I remember the very first time it happened.
I was 15 years old when I first experienced this encounter with darkness- a darkness so black and heavy that my young heart felt as if it would crush underneath the weight.
This unfamiliar visitor, depression, decided to take up residence although no invitation had been extended, and I wasn't certain how it had entered my life.
I had been blessed with a natural sunny disposition, able to see the proverbial silver lining behind every cloud. I was the one who always managed to bring a smile to an otherwise sad face, and encourage a heart that needed a little nudge to find its path toward peace. But somehow, on this day, all that was familiar to me had disappeared in a thick cloud - a dark fog. A fog so thick, I could not see my way clear as my hope and joy was being choked out of my young teenage existence.
An ordinary circumstance that would leave any young girl's eyes filled with tears, but not a horrible incident by any means, became the introduction into a world I did not know truly existed until that day. A world where dark heavy cold blankets are wrapped tightly around those who visit there.
Although those that are tightly wrapped are more like prisoners and less like visitors.
I wanted to run from this horrible place but my feet would not move. They were shackled to the floor. My mind told them to get up and run but I was unable to loosen those shackles on my own. Severe hopelessness set in and my days and nights were blurring into one long never ending bad dream.
The memory of the initial pain that had brought me to this place, had now faded and was replaced by a much deeper overall, overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair. ..for all things in general. Everything was dark. My once happy-go-lucky spirit had been crushed beneath the weight of something so much more powerful than any emotion I had ever experienced. It was so foreign to me, I didn't even know what to call it. "Depression" didn't seem black enough to describe it.
Depression robbed my sleep, and blocked the brightness of the morning light that was created to give me hope. It left me tired, and lonely and full of fear. I feared that it would never leave or that I would be held prisoner endlessly and would spend the rest of my days choked by the thick fog that would not allow my escape. I would go to sleep with it in my bed, and awaken early in the morning with it by my side. A ball and chain had somehow made its way to an innocent girl and refused to be removed.
Nothing seemed to matter. This overwhelming sadness seemed to overshadow even the most joyous moments. My brain was clouded and unable to process thoughts properly. Common sense was not so common, and uplifting or encouraging words from others fell on deaf ears.
For the first time ever in my life, I experienced the feeling of no longer wanting to live.
I never thought about taking my own life, but was honestly hoping that my days would be shortened on this earth if this was how I would have to spend them. I could see no light at the end of the tunnel and had I seen it, it would have just been a cruel tease as my feet were unable to walk toward the opening had it presented itself to me.
I remember my mother allowing me to miss 2 weeks of school while she tried to get help for me. She took me to my doctor, who at the time was not much help. She would pray over me, the sweetest most heartfelt prayers, but even that did not break through the darkness.
She began telling me of her own experience with depression, and she shared her intimate secrets with me, of the pain she had struggled with for many years. She also began to read to me from the scriptures, words that brought little glimmers of hope to her soul, and scriptures that ultimately brought her out of the dungeon.
She told me of her many fears. Fears that she and I shared. Fears that our minds would never go back to the peaceful place they had been accustomed to . She then opened the Bible and read these words to me, and it was as if a powerful sword had sliced through the thick lingering cloud and the brightest light my eyes had ever seen was now not only visible, but penetrated my soul.
2 Timothy 1:7 "For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
A sound mind? I had never known that the Bible contained scriptures relating to those struggling with mental issues, as I never really read much of the Bible for myself at that point. I mean, I had grown up in the church, and knew all the stories of Noah's Ark, and Creation, and Jonah in the belly of the whale, but as far as just reading it for my own knowledge, wisdom and peace, I'm ashamed to say that as a 15-year-old daughter of a Pastor, the Bible was not on my list of must reads.
My mother pointed me toward more and more scriptures on peace, and hope and joy and freedom from fear, and the more I read, the more these things became a part of my life once again. I could feel the heavy cloak falling off of my weak shoulders as I began to finally make my exit from the abyss.
I could not get over the fact that King David, in his Psalms, could articulate many of my very thoughts and feelings as his also dealt with fear and despair. I could relate so well to a KING, from thousands of years ago. The same life that sprung from the pages into my soul was the work of the Spirit of a LIVING God that King David was experiencing so long ago.
I had finally realized why this book had become so treasured to all those old folks who were always quoting from it . It had been become LIFE giving to them. And now to me. It was not just pages filled with fables and stories and poetry, it was life giving- hope giving- PEACE giving- those powerful inspired words written through men thousands of years before, had touched my young soul and inspired me to dig even deeper. And I didn't want to miss a thing.
So much of the words are now a part of who I am. They come to mind when I'm faced again with circumstances that rob my peace and joy and try to steal my hope. They cause life to be stirred up within me once again. Courage rises up- enough courage to hang in there and fight the fight- regardless of the size of my opponent.
Depression has tried to hold me down a few times over the years. It seems to disguise itself each time it makes it's entrance and tries to catch me unaware. But if you are one that has ever been a victim of this strong-armed enemy of your soul, you know it is no one you want to visit, let alone live near.
I am still experiencing disappointments, discouragements, pain, unanswered questions, and I have suffered in many ways that I can't fully share here, but no longer does depression hold me captive.
I will literally run in the opposite direction if I even sense darkness in the distance.
But now, I am not afraid. I have Peace. I have found a refuge.
I feel His presence. I know I am not in this alone. I know He is going before me and clearing a path for me. I feel His peace, and I can truly rest. My sleep is sweet. What a gift!
King David said it so well. Especially in the beginning and the end of Psalm 91;
"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." Psalm 91:1
"Because he loves me, says the lord, I will rescue him. I will protect him for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation." Psalm 91: 14-15
*There's a prideful part of me that would rather not share about this experience because depression is viewed by so many as a weakness, and some who have never battled with this powerful enemy do not realize that the victim CAN'T "just snap out of it!" so they may view those who suffer from depression as not only weak but lazy or selfish. But I continue to come across so many people (in my blog life and in my "other life") who are battling or who have battled with the same that I felt like sharing my story. Or part of it anyway. Because I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking that my life is or has been perfect or that I am always HAPPY, because I am not. But I have found my way clear of the darkness, and am so thrilled to be free that of course, I want to share the escape plan that worked for me, in the hopes, that some one else lost in the fog would see that little glimmer of hope, which will lead them to freedom...once and for all.
And then they can say, along with King David and me..."He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm." Psalm 40:2