When the Fog is Thicker than Normal

I have a history of depression.

Lately it’s been more of a current event.

Some people wonder what it means to have depression. How is it different from just a “normal” bad mood? Doesn’t everyone go through low points? Is it really a medical diagnosis? Sometimes I even ask myself these questions, even though I should know better. My brain knows how to internalize even the slightest hint of disapproval or questioning in another person’s eyes or tone of voice. Sometimes everything seems to point to the fact that “depression” is obviously just a fancy word that someone came up with to shut those of us up who can’t accept that we are really just melodramatic, overly sensitive and lazy.

When my sanity returns, I remember that I don’t have to win a philosophical argument on psychiatry or defend the vocabulary of mental illness to speak about my personal experience. And speaking up is important, not only for my own mental health, but because there are so many others out there who think they are alone and need to hear a word of encouragement and hope from a fellow sufferer.

Depression is a hard thing for me to open up about. I’ve been burned before for revealing too much. I’ve realized the hard way that some things are better shared with more private audiences than on a public forum. Even in a safe, private setting, I often struggle to summon the humility to discuss where I’m at openly and honestly. It all feels like something I should be over by now. It certainly wasn’t on my life roadmap to call the doctor complaining about fatigue and other symptoms I thought must be hormonal and have HIM be the one to suggest that perhaps we should switch my antidepressant. I mean, for years now, any adjustment to medication has been at MY suggestion, not the doctor’s. I thought I was the expert on this thing, but somehow, this time, I missed the key signs.

For me, the biggest clue should have been the apathy. Nothing is really that important when I get depressed. Lots of things start to slip because, you know, who cares. And then, all of a sudden, my normally manageable tendency to procrastinate turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy of never being good enough. I try to tell myself that I AM good enough even though a lot of my behavior is not really my best. Or that I’m not good enough, but it’s okay. I mean, that’s why we need Jesus, right? It’s okay to be perfectly imperfect, right?

These affirmations fall flat, because at the end of the day, things are not okay when you’re depressed. And coming out of depression requires you to admit that first.

Yes, I need Jesus. We all do. No, I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be. But depression isn’t about making good or bad choices. Depression removes your power to choose and clouds your judgment. It becomes a fog that is impossible to see through without help.

Help for depression involves doctors and therapists, because mental illnesses really are medical conditions. I’m not sure there really is a “normal,” but I do know depression is more than just a bad mood. And while everyone may go through low points, and everyone certainly has her own burden in life, not everyone’s lows qualify as depression and not everyone’s burden is mental illness. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t mine, but it is.

Even though it can still creep up on me when I’m least expecting it, today I know I don’t have to walk through depression alone. God is with me always, even in my lowest points. Even when I doubt Him, He is there. I just have to keep trying to seek and strive for God in honest and real ways. Sometimes that means turning my prayers upside down.

Instead of asking to be filled with the knowledge that everything’s okay, sometimes I need to cry out to God that everything is NOT okay. This admission of powerlessness and acceptance is often exactly what I need to start to see God again through the fog. Sometimes I see Him through the people He puts in my life exactly when I need them. Other times, it’s through moments of clarity He gives me deep inside my soul. It is in those moments that I have come to realize that none of us are ever truly alone.

If you’re struggling with depression, know that there is a healthy way out. You are not alone. Things might not be okay right now, but you can still just put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing, no matter how hard that is. And trust me, I’m not going to suggest that the next right thing for you to do is to exercise! Even though that seems to be a popular recommendation for depression, for me, it usually has to start much, much smaller!

Like, with getting out of bed.

Sometimes it’s just getting one FOOT out of the bed. Maybe even just one TOE!! It might be brushing your teeth. Or taking a shower. Or making an appointment. Or reaching out and texting a friend. Or a million other baby steps that feel like they might as well be giant leaps between two mountains. Things might not be okay right now, but if you just keep trudging along, reaching out and looking up, things will be okay.

I have a history of depression. And lately it’s been more of a current event. But having depression also means I have a history of incredible spiritual awakening and renewal, and I’ve learned to be grateful for that. My depression can create a pretty thick fog in my little corner of the universe, but when I do see the light shining through, it is all the brighter in contrast to the darkness. No matter what, by God’s grace, the future looks bright.

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Confessions of a Sporadic Church Going Jesus Freak

I have a confession to make.

Until this past Sunday, I hadn’t been to church in a while. Like, since April.

I love God. I love Jesus. I pray many times every day. I just took an unplanned, extended leave of absence from church.

And that’s not even what I need to confess!

What I need to confess is that I really worry what you think about it.

Even though I have worked hard to shake this whole people-pleasing character defect, I still really feel the need to please you. And so, I have to come out publicly (or at least on this blog) about my sporadic church attendance. I need to risk your disapproval so I can remember I only need God’s approval.

It all started with Love Lives Here Plano – you may remember I had a mental breakdown via blog post about this (https://seeingthroughthefog.wordpress.com/2016/04/04/love-lives-here/).

Well, the event turned out beautifully. Don’t get me wrong. None of our difficulties magically disappeared. The biggest room in the building we rented, where we had originally planned to have our evening program, ended up closed off due to low attendance. And we still haven’t figured out how to fully reconcile the budget, although God has worked some pretty awesome miracles in that area.

The bottom line though is that Love Lives Here Plano was perfectly imperfect and just what it was supposed to be. Even though a few of the workshops had to be cancelled, those that did go on as planned exceeded expectations. One workshop leader even thanked me for allowing her to participate in such a special event. She made a point to tell me how amazed she was at the honesty and transparency in her small group. The attendees echoed the speaker and shared that the workshops had a deep impact on their lives. I wonder if I would have these kinds of observations if each workshop had 30-40 women instead of 10-15.

Despite an ad on a major radio station, our vendors did not see hundreds and hundreds of women, but they were all (well, almost all) happy to be there. About half way through my obligatory purchase and apology to each proprietor, I realized it really wasn’t necessary. They understood you don’t always get the turnout you expect, and they all made sales. Even if it wasn’t what they’d hoped for, when I got out of my own way, I saw that they really were happy to be there. Most of them made significant connections with other vendors and participants that have continued to thrive and contribute to their business and personal growth well past the event.

The evening program was honestly one of the highlights of my life. Around eighty-five women total came, fifteen with free tickets we gave to a local crisis center. Serving these women was an unexpected blessing. As the keynote speaker, I delivered a twenty-minute speech and then led the participants in an interactive activity where everyone wrote at least one thing she wanted to let go of on a paper heart. Each table then ripped up their paper hearts and taped them onto a large puzzle piece. Volunteers gathered the puzzle pieces, and we fit them together on a large poster board at the front of the room. The end result was a picture of a large heart with a cross in the middle – a powerful visual that showed that when we give God our hearts, even when they are in broken pieces, He uses them to create something more beautiful and incredible than we can imagine.

When I gave my speech, I had one of those moments when you feel like you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. I knew it was good. I knew God was there. It was confirmed in my heart that speaking is one of my gifts. Afterwards, I got nothing but positive feedback – everyone said I was funny and had a good sense of timing. Many people came up to me in tears. Several of the aforementioned vendors, many of whom originally intended to come to Love Lives Here only to sell a product, were among the most moved. One woman just kept repeating the word “phenomenal.” I knew in that moment this would not be the last time I would stand up in front of a group and say similar words of encouragement, and I have already had the opportunity to speak part of the speech again.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with my break from church. Well, even though Love Lives Here came off beautifully, it still left me exhausted. And while that’s not an excuse to skip church, it is the first domino in a chain of events, emotions and thoughts that led me to where I am right now.

There were many things in my life that needed attention after being somewhat or a lot neglected while I had put on this event. I felt like I had been living a pretend life. Then, the week after the event, we got the call from my son’s teacher that turned our world upside down. All of a sudden, I went from event manager, public speaker and writer to mom of a “special needs” child. I thought this was God’s way of telling me to just let go of this dream. I couldn’t possibly have this extracurricular passion in addition to a full time job, marriage and children, especially now that one of those kids had to be carted around regularly to therapists and specialists. I couldn’t possibly spend time writing and speaking when clearly, I needed to spend any free time I had becoming an expert on neurological issues in children.

I now realize that God is so much bigger than I gave Him credit for. Of course, He would not put it in my heart to write and speak if I couldn’t somehow manage it along with everything else. In fact, He usually picks people who seem least able to do what He asks so that all the credit and glory goes to Him!

Nonetheless, for a while, I got lost. I fell into a depression that impacted more than just my church-going. If you read my blog regularly, you would have noticed there was a big gap in original posts between April and July.

I am excited to report that I went to church this past Sunday, and that I will be a regular attendee next year, as the Fifth Grade small group leader. I know that I belong in regular worship with a community of believers. We are not meant to do this thing called life and faith by ourselves. I have not been convicted that my sporadic church attendance qualifies as “sin,” but nonetheless I have asked for God’s forgiveness and am back in the habit. What God has convicted me of is that I really need to work on my continued obsession with how you perceive me. I was starting to feel like I had a dirty, little secret from my Christian friends, and I’ve learned the hard way that secrets are bad.

In closing, I really want to ask you to please not judge me, but well, that would just be perpetuating the problem. So please judge me all you want. I need to learn that your judgment is not what matters. I’m wearing a shirt I got at Love Lives Here that says “He Loves Me,” and that is all that matters.

Love Lives Here

Worthless. That’s the only way I can think to describe the way I feel right now.

I know I’m not worthless. And that even if on some level, I AM worthless, it’s okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway.

That knowledge is not helping me right now.

I know it’s okay to feel this way sometimes. I am taking my own advice to write about where these feelings are coming from to help battle them!

Feelings of worthlessness are always tied to fear in my experience. Fear that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I keep reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying.

I try to remember just how many times I’ve been here before. And how it always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. Why would it be any different this time?

Well, let’s see. For starters, I dove head first into planning an event based on ZERO knowledge or experience as an event organizer. I have never taken a marketing class, am totally uncomfortable pushing people to come to things, and did no market research to see how similar events fared in the area.

Nope, I just dove in.

I wasn’t alone, but I feel alone. I was the initiator. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for me. I brought it up. I suggested that we have this event in Plano. Sure, others dove in after me, but they wouldn’t have even though to dive in if I hadn’t done it first.

We rented an entire building and planned for thousands of women to show up to our event. We spent thousands of dollars. We got incredible workshop leaders, speakers and other talent to come perform. We printed and distributed thousands of flyers and post cards. We created a Facebook event and posted like crazy in it. When we noticed we weren’t getting the response we had hoped for, we doubled down and spent even more money to advertise on the radio.

As of right now, we have sold exactly 50 tickets to the event. 50.

I’ve talked through a new layout for the building given the low numbers. We are closing off the biggest room in the building, so we don’t look quite so foolish. But I still feel so foolish. Especially after I asked the event coordinator if she’d ever seen anyone in our situation, and she just point blank said no. Nice.

We’re trying to figure out how best to let the vendors know that we are not going to be anywhere close to the 1,000 women we had projected in our vendor information sheet. We don’t have too many vendors, so I guess that makes it a little better. A week ago, not having a lot of vendors was a major concern; now, it’s a bit of a bright spot. Hopefully the few we have won’t kill us.

As I stew in my self-pity over what a total idiot I am, it’s not helping that since the beginning of the year, we have had one mini-crisis after another. Both my husband’s and my work computers, and our home computer have completely crashed. Everyone has been sick, at least once. We’ve had a flat tire, major health issues with people close to us, and now, both our cars, our roof and our fence have major hail damage. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.

You might think these things should not contribute to my feelings of inadequacy, but when I’m in the mood I’m in right now, I can find a reason why I’m responsible for just about everything. I hadn’t kept the virus software up-to-date on the home computer, which is why it failed. I obviously don’t make my kids wash their hands enough. Why else would they get sick so much? If our garage wasn’t such a disaster, we could have put both cars in the garage and avoided hail damage. Since I am without doubt, the biggest slob in our family, of course that is my fault. Today, the Monday of the week of the event, my car, which was totaled from hail damage but was at least drive-able, decided not to start.  Obviously, I shouldn’t have let it go past the inspection due date.

It’s all so very selfish when you think about it! As if it’s all about me!

I keep telling myself it’s NOT about ME, but the truth is if I am really going to be able to surrender my ego in all of this, I have to share where I am with others. Especially with other women. So if you are reading this, thank you for being part of my solution today. I need you. We need each other.

At the event I’m planning, I’m also speaking. I’m talking about how it’s okay to just be REAL and live a life that is completely exposed. I’m speaking about how we walk around hiding our vulnerabilities and fears from each other, but they end up coming out anyway, in ways we never intended. There’s a better way. And it starts with being real. And honest. And vulnerable. And authentic. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.” We cannot be afraid of showing our weakness, because His power is made PERFECT in weakness.

If I’m going to speak authentically at this event, I have to lay my current weakness out on the table now so I’m not a hypocrite.  While I’m still hopeful that in the next two days, we will sell hundreds of tickets, realistically, I have to accept that we may very well have only 60-100 women. And I have to share that an hour ago, when I started writing this, that prospect made me feel worthless. I knew I wasn’t worthless. And that even if on some level, I WAS, it was okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway. But that knowledge wasn’t helping.

What has helped is writing about my feelings and thinking about sharing them with you. I imagine what you will say and how you will encourage me. That you might tell me of a similar situation you were in and how it turned out better than you expected. That you might remind me that it’s not over yet. After all, since I’ve been writing this, a reporter called and said she was going to publish a story about the event on Thursday! God has worked bigger miracles than this before. I wouldn’t put it past Him to do a last-second surge just so we’d always know it was HIM and not US.

Maybe you will reassure me that it doesn’t matter who comes, or how many come, it’s about the women who are there. In the Old Testament, there is a story where God is willing to save an entire city if there is just one person worthy. And because of Jesus, we are all somehow worthy. That means he wouldn’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars even if it was just to save one person. If He wouldn’t consider that wasteful or worthless, how preposterous that I would somehow think I know better!

I am now so excited about this event. I see now that it is going to be amazing no matter how many women show up. How foolish I have been! But not because I dove in too quickly. No, that was just being human. How foolish I have been to worry so much about how I look.

To be so afraid that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I am glad I kept reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying. And sharing.

I’ve been here many times before. And it has always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. I know it won’t be any different this time.