Thursday, July 25, 2013

Being Myself has Made me a Different Person.

I love this picture taken by Jackie Hicks! Yes the smiles are real! 
This last year is the first in many that I am not carrying a secret uneasiness about my life.  I no longer live with the expectation that, regardless of how things look in the moment, the other shoe is going to drop.  This underlying anxiety was the biggest clue that all was not well with me. No matter how good things looked from the outside.

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.


  1. Hi CJ,

    I just wanted to let you know that I love reading your blog! I stumbled upon it and I have found it very rewarding. I am also going through some issues but I have not been brave enough to share with others.. My husband knows, but that is all.. I am looking forward to reading more!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. Don't feel that you have to share your story with everyone. Do it if you feel you should. What was brave, was not me sharing it (well a little) the true bravery came when I actually went to the hospital to get the help that I needed. Since I am a writer I needed to tell it. That may not be true for you. But after I told it, it did bring even more healing to my experiences.

  2. A deep post. I like your honesty and that beautiful picture. This depression thingy is very serious. I've never prayed such a prayer. I haven't though about seeing myself that way. I think I'll have a one-on-one with God and then mySELF.

    1. Thank you Peaches. Life can alter who we are. At that point I had really allowed the external to define the internal. And that is backwards. I was so busy living up to the standards of others, that I got lost in the shuffle. At that time in my life, I had to pray that prayer. Your experience doesn't have to be like mine. But once you ask the question...the answers reveal themselves. And that's good.

  3. I would love to go & talk to someone because you end up feeling very lonely when no one knows what is really going on with you.. My husband knows but he is kind of getting tired of listening-he tells me that I can just chose to get over my anxiety "it's all about your mindset". I have no health insurance, so going to a hospital is not an option for me..
    I love in a great neighborhood, but I don't have any real friends here. Not one that I would feel comfortable telling everything to. That is why I love your blog, it's wonderful to read about someone who understands & also to be able to write a little, to get things off my chest!!
    Thank you!!

    1. Anette,

      I found that talking to someone really helps. Obviously!!! You can check online, there are plenty of support groups that are around, many are free. There are free resources out there...Fell free to drop in and chat!! It's hard for people to understand when you just can't snap out of stuff. It helped when my husband years ago visited the counselor I had at the time. After talking with her he realized that I couldn't help it. All I can say is find the help you need. It is out there, and I am telling you...when I got the right support - the heaviness of it all eased up!