|I love this picture taken by Jackie Hicks! Yes the smiles are real!|
I can't say that I was living a double life or pretending to be progressing when I wasn't. It's just that I felt that all my accomplishments, all my 'good' would be swept away in one fell swoop. It's like climbing out of a deep hole but your heels are still teetering backwards on the edge. Even though you did the hard work of clawing your way out, you're still stuck in the place where you first fell in.
The thing about depression is that you have to clear the hole completely in order to feel safe. I had to move beyond the hole and allow the landscape of my life to change. It's a waste of time to work so hard to get out of something terrible just to remain so close that you never break free of its hold. I don't feel that undercurrent anymore. That hesitation about life is gone. Listen, I am not a Pollyanna by any stretch of the imagination, I know full well that depression is still something I have to contend with. Honestly, it's part personality and part brain chemistry. The things is I'm not afraid of the depression anymore because it will never again be my normal. I was in the hole for so long I started to think that I belonged there. But I never belonged there and now - I cleared the hole.
When depression is your normal it's hard to be yourself. I had a very hard time pursuing my dreams and focus on the things I was drawn to. I always had a sense of what my life should look like, and what I was to do. I knew early in life that I was a writer and some sort of teacher. My college years confirmed that all for me and I was solidly on my way, until I fell into my first bout of adult depression. I left school the semester before graduation and got an office job. By time I was married and on bedrest with my first child, I felt as far away from myself as I could be. I was still in there. I wrote for everyone except myself, I 'preached' at church on pre-approved topics and and I sang on the worship team. But when I went on bed-rest and all the busy-ness was gone, all I could do was lay in my bed and feel awful.
After Jon-Jon was born, and I went back to work, church and all my other obligations, I still felt an overwhelming sense of being out of place. The feeling was so heavy that it was almost physical. I started to do the only thing I knew to do, I started to pray every single night. One of these nights, I had wrapped myself in this huge white feather-bed and laid down on the Berber carpet in the den of our first house. The room was naturally dark, and we had painted three of the walls a deep navy blue. There was a huge window that opened into our dining room that I would stare out of because I could see the Victorian red of our dining room and for some reason the contrast between the blue and red would calm me.
This particular night, I turned dimmed the lights, put on some instrumental music and quieted myself to pray. Jon was at his desk writing and I could hear the faint click of his computer keys. I remember the uneasiness I felt rise in my chest. I tried to swallow it back down, but it kept rising until tears filled my eyes. I said a single prayer that night that I will never forget. I prayed, "Lord, show me...Me."
Over the next 10 years I was shown every hard and painful truth about myself to the point that I wanted to die. My life totally dissolved into a heap.
On the outside it may have looked like I abandoned my faith and was paying the price for it. We left our church in semi-disgrace, I lost a baby, lost a house, lost my mind so I had to give up everything I did to feel good about myself. I lost my self confidence and my ability to fake it until I could make it. But on the inside I was reclaiming every single aspect of myself that I had lost. Brick upon brick I was rebuilding my life according to the me I was meant to be. With each new revelation, no matter how painful, I continued to build. Today, it is not even in me to be or to do something outside of who I am. I do way less, but achieve way more. I have more pressures and challenges, but care less about what people think of me. My life's work is pretty much the same as it was years ago, but now I write and teach from my own experiences. Being myself has made me a totally different person with a totally different lifestyle. Now, when the other shoe drops, I
get a pair of new shoes.
The best thing about having your life fall completely apart is that you get to build it back up exactly the way it should be.