The Hope of Peace

The long and tedious project of recording my book for the purpose of creating an audio book is almost complete (Discovering God’s Grace in Depression). It has been a labor of love for those who find it difficult to read because they suffer from depression and cannot concentrate long enough to read lengthy chapters, but also for those who’d prefer to listen to a book rather than read it.

As a gift to anyone who cannot wait to hear some encouragement for today, I am offering my final chapter to you here. My prayer is that you may find hope and peace in the arms of your Savior and that you would sense the smile of Jesus upon you. God bless you. Heidi

Chapter 39: The Hope of Peace (From the book: Discovering God’s Grace in Depression, written by Heidi Austel. All rights reserved.)

P.S. Look for the audiobook later this year on Audible. It may also be acquired directly from my book’s website (DiscoveringGodsGraceInDepression.com) when it is released in simple audio files. More details regarding that will be ironed out at a later date.

Ultimately, there comes a time when you need to decide, if the sweet smile of Jesus alone is enough for you. Cling to Him alone. He is your hope! He is your peace! He is your enough!!!

Listen to the last chapter of my book, “The Hope of Peace,” on my blog, DiscoveringGodsGraceInDepression.com.

My softcover book and kindle e-book can be purchased on Amazon.

My Book Is Finally A Reality

After four years of writing and remembering and agonizing over every word, my story is finally available in paperback and kindle on Amazon. I’m hoping to release an audiobook in the future.

It’s exciting as well as scary that my story will be available for the world to read. The whole good, the bad, the ugly. But the gospel and the grace of God overshadows it all. The gospel is this: “when we could do nothing to rescue ourselves, God did what had to be done as our substitute, so that we can be at peace with God.” And, it really does change everything.

All my failures, all my inadequacies, all my “not-good-enoughs,” and all the frustrating helplessness I felt during my depressive illness were washed clean by the grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ. The sad thing is that I floundered for about 5 years before discovering that I could find relief in the grace of God. God allowed me to experience my depressive illness, I believe, so that he could first help me see my own self-righteous, Pharisaical heart. Unable to rely on my own strength, in my weakened condition, He could finally start to do what would heal my heart. He placed me into a weakened position because He knew it was the only way I’d give up on ME trying to save myself, so that He could show me the power and strength of my Savior, the preciousness of the gospel and the significance of the cross.

His gifts of grace, kindness, mercy and unconditional love helped me to bear up under the crushing weight of the emptiness and despair of clinical depression. His sweet Spirit kept whispering, “Endure, my child;’ I am doing something new.” What was that new thing? He wanted my heart! Not my perfect behavior! He wanted me to long for a relationship with Him.

Whereas I had originally believed the Christian experience was all about getting more holy, getting more righteous, and getting stronger in my ability to be victorious in my Christian experience, God wanted me to learn that it wasn’t about me at all! It was all about Him; it was about His glory. It was His story and He was the Hero of that story.

When I discovered that I was no longer condemned for anything I thought or did, that He had justified me, reconciled me, redeemed me and freed me (and those are just the start), I was finally ready to embrace His incredible gifts of grace and mercy. My Shepherd King began to demonstrate to me all of His kindness and compassion which caused me to fall more and more in love with Him. And, isn’t that the greatest commandment anyway?

And [Jesus] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 NASB

Contrast what Jesus said in Luke with what God says here: “The Lord said, Because this people draw near with their words and honor me with their lip service, BUT they remove their hearts from me and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Isaiah 29:13 NASB and Jesus repeated it in Mark 7:6 NASB And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.'” (Can anyone say OUCH!?)

You see, what is different about my book about depression, is that very rarely will I suggest you have to DO anything! Because focusing on DOING, as it turns out, creates Pharisees which Jesus condemned. But, A) Jesus came that we may know Him and love Him out of a sincere heart devotion. Most churches will tell you if you pray and obey, you won’t experience depression; they push “doing” at all costs. B) But God wants us to understand what He has “already done,” (that is what it means to KNOW Him – His life and His death help us to know Him), to believe in the “already dones” in full faith, and to rest upon the “already dones” when depression beats us into the ground.

The interesting thing about meditating on ONLY gospel-drenched, grace-saturated principles when you are weakened by depression is that one’s heart is drawn to God’s heart out of love. You see, A + B will produce a heart that is MORE in love with God, and is a grateful recipient of His mercy and grace. It produces more of A: Loving Him out with a sincere heart devotion, which is obedience to the GREATEST commandment, according to Jesus. Intriguing huh?

Now, the gospel principles God taught me didn’t take away my depressive illness, but that wasn’t what God wanted most of all-my comfort. But, it sure made depression more bearable. I came out loving Him more deeply, embracing His grace fiercely, and embracing the gospel as the way Jesus wanted us to live. With a healthy mind, the rest comes naturally (the doing is produced as a result of His grace).

But with a depressed mind, it is a life preserver–not a life ring–but that which offers the depression incredible hope and peace that will help preserve their life as they seek to persevere under the most difficult and horrifying of afflictions, to humbly surrender to what God has ordained for them. to have faith to believe He knows what He is doing and to rest in His promises of reconciliation and peace with God.

Finally, out of the blue, God simply healed me. But I came out of knowing that God had set me on a mission. I knew my crucible was not for naught; I was to be His ambassador of grace to the broken. For all the believers out there who think they are beyond grace, beyond mercy, beyond kindness, beyond compassion… you are NOT!

My book tells you my story leading up to my diagnosis and the first 5-6 years of feeling completely lost. (Section 1) It educates loved ones about what it is like to be depressed; I open a window to my soul and show you where the conflicts were and what the wounds of my soul were. I describe how I wrestled over questions about my faith and how I was supposed to reconcile my Christian experience with my illness. (Section 2) Then, finally, I discuss the gospel principles that remade me from the inside out! (Sections 3-4) I return to my story to describe how the gospel and grace freed me from the not-good-enough hamster wheel, how it changed me and how I found the peace I was desperately searching for. (Section 5) Finally, I added 4 chapters of practical suggestions for the depressed, their loved ones and the church. I bet you can guess what they are about… GRACE! (Section 6)

It is crammed packed with Scripture which undeniably backs up the 50 foundational truths about God and His blessings to me (to you, too) that changed me, that freed me, and that helped me endure knowing my Savior wasn’t angry at me, nor was He disappointed in me. I also offer you my list of songs which ministered to me which might minister to you, too.

Buy it! Read it! Let the gospel of His grace renew you, too! Share the link with someone who suffers from the self-condemning voices of depression. Share it with the loved ones who just have no idea what in the world is going on in their loved one’s heads and why they are behaving like they are. And ask your pastor and church leaders to read it, too. If anyone, they need to learn what the depressed need to hear, rather than chasing the broken away with more rules and more demands. The depressed need grace, more grace, and then even more grace, but they rarely find it in the church.

Unless the church “gets it” and loved ones “get it,” the depressed really have no hope of living with this, because they have no support system to help them embrace these gospel principles. How can they embrace relief-giving grace if family and pastors beat them to death with expectations and rules and demands for behavior change?! They need YOU to show them that you are willing to invest yourselves into learning about this insidious illness and learning what is helpful and what isn’t. They need YOU to tell them their own gospel story of Jesus being enough for them and which make impotent all their feelings of not-good-enough. But you need to learn it first for yourself before you can help them. Be prepared for some challenging paradigm changes, though.

Grace is scary for a lot of people; everyone is afraid that if one embraces grace, all hell will break loose and it will create debauchery. But that simply isn’t true. Grace is what enables us to live with life’s difficulties without the self-brutalization of condemnation. Don’t be afraid; you can do it. Read my complete testimony of living with my incapacitating illness by embracing God’s grace and mercy. I truly believe they are key to helping the depressed live with their illness with less self-hate and self-condemnation.

My friends, God’s grace changes everything!!!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08K1L3JMB/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_pNsCFb6GYZK9T

Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Five)

Different Kind Of Miracle

With my last depression (which as I described was a doozy), I re-entered the life of a non-depressed right where I had left off. I was so in love with my Savior. I was committed more than ever to love and serve Him with my life! I was still in love with my husband and we could return to doing the things we used to enjoy doing together! I had a whole new relationship to build with my kids (as they were now adults) and my grandkids who hadn’t known me as anything but, “Oma feels sick today!”

It’s important to remind you that even in my very last depressive episode, I was unable to escape the torment and the lies. I was trapped inside that horrid existence. But as I emerged, I remembered all the things God had taught me during the previous 12 years and to my delight my spirit righted itself. Truly, the Anchor still does hold you even though you don’t even know He’s there. When the storm finally subsides, you might find you haven’t drifted too far from shore, after all.

As I consider all the anger I directed at God for abandoning me, only He knew that within the most violent depression I had ever experienced (to which I almost lost my life,) He was actually healing me! As I reflect, I can’t help but wonder how my life could’ve turned out without my kind, compassionate, prayer-warrior, Aaron!” It is an amazing story of God’s patience, kindness and miracle-working power! He was working behind the scenes through all the incredible, tortuous suffering to accomplish my healing. He was working it for my good! He had it all under His control after all! Wow! And, praise the Lord!

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On this side of my experience, I can declare that my soul learned to say, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”  Horatio Spafford

A Plea For Compassion

Compassion

Before wrapping up this blog I want to say a few words about suicide. Even after all the verses I claimed, the spiritual Foundational Truths I learned and how I learned to live with depression in the most self-compassionate way that I could, my final depressive episode made me suicidal. Think about that a minute. You see, most people just can’t comprehend that while a properly functioning mind might be able to reason clearly and integrate spiritual truths, a suicidal individual does not have a healthy functioning brain so they cannot access those spiritual answers that the Christian community thinks should be so simple.

Suicide is the evidence of the desperation of a very sick mind, not the selfish whim of a healthy person. Suicidal individuals aren’t selfish; they are sick. First, I want to make it clear that suicide is never a good solution to one’s suffering. But when I read the harsh and condemning statements made by healthy-minded people, they clearly, after all this time, still don’t truly understand that suicide is the result of a sickness that ended very badly. Many responses are cruel, resentful, angry, and harsh regarding that person’s supposed selfishness and cruelty to abandon their loved ones in such a violent way.

Instead, suicide should make us all break down and weep! These people only considered suicide when their minds could see no other solution to keep on living. What sorrow and sadness that someone had not been able to reach into these people’s suffering and pull them from the flames that licked their feet. I had an incredibly supportive family, but the last episode for me was so intense, in that I spiraled so deep and so fast, I lost all hope and no one could convince me that there was hope, except for my “Aaron” who stepped in to love on me and pray for me. My daughter’s unrelenting confidence and kindness to me and her hope for me likely saved my life.

Anyone who commits suicide is very sick with an illness that no diagnostic machines can measure, as it is all hidden deep inside their brains. It’s a silent killer. The world will never know unless they are listening carefully to their conversations about giving up and the haunting peace that comes from a sense of finality in their statements. This is a call to compassion and empathy. Can you just imagine the depth of suffering in their hearts and minds? Can you imagine the despair that they must have felt to believe that their loved ones would be better off without them?  Can you just imagine how distorted, tormented, and twisted their thoughts were to choose death over life?

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I wish the world would empathize with that degree of sorrow, sadness, sickness and despair, and weep for them rather than judge them. In fact, rather than allow them to suffer alone or get to that point, reach in and become that someone that they would be willing to confide their thoughts to, and offer them incredible 100% love and grace.

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Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Four)

My Moment Of Clarity

The week was almost done, and I was out walking; Bill would be home soon. Of course, walking is where I could think. I started asking myself, “Why is this depressive event not going away? Why is it so violent and extreme? What makes this particular time so despairing that I’ve actually been trying to come up with a way to kill myself?” While I had longed for heaven before, while I had idealized dying so I could finally be free of my suffering, I hadn’t ever considered the final step, the plan of how I might accomplish it. I hadn’t felt the need to write these kinds of notes before explaining why I might not be around some day because I had never gotten that close. Rereading those notes now, I believe that I was finally trying to say, “I am sorry and goodbye.”

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Anyway, I started asking myself, “When did this depressive event begin? When did it start getting this bad? I figured it had been just over a month, which was unheard of in my whole history of depression, 1) that the event would be ongoing and increasing in intensity for over a month, and 2) of course, that it never had felt this severe. And then it dawned on me. I had begun a new drug about six weeks prior, an appetite suppressant that my doctor wanted me to try to kick-start a new diet. I rushed home to look up the side effects. Typical side effects? Nope! Frequent side effects? Nope! Rare side effects? Nope! Extremely rare and potentially deadly side effects? YES!  What?!?!?!?!?

I had been enjoying regular weekly weight loss! It’d been years since I had lost 3-4 lbs. a week. Even in my depression, it was satisfying stepping on the scale. Better yet, I had no hunger! My doctor had implied, if I didn’t buckle down and lose the weight, it could kill me. I thought to myself, “If this is the reason for this depressive event, this might kill me!” I spent the night considering which way I wanted to die, by heart attack or by suicide. I texted my daughter first and told her what I discovered. She asked if I was going to stop taking them. I was still torn! Plus, I wasn’t absolutely sure yet that it was the drug. What if I were to stop it on a whim and the drug had nothing to do with it? Then, I texted my husband whom I had hardly texted all week, and asked him what he thought? Did he think it was the drug?

Both of them said, “Toss the drug! It’s not worth it.” It was a weight loss help! It wasn’t directly saving my life! It needed to go! The next morning, with some sadness, because I had tried for so many years to lose this weight, I didn’t take my pill. Nor the next day, or the next. In fact, I never took another pill. Slowly, I started to feel my “self” return. It was slow; in fact, it took about two-three weeks to feel like myself again. In fact, it was about a month before I felt depression-free for the first time in a few months. But I felt like I was back; praise the Lord! When I went back to my doctor, I was his first patient to experience this type of reaction. He sat there in the room and looked through the known side effects, and sure enough read, “Can make existing depression and mood disorders worse.” It is now listed on my chart as an allergy!rescue

My Rescue Came From My Worst Depression

Glad to be relieved of this really bad episode, life went back to normal! My normal, anyway. I had a good week, then expected to fall back into another regular depressive episode the following week, one less severe as was typical. A week went by, then two. Then three! Then a month! I didn’t say anything! For months after that horrible month, I wouldn’t experience another episode of depression. I even experienced some other really difficult physical health issues. Yet, the type of incapacitating sorrow and irritability never returned. It was surprising to both Bill and me but neither of us dared to utter a word about it. We were almost afraid to believe what might be true. We’re not at all superstitious but yet, I think we were both just waiting for the next episode to show up as it had for twelve years. Still we waited, not believing it could be over. Another year and a half would come and go, and normal human emotions of frustration or discouragement would show up, but they felt “normal.” They felt like they had the first 39 years of my life: appropriate, rational and fleeting.

At thanksgiving, our family has a tradition. After dinner, we go around the table and say what we are thankful to God for in the prior year. On Thanksgiving Day 2015, I would announce to my children and my little grandchildren who would not understand what Oma was crying about, “I believe God has healed me of my depression. It has been 19 months since I last experienced an episode of depression.” The entire table began to cry; it had been a terribly long haul and they had all been there. Praise the Lord! God restored my mind and my capacity to reason and to cope and to respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. The expected lifelong loop of negative self-hate simply went away.

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For those of you whose jaws you need to pick up off the floor, there was a medical reason! In short, I believe this drug so violently affected all my hormones, that it crippled my reproductive system and chemically shut down my hormonal system for good, putting me into menopause. The menopause stopped the cycling, so my body and mind were finally restored to normal functionality. All that suffering just ended because my hormones just stopped.

Back In The Light

I remembered then what the research doctor and researcher had told me back in 2008, 6 years prior, that the current consensus among researchers at that time was that when women with my rare depression went into menopause causing the cycling hormones to stop, that the ravaging mood disorder would dissipate and go away. Remember, he warned me that I should continue to get counseling so that when it did happen for me, I’d be able to find my way back to the life I used to know— that is, I would need to create new pathways to learn how to cope, to make decisions based on my upbringing and my faith, and to be able to know how to make good decisions.

What I was fearful would permanently damage my brain after so many years with depression did not occur because of one thing, I believe. During my years of depression, when I was able to crawl out of the darkness into the light, I devoted my thinking to adjusting my expectations of myself and my view of God. You see, I’d been seeing a different kind of Counselor. God had been renewing my mind, teaching me about Him and His everlasting kindness for me. He was teaching me Foundational Truths which adjusted my view of Him.

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God Was Working Behind The Scenes

As I look back, during my depression episodes themselves, I couldn’t see what God was doing in my heart. Even after twelve years of learning how to view my own condition, learning how God might view me and learning about Who God was in His person and character, I could not see those truths, nor could I see Him “inside” the depression. But “in the light” (when I would temporarily emerge clear-headed), deep inside my soul everything was changing; I was being remade. These lessons didn’t deliver me from my depression, but instead it comforted me and gave me an underlying peace about my depression—a hope and a confidence in the One Who knew all and controlled all. God didn’t rescue me from my hell, nor did He tell me to just push past it. He lovingly made a way to make His presence known to me. He simply walked alongside me, working behind the scenes, repairing the broken pieces of my heart and life, and making all things new in my view of Him while all the while He was repairing my own view of me.

Continue to Part Five (the conclusion)

Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Three)

The Anchor

Well, the week continued, and as had been my habit for about 6 years, I went for my daily walk down my street. I turned on my playlist and felt nothing. In fact, all I really felt was anger and resentment. Sometime during that walk, I heard, “The Anchor Holds,” sung by Ray Boltz. My ears perked up as the song bemoans that the songwriter’s dreams and life had slipped right through his fingers like grains of sand. Then, the chorus promised that God, being our Anchor, was strong enough to hold onto us in the most difficult of situations.

But for some reason, what I heard was that I’d only be held by this incredible Anchor’s strength if I were strong enough to hold onto Him. When I heard that, in my despair and the rage I was experiencing, I shouted at God at the top of my lungs, “But I can’t hold onto Your Anchor anymore!!!! It’s too hard! I just can’t do it anymore!”

I continued my walk, still frustrated, but I just let my music list play through on shuffle. I was pretty ticked off having suffered so long, learning a healthier perspective about God and embracing my new Foundational Truths, and now here I was shouting at God, because I couldn’t hold onto Him anymore. (Sigh) I felt doomed and condemned! Before this episode, I had had faith that I was trying to please God and had faith and confidence in my adjusted view of God, but now I was too weak to be strong enough to hold on to the only Hope I had! I fumed all the way up and down my street! It seemed so unfair! On the last leg of my walk as I was nearing home, another song began to play. I wish I could remember the exact song that played, but truthfully, when God revealed to me the following, my mind started racing to figure it out before my walk ended. I was on the precipice of something huge and I felt it in my spirit! This could change everything!

Misunderstanding The Anchor

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It nearly stopped me in my tracks. I began to ask myself. “What is an anchor? What does an anchor do? Do ships hold onto anchors or do anchors hold onto ships?” I thought about the strength of an anchor. I thought of its potential for rescue and safety in the storm. I rehearsed in my mind the terrible storm I was in and I remember getting angry that my Anchor appeared useless to me. I knew my Anchor, Jesus Christ, was solid, strong and powerful, but what use is an Anchor, if I was too weak to hold onto the Anchor.

That’s when the Holy Spirit broke through the silence to speak into my heart. “You don’t hold onto an anchor! The anchor holds onto you!” I began to rehearse in my mind the dynamics and physics of an anchor. Let’s see: It’s attached to the ship. The weak link for a ship is its connection to the anchor; if it isn’t a secure connection, the anchor would be useless. But if the ship is designed right, the anchor is solidly built into the frame of the ship, tethered tightly to its hull. Once it is built, the anchor holds onto the ship. The ship doesn’t hold onto the anchor. (Gasp!)

I personified the Anchor and the ship. I pictured me as the ship grasping the anchor with imagined hands and holding on for all its worth, struggling to stay afloat. I thought how silly and worthless an anchor would be if the ship had to be strong enough to hold onto the anchor. Then I pictured myself as the ship, being tossed and turned on the waves, struggling, clamoring and clawing to find this anchor; one end was solidly tethered to my insides while the other end was firmly connected to the bedrock on the ocean floor. It was not at the top, in the storm, where I was looking at all!

It occurred to me that a ship in distress out in the storms of the ocean does nothing but let the Anchor fall to the bedrock below. Then, it waits safely through the storm while the anchor holds the ship in its current location. Yes, the storms still rage above, and the boat may get tossed about above the surface, but down below the surface, the anchor is firmly planted on the rock. It may feel desperate up above, but down below where the anchor is resting, it is calm.

I was definitely in the squall of my life. I was in a terrible storm, one which I felt could pull me under. I also knew in my brain that I was still a child of God. I knew God was supposed to be my Anchor. What I hadn’t realized till that day was that I had always assumed that in order to benefit from having an Anchor, was that I had to be strong enough to hold onto it through life’s most difficult storms. Me! I believed my strength would have to be strong enough to hold onto my Anchor. I asked myself, “What good would an anchor be if it’s merit came down to each person’s ability to hold onto it through a storm?”

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Bedrock Moment

Then I remembered it, a verse I learned during my youth. John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

There it was: My Anchor and the Bedrock. Nowhere did I read that I better be strong enough to hold onto God. I only read that no one and nothing can snatch me out of my Father’s hands (the Bedrock) once I have been placed into them. I knew I was in Christ, even in this dark, empty, vile wilderness and that Christ was in me. And just for a few moments, the grace of that precious truth caught me off guard. I pictured the footprints plaque. I pictured Him picking me up, while I was still kicking and screaming, and carrying me through this storm, all the while I’m shouting at Him for abandoning me. While I could do nothing to help myself survive it, I wondered if He could hold me through the violence of this storm.

My mind wandered back to the image of the anchor but this time, I visualized the ship as having arms. Imagining the first scenario, I thought about how ridiculous it would be for my figurative ship to reach down through the murky water to find the anchor sitting down on the bedrock, trying with all its might to hold onto the anchor.

Then, the image shifted as I internalized my newly discovered thoughts about anchors. This time, although my ship was still being tossed in the storm, up from the bedrock an anchor with massively strong arms reached up and wrapped his arms around the floundering ship and embraced it, holding it secure in its embrace. With the anchor firmly established onto the bedrock and with its arms encapsulating and protecting the little ship, it was safe. What did the ship do? The ship just sat there and did nothing. Yes, the storm was still pounding it, but the ship was at peace within the safety of the strong arms of the anchor, which was tethered to the hull of the ship, the “heart” of the ship.

I finished my walk with these simple thoughts. Today, I’d be content with this new realization that I didn’t have to hold onto my Anchor. I was safe in my Father’s hands. Not even in my own frustrating attempts could I wriggle free of Him. Today, I’d be content with doing nothing to hold onto the Anchor but would rest in the knowledge that if His word was true, the Anchor was still, even in this violent storm, holding onto me.

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Continue to Part Four

Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part Two)

My Aaron

Interestingly, my oldest daughter did check in on me during the week. She texted me the next morning and many of the same statements came up. I had been telling her I was in a bad way, worse than ever before. She’d offer to come over, but I didn’t want company; I was afraid I’d get angry at her, too. I often texted her when I wanted someone to pray for me. She knew that I wasn’t asking for advice or for her to cheer me up; I just needed a safe person to tell that I was suffering. This particular week, I could not pray myself! Her prayers for me were going to be the only ones being offered this week (although I later learned my husband was praying like crazy). Anyway, I knew she’d pray and beg God to give me peace and relieve my suffering. But this particular week, the tone of my texts as I reread them today, are haunting. Can you pick up on the cues of a suicidal woman? Can you sense the strange sense of peace and resignation that I was coming to a point where I was done with life, and was ready to just go to heaven and be done with it all?

Christine: “How r u feeling today? Or is it too early to know?”

Me: “Pretty discouraged to the point of despair regarding what I have to go thru and how it affects everything in my life, including my relationships. I’m just plain unhappy! I’m weary of this whole thing! I don’t see how anything good can come from it. I’m tired of surrender! I feel disconnected from daddy, God and everyone in between! I’ve lost hope. I feel this whole attempt to be made whole or to make whole what is broken in my life is hopeless. And I don’t think this is depression speaking. I just reflect on my life today and the joy or contentment I once knew, and the results or consequences are more than I can bear in my spirit…I think the sadness may be subsiding but now I’m just plain worn out, discouraged, despairing and I think even resentful of this situation. I am so tired of this! I am really struggling with accepting this roller coaster life – tired of this life that I’ve been asked to live! It is miserable! I’m pretty sure I’m losing the battle.”

Christine: “I just don’t get it, either, mommy. The only thing that makes sense is that there are sooo many other people out there going through the same thing I think …only with less of a foundation under their feet than what you guys have. There just has to be reasons still yet unseen as to why God has allowed this…Your life is not over yet. There could still be a lot of future for you guys. Maybe, there is still lots of purpose to come out of this.”

Me: “I saw your post this morning that said something like, help us to see the “blessings in disguise.” I no longer believe that there are blessings in disguise anymore! I’m angry that I have to go thru this torture and the end result is a bitter and lost heart for weeks at a time! Where is the “blessing” in that!? I just don’t buy it anymore!”

Christine: “Ya, I know. Well, while you are worn out and done with all of this… I’ll keep believing for you…Because I just can’t believe God is done with you.”

Me: “Yesterday when I walked, I tried to listen to the music that reminds me of God’s purpose, grace and mercy and it was just a bitter pill! I had to turn it off because the words offended me! I have to admit, I am far from God right now and I am bitter about this! I’m fed up! My longing for God has been silenced! And the same way I push daddy away like a hurt, cornered, rabid dog, I find myself this week pushing God away, too! I’m just telling you where I’m at today honestly! I cannot do this anymore!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Christine: “I just can’t accept it’s been a waste. I mean other pastors or ministry workers have fallen away from the Lord or they’ve slipped into adultery or something like that…that’s not you guys. You were doing what God called you to and have not strayed. Yes, I know today…this week…this season…you may not feel that. I know you are feeling embittered. I can understand. But it’s just a season. I know it. You guys are soooo Job!!!! You were serving the Lord and He allowed you to endure something terrible. Why? I don’t know. But it’s not the end of the story. ‘He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’ It’s ok if you can’t believe it right now, mommy. I’ll keep praying it for you.”

Me: “Scripture says that the enemy seeks to tear down and destroy! I give up! He’s won; this depression has torn down and destroyed everything in my life I hold dear! Over and over again! I am worn out! Then I read that ‘When I’m weak, He is strong?’ Who’s kidding who? God is not strong today. I am weak and He is absent…”

Christine: “Maybe you don’t feel it today…But I just don’t believe it…It’s not the end. You are sick at home. I know I just keep sounding like I’m trying to convince you or preach to you. You know I’m not trying to do that. I see where you are. And I’m letting you ask “why” …But while you are in the pit, I’m still praying. I’ll help hold up your hands. Close your eyes and rest while I hold your arms up.”

Me: “Well, when a mind like mine is sick, I can see how it is better to lock us away. Because whatever a mind thinks, the heart follows. A when the heart sludges thru this mud for days on end, the heart follows. That’s where I’m at. I think my brain is no longer being tormented. I’m just done fighting it.”

Christine: “Maybe. I can see that. And after a longer struggle, the recovery process will be longer, too. But I still don’t believe it’s over.”

Me: “There is a point in mountain climbing when the journey just becomes too difficult. Once you’ve lost your toes and fingers to the cold, you’ve run out of food and supplies, there comes a time to just give up and turn back. I’ve reached that point; there is no point in battling on. I’m turning back. I’m out of steam; I’m out of courage; I’m out of reserve to hold on to; I’m worn out!”

Christine: “I know…”

Me: “I appreciate your hope, confidence and prayer. I am glad someone is interceding for me. I just no longer have anything left in me to do that for myself. I’m the one who has to live in this tormented mind. What possible good can come from a mind who is scourged to the point of being embittered toward life, husband and God! What good? My mind pushes me away from all these!!!!!!!

Christine: “I wish I had the answer, Mommy…” (end of conversation)

First, did you sense the times I was trying to help her understand that I was throwing in the towel and why? She didn’t know I was really suicidal, but she wouldn’t relent and let me give up. I also want to draw your attention to something: she never rebuked me. She didn’t tell me how unspiritual I was acting. She didn’t express disappointment in me! Her love, mercy and grace just kept coming at me one shot after another. Why didn’t she just let me give up, already? She was not intimidated. She didn’t walk away flabbergasted! She stuck it out through everything I was vomiting up! Finally, she had confidence in our God when I had lost mine! You can bet she was a vicious, prayer warrior that week and took her job seriously, and I’ll tell you why I knew this in a minute.

What Did She Mean About Holding Up My Arms?

Exodus 17:8–13 (NASB): “Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So, Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow, I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.’ Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So, it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus, his hands were steady until the sun set. So, Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.”

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In short, when Moses became weary and his arms began to fall from fatigue, the enemy they were fighting would start to overpower them. But, when Moses arms were up with the staff of God in his hand, Joshua’s army would begin to overpower their enemy. So, Aaron and Hur, realizing that Moses was incapable of doing it himself, stationed themselves, one on each side, and physically held up Moses’ weary arms for him. At the end of that day, Joshua overwhelmed the enemy and killed them. Here’s the principle: There are times when people become so fatigued that though they desire to do what God is asking them to, they just can’t. In those times, God calls along Aarons and Hurs to help them do what God desires, but they carry the full weight of it themselves. I knew this biblical story well. I knew what she was telling me.

She said, “I will believe for you. I will intercede for you” (not just about me, but as a replacement for me). She was saying, “I trust God! I will trust God FOR you!” She didn’t offer any ridiculous advice to try to talk me out of what I was saying! She let me vent! The vomit kept coming. The only thing she wanted me to remember was to trust in God’s eternal purposes. She simply offered love, grace, mercy and support. Incredibly, she refused to be dissuaded to become discouraged herself! She believed when I couldn’t!

Well, I had a doctor’s appointment that day, so that was the end of the conversation. But later that day, I returned home from my doctor’s appointment and discovered that Christine had brought me a single red rose in a lovely little vase, beautifully wrapped up by a florist. Attached to it was a card which simply said, “Love, your Aaron.” Scrawled across my 6-foot bathroom mirror she had written in soap: “Love you! Both of you! Praying for you!” It was there on our mirror for months as a constant reminder. I texted my response to her in tears!!!! “Christine, Thank you!! This means the world to me!”

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Continue to Part Three

 

Misunderstanding My Anchor (Part One)

“Your faith will not fail while God sustains it; you are not strong enough
to fall away while God is resolved to hold you.[1] (J.I. Packer)

The last true episode of depression I experienced was during late March through April of 2014. It ranked at the absolute top in intensity and lasted all month. It culminated with Bill being away on a business trip during the last week of the month. He almost never went away without me, but this particular time, his hands were tied; the trip was required training for his new part time job and, furthermore, I was not welcomed to join him.

For the most part, his departure was just fine with me. The episode I was in had brought such intense anger with it (in fact, I was actually enraged), so we weren’t doing well as a couple. But then again, my depression tore the rug out from under my relationships every time and the first relationship to go was always ours. So, I didn’t think twice about the fact that since I was in a depressed state, I would be angry feeling he was abandoning me for so long while I was experiencing such intense suffering.

But I remember very distinctly it being one of those times when he asked me before leaving, “Heidi, why are you so angry? Are you angry at me? Is it because I’m leaving? I have to leave!” Even after twelve years of this terrible illness, he was still asking me questions I could not possibly answer! When I was well, we might have been able to have a conversation about it, but I was lost in a rage I didn’t understand. This particular episode was so intense and was so pervasive that it figuratively had me by the throat.

This time, as he pushed and pushed me to answer, I actually shouted at him, “I don’t know, Bill! I’m just angry. I’m not angry at anyone and I’m not necessarily angry for any particular reason. I’m just mad.” I was mentally and emotionally controlled by this and the rage that was building up in me was confusing and frustrating. But, even recognizing that I couldn’t think of any specific reason why I was actually angry, I still couldn’t shake it. Whether a “symptom” of my lack of control or a “result” that I had lost emotional control of my life, I didn’t know, but it got worse by the day.

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In addition to the anger, the despairing sadness and grief was taking its toll. Normally, I knew that if I just relented and waited for the sadness and emptiness to pass in a few days, 7-10 days at most, I would eventually see my way out to the other side. But this particular episode was strangely the most intense I’d ever experienced and was not letting up. That confidence that it was a temporary setback wasn’t there; it didn’t feel like I’d ever come out the other side. Worse yet, now I was alone in the house. My husband was busy in North Carolina with his work and could not stop to check in on me, but even if he had tried (and he did try), I didn’t answer my phone, I didn’t answer my texts, I turned off my “read receipts” and I refused to read his emails. I wanted nothing to do with him. The fact is, without anyone else to be angry at, he was the only one left besides myself that I could focus my anger on. So, I was alone in every way, not only was I physically alone in the house, but I was completely ignoring him.

Mind you, God had already taught me so many life-breathing truths about Himself during the former 11-12 years of my illness that had completely overwritten a false view of Him and His everlasting love, kindness and grace. I was trying to use my coping strategies. I was trying to calm my mind with soothing music and a quiet, tranquil space. I took my daily walks. I even listened to my “depression playlist.” I reminded myself of the grace of God, but it felt meaningless. My self-talk that what was happening to me didn’t define me nor did it reveal my true self, fell on deaf ears. The things I had learned to do to get through my episodes weren’t working. This time, rather than caring how God felt about me, or how Bill felt about me, or anyone else, I just simply did not care. Most of the day, I felt mentally incapable of emotion. When emotion squeaked through (against my will), none of it was appropriate. It certainly wasn’t spiritual. But I digress…

My point was that I was in the darkest place I had ever been in. I remember heading out for my walks, anyway, and forced myself to listen to my playlist of songs. But this week, I just really wasn’t in the mood for these songs. I was angry at every one of them, especially those that spoke about God. Yet, in my heart, I knew that those were the very things I needed to force myself to hear. So, even though they were still an offense to me, I willingly cracked the door open in the hopes that “Truth” would get in and speak to my brain what my heart was unwilling to say or even to think. But I certainly wasn’t ready to believe them.

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The Week I Almost Went “Home,” and God Told Me, “Not Yet!”

So, I’d lie there and cry, weeping uncontrollably for a period, then when I’d had enough of that pathetic, weepy person that I hated, I stuffed those pathetic, weepy emotions down as far as I could, and forced myself to become emotionally empty. “There, now I don’t feel anything.” Empty felt better than out of control and pathetic. Still, I felt lifeless, suffocated, dead, alone, and abandoned. I began to see myself from the outside in. I watched myself be pathetically ill; I was a mental basket case. I perseverated over what a wreck my life was and had been (also despairing that it would likely continue to be so until I died as, obviously the Lord wasn’t healing me). It was like I was watching myself from the doorway of my room and thinking, this girl just needs relief! If only she could just die and go to Heaven, she’d be done with all this suffering.

Of course, then, as if there were two little devils on each of my shoulders, the other whispered, “It’d be the kindest thing you could do for your family who has had to endure this long enough. Your poor husband serves you like a nurse (cooks for you, feeds you, cleans for you, runs interference for you) and yet, you are the most unkind to him because he is the closest. Though, he might grieve for a while, your death would surely bring him relief. After a period of grieving, he’d recover, go on to another ministry he is longing to do and be able to embrace good memories with his kids and grandkids. I bet he can’t wait to remarry so he could find relief in replacing you.” Of course, this made me rage.

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Then, I thought of my kids. For most of my youngest’s life, her mom was mentally ill, in bed, nasty and testy. She was the most likely of all the kids, near the end, to become my husband’s comforter (getting him cold drinks, trying to take care of some of the household duties, spending time keeping him company, and taking care of him)! Although, I felt sorry for my husband, it always made me mad that people seemed to feel more compassion for him, but became frustrated with me, the one who was sick. I felt invisible and unnecessary as a mom, because “mom is messed up;” I felt more like a stepmom whom they didn’t have to concern themselves with, as I wasn’t in my right mind.

The older kids started getting married, (2007, 2008, 2010), so their visits felt more like, “Well, mom’s sick, but we can still go over and spend time with dad.” I felt like (though, now, I’m sure it wasn’t so), if I were gone, after a short period of grief, they would all be able to reestablish a happy familial environment when they came home to visit. The saddest realization for me was that my grandkids would never know a sweet, loving, fun “Oma” (grandma in German). It was likely mortifying for them to come over and observe what a scary person Oma was, always crying, never sweet and tender and not at all fun. I’m sure they could sense that the whole family was walking around on eggshells when Oma came downstairs, everyone waiting to see if she was depressed or was in a non-depressive period when they could treat her normally.

You see, though I had experienced a degree of suicidal ideation in prior episodes, during this descent lower and lower into the pit, it was becoming less about how much I was currently suffering, and more about how I just could not imagine how I could live—that is, suffer—this intensely forever, years and years, thru old age until death. I started to actually believe the kindest thing I could do for them (though it might take time for them to recover) was to just find a way to end my life so that they had some hope of living the rest of their life without the burden of my life among them.

For the first time, I started to spend some real earnest time, trying to think of a way I could kill myself. Walking into a train? Too gory! Slicing my wrists? The failure rate was too high! I didn’t want to go thru the effort of killing myself only to end up a vegetable in a care facility. Now, where could I get a gun? That might be quick! I wonder if the river down by my house would give me hypothermia before it pulled me under, or whether I would have to die the suffocating death of drowning, as it would surely, eventually, pull me under, instead! You see, I was clearly trying to create a successful plan.

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During this period (nearing the end of Bill’s business trip), I wrote him an email. An email was very unlike me, but I didn’t want him interrupting me, questioning me and dismissing my despair as abnormal. I wanted him to know that I had decided that I couldn’t live life like this anymore. I bemoaned every sense of loss and spilled out every despairing thought. I was angry that our relationship was in shambles and might forever be. I told him he couldn’t possibly understand the depth of my pain. Then, I told him, “I am just tired of living this life in this way!” The haunting thing about reading this email now, five years later, was the finality it expressed between the lines and in the specific phrases I was using. I was expressing that this whole never-ending battle to just stay alive and keep enduring the excruciating mental and emotional anguish was just too much. There was almost a peaceful tone to having finally come to that point where after 12 years, I was ready to give up.

Continue to Part Two.

[1] J.I. Packer, Knowing God, (InterVarsity Press, 1973).