Monday, September 7, 2020

Is It Really Well?

    I have spent the last couple of months beating myself up for not having enough faith.  For thinking that I was so quick to lose sight of everything God was teaching me back in March.  At least, that's how it felt to me.

    Back in March, right before Covid-19 disrupted everyone and everything, God was showing me how to truly seek him and rely on him.  I thought if I could just stay in the moment, keep my eyes on Christ, and continue to ask him for "just enough" in each moment that I wouldn't wrestle with anxiety or depression, and I thought it would be enough to at least manage my physical pain (from a mental standpoint at the very least).

    But then something happened.  When we first began lock down in late March, I was feeling strong and reliant on God.  I was not anxious about this unknown virus.  I had a very real peace about me, and it is no doubt because I was so focused on God and relying on him to get me through the next moment.  At the time, I had the luxury of playing worship music, reading my Bible, journaling, or just sitting in God's presence.  

    But at some point, we all have to go back to reality.  I had a job, plus a brand new side gig.  I had 4 kids, plus a new son-in-law.  I had a husband I wanted to be intentional with.  Life was vastly different, but still overall good.  I avoided reading ANY articles about the pandemic, death rates, how many infections overall.  All it did was increase my anxiety, which I was working to keep at bay.  I had gotten so frustrated with how you can never, ever, trust the media.  There is no middle ground (which is usually where the actual truth is).  One side feeds you stories taken out of context, and the other side does the same.  They complain and criticize and don't seem to understand how hypocritical they are!  Both sides are doing the exact same thing-the facts just look different depending on which side you believe.  It's a vicious cycle that has left me wondering how so many people can still look at an absurd news heading and just assume it MUST be the truth.  It is MADDENING!  I have no tolerance for lies, and I feel like more and more, you can read just in the titles of articles alone that there's a lie in there somewhere.  You should question everything you read on the internet or hear on the news.  Most likely, it is embellished, or flat out just lies and things taken out of context because it fuels the narrative.

    Somewhere in May, there was a shift.  Honestly, it probably began in April, but I didn't really begin to notice it until May.  I began having trouble focusing on work, but it didn't really get bad until July.  I was beginning to resent that the kids were home ALL the time (I was resentful of the situation, not the kids, to be clear).  They were on NO schedule, which meant that at any time up until 1 or 2am, we could count on one of the kids needing to come in and share something or needing something.  It became a nightly ritual with Kris and I.  It became apparent spontaneous/late night intimacy was not happening.  To the point that sometimes we would test it out - you know, start to kiss...and I kid you not, almost without fail someone came knocking or opening the door!  It has been quite amusing, but as you can image, also frustrating.  I'm not complaining about that particular change to our lives and routines - I have actually been able to look at those moments and be appreciative because those interruptions usually involved one child or another coming in just to share something they learned, or maybe they just needed someone to talk to.  It has resulted in quality time spent with our entire family.  The quarantine has taught me a LOT.  It is still teaching me, mostly due to the fact that it is never going to end  still ongoing, but it's not all relevant for this post.  😃  

    But that noticeable shift began in May.  I had gone back to working more, had picked up my side business, and with the kids (plus my son-in-law) in the house every minute of every day, I lost my quiet time in the morning that I was able to enjoy for several hours, and the space I had cleared for myself to enjoy it.  I could no longer turn my worship  music up all the way and just sit for a few hours, writing, reading my Bible, letting the truth in the songs wash over me...

    So it shouldn't have come as a surprise, though it certainly sneaked up on me, that depression hit me full force.  Like a kick to the gut, it doubled me over and I'm still struggling to stand back up.  I never could find a routine to replace what I had, and honestly, I was a bit resentful to suddenly (and for an undetermined, extended length of time) have so many people constantly in my one bathroom, 1200 sq ft home, and I see now how that impacted my mental health.

    But I can't experience the emotions and work through it all just yet, because I know that once I crack the dam that is very precariously holding it all together, it will all come crashing down and I will have to go through those waters and surrender, so that I can heal.  And what that will bring is nonstop tears and a lot of overwhelming thoughts that I will need to sift through and learn how to make peace with.  I've been trying to keep it together, but it has reached a breaking point.  

    My sister-in-law died Aug. 18 and we went to Indiana for her memorial service.  Seeing my brother and nieces and hearing all the great memories of their wife and mother and friend that she was to so many helped me see her in a different light, that I am ashamed to say I struggled with while she was on this earth, simply because I didn't know her well.  Beyond that, at the service, a couple of realizations suddenly became HUGE in my mind and I had trouble containing the emotions that wanted to spill out.  God was asking me to deal with some things I have carried for 41 years, and I knew a reckoning was coming, and I also knew that it was too big to face at a time and in a place where there was no safe place to do so.

    And since then (I think it has been 3 weeks), I have been on the edge of a cliff.  Trying to keep it all inside, which just naturally makes everything worse because I need to get it all out.  I have been at the lowest point in at least 10 years.  I've had depression in the past, but never to the degree where I literally couldn't get out of bed and stay out of bed.  In the past, I would struggle to get out of bed, but had so many issues with my spine, in some ways it was easier to literally get out of bed.  The depression exhibited itself much differently back then, and I attribute it to the fact that it occurred during a time in my life when I was running from my husband and running from God.  This is the first time since I came home 8.5 years ago that I sank back into a deep depression.  

    This time though, it has been different.  This is the first time where, because of what God was teaching me back in March and April, I KNEW I was going to be OKAY.  I KNEW I would one day come out of this.  I didn't know when.  I didn't know how long I would feel like I was imposing on my family.  I didn't know if I would be able to keep working.  I didn't know how many days in a row would go by where I would try to get up to go do something, wander around my house completely incapable of even feeding myself, then wandering back to bed and stay there for the rest of the day and night.

All of that to get to the actual point.  I would apologize, but if you ever read this blog, you know that I say in 10,000 words what some people can say in 1,000.  That's why I could never be a professional blogger, even if I wanted to, because the average post is like 600-1000 words.  Are you kidding me?  That's nothing!!!  That's barely an intro...😂

    As I tried to lay down around 5am, I was singing the hymn "It Is Well" in my head to try to center myself.  I chose that one because it was a childhood favorite, and I know all the words, and it is a song that I have continued to understand more deeply with each passing year.

"When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, though has taught me to say

It is well, it is well, with my soul."

    In March and April, that peace that flowed like a river was an ever-present thing for me.  In May, I began feeling a shift, so subtle that it took me until July to understand that I was becoming depressed.  By that time, it had overtaken me to the point that I could no longer find joy in reading my Bible and the worship songs that always made me feel better.  Because that's what depression does.  It robs you, even of your ability to go to the One who can give you that peace again.

    So I found myself in a place these last couple of weeks where the sorrows are too much.  The waves are too high, the waters too rough, and it's all I can do to keep my head above the water.  It came to a head last Monday night, when I finally confessed to Kris that I was drowning.  He had known I was struggling, but I am not sure either of us really knew how bad it had truly gotten until that night, when thanks to God who I know was with me in it, I told Kris I was not okay.  I was not even close to okay.  

    I knew I needed to get away.  I knew I needed the ocean in a way I have never needed anything in my life.  But I was scared to ask for what I knew I needed.  I also knew we didn't have the luxury to just take off work and go away.  But Kris has watched me struggle since we came back from the memorial service, and I was able to explain even if a little incoherently that I had some work I needed to do and I knew I couldn't do it here.  I needed space and privacy from the kids to really look at the pain, the hurt, the things I know I need to let go of, and really just grieve some things and find my center again.  

    But through it all, even in my deepest depressions, I felt the assurance that God was with me, and I would eventually come out of it.  No matter that I'm frustrated at not knowing HOW LONG it will take.  I want to feel better.  I want to feel like myself again.  I want to feel like I have something worthwhile to contribute to my family, to my friends, to my job.  And I KNOW with absolute certainty that even in the midst of everything, it is well with my soul.  Because I know this is only temporary.   The depression, and the pain I endure on this earth, the pandemic, 2020 in general, and the tragedy all across the globe.  That knowledge is enough to sustain my hope.  It is enough to keep me going in spite of the daily struggle to do normal things, like cut up food or stand for more than a few minutes, or be able to drive comfortably (I lost some mobility after my last surgery in January).  I can't do a lot of the things that the moms I compare myself to can.  I am limited.  And I know comparison is one of the worst things you can do and I am working on that.  But my point is that while I can't do those things, you know what I can do?  Spend time with my kids, even if it just watching shows with them.  I can spend hours talking to them about life and the future and their dreams.  I can love them.  Deeply.  Passionately.  I can pray for them, that they develop their own faith and grow in their relationships with Christ.  I can be there for them emotionally, even though I am physically limited.  I can teach them to be open and vulnerable, by being open and vulnerable in front of them.  

    I hope that even though they have seen me go through these dark days, they have also seen me continue to hope, and continue to fight for my mental health.  I hope that I have shown them that even when it's really, really hard, it is still well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul