Beginning in February 2012, I began to have trouble sleeping. I began waking up at 2 a.m. and was not able to fall back to sleep. I didn’t think anything was bothering me. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t sleep. This went on for a few months. Before, when I had trouble sleeping, I would take one Benedryl to help me get to sleep, but that wasn’t working anymore. I finally saw a nurse practitioner [my doctor was away] in April. First, she had me try natural sleep aids, such as melatonin and serotonin, but neither worked in my case. The lack of sleep was taking a toll on me, I was becoming depressed. I went to the nurse practitioner several times and she gave me different anti-depressant medications to try. Each time she promised I would feel better in a few weeks; that the medication worked like magic. Each medication was not the “magic pill” I was promised. Every medication did not make me feel better, but only made me feel worse. I was becoming more and more depressed. Due to the lack of sleep and mounting depression I could not handle the things that were happening around me – four or five good friends were battling cancer, friends I considered family were leaving the church and not even saying “Good-bye” and I really didn’t understand why, an elderly neighbor Joe passed away and I felt bad that I never told him about Jesus, someone I deeply cared about was having trouble in school. All that was happening around me I considered to be heart-wrenching struggles and I was overwhelmed by them. I saw no way to help any of my dear friends. I was not able to pray as I did before.
Because of my insomnia and depression, I did not have an appetite. Whenever I tried to eat I would feel my throat tighten. I could not make a grocery list because I had no interest in food of any kind. This was not like me. I tried to figure out what was wrong with me. I searched the internet for answers. Could my depression be linked to my cerebral palsy? Is there such a thing as a neuropsychiatrist? [There is, but not in this area]. Are there other anti-depressant medications I could try? I did not get many answers from the internet. After searching the web to no avail, I thought maybe I had diabetes. Maybe that’s what causing everything to go off-kilter. I asked my friend Holly, who is a nurse, to come in the morning to check my blood sugar count. Without hesitation, she did what I asked. I did not have diabetes. Then, I thought maybe I was poisoning myself by using plastic travel mugs for hot drinks. I was checking under every rock and grasping at straws to find answers. I wanted to know what was wrong with me.
I chose not to try Christian counseling because I thought I knew what the counselor would say. I knew all the Scripture s/he would quote, such as I Peter 5:7: “…casting all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you” and Matthew 6:25ff: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” and Philippians 4:6-7: “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” and I Thessalonians 5:16-19: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you” and many other Scripture promises I already knew.
What I wanted people to understand was what I knew and believed did not help with how I was feeling. There was a disconnect between what I knew to be true and the empty hopelessness I was feeling. I thought going to a Christian counselor would only make me more depressed and guilt-ridden. but also feel like a failure. I thought I would not be encouraged, but feel like crawling under a rock. These thoughts might have been untrue, but it was what I thought at the time. Feelings of sorrow and even depression are not sinful, but they are part of the human condition. We read that Paul and the church in Philippi experienced deep sorrow and anxiety for one of their brothers in the faith. Paul writes:
“I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been DISTRESSED because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have SORROW UPON SORROW. I am more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I [Paul] may be less ANXIOUS. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me” [Philippians 2:25-30].
(Paul, a Church Elder, introduced Betsy [right] and me before we presented “my story”)
(The Apostle Paul [Notice the uncanny resemblance in the two Pauls!])
Throughout Paul’s Epistles, he speaks about his concern for the newly established churches [For example, read I and II Corinthians and Galatians]. It is interesting to me that Paul didn’t just heal Epaphroditus. Perhaps God used his illness for His greater good and His eternal purposes for His Church. There are some believers in the Christian faith who look at the show of concern and sorrow and grief as having a lack of faith. However, when we read Paul’s Epistles, we see Paul being honest about his worry and even his anxiety for the churches he is caring for. We need to learn from Paul’s honesty that the only time we can come to terms with our feelings is when we are willing to be honest and become vulnerable with the people we trust with our feelings. In our honesty and vulnerability, God reveals His mercy and grace in our time of need. He wants His Church to show His mercy and grace to each other and those outside the Church [our neighbors].
(My friend Betsy graciously read “my story” [I was the “sidekick].)
For instance, crying is allowed at Christian memorial services and funerals, among believers who love one another as brothers and sisters. Yes, we know that our loved ones are with the Lord, but we also know we will still miss them. We will still be reminded of their absence when we do the things we used to do together. It is okay to feel sad and miss someone we dearly love. Why do some people tell us to stop crying? Why do they judge our crying to be a “weakness” when it is really a gift from God? Do our neighbors know us by God’s mercy and grace exhibited in our lives or by our judgmental attitudes?
In her book, “LIFE TOGETHER IN CHRIST”, Ruth Haley Barton expresses exactly why I did not seek Christian counseling when I was clinically depressed:
“I don’t know about you, but when I am in the throes of loss and disillusionment, profound emotions and dangerous questions, I usually want to keep to myself. Some things feel entirely too personal to share with others, and at such moments I am convinced that no one could possibly understand what I’m going through. The idea of trying to put the unspeakable into words feels completely exhausting, and the thought of subjecting my soul to inane questions and trite answers during such tender times is almost too much to bear” [pp. 25-26].
Instead of going to Christian counseling, I did what Parker Palmer, the author of the book “A Hidden Wholeness” writes [Ruth Haley Barton quotes him in her book mentioned above]:
(Sharing a meal before Bible Study with my friends [bottom left and around table]:Priscilla, Rich, Wendy, Fran, Lydia, Pam, Jack, Lynda)
“When I went into a deadly darkness that I had walked alone, the darkness called clinical depression, I took comfort and drew strength from those few people who neither fled from me nor tried to save me but were simply present to me” [pp. 60-61].
I told several of my close friends about my insomnia and depression and that I felt lost. I told them it’s like “I can’t find Lydia.” These friends listened to me, prayed with me, asked me how they could help me and told me to call them any time. Just knowing that these precious brothers and sisters in Christ were there for me was somewhat of a comfort.
To be continued…
In His Grip and For His Glory,