We had our first International Christian Youthwork conference for the year this past week. A man who worked at this particular centre had started with a prophetic word for our group while praying for our arrival. God has been speaking about seasons in which I wrote about in my last blog. It’s this whole idea that our lives move in and out of different seasons holding certain truths and experiences that can be learned in order to carry out the next season well. I mentioned a few of those seasons that I walked through but there was one in particular that I have had to come to terms with and feel its important to share.
I suffered with severe depression last year to the point where some days I wanted to lay in bed with my duvet over my face and I wish that my bed would have swallowed me. I’m not sure how I ended up to that point but I think it was a gradual downward spiral to such a deep place of darkness that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I stopped sleeping and I rarely ate. I would lay on the couch and cry for no rhyme or reason but it was as though I had this idea in me that things were wrong. That life was wrong. I think that there were internal thoughts and external circumstances that amounted to me being that low. People around me began to notice how life had taken its toll on me. I was becoming a person that I didn’t know or understand and most certainly didn’t want to be.
Its funny when you get to such a place you realize what a privilege it is to even be breathing. So often we take such a simple thing for granted. We live always trying to sort out our futures that we forget what it really means to wake up, breath and to live. My prayer would be, “God all I can do is put two feet on the floor today, you can’t ask anymore of me.” The depression got worse in September. In one week the doctors doubled my medication and put me on prescribed sleeping pills. There was also so much change that I was trying to keep up with. Trying to integrate into a new church and into a new community, finishing the last year of my degree and stuff with a relationship. I managed to get buried in holding everything all together. I didn’t want to crumble and my pride didn’t want to show others that inside it was killing me.
However, I crumbled. I lost it. I shut off and I shut down. A week in early October really brought me to my knees and helped me recognize the extent of my brokeness. It also highlighted this desperate need for God to show up because if He hadn’t, I’m not sure how I would have made it. I knew I was helpless without Him.
It’s funny, other people’s reactions to someone who walks through such a dark and scary place. I feel there are two responses that are worth sharing with you that I experienced. The first is, I had people talk at me. When I say talk, they told me how to fix it, defined and outlined biblically God’s purpose for it, and how to manage and cope with the symptoms. All this advice came from a place of love because people wanted me to get back to normal again. However I didn’t find this response the most helpful. Then the other response was people who chose to sit in the darkness with me, not providing any answers or any quick fixes. The cried with me, they stayed with me when I couldn’t be left on my own and wouldn’t leave my flat until I fell asleep at night or slept on my couch. They recognized that I couldn’t heal to a fixed time-table and let me just be where I was at.
There is one person I want to mention in particular. Karen, the pastor’s wife of my new church, was a key person for me when stuff was so hard. She encouraged me to eat, to go for walks and just to get out of the house. I would hold her hand and she would cry with me. She sat on my couch for a week straight with me and just let me grieve and fall apart. But she did it with such a love and such a grace. Her gentleness and compassion towards me was one that I had never experienced before. Karen encouraged me to vulnerable with people and not just with anyone but with her family. I didn’t mention that I have two of her teenage daughters as a part of the youth. At first I wanted to do the leader thing, to shield them of my situation. Karens encouragement was for me to allow them to see my humaness. I was so scared and thinking what kind of leader am I? If they see my like this what will they thing. I can do vulnerability to a certain extent but not to this one. Not at the lowest time of my life.
However, I trusted and went with what she had asked. I had in involved them in being a part of the breaking down but also the healing process. They had an up close look at what it meant for things to be hard but to hang onto God only by a thread.
My new church supported me in going to America for a month and to get the counseling and help that I desperately needed. I chose to take myself off the medication because I don’t think that they were helping and maybe making things worse. But it all came down to a choice. Was I going to choose to live and really live or was I going to choose to exist and to wander aimlessly? I wanted to live so desperately. Not just be awake and alive in life but to really embrace it again and all that God has for me in it. I was lonely, I was afraid, I was anxious but I knew that something bigger and better than myself was my only hope. He was my only hope. There were nights I fell asleep with the bible on my chest after reading psalms to help deal with the continuous anxiety attacks. I finally got to a place where if I lost everything, England, youth work, a relationship that I would be okay because I had God and that He loved me. Coming to this truth was difficult but it was also extremely freeing. Nothing held me accept the love that God has for me.
When I arrived back in the UK the fog of the depression had lifted, however it was trying to put my life back together again. But one of Karens daughters came up to me and said it was comforting for them to see me struggle because they could see that I am human. I was blown away by this. I was scared to share that side of myself and she was seeing it so different from me.
On Christmas I received a present from Karen and as much as I liked the gift, I enjoyed the Christmas tag that was attached. She said, “Thanks for helping me find my purpose in the Kingdom of God.” In being so broken and so vulnerable with her she discovered a purpose. That she could sit and be with the hurting and support in ways that she didn’t know before. This is what happens when we are vulnerable. It’s scary to be so exposed but God can shed light, hope, and purpose in other people’s life when we do so. “Suddenly I began to see that my brokeness was a far greater bridge to others than my pretended wholeness had ever been”
In some ways I look back on the year and think what the heck is that about? And then I realize all that I have learned and that God is defining vulnerability very differently these days.