Grunge and Depression

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “there’s demons in the rock music” type of post… just some random reflections and what’s been rolling around in my head lately.

Just within this past week or so I have been coming to grips with the fact that I have depression.  I think I’ve always put my depression in the context of “overcoming” just because that’s how I’m wired.  I’m an INFJ and part of that I am always aggressively looking for ways to improve myself, including my mental health.

“Feeling sad?  Feeling down?  Nothing a good workout and chocolate protein shake can’t fix!!”

Recent events have brought it more clearly into focus.  I have depression.  I’ve probably had it since I was 13.  I usually manage it well enough through healthy coping mechanisms (and let’s face it, sometimes unhealthy ones).  I’m a sensitive person, I think and feel very deeply.  I naturally tend towards melancholy.  Out of all 4 of my siblings and I, I think it is safe to say we all struggle with some degree of depression and anxiety every single day.

There is certainly a genetic component as well as a very real spiritual one.  I do struggle with depression however I do still hear from God, I do still feel a great deal of happiness in my life- because of my relationship with Him and all the gifts he has showered down onto my life.

I can honestly say I don’t think I would have survived my depression without God breaking through into my life.  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

With the passing of Chris Cornell I can’t help but reflect on my past and the impact depression has had.  I was only a kid when the grunge movement was big but my older siblings were really into it.  When I got into my teenage years the angst and authenticity of the music really spoke to me.  My favorite band was Soundgarden…and then of course, Audioslave.

Chris Cornell was, like many artists, a sensitive soul that battled his own demons and dealt with depression.  We don’t know for sure if his death was a suicide, but it seems likely.  He likely fought the depression and the darkness the best he could, until he couldn’t.

I’ve gone through major crisis’ in my faith.  When I came to God I knew I had major issues, deep pain in my heart.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew I carried a shame around in my soul that tainted every part of my life.   I sought God with everything, I sought healing.  I prayed, I fasted, I wept…. for years.  Yet I still feel such angst in my soul.  I still wake up everyday and feel the need to prove my worth.  I still fight to keep the depression at bay.

I really don’t like offering up “untidy” blog posts.  I really like to post when I’m pumped up on a spiritual high with God and feel like I can offer inspiration.  Those times are true and genuine but they certainly don’t capture the whole story.

I feel like I want to be a little more real in my writing.  Because, well…there are no “successful Christian makeover!” stories, at least not in the sense that we get so healed and delivered that we live in a sort of spiritual reverie, immune to the flesh nature, with a perfect grin and perfect family until Kingdom come.

It just isn’t reality.

In being thrust into a caretaker care for my son, a lot of the self-medicating (or coping, tomato-tomato!) tactics I’ve used have been really messed with.  The things I use to prop myself up (don’t we all have them?) where suddenly taken or just not enough.  I’ve realized my motivation for serving God is actually very little when I am really hurting and my prayers seem to go nowhere.  “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Just today I was feeling down about something when I heard God speak to my heart about how He loves me.  He loves the “hot mess” me.  I remembered a time, when I was in my early 20’s and seriously depressed.  I couldn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine God could either.  I stopped praying.  I remember sitting on the dusty carpet in my bedroom near tears when this song came on the radio… https://youtu.be/Ek4I6BeMQIs

I just knew that song, at that moment, was for Me- from God.  I bawled and bawled.  It was a real moment in my life where his light burst forth into the deep darkness I found myself lost in.

I struggle with wanting to wrap everything up into a neat little Christian bow but I really can’t.  As my 8 year old was asking me why God has allowed him to go through these years of suffering, there really aren’t any easy answers.

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Copper the dog looks sad for Gabe too~

I think in this life the pain is real.  The hurts are real.  Especially the hurt we all carry around in our hearts.  So much of life seems random, chaotic even- but for the moments that the light of God breaks in.  Somehow we survive and come out a little softer, a little stronger.

It’s ok to be hurting.  It’s ok to have questions.  As long as those pangs and hurts ultimately lead us to our Healer, into a deeper relationship with Him, as he slowly unravels the hurts and shines his light into our deep darkness.   And if we take a detour, He will come and rescue us when we are ready.

Talking Codependencey

I’ll start with some backstory ya’ll. (I’m a Minnesotan but ya’ll is really catchy, dontcha think?)

I first became aware of codependency through my sister who was really involved with a 12 step program.  She told me I might want to look into it.  I did and was basically shocked that it was painfully descriptive of me.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and how I can practically grow to become a healthier person. unwrapping-codependency_newlife

I grew up with loving parents but there were major issues too.  Generational alcoholism wreaked major havoc.  There was periods of major dysfunction.  Hurtful things were said and done.  It was tough.  Basically if you grow up in a family with chemical dependency issues, mental health problems, abuse, etc. you WILL have codependent traits to some extent.

In my case I see it rearing it’s head in many ways.  It is sheer agony to say ‘no’.  We’re talking wracked with guilt and self-doubt and then feeling like I am letting someone down.  I get borderline panic attacks when I need to confront someone.  Example: years ago my then little boy was playing at McDonalds.  A far larger boy was acting like a bully, just wailing on kids for no reason.  His mom sat nearby, completely ignoring the situation.  I had to confront this kid.  I was literally sweating and shaky when I told him to cut it out.

You see, if early on, normal confrontations were met with explosive anger it ‘conditions’ you to avoid confrontation because it feels terrifying and unsafe.

So it might affect someone with codependency in that you cannot/will not address a major issue in a relationship.  You’ll either ignore it to the detriment of the relationship of just let that relationship go.  Because confrontation could mean an angry outburst, rejection, retribution… and you want to avoid that at all costs because it is so painful.

Codependents are also pretty notorious for taking on someone else’s problems while neglecting their own.  Case in point- spending hours on the phone with someone trying to help them with their drama.  And then loosing sleep over it and feeling hurt when they don’t take your heartfelt advice (and then want to cry on your shoulder about their same ole drama next month and on and on…).

This situation gets even trickier when you are trying to make a relationship work with someone with their own issues.  Someone who won’t accept your setting healthy boundaries.  Someone that is quick to get hurtful and vindictive if you aren’t bending over backwards for them.

Talk about navigating murky waters!  I personally had to all but cut a family member out of my life because that person would not respect or accept my setting up some boundaries.  It was tough but ultimately I realized that my feelings and time were important too.

Sometimes you just don’t have any idea how problematic this behavior is until you see healthy behavior.  My husband is just a very normal and stable person.  Like: textbook normal.  Like: 0% crazy.  Yes, normal does exist and I am married to him.  He cares about people but he doesn’t ‘own’ their drama.  People come at him with drama and he’ll shrug and say, “they’ll get over it.”  He doesn’t lose any sleep or act nutty.  He can be assertive without being a jerk about it.

The ‘biggie’ here is learning boundaries.  What they look like (some people honestly just don’t know) and how to enforce them.  People with codependency issues are at a huge risk of ending up in abusive (mentally and/or physically) relationships.  You can see how it can create major problems if you don’t value yourself enough to demand being treated right, or just don’t know how.

We need basic, healthy boundaries to navigate life.  Sadly, there are people out there that will try to use and abuse and we need to be able to stand up for ourselves.  From dealing with aggressive sales people to full-on abusive, manipulative relationships.  We need to be strong to deal with people who would bully us and try to bulldoze through those boundaries.

If we go along with something out of a sense of guilt or obligation we are not being authentic to ourselves.  Not only that, but resentment simmers and grows.  When an simple and polite ‘no’ would have saved us from so much turmoil.

It used to be just thought of as a product of being in relationship with an alcoholic.  Now it is recognized that a lot of these wounds originate in childhood trauma and then get played out in adulthood.  People with issues attract other people with issues.  If not dealt with, they raise kids with issues.

Childhood trauma actually physically changes your brain.  Just like a broken arm- if it isn’t properly treated and healed it never heals right.  The pain and dysfunction remain.  People can be crippled in their emotions just as much (if not more!) than they can be in their physical body.

Change is so hard.  Healing is painful.  But what is the alternative?  My motivation is my kids.  I don’t want to keep perpetuating dysfunction.  And man if you have issues, kids will bring them out!  It is the ultimate stress test of mental and emotional health.

And to the final issue- really the major driver behind all codependent behavior- shame.  Shame is feeling like there is something fundamentally wrong with you.  That who you are isn’t acceptable, let alone loveable.  It drives eating disorders, abuse (on both ends), substance abuse, suicide, and on and on.  Self-rejection is the most painful and crippling and difficult to overcome.  If you can’t love yourself your heart is too crippled to fully love anyone else or experience love.

This is the core issue.  If the belief in your own lack of worth is planted somehow early on in life, it really takes a lifetime to overcome.

I really don’t believe there is enough love and acceptance in this world to heal a wounded soul.  It takes divine love.

I’m still very much on my journey.  I would still describe myself as someone who regularly struggles with depression, low self-esteem; all that fun stuff 😉 But I have hope.  I know healing is a journey.  I know when I get my own issues sorted out, I want, more than anything; to help other people.  Isn’t that really the point of it all anyways? a4d70636041d97f9d61addd98c86f4e4_500

Beth Moore said in one of her books, “I think most people would choose a meaningful life with pain over an easy one.”

I believe that with all my heart- that you can see meaning and beauty resulting from even the ugliest and most painful struggles.

Depression and Anxiety

I’ve read a couple articles in the past couple days that stood out to me.  Sarah Silverman and ‘Lady Gaga’ have both come forward to talk about lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression.

I get it, I do.  Celebrity or not.  I imagine it might be worse for them- to reach the pinnacle of success and to find yourself more lost than ever.

Personally, anxiety and depression almost took my life.  I know there is only one cure to the ache- Jesus.  We are spirits first and foremost and that part of us longs for more.  We sense we were created for more.  We know there has to be more than this.  Without the light of Jesus we are wandering around in the dark.  And how great that darkness is.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2 rays-of-light-shining-throug-dark-c

It isn’t a mental disorder.  It’s sick soul disorder.

We all carry the original design in our D.N.A.  We were created to live in harmony with God and at peace with each other.  Depression and anxiety is the natural affect of being cut off from that.

I get that some people do well on medication.  I’m not knocking that.  But if you take a pill for an ache in your soul it is like putting a bandaid on a deep, gushing wound.  Not gonna cut it.

Jesus is sufficient.  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9

Sarah Silverman described her anxiety as a ‘homesickness’ she felt even when she was home.  I think what she feels is homesickness.  I’m praying for her, and for others like her, that they find that problem is an easy one to solve- the answer is Jesus.

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The Quickest Way to Get Depressed

Years ago I had been a believer for about two years and was drowning in depression.  I was talking to my sister about this depression and she point blank asked me if there was sin in my life.  Why, yes, actually.  There was something I was doing that I felt convicted about but was doing anyways.  Because I was depressed.  Because God felt so far away.

It is a vicious cycle.  Life often disappoints.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”  A sick heart, a.k.a. depression, can make us lose sight of the goodness of God and lead us to turn away, fueled by a lack of trust, and a feeling that we have to meet our own needs.  The more we harden our hearts towards God the less we feel his gentle leading and the more lost in depression we get.

Sin hardens the heart.  Hebrews 3:13  Sin acts as a suffocating blanket that smothers our prayers.  Psalm 66:18  Sin acts like a dam that blocks the joy of the Lord and leaves us weak.  Sin keeps us from being the pure vessel that God can use to bring reconciliation, healing, and salvation to others.

My advice- keep short accounts and a clear conscience before God.  Don’t let hopelessness set in.  Take your disappointments to God.  Pray often that God would work in you the willingness to obey, a heart that trusts, and a growing faith.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…” Acts 3:19

Any downward spiral can be halted immediately.  “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:7

Unconfessed sin is not, obviously, the only cause of depression.  But it is a biggie.  For me, virtually every time I find myself succumbing to a cloud of depression it is because there is something off in my relationship with God.  Like a kink in a hose.  Locate it, get it straightened out, and the joy and peace bursts forth.

Depression may by a red flag, an invaluable warning.  Don’t treat the symptom.  Address the root.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 apple-on-tree

Remember a tree doesn’t toil to produce fruit.  it just acts in accordance with it’s nature and draws it’s strength from it’s roots.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“Jesus, helps us to be your pure vessels here.  Help us to keep our hearts soft in responsiveness to your gentle leading.  Enable us to discern and heed your voice.  We ask that you would renew in us the JOY of our salvation.  Help us to keep our eyes fixed on you and fill us with fresh hope.  Amen.” 

Monkey Trap

On the radio yesterday I heard a speaker draw an analogy about ‘monkey traps’.  These traps are “a cage containing a banana with a hole large enough for a monkey’s hand to fit in, but not large enough for a monkey’s fist (clutching a banana) to come out. Used to “catch” monkeys that lack the intellect to let go of the banana and run away.”

monkey-trap-brian-callIn theory the trap is psychological.  The monkey can’t get his hand out holding the banana (or whatever) but the monkey refuses to let go so he is trapped.

In my mind this goes along with what I have been thinking a lot about lately- coping skills.  Specifically- unhealthy coping skills.

Coping is expending conscious effort to solve personal and interpersonal problems, and seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress and conflict.

In ‘Christan-ese’ we call unhealthy coping ‘besetting sins’.  You know- that thing you ‘lay down’ a gazillion times but keep going back to when under stress?

It is the source of every sort of addiction.  It ‘delivered’ you from your negative emotions of feelings or made you feel wonderful a few times and now you keep going back for more and more to your own detriment.

It stems from a lack of trust in God that we all face at times.  When the ‘rubber meet the road’ where are we going to turn?

You might take it even further an label that thing (or things) in your life as idol(s).

It fits with the monkey trap illustration because you won’t let go (darn human nature) even when that thing not only isn’t helping but is keeping you trapped from moving forward.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13

Essentially life will overwhelm us at times.  It’s those times where we will either ‘cope’ with besetting sin type behavior or seek God and find Him strong on our behalf.

“Those who cling to vain idols leave behind the gracious love that could have been theirs.” Jonah 2:8

When we look to idols or unhealthy coping mechanisms we lose out on so very much.  Scripture shows again and again how God loves using hopeless, stressful situations to come through miraculously for those who love him.

Jehoshaphat wasn’t a perfect king but he did one thing very right.  2 Chronicles 20 details him facing overwhelming enemy opposition.  “In mounting fear, Jehoshaphat devoted himself to seek the LORD. He proclaimed a period of fasting throughout all of the territory of Judah…”  He exclaimed to God, “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

God did answer them and they went into battle literally singing God’s praises.  God caused this massive army to turn on itself and by the time they got there the entire army had been destroyed.  All that was left to do was to collect the war plunder.

It is a powerful illustration of how God will move on our behalf when we put our trust in Him.  God hates the sin in our life because it keeps us trapped in it’s pit and keeps us from the awesome deliverance God wants for us.

I’ll be really honest and be the first to admit that even though I have seen God work powerfully I still find myself reaching for that fruit in the trap, you know?  This is definitely a process.  We are all human and we all face our own struggles, problems, weaknesses, etc.  We need to remind ourselves of how awesome and big and good God is.  He created all of this out of nothing.  His presence fills the entire universe.  He wins in the end.  It was never even up for grabs.  He loves us and as long as we are (even shakingly) putting our trust in him, he is there, helping us.  “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9

This is really wonderful news because if you are a believer in Jesus Christ you never face anything alone.  Let’s say ‘no’ to (far) lesser things and ‘yes’ to God’s plan.