Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Depression

I’m going to be honest here.

For the past month or two I have, for the first time that I remember, dealt with depression. No, that is not entirely true….I am depressed. (See how in just a few words we can distance ourselves from what we consider “wrong” in some way and make it sound so much better?).

I admit it. I exhibit all the signs of it. I checked. Everything is so easy to find nowadays on this thing called the Internet. Actually I did not have to look it up. I just knew it.
I’m sad. I cry a lot. I have lost a lot of desire to do much of anything that I found satisfying before. I’m dreaming a lot when I do sleep. I dream constantly about running into different members from my CLB. When I don’t sleep I am besieged by thousands of thoughts. What if? What about? Why? What can I do? What will they do? What will they say? I swing from anger and then back to compassion and then to sadness and then to numbness with startling quickness.

It is hard to admit depression. It would be easier to admit it much later, after, hopefully I have figured out what exactly is wrong with me and “conquered” it. But I need to admit it now.

But you know what? I can hear the voices screaming in my head how wrong it is to feel this way. Some of them sound a lot like my own as I have leveled some of these words at others. Voices that say things like:

Just be happy for crying out loud.
You need to get your head wrapped around the “truth” of the Word
Just get up, take a shower, put on your makeup and you’ll feel better.
Just set up a time with me and we will pray against this spirit of depression.
If you would just get back into fellowship with the believers in our church you would feel better.
Of course you are depressed. Look at your giving. God is not blessing you.
Maybe if you spend some time, early in the morning, in prayer and connecting with God, you'll be better.
You say he is depressed? Well of course, he broke covenant with our body and is now out there all on his own.
You just need to speak the Word. God’s promises will not return void.
Get under our covering and God will rebuke this demon of depression.
We have been given the spirit of an overcomer. You can do this.
We have a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind so if we are truly walking with God the spirit of a sound mind it will keep away any depression.
Don’t hang around people who are depressed. You will start to believe that the gospel does not work. They will steal your faith.
Depression is a sign of a very unstable person. Certainly not mature in the things of God.

Shall I shut them up now? You get my point.

I’m sorry Daughter….many of these were leveled at you. Please forgive me.

One of the funny things about living in this kind of toxic church belief system is that for some it was the CHURCH that caused their depression. Or at least what we were teaching in the church. Did we ever step back and say, “Oh, my God, what might we be doing that is causing this person to struggle like this.” Would that have been a good question to ask ourselves?

Another reason it is hard to admit being depressed is because if my old CLB ever heard that I was struggling with depression right now they would have been given the match to light the wood stacked at my feet. It would prove just how wrong and unstable and full of demons that I now am. My one ray of light has been Husband, who has been so patient with my tears and crazy – unlike me – behavior. He has said time and time again, “Honey, you are right where God wants you. He has something to teach you and show you about yourself and him.” I don’t know what I would have done with anyone less understanding. Best Friend and one or two others have also been so encouraging and not judgmental in this whole process

But then yesterday I looked onto my computer and read a bit of what someone else is going through. Heidi at Live With Desire was one of the first people that gave me hope that I was not crazy in coming out of our CLB. Monday, she again did that for me. In her Thoughts About Depression she says some simply amazing things. Please, please take the time to read it.

If you have ever struggled with depression, or are depressed now please read her post.

If you have never struggled with depression – you too need to read it. It will keep you from saying all the stupid things above and wounding people even more.

Thanks Heidi…And Husband….And Best Friend….And all the friends who now surround me. Your grace to me is amazing.

22 comments:

grace said...

Barb,
I don't know if this will help, but depression is part of the grieving process. I copied this post of mine from the spiritual abuse forum about the stages of grief. Everyone who has experienced spiritual abuse should be prepared for the grief process in the aftermath of leaving. The only way through it is through it, and accepting the process seems to be the quickest way through it. I know that it's hard, but it is a normal reaction to the loss that you've experienced. I am happy that your husband and friends are so supportive and understanding.

Stages of a crisis/grief
I experienced these stages over the last 2 1/2 years with amazing predictability, although there was the overlap that others have mentioned.

1. Denial - I'm not sure it was actual denial, but definitely shock and bewilderment, not being able to understand how this could have happened.

2. Anger - This was the most prominent stage throughout the process. Mostly I was angry at the people that abused us. At about the one-year point, I also became angry at God because he didn't do anything about it. That was something I had to work through.

3. Bargaining - The first 6 months to a year were filled with questions and self-doubts about what we could have done differently to prevent the situation.

4. Depression - This was the second-most prominent stage. The anger dissipated to an overall sadness and lack of joy or excitement in my life. Loneliness was a big contributor to the depression I felt. This pretty much described how I felt the second year after our abuse.

5. Acceptance - After 2 years, I believe that I finally had reached a place of acceptance. I was ready to accept the results of the abuse and move forward with my life.

6. Resolution (I added) - I have recently experienced resolution because of circumstances that have exposed the false leadership at our former church and validated our position in leaving the church. Apart from these events, I believe that my process would have ended with acceptance, not resolution.

Barb said...

Grace,
Thanks so much. You had probably blogged about this on your past blogs but I forgot. It would be good to re-read some of what you went though. I read your blog early on as we were just leaving and only the most recent things since.

I’m definitely on #3 and #4. Husband thinks that things might get fun/interesting if I ever hit the Anger stage.

I will re-read some of your journey again. It may help this stage for now.

grace said...

Hi Barb,
I don't remember if I blogged much specifically about the depression, but I do remember experiencing it. Like you, it wasn't something I was familiar with, but I certainly recognized the gray, lethargic numbness for what it was - depression that I couldn't just "will" myself out of.

I think that is why recognizing it as a stage of grief is important in that it gives you permission to experience those emotions while you are in them rather than trying to deny them. I have encouraged many of the people who recently left our CLB to recognize that they have experienced a major loss in their life and to not be surprised or ashamed at the grief (sadness, anger, depression) they feel.

If you want to read some of my former posts at the spiritual abuse recovery forum, my member name there is katie. One of the menu options under members is to read the posts or threads of the members. I was more open there than on my blog about the ups and downs that I experienced during recovery.

When I read your posts, I so often see that you are describing the same things that I experienced. In time, you will be glad to have this honest record of the healing that you've experienced. Not only that, it will be a guide and encouragement for others who find themselves in the same situation. You have a real gift for sharing and describing your feelings. I hope you continue to see the value in doing it.

Erin said...

I was going to say "it comes with the territory". Not meant to make you feel better, but to help you know you are not alone.

I'm glad Grace answered you on this, she's far more eloquent than I, but we share the same experience.

I'm sorry you are going through this, but I smile because I know in hindsight it's such an important part of the process and it means you are clearly healing.

Hopefully your close family and friends will allow you to experience this season without criticism, and love on you enough to help you through it.

Hugs.

Alan Knox said...

Barb,

I didn't see this in your list, so I'm going to say it:

Depression sucks. Our family knows. We've been through it and will probably go through it again. David knew about depression, but somehow God didn't throw him away or tell him to suck it up or tell him he must be immature. We've chosen to believe that if God could love and use David in spite of his depression, he can love and use us too. But, it still sucks.

-Alan

Steve Sensenig said...

Barb, I have no profound words for you. Only assurance that 1) you are not alone in this, 2) you will make it through this through the power of Christ in you, and 3) none of us who have gone through (and in many ways still go through) the detox process are surprised at what you wrote. I appreciate your transparency here.

Yes, most of the "lectures" that are running through your mind are foolishness. But not all of them. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you which reminders are really from him, and hold on to those.

I will be praying for you and husband. In fact, I'm doing that right now as I type this, and will continue to do so after hitting publish.

That, my dear sister, is not just a phrase or cliche. I mean it from my heart.

Barb said...

Grace, I had not ever been on that forum site. I will see if I can navigate around it and find some of the things you wrote. It looks interesting. Thanks again

Thanks Erin, it does help to know that I'm not a total crazy person.

Alan, it does suck. I imagine there are suckier things so I don't want to whine too much but thanks.

Steve, your statement that you are praying for us is the first I have been able to hear and not react to in a negative way. I really appreciate it.

Cindy said...

Barb- I've also had times of depression- some as part of the grieving over CLB and some not. It was definitely grief, just like Grace said. I didn't expect it, but realized it after I was neck deep.

I hope I don't offend you, but I'd feel amiss if I didn't say that if you feel like you're not moving out of the depression stage at a reasonable pace (i don't know how long it's been), you might want to talk to your doctor. short term anti-depressants can help when folks get kind of stuck in that place and need to be reminded what it feels like to not be depressed. sometimes a reminder is all it takes to get back on track. if it hasn't been that long yet, try to hang on through the process --knowing that so many of us have been there too.

that said, i'm praying for you. it stinks to be where you are. i think it's great that you wrote this post. very brave.

glenn said...

Barb,

I don’t know where to begin, except to say that I identify and that depression is common among those of us who are church refugees, especially, those of us involved in leadership.

Oh, one other thing, I think things are getting better for me, not because my circumstances have improved, but because something within me is changing. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I re-hash the past less. I am less consumed with guilt. I don’t blow up at little things as much. I sleep soundly. I am enjoying things more. Recovery sort of snuck up on me after a long, painful wilderness.

I tend to get very indignant with a church that would inflict such pain, but they are just misguided people with their own issues. I discreetly placed most of my rants and wildly fluctuating feelings under the “journey” category on my blog.

Several of us out here in blogland have hearts full of understanding, love, and prayer for you! You will get through this and you will once again feel a sense of belonging and passion!

abmo said...

Hi Barb,

I think I agree with Grace. When we stop, we lose function. What is left when we do not have function? We have to to something...anything!!!!!, we tell ourselves. This nothingness feels soooooo wrong.

My wife and I came to a place where we had to admit. The good stuff we do, we do out of selfishness. So we stopped doing stuff to see what was Jesus, and what was our doing. Some sort of depression followed. It's terrible to lose function.

But Jesus is sooooo much more...:-)

thanks

Anonymous said...

S says:
For what it's worth, we love you A LOT. Our love pales in comparison to His, but I hope it's at least somewhat reminiscent...

Erin said...

Barn - As I thought more about this post, I had one more thing to add.

I learned to see this season (when I was in it) like this:

God chose to strip me of everything by which I used to define my faith...my positions, my gifts, my church, my friends...because He wanted to rebuild my faith from the ground up. So much of my faith had become false or manipulated...He had to start from scratch.

Your losses are very real and it's natural to grieve. I'm not hoping to make your depression better by saying this, but the truth is, God will begin to design for you a stronger, better, and more natural faith...I can't say what that will look like for you, but I'd bet money that in a few years you will look back and see this reconstruction and know that it was good.

Che Vachon said...

Barb...I feel for you.
I can agree with all the above posts..so I'll try not to duplicate.

Your stepping out and talking about this...this is part of the healing.

I've been through this, too..a few times.
Recognize the grief...and your inability to 'make it go away'. You WILL get through it.
Deconstruction and Reconstruction is a process, and it's hard.
But talking, relying on the gem of a husband you have, friends that love you..friends out here.
That's what community is...
We believe you'll get through, and we are here to help where we can.

I'll talk to Him about you...
Blessings.

Erin said...

OMG That's what I get for not proofreading my comments...sheesh...please forgive me for calling you "Barn". You know that's just a typo!

Barb said...

Cindy, thanks for the meds idea. I don't think it is bad enough for them though.

It is funny; I have days where I am ok. Then I have sad days. But it is not overwhelming. I am still functioning well at what I need to do. It is just way different than how I thought I would handle it. I just had never experienced the lows quite as low and the not having the joy and highs I was used to.

Thanks though and thanks for praying.

Glen, I realized the other day that even if all the relationships that I had lost were instantly somehow restored, I have changed. I can't go back to being the same person.

And if depression snuck up on me bit by bit, I imagine that a feeling of normalacy will too.

But thanks for commenting. I will have to take your word for it that I will once again feel a sense of belonging and passion. I can't even begin to imagine how those would ever be restored.

Abmo, It was the loss of function that I think started all this sadness. and yes, nothingness is the scariest thing I have ever felt. It is really just Jesus out there. Wow.

S.
You guys are what makes it so easy some days. I don't know what I would have done without your friendship and support.

Erin, Yep, I recognize the stripping. I only know that what will be built will be a hell of a lot more simple ;)

Che Vachon,
I really hope it is ok to be blogging so honestly. I don't want to be seen as trying to garner sympathy. I also don't want to trade my "church lady" for some sort of "victim lady".
The healing part for me was reading other's posts of honesty. Maybe I will gain some healing in this place of vulnerability but I hope someone else will come across this post even years from now and feel like they might just be understood if they will tell someone.

To all:
Thank you so much for the outpouring of love and grace. I wish we could sit down face to face and have a glass of wine. I'll take a rain check for heaven.

Barb said...

and Erin,
You don't have to apologize for typo's. I'm the worst speller in the world and I hope that people will only think it is a typo and not that I'm an idiot!

Steve Sensenig said...

I can't help but think, Barb, in reading this and the comments that have followed, that what you are experiencing (and so many of us have gone through this) is an indictment on the unhealthy situation the institutional church fosters. Dare I call it co-dependence?

I mean, with all the similar stories out there -- you've read them, and some of the same people have commented here already -- this is quite a trend that I feel like we're seeing.

Someone finally dares to step outside the bounds of the "church" walls, and they feel like their whole world has collapsed around them.

I experienced it as a sense of falling down a very long hole and not knowing whether to be scared to to feel free. My head still spins sometimes with the sensation. Things I once held so tightly to vanished right through my fingers. Identities I once cherished (oh, how I loved being called "Pastor Steve"....ugh!!!!) left, leaving me feeling like I didn't even know who I was.

But there is Jesus. Ohhhhh, there is Jesus! And all I want now is him. Only him. The only identity I want now is "my life is hidden in Christ".

Anyway, I'm rambling, but I just wanted to share some of that. Not to shift the focus off of what you're feeling and on to the institution, but just to say...well, I don't know what I'm trying to say!!!

It just reminds me of a divorce or a breakup from a very unhealthy relationship, that's all...

Barb said...

Steve,
Doesn't sound like rambling to me. The falling down a hole and not knowing whether to be scared of feel free is so true. I vacilate between the two sometimes daily. I think when I look to try and figure out what is ahead for us I feel scared. But when I look to the moment, there are times when I feel really, really free. Like a relationship that was so planned and had no excitement to it was now free to be experienced.

That is the craziness of this time. It is the continual waves of different emotions and thoughts. I'm just so glad that it did not make me bitter against God to where I did not want a relationship with him anymore.

So to bury my life into his - since the public life that I thought was so his is vanished - sounds delightful right now.

And yes it does make you want to blow up the institution. How would you structure something to help people not be dependant on it. It would have to be so "lead by the spirit" that it would HAVE to not have any structure. Like when Jesus walked around on this earth and taught his disciples to do. The only thing so far that I can find that approaches anything like this is the things that Wayne Jacobsen is writing about. I am so grateful for his putting out this "lack of a model" to at least think about.

Thanks so much for commenting.

Cindy said...

barb- I'm so glad you feel that you're coping and managing the basics- and don't need meds. that in itself is a little uplifting, isn't it? I consider meds a last resort, but last resorts are there for a reason... Anyway, i'm big on the practical side of things - (as you know since you're a kindred ISTJ!), so, as one who has mangaged depression w/o meds, anytime you'd like practical suggestions just drop me a line.

What you've got here is the best support system you can find. I've leaned on them so many times I can't count.

Sarah said...

This is my first time to your blog (thanks for answering my question on Deconstructed Christian). Our experiences are probably different and unique, but I do relate to you a lot. I really respect you for posting this. I too, (like Alan) was reminded of David as I read this. And, yes, it sucks!

Barb said...

Cindy, that is so funny. If I had found that meds worked I would have also been the first to suggest trying them to someone else too. Is that part of being an ISTJ? I'm always recommending things that work for me to other people, from laundry products (Tide with bleach) to the best restaurant in town (the small little italian place that just opened up down the street). I've always been ok with meds for depression and even urged my daughter to take them at one time in her life.

Watchman said...

former leader,

I found I was more depressed while attending The Church As We Know It, than I am now. what was wrong with that picture?

Sundays were my worst days of the week. I could not reconcile why everyone in attendance around me seemed to love the very thing that made me feel like a loser. I finally stopped trying to change them and leave. I now am no longer depressed.

Depression implies something is pressing down, leaving a mark. I found what that weight was and crawled out from under it.