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9th of May

Faith, Not Feelings (and sometimes some medication)


I’ll be real here.  I was struggling with feelings the past two days.  Ever been there?

After a week of pretty much nonstop caring for two injured kids on pain meds and doing all the farm chores they usually do but can’t, I’m tired.  Despite my best efforts to pray, coach myself with scripture, exercise, eat healthy, connect with friends, etc., I still felt lousy.

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Maybe the one thing I didn’t do to take care of myself had the most effect.  Having been so focused on the kids and their needs this past week, I forgot to take my medication not once, but twice.

Just two days of missing and my thinking goes dark.  My feelings are painful.  Why?

I have an imbalance of serotonin and norephinephrine in my brain.

In other words, I have clinical depression.

Some people have diabetes.  Some people have cancer.  Some people have other chronic ailments.

I have clinical depression.

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It’s not the blues.  It’s not just a bad or low mood.

It’s a pervasive feeling that my soul is being eclipsed.  Darkness becomes tangible.

Nothing brings pleasure or joy.  Nothing.

I want to isolate from everyone because I don’t want anyone to see me like this, to be exposed to the me who isn’t really me.  I want people to see me as I normally am—smiling, laughing, creating—full of energy, bursting with life, encouraging others.

Those couple days, I didn’t care much for anyone, even myself.  I wanted to crawl into bed, pull the covers over my head, fall asleep, and forget the day.

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Things I usually loved had no attraction.  I sat and looked at my spring gardens with hundreds of daffodils blooming, usually a source of joy, and I felt like tilling them all, along with hundreds of perennials—all ten years in the making of what some have said are nothing short of spectacular.  I didn’t care.  All I wanted was to make a good decision, to focus my attention, to get some sleep, to think good thoughts, to write, to photograph, to FEEL better.

I’ve been through this before, too many times to count.  The pit is the pits.  And for those like me, no amount of positive thinking, social support, Bible reading, Scripture quoting, healthy eating, or self-discipline will pull the sun from behind the dark cloud.  It’s stuck.  And so was I.

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So where is God in one with an ailment like mine?

I say, God is in a capsule I take once a day.  I say, I’m profoundly thankful for scientists who have spent their lives learning about the brain, even though we still hardly understand most of its workings.  At least we know enough now to understand neurotransmitters and the role they play in modulating mood.

Am I quick to suggest medication as a first course of action?  No.  It was my last resort years ago.

No pill will heal when other parts of a person’s life are unbalanced.  Healthy lifestyle supporting body, mind, and soul is essential.  But when a person has done what they can and are still unable to shake the shroud of darkness, medication can be an incredible grace.  It has been for me.

For me, one who is medication-sensitive, just a few days of missing causes a quick slip into darkness.  Just a few days back on and I’m my normal self—as long as I keep doing all the healthy things I normally do.  And I have to resist giving up.

So I fight.

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I fight the dark thoughts that tell me God can’t use such a broken vessel.  I fight the dark thoughts that people will judge me as weak or spiritually immature or crazy.  In fact, I know some who do.  So I fight the temptation to tune into their judgments, amplifying their words once spoken to me—about me—instead of tuning into the abundance of loved ones I have, friends and family.

In times like these, here’s what I most need . . .

I need to know the truth about myself, regardless of how I feel in the moment.  And the truth is I am a precious woman created in the image of God, redeemed from her sin by Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, in the process of being made His holy bride by God Himself.  The truth is that no one, even me, can change the truth about me.

I need to believe God, to take Him at His word.  He said in His word that when I am weak, He is strong.  When I am broken and vulnerable, He pours through me most.  When I am brokenhearted, He is near.  When I am anxious and pray, He hears me and gives me peace.  When I am humbled, He lifts me up.

I need to let loving others love me.  I accepted the hugs of my husband with gratitude.  I went to dinner with a friend who listened and loved and later sent me a song.  My husband and friends are my cheerleaders who help me hold faith when I can’t hold it myself.  We all need cheerleaders to help us hold faith.

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I sit here today typing away, feeling better since meds have kicked back in, since I’ve spent time with God, since I’ve let others love me in my weakness.  I wonder what God will do with these words, vulnerably written.  He wastes nothing.  I know.

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So I pray that my dark couple days might minister to a soul who needs to know someone “gets” them.

I do.

But better than me, there is a Friend who relates perfectly.

His name is Jesus, the Son of God, who came in the flesh, who was well-acquainted with grief.

He “gets” us, no matter what we think and feel.  He overcame EVERY pit, EVERY temptation.   And so shall we, if we remain in Him.

When times are tough, when body and mind fail, we walk by faith and not by feelings.  With Jesus, we stand in the light of TRUTH, not in the shadows of death.

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So hold on.  The sun will shine again in your soul.  Let others love you a bit.  And always, always hold onto Jesus.  But if you can’t, let Him hold onto you.  For he loves us with an everlasting love, no matter where He finds us, even in the darkest places.

P.S.  My mother suffered with clinical depression but said, “There’s nothing wrong with my head” when I suggested she try an antidepressant.  Years later, a pain management doctor prescribed an antidepressant to help her deal with physical pain of peripheral neuropathy.  She was willing to take the medication for physical relief.  Interestingly, Mom’s depressive symptoms subsided along with her physical pain and I witnessed her new outlook on life.  If my mother had received proper treatment for clinical depression earlier, I wonder if her heart would have lasted longer.  Instead, she died on Mother’s Day, 2002 from a massive heart attack—a broken heart—at age 65.  Miss you Mom. 

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