I Live With Depression


I originally posted this in 2014 the week that Robin Williams died. Hands down, this entry has been the most read and most shared of anything I’ve written. Since people tend to struggle with depression more in winter months, I thought I’d re-post it and give it a new title.

This week, the world mourned the loss of the irrepressible genius actor, Robin Williams. Typically, the death of celebs leaves me a little sad because I know I will miss their gifts. With Williams’ death, however, I grieved. Not because I knew him personally, although his acting made all of us think we did.  I grew up loving Mork & Mindy, learned to seize the day, and saw the beauty of flawed humanity in his movies.

Mostly, though, I grieve Robin Williams’ death because I am like him.

I live with a mental illness. It’s called depression.

I grieved for Robin Williams’ death because I understand his struggle. I know all too well the feeling of drowning in a sea of emotions whose pull drags you to the depths of despair and won’t let you breathe. I understand how easily your thoughts and feelings can become warped by a combination of brain chemicals and difficult circumstances, leaving you unsure of what is true and what is the myth told by your feelings.

I know I’m not alone. The CDC estimates that about 1 in 10 people report a depressive episode at least once in their lives. My symptoms started showing up in seminary. I’ve taken medication for it the majority of my adult life.  Like millions of others, I take the medication because my brain is just wired differently. It’s a brain disease, just like epilepsy or ADHD.

When you see me on a regular basis, you’re not likely to see any signs of depression. That’s because, like epilepsy, it doesn’t shout out its presence. For me, depression can be managed with medication, therapy, and self-care. However, like epilepsy, depression can be triggered by any number of factors, but for me it’s usually a combination of them—stress overload; loss; sleep deprivation; poor eating and exercise habits; working too much and playing too little; having no margin in my life for stillness and quiet; ignoring my needs and emotions.

Unlike epilepsy, when depression is triggered, it doesn’t wave a red flag and say “Hey! I’m here! Deal with it!” The slide into depression is insidiously deceptive. Slow. As imperceptive as a decline down a low-grade hill. If you are not vigilant to notice the signs, some of which are unique to each person, you can find yourself being pulled toward that black hole of despair, and it feels impossible to resist its gravitational pull.

Sometimes the fog of depression is too thick to be able to find our way out. And so we get help. We see a therapist (mine rocks, by the way, highly recommend her) to talk things through. We adjust the medication. We try to take care of our bodies by getting adequate rest and exercising.
At times, though, giving in to your feelings and thoughts—as misinformed as they may be—feels much easier and less exhausting than fighting back.

And on Monday, Robin Williams stopped fighting.

I’m taking a risk in writing this blog. It may not be received with grace, especially in the Christian community, I’m sad to say. I fear the backlash from fellow believers who wrongly assume that I don’t have enough faith or am not relying on Jesus enough (you’d be surprised at how many people think that). Unfortunately, depression goes largely misunderstood. It’s not just a matter of having a rough few days. It’s not a ploy for sympathy or an excuse to lie around the house. It’s not a lack of faith or a sign of sin. People who suffer from mental illness—from depression to anxiety disorders to anorexia—still love Jesus and find their hope in Him.

It’s hard for us to reach out to family and friends. We think you’ll judge us; we think you won’t understand (and you can’t completely unless you’ve been there); we worry that you’ll look at us funny and treat us as if we have ebola. And so we suffer in silence. Talking helps us but we can’t talk. It’s a nasty irony.

Why am I writing this blog? In all truthfulness, I’m not sure. I think maybe because I’m tired of hiding this part of me from my family, friends, and colleagues. I think partly because I am weary of the stigma attached to mental illness and want to destroy its stereotypes, even if just among the few people who will read this.

Mostly, though, I am telling my story because I seek to be authentic and real in my faith journey, and doing so requires that I be transparent about all of my struggles, not just the socially acceptable ones. You know, the fears and worries that are safe to share as prayer requests in church—a sick uncle, a job interview, traveling over the weekend. I want to challenge my fellow believers to stop playing church and start living like authentic Christians, and that means I must model it first.

I struggle with depression. And I love Jesus. The two are not mutually exclusive.




Songbirds and Church

Earlier this week, I went outside just as the sun peeked above the horizon. It was quiet, that kind of quiet you seldom get to enjoy before the day rockets off. In one of the trees, I heard a simple melody of four notes. Then quiet. From another tree, I heard the same melody, the same four notes. More quiet. Further away, I heard the song echo in the trees. Six or seven times, I heard the birds calling out to each other. And the morning became quiet again. It was as if the birds just needed to know they weren’t alone in the predawn.

Listening to them sing, I thought about the church. Lately, I’ve been asking myself what the church (local and universal, big C and little c) should look like as God intended it to function. In the quiet of that morning, I heard my answer, or at least part of the answer.

When I go to church, I am like one of those birds who sings that simple melody. I’m looking, listening to see if anybody else sings, too. I need to know that I’m not alone in my faith. I need to know that I’m not the only one who chooses to believe that God is still good even after evil has done its worst to rip any sense of hope and joy from my life. I need to hear others who will affirm me, to en-courage me, challenge me, shape me. And others need that, too. Because that’s how God created us–to be in relationship with each other, to do life together, good and bad.

When those birds say their song, nothing changes. The sun didn’t suddenly pop up and warm the sky. Worms didn’t magically appear and fill their hungry bellies. The day ahead was the same. And yet it wasn’t the same. Something changes when you know you’re not alone, when you know others are out in the waning darkness, singing that song with you.

This Single Verse Could Blow Your Mind

flat,550x550,075,f.u2I love how Scripture is living and active (Heb. 4:12). I can read a passage at different times and in different circumstances and God will bring out unique truth based on what I need to hear. Last week the same thing happened again. My reading plan assigned me to look at a familiar passage–Lamentations 3:22-26.

I never got beyond verse 22:

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (ESV)

God’s mercy never ends.

Mind blown.

Ours is a culture of conditional, limited grace. Just as the person who got three speeding tickets in a few months. Or the guy convicted of a felony for the third time. Three strikes and you’re out.

​ Even followers of Jesus can’t comprehend unlimited mercy. Remember Peter? He was willing to go above and beyond the Jewish Law to forgive someone up to seven times (Matt. 18:21). ​He thought his offer was generous, but that’s because his concept of God’s mercy was too limited.

God’s mercy never ends.

Never ends. NEVER. ENDS. Let that get past your brain and soak into your heart.

My response is one of gratitude. Awe. Worship. Humility.

If you read this verse and are unmoved by its truth, either you don’t fully grasp the depth of your sin, or you don’t fully grasp depth of God’s mercy.

When you stop to ponder the never-ending nature of God’s mercy and affection toward you and me, there really are no adequate words.

I don’t understand His mercy and I never will. If I can wrap my mind around it, then my concept of His mercy is too small. Even though I’ll never fully comprehend it, I can choose to accept it for myself. I can allow it to work its way down to my desperate and needy heart. And when I do, I can respond like Thomas Chisholm. You might not recognize the name, but you know his work. Let it be your prayer this week:

Great Is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father!
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Though changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for Sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

​Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Great Is Thy faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me!​

Set the Reset Button

resetSometimes I need to hit the reset button. Step back. Look at the big picture, and begin anew.

This blog is one of those times.

If you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t posted on here for a very long time. Like since February. That’s because I was up to my neck in freelance projects, followed by starting a new job as a writer at Ramsey Solutions.

That left me with the question: What do I do with this blog?

I thought about shutting it down altogether, but my love for the written word overruled. Especially the written Word. As in the Word of God.

So today marks a new page on my blog. New name, new look, different purpose, different focus. Or rather a more targeted focus. Hope you enjoy reading.

When You Get Hosed, Part 2

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I’ve been avoiding this post. I wasn’t sure what to write.

When I created the first post, I thought I knew how I wanted to write the follow-up. The more I thought about it, though, the more I didn’t know what I wanted to say.

I toyed with the idea of talking about trust. Laying your life in His safe hands when you get the crap beat out of you. You know, the “when you can’t trace His hands, trust His heart” sort of stuff you hear in songs and sermons.

But I just couldn’t stomach the saccharine. There’s a problem with that approach. It assumes you trust God in the first place.

I can trust God with some things. My savings account. My freelance work. My future. Well, most of the time. But ask me to lay my daughter on the altar of trust, and I’ll be the first to admit my inadequate faith. God is not the problem. I am. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Tell a parent whose child has just died to “trust God’s sovereignty” and you’re likely to be met with biting tears at best, howls of grief and anguish and betrayal at worst. Does this indicate a lack of trust on that parent’s part? Or does their response merely acknowledge that a walk of faith and trust is a gritty, grungy, get-scraped-up in the process  sort of journey?

If trust is too much to ask—and sometimes I think we demand more than God asks of us—then what do you do when you get hosed?

Show up. Walk it out. Put one bloodied foot in front of the other and keep going.

That’s all you can do. And dare I say, that’s all God asks of you.

Lest I’m branded a heretic for not encouraging you to trust God more or to take a larger leap of faith….hang with me.

Job. The poster child of suffering. I love Job’s story, not because it ends neatly tied up in a bow. Yes, God blessed and restored him and  his family, but he still bore the scars. Those remained. I revel in the story because in the midst of Job’s questions and shaking his fist at God, God didn’t chastise Job for his lack of faith. God didn’t tell Job to put on his big boy robes and get up and out of the ashes. Instead He challenged Job to embrace the mystery of His nature and His workings.

May that’s what God asks of you and me when we get hosed.

The second story is found in the New Testament. One of my favorite people reminded me of it recently (thanks, Erin!). It’s in Mark 9— the man with a son who had been possessed by an unclean spirit. Talk about suffering. Watching your child endure the agony of demon possession. Doesn’t get any worse than that. The man tells Jesus:

“If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”

And Jesus said to him, “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” —Mark 9: 22b-24

I believe. Help my unbelief. The battle cry of the wounded, worn out, suffering, beat up, and bedraggled.

Notice that Jesus didn’t rebuke the man. He answered the man’s prayer. But He doesn’t always choose to answer every prayer the way we’d like. So we keep walking it out. We keep praying and seeking and knocking and asking. We bare our souls to the Soul-Maker and keep going. One painful, faith(ful? less?) step after another. We go to work. We take the medicine. We go to therapy. We take the next step. That’s what the nameless man in Mark did. That’s what Job did. Walk. it. out. Show up. One more moment. One more hour. One more day.

When I was younger and heard sermons on finishing the Christian race strong, I pictured Hebrews 12 and the great cloud of witnesses cheering me on in some grand stadium as I completed one last victory lap. Having weathered a few more storms and the consequences of my own sin, I look at the end of my race differently. I think I shall arrive at the end limping. No victory lap. Just walking, sometimes stumbling, always scraping my hands and knees and faith. I think that’s how most of us will arrive.

When we get to heaven He will finally and completely wipe away the tears and anguish and pain.

Until then, we take one more step. One. more. step.

Doubting, questioning, and yet believing still.








When You Get Hosed, Part 1

sufferingA student my husband taught buried her 18-month-old baby last week.

A dear friend working through an apprenticeship with the promise of future employment just found out that her program has been put on hold—indefinitely.

A dear godly man suffering from cancer has prayed and prayed for deliverance, only to watch the disease march like Sherman’s army across his body.

You and I could swap stories about friends, families, and Lifetime movie characters who have this one thing in common—they got hosed.

In more antiseptic Christian circles, the politically correct phrase might be “they are enduring suffering” or “bad things have happened to good people,”  but 1) those descriptions are woefully inadequate; and 2) that’s just not my style. In truth, those platitudes attempt to clean up the messiness left behind by the bombshell that has obliterated any sense of normalcy in their lives. They did nothing wrong. In fact, many of those  living through the darkest nightmares did everything right. They love Jesus. They tithe. They only drink one cup of coffee per day. And yet…IT still happens. Suffering. Hardship. Gut-renching agony. Injustice.

Yes, we live in a fallen world. I get that. I know that the Bible tells us to expect suffering. I grasp fully the truth that following Jesus does not insulate you from mental illness, a recession, searing pain, or horrible first dates. However, in an effort to let God off the hook, we (Christians) have defaulted to a less-than-honest approach to life’s hardships, as if to express honestly the reality of the mountain ahead somehow negates God’s sovereignty or reveals a lack of faith that the mountain can be moved.

However, God does not need me to be His defense lawyer, explaining away evil as a character-building exercise or the unfortunate consequences of a madman’s sin. God can hold his own. He can stick up for himself. That frees me to be honest about the situation without making light of God.

When IT happens—when you or I or your next door neighbor gets the phone call that changes life as we know it—what do we do? How do we respond?

I have two answers.

First, be honest. Denying the reality of your reality only compounds the confusion and chaos and keeps you from finding your footing. For me to placidly accept the suffering without confronting its ugly underbelly is to give the monster more power. Like Hermoine said in a Harry Potter book: fearing the name only increases fear of the thing itself. (Or something like that.) Adversity  is not off-limits to our most candid questions or fears. Name it. You’ve been slapped sideways by suffering. Claim it. It feels as if you cannot breathe, as if the weight of this ordeal may suffocate you at any moment. Accepting the fact that you are in the midst of a tempest does mean you are less-than-holy or rebelling against God, as if saying, “this is happening and it sucks” shows that you don’t trust God. If only to yourself and your favorite dog, please be honest. Own it. Calling out your suffering won’t make it go away, but you may feel better. Ignoring it certainly won’t help.


[to be continued…]