When I started this blog, I knew I would write about the hole in my soul sometime, but I didn’t know when. The idea was just kind of sitting out there on the sidelines looking on. After a conversation I had with a young woman recently, I knew it was time.
To be honest, the “hole” was really more like a crater, but “The Crater in My Soul” just didn’t have the same ring to it. That crater was caused by the meteor of depression, with a result not unlike that of the meteor that crashed into the earth 65 million years ago and, in theory at least, caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. Like that meteor, when depression slammed into my soul more than 30 years ago, the impact raised massive amounts of emotional dust that blotted out all light in my life. This caused all the classical symptoms doctors use to make a depression diagnosis—loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities, inability to concentrate, feelings of hopelessness, difficulty making decisions, etc., etc. But there is one symptom that you never hear about, and, for me at least, it was the one that caused the greatest pain. I’m talking about the loss of the ability to feel God’s love and the sweet assurance of the whisperings of His spirit.
In my deepest despair I sought solace in scripture, but that just made me feel worse. The descriptions of joy and peace and comfort were feelings that seemed not only beyond my reach, but beyond my very comprehension. When I prayed, I felt like I was praying to a brick wall. When I sought the comfort promised the obedient, I found distress. No matter how hard I tried to do the things I had always been taught would bring me into God’s favor, there was seemingly no response. I would wait until my husband was asleep, then I would get up and go into another room and pray and plead for hours. I cried buckets of tears. Still nothing.
I never doubted for an instance the reality of God, but I began to doubt His faithfulness. I asked and heard no reply; I sought and found nothingness; I knocked until my emotional and spiritual knuckles were raw and bleeding, but still I couldn’t perceive any opening of a door (See Matt. 7:7). I faithfully attended Sunday worship services even though it was torturous; while others would talk about feeling comfort and peace, of feeling God’s loving arms around them like a warm blanket, I felt nothing. No, that’s not quite right. I did feel something, I felt inferior. What was wrong with me, I wondered. Had I somehow royally ticked off God? Please, I besought Him, tell me what I’ve done wrong and I’ll fix it! But no answer was forthcoming. I came to understand later that that was a question He couldn’t answer because I hadn’t done anything horribly wrong that I needed to fix. Eventually I began to feel excluded by Him, then abandoned, and ultimately betrayed. Through all of this I kept praying, studying His word, worshiping, and giving service whenever and wherever I could. I had decided, rather peevishly, that I wasn’t going to give God the opportunity to tell me that if I had only prayed more or read more scripture or gone to church more or served His children better He would have relieved my despair.
I finally reached the point where, if God wasn’t going to help me, I decided I would have to take matters into my own hands. The only escape from the intolerable anguish I felt, as far as I could see, was to take my own life. But because I believe in an afterlife, even that solution wasn’t completely satisfactory. You see, I didn’t want just to die, I wanted to cease to exist. Knowing that was impossible only intensified my distress. But I finally decided that if I killed myself and ended up in hell, at least I wouldn’t have to cook or do laundry. Go ahead and laugh; I do. Obviously, my reasoning wasn’t exactly stellar, but that’s what depression does to you. I knew how I would do it—I would take a bunch of pills and just fall permanently asleep. What I couldn’t figure out was where or when I could carry out this ultimate action of finality without my children, ages 4, 7, and 9, finding my lifeless body.
I remember one particular night when I approached God on my knees in “prayer.” I use quotation marks because I’m not sure you could really categorize what I did as praying. I have never been so angry in my life as I was that night, and I let Him know about it. Why, I demanded, had He abandoned me? Though I was far from perfect, I had done everything I could think of to the very best of my limited ability to be obedient. Where were the promised blessings? The promised peace? Why, why, why? I implored. Even now, more than 30 years later, tears stream down my face in the remembering.
I received a very clear answer to that prayer. I was made aware of the great love God has for me (and all of His children). I didn’t, I couldn’t, feel His love, but I did understand it intellectually. I also understood that even if I tried to take my own life, I wouldn’t be held responsible because in my current state of mind I wasn’t accountable. Those answers just made me even more angry. Here I was, contemplating one of the worst things a person could do, and the answer was “I love you”!?! And what did He mean, I wasn’t accountable? What kind of an answer was that?
It was at this point that my sweet, patient, incredibly supportive husband knew there was more going on than just PMS or moodiness. (Why he hadn’t left me by that point, I don’t know. I had certainly made his life hell.) Somehow he knew I was at a critical emotional tipping point that was beyond either of our capacities to handle. I believe it was at God’s prompting that he put me in the car and took me to a doctor. He didn’t give me a choice; we just went. I don’t know what doctor we went to. In fact, I don’t even remember seeing the doctor. The only thing I remember about that appointment was that the nurse made me promise that I wouldn’t commit suicide. I made that promise even though doing so made me furious. From my perspective, she had just taken away from me the only thing left in my life I had control over—my choice to live or die.
Let me say here that suicide is NEVER the answer, no matter how inviting and logical it seems. Quite frankly, it is an incredibly selfish act. You might be gone and in peace, but those left behind will never be the same. I know because two of my cousins have taken that route. Even if you are absolutely convinced that you are unloved and unlovable, I can guarantee there are people on this earth who would be devastated if you ended your life. If this is something you are contemplating, please talk to someone and get help. It’s out there. As long as you keep things inside, it’s just going to get worse. If the first person you confide in doesn’t help, keep telling others until you find the right person to help you get through this terrible ordeal. And promise me that you won’t do it. Please. Over the years I have gone up and down more times than I can count so I know from experience that things always, always, get better—not necessarily perfect, but better.
And so I began my long, long journey in search of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. I’ve tried just about everything except voodoo. There have been supplements, homeopathy, energy therapies, neurofeedback, acupuncture, herbs, yoga, psychotherapy, pharmaceuticals, and even this blog. I’ve taken numerous medications—some that worked and some that didn’t. Some that worked had side effects that were intolerable, so it would be back to the drawing board. My first line of attack is medication because it enables me to have the physical, cognitive, and emotional resources to do other kinds of things that will help. Without medication, I would never have started this blog; it simply would have seemed too overwhelming to even attempt. This blog has allowed me to find my own voice; committing to a course of action that I value has been the best therapy of all.
Is the hole gone? Mostly, at least for now. Because it is filled with soil that is neither sand nor bedrock but something somewhere in between, there is always the chance that some flood will come that will erode my sense of well-being. In other words, I am not cured, and I don’t think I ever will be in this life. I believe I will always have the disposition towards depression and anxiety in mortality, but now I know how to deal with it—I know better where to get the peace to fill my hole. More importantly, I have lived long enough to see how my experiences have enabled me to become more than I ever would have been without them (See my post “Psych-ick Fruit”). Most people who know me would never know I deal with mental illness if I hadn’t publicly spoken about it many times. Oh, I have my days, but never anywhere near what I experienced at the beginning.
And where am I now with God? Fortunately, He is perfectly patient and infinitely forgiving. Over the years He has brought me back from the brink of the abyss by leading me to the doctors and other resources I needed. I know now that I was never left alone; I was just temporarily blinded to His influence and interest in my life.
For those of you who are where I was, trust that things will get better—they always do. And trust God. Trust that He loves you and that He is watching over you even if the heavens seem sealed with concrete at the moment. Though He might not take the trial away, He can and will make you equal to enduring it. He knows perfectly just how imperfect we are, and He’s perfectly ok with our imperfection. In fact, He doesn’t expect perfection of us in this life. If you can’t believe now, at least put the decision to disbelieve off until you are in a better state of mind. When the clouds lift and the light begins filtering in, then revisit the question of His reality and His love. The best way to do this is to ask Him. He will answer. He always does.
Image 1 credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_18982376_distress-and-suffering-with-a-human-eye-crying-a-single-tear-drop-with-a-screaming-facial-expression.html’>lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
Image 2 credit: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/photo_17811635_depression-relief-and-conquering-mental-adversity-with-a-pencil-eraser-removing-a-tear-drop-from-a-c.html’>lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo</a>