A moment for Shelby

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It all began with the mental health unit in my eighth-grade health class at Hamilton Middle School. I had self-diagnosed myself with depression and anxiety earlier that year and had been assuming I was mentally ill since I was in elementary school. Besides researching coping mechanisms online, I had never done anything about either issue. Yet, for some reason, reading signs and symptoms in a textbook impacted me more than the repetitive results of severe depression I received from free online tests. I was tired. I found no pleasure in things I used to enjoy. I was hateful towards myself and others. I blamed myself. I didn’t sleep. I was impulsively hurting myself when upset. I was only thirteen, and I had been struggling for years. Reading all those terms on a page given to me by a teacher hit me harder than my ‘perfect score’ online in twenty different tests. It was a real problem. I needed to do something about it.
Two obstacles prevented me from reaching out to my family. The first was fear. I imagined two extremes and each equally terrified me. I thought they would blow me off, tell me I was being overdramatic, and say that everyone goes through this. Maybe I was just weak. I was also concerned they would take it to the other extreme. Lock me up in an institute and throw away the key because no one wants a crazy daughter. The other aspect that was hampering my cry for help was the concept of how to even begin the conversation.
“Hi, I’m so depressed and anxious I can’t sleep or eat. Could you maybe put me in counseling or on medication, so you won’t have to pay for my funeral?”
However, Mrs. Feight had given me an opportunity to talk to them when she handed me that sheet of paper. I never thought to thank her until I put it all down on paper.
Sitting at the kitchen counter, I could feel myself shaking. It was a common occurrence for me until I received anti-anxiety medication. It was worse than usual as my mother turned around to look at me in the midst of her cooking dinner.
“Do you need something?”
“Could you help me study for my health test?”
“Sure. Give me a second.”
The classic case of waiting for her to stop cooking changed from annoying to dread-inspiring. The longer she kept cooking, the more I desired running away. I could just go study in my room. Sizzles and warm smells from the stove-top made my stomach turn. I wasn’t going to be able to eat regardless.
“Ok,” she announced while wiping her hands dry. “Do you have a study guide?”
“Yes, ma’am. Could you quiz me in the blue room?”
My home’s little island paradise was in the room beside the kitchen, separated by double glass doors. It was the only room in the house that was painted blue, and we had filled it with succulents, grasses, and two trees acquired from my mother’s friend. It was a safe place. My mother sat on the cream-colored couch with her back to the bright windows, and I kneeled on the rug. She began to quiz me, and my stomach dropped to my feet when she read the question I had been waiting for.
“What are the ten signs of depression?” I easily listed them, and my mom looked into my eyes with concern as I finished.
“Blames self or others, low mood, thoughts of death, irritable, pessimistic, low energy, sleeping issues, eating issues, loss of interest, trouble concentrating and remembering.”
My abdomen was twisted into irreversible knots as I watched her try to compose her thoughts into words.
“Shelby,” she began slowly. “Did you realize you have most of these symptoms?” Against my will, I began to tear up. My mother always made me cry. I could hold them back around anyone else, but the environment her presence surrounded me in always bought my emotions out.
“I have all of them.” A weight lifted, and another put on my chest. Now she knew. Now I waited for the response. Luckily for me, neither of my two imagined outcomes came true. Instead, she asked me what kind of person she should look for to be my therapist if I thought therapy would help. We sat in the sunlight, surrounded by windows and green plants. I felt safe and terrified all at once, but I’ve always been glad that it happened. I’m very grateful for the way she handled my problems at that moment. No one is perfect, but the time I needed her the most, she was.

Shelby

A moment on the bright side

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“Look on the bright side.”  they

I probably shouldn’t, but I always get bristly when cliche phrases are said to try to make others feel better.  Sometimes things are just dark, and the bright side is too far off in the distance to even imagine what could be there.  But if we are in the darkness, and Jesus is the Light of the world, and Jesus is God made flesh, then the bright side would be God’s side. As I looked at this photo, from the dark side, I saw the light reaching over the mountains, reaching over to the dark side.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  John 1:4-6 (NKJV)

I may not be able to look at or imagine what the bright side is like as I am in the darkness, but knowing there is another side brings me comfort.  Let me assure you, there is another side to our pain and our darkness.   There is God’s side.  And as I notice the light coming over the mountains, I am reminded God’s side is not separate from our side.  He has a plan and a purpose for each of us and for all the events in our lives.  His purpose is to draw us ever closer to Him.  Pain, suffering, and darkness are a necessary part of the process.  So that when we glimpse the other side, we long for it, we move toward it.  We open our hearts and trust in it.  And the light that may seem distant at the time can settle deeper into our hearts.

As I read the following passage this morning, I was struck by Simeon’s delight at seeing the Messiah and what must have been compassion as he tells Mary of her future suffering.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Luke 2:25-35 (NRSV)

Though we may not be able to fully comprehend these things. And though it may not soften the blows of our individual suffering any more than I imagine it could have for Mary.   Perhaps like Mary, we can trust the bright side, knowing the bright side is on our side.

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  John 1:4-5 (NRSV)

A moment of dejection

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The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer. It is impossible to be well physically and to be dejected, because dejection is a sign of sickness. This is also true spiritually. Dejection spiritually is wrong, and we are always to blame for it. Oswald Chambers

Some days are just like that though.  We feel dejected uninspired and wondering “What is the point?”  Those days for me, I am of not much use to anyone.  If I try to confide in others, I risk the possibility of bringing them to where I am.  And, “Though misery loves company.” as they say.  I don’t feel it is a very kind friend that dumps on another the very dejection that we are trying to get out of.   Where do we go then?

I feel I have a few choices.

I can go to someone who can be detached from me personally, who is strong at the moment in their own spirituality and can be my encourager with facts, not feelings.  This is a rare friend and often hard to find.

I can look outside myself for some small contribution I can make to another person to encourage them and make their day brighter.  This, in turn, will lift my spirits.

Or I can go deep.  Deep into the place where that dejection first started.  What was I looking for in the first place?   Was it egocentric?   Was I open to the possibilities of the looking for one thing and finding something else?  Can I stop for a moment open my heart and see the Grace that was very likely hidden right there? Can I just be in the moment, waiting?

The moment we go deep, we are in prayer.  This is where we are speaking of our dejection out loud, and we are waiting for an answer.  This is the moment hope begins.  We are no longer dejected we are waiting in hope for a word from the inner voice of our God.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.  Psalm 130:4-6  (NRSV)