t summarize the sermon for you perfectly, but I did take some notes that, for me, were mind-blowing.

Pastor Adam read from Genesis 1, and said this: “You and I are made in the image of God- we are intentional and we are blessed.”  The scriptures don’t give us permission to put people into boxes because they come from a certain hemisphere or have a particular color skin.

Galatians 3:26-29 says, “26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

We are equal children of God; Pastor Adam made the point that when we hold onto our prejudices, we do so at the expense of the Gospel in the eyes of those around us.  We don’t get to see the world through “white eyes” or “black eyes” or through any other prejudice or point of view.  We get to have “Jesus eyes”, and that’s it.

We don’t get to assign our own value to any human life- we don’t get to say that one person is less important because they’re old or because they’re not yet born or because their skin is darker or lighter than ours.  We don’t get to view any person as a mistake, as worthless, as unimportant.  In God’s eyes, we are each beautiful and purposeful and have been fearfully and wonderfully made- and let’s not forget, in His image.

My favorite thing that Pastor Adam said in his message was this: “There is no version of Christianity where we get to decide who lives and who dies- because every human life is intentional.”  (He sort of shouted it too, which I loved. I was tempted to jump up and cheer.)

But guys.

In all humility, I don’t think I have a problem with putting people in boxes, with de-valuing them or having a racist/sexist/ageist/’you-name-it’-ist viewpoint on the lives of those around me.  In all humility, I adore people.  The more unique, the better.  I love watching strangers, finding a random act of kindness with which I can make someone’s day, observing my incredibly diverse church interact…  I love worshiping with a body of believers that represents more nations than I can count on both hands.  (*shameless plug for my wonderful Every Nation church*)

So when Pastor Adam finished preaching (and as I was volunteering that week, I got to sit in on both services), I was pumped because it was a great message, but I wasn’t initially challenged to go out and change something about myself.  I thought that, as this topic went, I was all set.  No conviction, just encouragement.

It wasn’t until later that day that I realized there was a message in between the lines for me- something Pastor Adam didn’t mention, but that he had spoken to, whether he realized it or not: how does walking around loving the world but hating myself glorify God?

All it does is tell God that He made a mistake when He called me to be His servant.  It says that His glorious plan for me would be great- but really I’m not what He thinks, and that He ought to go find someone else who is “better equipped”.  It’s me saying, “God, thanks for thinking of me, but I know myself better, and I’m not worth the trouble.

I don’t look at myself and think that I am one of God’s incredible creations.  I look at myself and wonder why He would even want me.  I wonder what He could possibly have been thinking when He made me.  I wonder why I had to be the boring person in my family.  I wonder why I don’t have any of the personality or beauty that I see and wish for in my family and friends.  I wonder why, why, why?

I don’t look at my person or my life and see value.  I don’t see the image of God stamped onto me.  I don’t see anything beautiful; I see the opposite. I don’t see the fact that He has called me for a reason.

And I don’t want to be crippled by hating myself any longer.  I’m tired of it.  My self-loathing and insecurity affect every conversation I have and every relationship I build.  I don’t want that any longer.  I’m writing this so that I’ll be accountable to start valuing God’s plan for my life.  So that I’ll remember that I have a purpose.  That I am special (not to go all Sesame St on you).

And I know that as long as I’m crippled by focusing on my negative view of myself instead of God’s love and grace and purpose for me, I will not be prepared or equipped or confident to do His will, and I will live a hampered, messed-up life.

I’d love if you could pray for me when you think of it.  It’s going to be a struggle.

Thanks for reading, my friends.

~Lydia

[job 42:2 – I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.]

(Aside: I’d really encourage you to check out the podcast from that sermon- the series our church is currently working on is called “Sex, Money, & Politics [and a few other things you’re not supposed to talk about in church]”.  The entire series is really phenomenal.  And if you’re anywhere near Boston, stop by- we meet at the YMCA in Cambridge at 9:25 & 11 on sunday mornings; there’s more information on the website.)

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*Note: I also fully understand that teenagers go through crazy hormonal imbalances, and am willing to concede that health played a part in my depression.  But I’d like to state for the record that that does not mean I was any better for knowing what was to blame.

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