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Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Responding to Depression

I discovered along my journey that there are different responses people have toward those who are depressed.  I was the recipient of several of those responses.

There are people who don't understand depression, or know how to deal with it. They simply don’t know how to be around someone who is depressed, so they leave your life; either temporarily or permanently.  I experienced both. Their departure further fueled the abandonment I already felt, and added to my pain and sense of isolation. It was as if I had a plague...someone to be avoided at all costs. People who were counted on as friends before were now blown away with the "fair weather" wind.

There were some who believed a confrontational approach was needed.  Just like Job's friends in the Bible, they lacked the compassion and understanding which I too, was grievously missing in my earlier days. "Just force the depression out of them; beat it out of them; pray it out of them."  Any of these methods sets the depressed person up for further feelings of shame, failure and unworthiness when the immediate "cure" isn't actualized.  I recall someone standing across the room from me adamantly demanding an answer as to whether Jesus was the Lord of my life or not. In the confused, angry, depressed state I was in, I could only stand and be silent.  I honestly didn't know if He was or not, but worse yet, I didn't know if I wanted Him to be.  My silence seemed to aggravate the person who, in obvious impatience, simply walked away from me.  It left me feeling not only further depressed, but now I felt as if I had disappointed this person as well. Another failure, another loss.

How sad it was to me that all of these people were part of the church, representing Jesus Christ to a hurting world, including me.  I had even heard of a man in the church who believed that anyone not "walking in victory" should be shot!  No wonder it was so difficult for me to find a "safe" person to confide in.  The church seemed like the last place to go for help, and that, too, left me feeling sadder and more depressed.  I knew I needed God to help me, even if we were at odds with one another, but in my eyes, His people were messed up.

There are many good, caring people in the church, and not all fall into the categories above.  There are people who truly do empathize with the hurting, and are eager to do whatever they can to help.  I did have a few friends who stuck close by me through my dark valley, and I cherish them for it. One of those friends was Karen.  I was blessed to have someone who took me in, sheltered me from the harshness of a world I was already lost in, and gently began my restoration.

Karen understood that I was in a very dark place, and as such, was very limited in what I could do.  Depression saps the life out of you in every area, and in every dimension.  I had been an active, outgoing, friendly person before, but during the depression I could barely get out of bed.  Insomnia and bedtime anxiety kept me in a constant state of exhaustion, so I would frequently take naps throughout the day.  My mind was "fuzzy", and my memory a complete loss. I could not remember what we had talked about the day before, and to this day, there are a lot of "gaps" in what I can recall from the "depression years".

Eating remained a huge challenge, and without the watchful eye of my friend, I probably would have stopped eating all together.  Knowingly, she put food on my plate and made me eat.  Too much food was still overwhelming, so she rationed out portions on my plate; two spoonfuls of this, a spoonful of that, until I had eaten something. She tended to my physical needs knowing that without proper nutrition, my brain and body would not work properly.

Chemical imbalances throw bodies into disarray, causing them to function improperly.  Stressful situations utilize stress hormones in our systems.  They are there to provide the "fight or flight" response we need in times of crisis or danger, and are meant to keep us safe.  But when a person is under prolonged stress or experiences repeated traumas, these chemicals get "used up", and the person can end up in depression.  The brain chemistry gets off, and no amount of cheering, or counseling, or shaming will bring the remedy.  It has been compared to holding a large inflated ball under water.  It can be done quite effectively for a period of time, but after awhile, when arms and body get tired of the constant struggle to keep it submerged, the ball springs up, bursting from its watery hiding place for all to see.  The ball cannot remain submerged any longer, no matter how strong the person's desire was to keep it under.  The body simply cannot comply.  So it is with brain chemicals and depression.  The brain simply refuses to play anymore.  The chemicals used to maintain homeostasis are depleted, and no matter how hard a person tries, they cannot resolve the disruption in their own brain. It’s beyond their control.

Karen also tended to my emotional needs.  I was included in their family activities; family fun nights.  Whatever they did, I did- whether I wanted to or not.  I was forced to get out of my safe little cocoon and engage with the world on a very limited basis, and under the security of her watchful eye.  I knew she would not allow any further injury to come to me. She was my guardian. We spent time talking; or rather she worked to get me to talk.  She knew I had to get everything out so it could be dealt with, but it was difficult, very time consuming, and often very painful for me. As I cried, she would hold me until I was soothed once again.

Spiritually, there was a lot of work to be done.  Foundational beliefs I had held all my life were shattered, and I had no firm footing on which to stand.  Everything I had believed about God- His goodness, His love for me, His plan to give me a good life- all lay in a mangled heap at my feet.  I no longer knew what to believe.  I knew I was hurt to my very core, and I saw no way for the breech between me and the Heavenly Father I had once loved, to be repaired.  But He did.  Walls were about to be dismantled, lies exposed, and truth applied.  Through His daughter Karen, He was already ministering His grace and love to my shattered soul.
I was one step closer to leaving my cave.

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