Thursday, December 20, 2007

joy comes in the morning

This morning as my beloved and I sat in our usual spots having our morning coffee we saw this rainbow out our front window and I inwardly groaned knowing that today I must sit down and write about my "dark years". This summer at one point when I was feeling "jolly and gay" and needed some material, the thought crossed my mind but it was quickly erased and I knew that the time would come when writing of it would not be for me but . .. for you.
In 1985 when I was 27 years old it was decided that I needed some fairly extensive surgery that would end forever my ability to have more children. At the time I welcomed the idea of being done with the physical pain that I was enduring and it seemed like a win win decision. For a time I felt really well and indeed I enjoyed a pain free life.

Then, a few years later, my body basically rejected the idea that I had forced it into and I began to struggle with anxiety. This was not totally foreign to me, for I had from time to time had a really good bout of worry. In our family this was pretty normal as we still fondly remember our dad's bent to being a worrier. What I was experiencing felt quite different and it began with a simple realization that our youngest son would be requiring a root canal. Something in me snapped and I nearly vomited with extreme anxiety at how he would cope with this kind of dental appointment. Terry took him and he came back relatively unscathed and wore it like a badge.

A few weeks later while we were preparing to take our boys to Disneyland for the very first time my mom mentioned to me that our oldest son had a very large lymph node in his neck. I immediately checked him myself and wondered how I had missed something so obvious.
Having gone through Terry's cancer diagnosis when our youngest was six weeks old I had no more "this could never happen to us" left in me and I was certain that he too would be diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease. We took him to the doctor and he assured us that it was most likely just a residual low grade infection that would likely dissipate with a round of antibiotics.
Off we went to Disneyland with the round of antibiotics and I daily watched that lymph node. It didn't budge. He was of course having the time of his life and never suspected how terrified I was. I could barely eat and for the only time in my life, lost weight on vacation.
We came home and began the process of biopsies and indeed around Christmas time we were told that he too had Hodgkin's disease and we began the regular trips to Children's hospital where that decision was eventually reversed.
We were told to go home and not worry about it, he would grow out of it.
By this time I was so deeply entrenched in my own nightmare of anxiety and depression that I kept very private. I had confided to a few people who though well intentioned simply could not relate to my experince. In time I came to realize that I needed to see a doctor and I was put on medication. My biggest fear was that I would completely lose it and would be hospitalized and then everyone would know. How horrific. My life would be exposed for all to see and I suspected judgement would be soon behind.


In all of this, I clung to my faith. I would live for the nighttime when I could sing in my head to sleep. Night after night, I would repeat . . .either "My Jesus I love thee" or "Blessed Jesus come to me . .". I begged for peace. In all this time, I never ever once mentioned to my extended family what I was going through. Everyone who knows me well, would never suggest to you that I am private. I wear my heart on my sleeve often much to my own disappointment.

After my mom passed away I perused her private diaries and found an entry where as she often did recorded her prayers. That particular day, she asked her Heavenly Father to give her little girl her joy back. She knew . .of course she knew but we just never discussed it. She had her own battle with depression and suspected I would want to deal with it the same way she did . . in silence.

We continued on with our social life and I often wonder what I must have been like to socialize with. I really don't want to go back there and try to imagine how prickly I must have often been.
Had it not been for the unfailing love of my husband that was a constant force in my life I may have ended up where I most feared to go. Our children seemed not to notice, I always prayed they wouldn't. Crawling to the washroom in the morning because I had no strength to walk was quite typical and then I would pull myself together and continue on with the day.
Slowly, and I mean slowly the constant little cloud that hung over my eyes started to lift and the skies again seemed a bit brighter. For the most part, I feel completely well now except for the odd day here and there. It serves as a reminder of where I've been and where I could again be and it makes me so very thankful for days when I feel completely well.

I really hesitated telling my story because I know that there are many differing views on what causes depression. I am someone who believes that Jesus came to save me and I never doubted ever that what I believed was true. I did wonder though why I had to walk that journey. Shouldn't Christians feel joy always? My life was essentially a fairytale and I felt such shame to be depressed. How could a woman in her right mind with a loving husband and two wonderful healthy children be depressed? It took me years to realize that my depression was as physical as arthritis or cancer. When I understood that at least the shame was alleviated and I could focus on complete physical and emotional healing.

The one thing that has amazed me over the years of me sharing bits of my story when I feel led is how many other people have similar experiences and also keep it private because of the stigma involved.


This still seems like the oddest post at this time of year and even now, it seems like one that should be saved in draft and yet because I know that there is hope and healing even for those struggling emotionally, it must be posted for all the world to see. This is who I really am, a cracked pot . .(smiling now).


Please do not use my experience to base any decisions regarding your own health. This is my experience and I share it as a testimony that if you are feeling wretched now, there is hope and you can also lean on the one who promises to never leave us or forsake us. How I would have ever survived without His gentle loving hand on my life, I have no idea. If you are struggling, I urge you to share it with someone you can trust to love you unconditionally and also seek medical advice.
I wish I could say that within a year I felt completely myself again but it was years before I didn't wake up in the morning and assess my feeling of well being. My healing was not instant. God's hand on my life, time and proper medical care all were part of those years.

All good things come from the Father above and so it is him I give the credit to.
I am so thankful that my joy does not depend on life's circumstances but rather on the One who came to this earth to bring life eternal. I am loved by my Heavenly Father who .. .just loves me. He loved me even before I invited him to be part of my life. I love Him and worship Him at Christmas because He first loved me.
I wish you all the most blessed of Christmas seasons. May you find Jesus near!!!

36 comments:

  1. I've been a lurker for a little while. Can't exactly remember how I came across your blog, but recognized someone from a picture you posted and so I check in here every now and then.
    Thank you for being so open and honest about your struggles. I know this post will be an encouragement to many who read it.
    Enjoy your Christmas with your grandbabies...they're such a JOY!! Just two days ago we welcomed our third granddaughter into the world (this year)!

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  2. Dear Lovella,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story today about how God has been at work in your life. I've been recovering these past months from hyperthyroidism which caused some extreme anxiety, which I had never before experienced. It was a dreadful thing. I am so grateful that much of the long journey out of that is over, and now it is just back mainly to the more familiar bodily aches that I was used to. However, it has made my husband and I so much more sympathetic with people who suffer from depression, anxiety, etc. It is a real thing, and, although we can add to it with our emotions, often there is something physical beyond our control that is causing it. How wonderful heaven will be when our bodies are healed and we will never experience such things again! I know God allows each and every circumstance only for His glory and our good, and it is a blessing when He allows us to see part way into why some things happen and are able to encourage others because of the comfort we have received from Him. I'm sure God will continue to use you to bless others who have struggled.
    Merry Christmas!!!!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story, Lovella. You have shared what the Lord has placed on your heart today and I know that there will be those who will be encouraged and understood by you and your story.

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  4. God's light can't shine through a pot unless it is cracked......(also smiling now)

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  5. Thanks for sharing. Christmas is the perfect time with all the heightened emotion we feel around the holidays. I'm sure your story will bless many others. I'm so glad you can look at that period in your life from the other side of it. Your experiences have definitely made you who you are and you have a gift of empathy for anyone else who's struggling.

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  6. Thank you so much...

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, especially how the Lord and your husband loved you all the way through with unconditional love. Also, that sometimes depression can be based in a physical cause. Before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, I went through some times of deep fear, and I couldn't figure out what was wrong, which scared me even more. After I was diagnoesed and my body returned to a more normal state, my emotions also leveled off. You have to check out all the angles and find the cause!

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  8. Thank you Lovella for sharing your story, it will encourage someone..I know it will! I wish I could have had someone encouraging me years ago when I went through a dark valley. Having been there it allows me to be sensitive to others going through it. God knows what is good for us!

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  9. Thank you for sharing your story. I know it was pretty difficult. Depression is a scary thing, often misunderstood, and affects family members and friends, too. Someone very dear to me has been battling depression for a while. It is a constant struggle. And, yes, Christians sometimes feel joy and sadness, and sometimes we don't want to "let go and let God," but when we do, we can find His joy.

    When you mentioned Hodgkin's Disease, my heart wrenched a bit. When our youngest turned one year old, my hubby was diagnosed with Hodgkin's. It was a tough battle but the after-effects were good: he drew closer to God, he spent more time with his children, and we grew closer - and continue to do so all these years later. Just a couple of years after his illness, our then-2-year-old niece was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Again, lots of fears, prayers, and uncertainties. She's a healthy, happy young lady these days.

    God is so good! Blessings to you and your family, and have a peaceful and merry Christmas.

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  10. Oh Lovella, thank you for sharing this post. I have never suffered from depression but I know so many people out this that are right now! This time of year is so tough. I pray that your post will bring hope and peace into the right people who need to read it!
    Blessings!
    Sandy

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  11. Hi Lovella,

    What an amazing story of God's faithfulness! Thank you for having the courage to share this 'publicly'. I was so encouraged by your story.

    I too have been on a journey of healing. Both emotional and physical. It feels like it has been long road, and I often feel angry and frustrated with God for allowing these circumstances. About a week ago, I found out that I have an underactive thyroid - a HUGE breakthrough! For 16 years, I have been sick and no one knew what was wrong...it feels so good to know that I'm finally on the road to recovery!!

    Blessings.

    Bonnie

    PS. Our blog site is 'private' now - but if you'd like to be a reader send me your email address to bonnieboehr@hotmail.com

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  12. Girl, your openness, honesty & transparency is amazing. I can say that I relate; a few years ago I went through a period of time when I was unsure of my sanity - extreme anxiety & despondency - & like you I depended heavily on God, family & medication. (in that order) :) I thank God for healing & I thank God for you. You have such a ministry with this blog - I don't think you even know how many lives you're touching. I wish you God's peace & joy!
    Love,
    Vange

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  13. I come to your blog often, because I love it. I have never left a message, but I feel I must. Thank you so much for being obedient to our Lord. So honest, so open, so transparent. GOD BLESS YOU

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  14. Dear Lovella
    Thank you for sharing another part of your precious journey. One of the toughest parts of being a Christian and dealing with depression and/or anxiety is the sense of failure or guilt one can feel. Afterall, when you have a blessed life and others looking on can can see that you "have it all", you can begin to question yourself...and others simply cannot comprehend the depth of the struggle. How thankful we can be that we have a loving heavenly Father who takes us by the hand, and gently and patiently leads us through into healing.
    Thanks for sharing your joy...thanks for sharing your experience...thanks for being real...I appreciate you.
    Lord bless...

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  15. Thanks Lovella. Beautifully written post and a gift to many. I know it was a struggle for you to step up and actually post this; I'm so glad you waited until now.

    A few months ago when Mother Theresa's journals were released it was such a shock to people to learn how depressed and abandoned she felt daily as she went about her ministry. She felt that God was absent from her life except for a few brief weeks. All around her were young nuns in rapsody about how they felt God's prensences, and yet for her there was nothing at all.
    It is horrific to me to consider that she may simple needed some hormonal treatment, or other medical support, instead she just kept a stiff upper lip and suffered daily.
    I wonder what it was like when she finally was face to face with her Savior at last.

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  16. Thank you Lovella for sharing your story with us. I remember you telling me this years ago. When I was going through my depression after a couple of our babies were born I thought, if it is okay for Lovella to go through this then I guess it's okay for me too. I know the stigma though, and the comments that people give you can be hurtful, but obviously they haven't experienced it so they just can't know. Thanx for sharing.

    I love that white wreath.

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  17. Thank you for sharing this part of your story. I can identify with some of the feelings. I went through a horrible time when Steve was 12 - 13 years ago. Anxiety, depression, not very sane. It took some time to get to my new normal. If we each are more brave to speak up, we can help destroy the stigma around mental health struggles. Thank you so much for doing your part! I see in the comments that many have walked this road. God has been faithful.

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  18. Lovella,Thank you for being so open, honest and down right real... I am certain that your post will encourage others. My mom struggled with depression when me and my brothers were growing up and she really hit bottom when she wanted a divorce from my dad almost 9 years ago. I so appreciate your testimony and the message of hope that Jesus offers us. My mom doesn't claim Him as her saviour yet, but I will just keep praying. I often stop by to read your blog, but I have never left a message. Thank you for writing... your blog is an encouragement to me as a young woman and new wife! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. With much love, Amber

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  19. Oh.... you have no idea what a blessing you are!!! Thanks for sharing - you have no idea how far reaching you are! Every day, but today especially, you have deposited such encouragement into my heart and life. Thank you!

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  20. Once again, thanks Lovella. I can relate to dealing with depression and anxiety and having to solely trust God to guide me through. And once again, I am better person for reading your words and getting to know you better...thank you !

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  21. Lovella, I think this a perfect time to share your story. Christmas season is difficult for many and I know your story will help.
    Thank you for sharing it .. it is sooo well writen and it is obvious your faith is real and was your lifeline at your darkest time.
    God is soo good, is He not ? Whether our life is on the mountain or in the valley He never leaves or forsakes us, and will either walk beside us or carry us.
    And He is using you to walk along side others!

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  22. Oh my dear...I too must thank you for this post. I too have suffered from anxiety and depression...in a very severe form...and I know it is only through the grace of my God that I am here today. Your post brought me to tears as I could so relate to your struggles. I firmly believe that speaking out about the challenges we overcome can only help those who have not found their way through the same maze of distress. While I still have "those days", I know that keeping my faith and knowing that I am not alone EVER keeps my head up. Thank you so much and bless you!

    Jan

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  23. God is faithful to us. Thank you for sharing your struggles Lovella. There is danger in keeping some things secret and private. I think it's a lie from Satan and he wants to keep us trapped in our hearts and minds. The truth is so powerful. May God bless you with His joy today and every morning...

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  24. Thanks for sharing this 'hidden struggle' for all to see! It's so much easier to leave the hidden things unsaid...but what a blessing your testimony is to all who are facing the same struggles. No matter what our struggle may be this Christmas, we can hold on to God...He is always faithful!

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  25. Lovella, Thank you for sharing your story. So many of us have walked "through the valley of darkness" as well. I still have my moments of irrational anxiety, but very real to me.

    Blessings to your and your family!

    Linda

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  26. Hi.

    It's always difficult to share our inner most thoughts. It seems like we all have stuff from some where and have stuffed it into some corner, but we are reminded by other's testimonies how real the stuff is and to know exactly when it's the right time to share.

    Thanks for sharing your life with us today. It was well written and timely.

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  27. I am so thankful that you have a loving husband who has always cared and supported you. I am sure there are many out there who are walking painful days because they are in abusive and unloving relationships. Possibly living with people with addictions etc. HOPE That is what we have. Even in our deepedst valleys we have hope through Christ. There is a saying "where there is life there is hope". You never gave up trusting in God. That I know! You have shared a very personal journey that many can relate to. I think those of us who have not been down that path can learn so much about loving, accepting and supporting those who are, because we gleen abit more of the realness of depression though stories such as yours. May God give us all transparency when called on to do so, and also a sensitivity towards those who are hurting.
    The one thing I know about you my friend is that you love the Lord with all your heart and He is your joy giver. Kathy

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  28. Your courage and honesty shine through your post, as does God's faithfulness and love, and I know many will be encouraged. This is the perfect season to share these things. So many people despair, especially during the holidays.

    We live in a broken world and we are all cracked pots, but he is close to those who are brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds (Psalm 147), if we will only call on him to see us through whatever life is throwing at us. In our broken world life will never be pain free, but we are not alone, even when it sometimes feels like God has turned his back on us. I have been there too; I know.

    The darkness will not last forever; joy comes in the morning. Your story is a beautiful example of that.

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  29. What a gift you have shared with us...thank you. You are a woman of deep faith and great courage.

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  30. Lovella I am here jumping up and down cheering for you! See me there?
    I am so thankful you wrote this post especially the part where you realized depression was a PHYSICAL medical problem. YES YES YES! SO many people don't understand that. They can't comprehend that there is a medically bases imbalance......hence the huge stigma attached. How brave you are and how wonderful it is you shared your experience for all to see. Depression is RAMPANT out there and people seem to think they are suffering alone. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! You gave great advice to tell someone and seek medical help. Wise words. From a person in the medical field trying to get this exact point and information across to a stigmatized population THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Your words from experience speak volumes more than my little schpeal ever could.

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  31. I too am one who reads your blog once in a blue moon. I love how honest and open you were with your experience. I think it's easy to say "I had a bad day". But much more difficult to admit to years of bad days.

    My mom suffered from depression and only really felt free once she decided to be open about it and address it. She went to a Neil Anderson seminar and it changed her life. She had many issues to deal with when it came to her childhood, and I'm glad she's been able to help others as a result of her story.

    I have my own struggles which maybe one day I wlll address as well - but thanks for showing me bravery and honesty.

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  32. Dear Lovella,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I also suffered from depression - for 3 years and 7 mos - and was hospitalized twice. The Lord finally lifted me out of it - in Nov 97 - over 10 years ago - and although I have an occasional down day, I have never experienced the depths of despair of that time.

    I often share my story and find, that among my listeners, there are always those who have suffered depression themselves or have a loved one who has had a similar experience.

    It takes courage to open up and share such a painful part of your life. Yet, I agree with Ellen, to keep silent is part of Satan's conspiracy - the truth will set us free. And we can comfort others with the comfort the Lord Himself has given us.

    I used to think that a depressed Christian was an oxymoron. Until I immersed myself in the Psalms. If you have never read Spurgeon's thoughts on depression you are in for a gift.(check his thoughts on Psalm 88) He is so compassionate and understanding. Sometimes he was so depressed his deacons would carry him into the pulpit - somehow he would find the unction to preach - and then they would have to carry him back home again!

    May the Lord bless you richly for opening your heart to us. You have encouraged so many and have given hope and light to those who walk in shadows.

    love to you
    Kathie

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  33. so many have said thanks already, it seems sort of meaningless to leave another one, but i just have to: THANK YOU. as i continue to battle the rocky waves of post-partum depression, i find comfort in knowing i'm not alone. thank you for having the courage to share your story. i shared mine just today (i always share it with a bit of fear) and the person i was speaking with admitted their struggles with depression as well. being open about it has helped me tremendously. blessings!
    -heidi

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  34. Dear Lovella,
    I'm sorry you had to endure such an experience, but through it all, I believe it has made you who you are; a wonderful, caring person sharing Christ's love. The hard times draw us closer to Him. We learn He is abundantly able to carry us through. We can also sympathize with others going through similar pain. I love your blog. I'm so glad I found it this year. I come by often. Have a blessed Christmas and a peaceful New Year in 2008. Hugs from your Canadian friend.

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  35. Lovella, once again your open and honest post will help many people. A couple of years ago I went through a situation that I was completely ashamed about. After slowly opening up about it, I realized that other people had been or were going through similar situations and it was more common than I thought (I would blog about it, but it didn't just include me, so I'd have to get permission from quite a few people to talk about it and I don't think they are ready yet for me to share their story with the blogging world. Hopefully soon though because it was pretty major in my life and opened my eyes up big time). Anyways, thank you for sharing.

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Thank you!