Thoughts on Seasons, Shame, and our Savior.

I wrote an article last month but never published it. I had so many ideas floating around in my head from our church’s recent sermons and a book I’d been reading but I didn’t have a clear idea of how to tie my thoughts together into words. So I wrote it up and I sat on it. Then edited and sat some more.

Bless this Brain and Uncharted Chapter Podcast have been quiet, I know. Life has been demanding here. Jared recently started a job that has been very demanding. His next episode of Uncharted Chapter: A Bipolar Story has been especially difficult to write due to its topic. He recently interviewed a friend about depression a couple weeks ago, a great conversation. He’s hoping to publish it soon. 

Depression has had its time in the Carter home. Adjusting to medications, scheduling appointments for various reasons for various individuals. Some days just getting through the basics has been enough to absorb all of the energy that we have. More content will be published soon and I’m excited to put it out there. But man, there’s been a lag that I hadn’t anticipated. Mental illness is a deeper topic that doesn’t need flippant words, and can’t be addressed with a simple bandage. Sometimes the words are plenty and easy and I expect when they are, we’ll publish more. 

During these past months Jared and I have talked about thoughts and ideas we’d love to share. Then the following morning I’d think “How I can write- what can I write- to others when these painful seasons are zapping my thoughts right out of me?” How can I be a blessing to hearts when mine feels swallowed up? There have been moments where I’ve thought that this is when words are the most important, most needed, but then my mind would fill with doubt and I’d push these thoughts aside, focusing on the next thing in front of me. Homeschooling, meal planning, conflict resolution with my bickering bunch. And honestly, a fairly heavy dose of Animal Crossing on my lil’ Nintendo. 

To break some silence

I just want to acknowledge that we still struggle with hard seasons. We’re certainly not out of the woods. So here’s to reminding myself that I’ll be okay. 

So will you.

I think I could benefit from the reminder that having realistic expectations is best. Mental health challenges can be ongoing. Sometimes they aren’t and praise God for that! But if we set our minds for the long haul maybe we’ll endure this journey with greater strength and reject the shame that comes with it. Some seasons are longer, some shorter.

Lately my own anxiety has been a constant humming in my mind and I can feel it throughout my body, tensing up. As the result of it, I’ve been having nightly, stressful, apocalyptic dreams. I wake sweaty and unrested. I find myself ruminating throughout the day. If I’m not worried about one thing, it’s another. And the battle against these thoughts seems unwinnable.

Mental health isn’t something I’ve checked off my list, though I’d like to say it is, and that it’s what gives me the privilege of leading others through it. I don’t seem to be able to just get past this and hop into the next adult thing. Pursuing mental health is a continual practice. I’m learning to see the ebb and flow of improvements of symptoms and then another challenge, whether for myself, my husband, or my children, arises. 

The hardest part is when we aren’t taking turns but trudging through the swamps together. And I guess I’m here to say that if you, your partner, friend, child, roommate, and/or parent is on this sort of journey towards healing, you can join me in accepting that the progress isn’t linear.  Remind me, yourself, them; let’s be kind and compassionate. Maybe it’ll lead to more joy and less discouragement. Less negative self-talk. 

I’m beginning to see that a lack of mental health can be seasonal. 

Like waves

Like Charles Spurgeon said “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” Honestly I haven’t had the appreciation to kiss them. Or rejoice in their midst. Sometimes the waves is huge and debilitating and sometimes they’re shallow though unrelenting. The consistency can really beat a person down and be plenty uncomfortable. 

I appeal to you not to resist these waves alone. Find a safe person to resist alongside you. Whether a friend, or a therapist. Many times I don’t tell my friends, but when I do, I’ve been greatly blessed by their words. Their empathy leaves me feeling much stronger. It’s when I’m telling myself, “How am I back here?” And ask myself “Who would want to endure this with me when I don’t want to endure it with myself?” that I most need support. I’ve even questioned my therapist’s endurance. Doesn’t she get tired of me?

For one, we must not continue telling our loved ones to have more faith. I’ve said it, and had it told to me plenty of times. And really that’s not what I need to hear, though faith is hugely important. We simply can’t assume it’s someone’s weak faith that’s leaving them with recurring symptoms. Instead of reproaching them, what if we pray to God to provide them with more faith in his goodness? Appealing directly to God on their behalf. The shaking of fingers isn’t very loving. I’m sure it comes from a good place, but still a weak bandage that doesn’t quite meet the requirements of actual support.

I, myself, believe the gospel of Jesus. I’m continually growing in my knowledge of scripture and have been for seventeen years. I anchor myself in the truth of it. I follow Jesus devoutly, and train up my children as far as I know how to. I desire what is true, honorable, and just. I am committed to my church and in relationship with many wonderful Godly women. I desire to be teachable and read loads of books. 

An illness

And if I still struggle then I must accept that this chronic depression and anxiety is an illness. Though I’d often rather shame myself into being stronger, feigning that I have control, it hasn’t worked. This is an invisible illness that affects everyday life. It’s unpredictable. Tomorrow may look different than today. It can be a battle to wake up again to my family with the energy and passion that I most desire to have for them. To show up again to my therapist appointments, or to coffee with my friends and say “Yeah, actually it’s still hard. This week has been a fight for health.”

If you love someone who goes in and out of the pain and darkness, remind them that you’re there and mean it. You don’t need to have all the words but your ongoing presence, checking in, and praying for them matters. It requires patience and long suffering. Please carry their burden with them. Remind them to keep running the race or enduring this current wave. Help them to reject the idea that their healing, progress and accomplishments are an indication of their character and faith. Another hard day will be endured.

We aren’t alone

You are loved. Jesus has you in his loving arms. He exalts himself to show you mercy. He has taken judgment onto himself and he has only love for you. Reject the lies and soak in the truth. This momentary affliction will pass.

The other post I wrote up is an appeal to educate ourselves of the various mental health experiences so we can empathize and love well. I’ll get to it. But until then. Love and wait with each other. God is with you and cares for you.

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