Friday, May 31, 2013

Which Way Is "OUT?"

Do you ever think about that verse, Romans 8:28, that says that God works all things to the good of them who love God and are called according to His purpose? When I was in the pit of depression my brain was not capable of imagining what that could look like.

 Later, when I was out, I realized that depressed people no longer bothered me. I was not afraid of catching it. I could sit with someone who was depressed and not become depressed. In fact, I was asked to go visit depressed people; that puzzled me until I realized that now I was safe to be with a depressed person. I could commiserate and empathize and if the person has the strength to look at me, they can see by my face that I am no longer there. God brought me out and the depressed person could begin to hope that they too could find a way out.

Now, having said that, I need to also say that since the MS my capacity has changed. The parameters of my playground had changed. I no longer have the stamina I had before and I cannot do many things. My body has a degree of brokenness, I've learned that I am different, but not ruined. I used to love to teach, but now even people's excitement to learn can leave me feeling drained. My capacity, my energy is different now. So I have turned to writing and have found it feeds me and has given me a way to still feel I contribute. I have also learned another good thing--to have compassion on myself. Most of the time I don't beat up on myself for not being able to do what I used to do. Now I am careful about social involvement and give support by phone or in writing rather than face to face time in the same room. And even that I have discovered, I need to do from time to time rather than daily or even weekly.

By showing me the way out of the pit God worked good out of a bad thing. Having experienced depression I can be kinder, more compassionate, and less judgmental of those who struggle with this. I can crawl down in the pit and sit with them and paint it purple. And now I can stand at the entrance to the pit with them and point the way out! I just can't do it for very long! : ) Those are good things that came about because of being in a bad place.

So, how DO you get out? The story of Elijah (First Kings 18-19) gives God's prescription for depression and burnout. Eat, sleep, and then put one foot in front of the other--for fourty days. In Elijah's case he got two rounds of the treatment! Evidently 40 days was not enough to restore Elijah and that is good to know. Each of us will have our own timetable so be kind to yourself. Do your best to not compare yourself to anyone. God always fits the prescription to the individual. Each of us is different so what happened for me to get out is not necessarily the way He will take you out. Each of us must find our particular way out.

However, Elijah's story gives us three things that all depressed people will need to do to walk out of the pit. I have added a fourth.

First Restore the Body...

Eat nutritious food. When you are depressed you need help--angels came, touched Elijah and fed him "angel food" and good, clean water. Both items probably had all kinds of micro nutrients and minterals to replace and stabalize his electrolites and whatever else was whacked out. Notice that the angel had to tell him to eat. Like an NFL player, he had physically put out with an intensity for an extended period. He needed a supernatural angel's version of Gator-aide. So, when God sends you an "angel" to help, do like Elijah and let them help.

Sleep. Some people can't sleep and others can't stop sleeping. Both extreems indicate a troubled system. If you are having trouble with sleep, please let someone know. Sleep is a blessing from God and is meant to restore you.

Move. After the sleep and the food, Elijah began his physical restoration training--a 40 day program to build back some stamina. I imagine that he talked with God as he walked; I would. I think he kept in touch with his trainer; God was so gentle with Elijah. Even the attitude ajustment that let him know he was not the only one who was faithful in Israel was gentle--no harsh condemnation. I think God saw that Elijah was still in a rather fragile state. He was well enough to do something but not well enough to do much of anything. God gave him an assignment, but also prescribed another 40 days of one foot in front of the other before he did any "prophet" work. This says to me that physical recovery takes a while and that does not bother God.

After you have some healthy food and rest, begin some mindless exercise like putting one foot in front of the other. In my experience there were not enough brain cells functioning to do anything more than that. Don't take on a rigorous exercise regimen,  like a synchronized dance class or something of that nature unless that is exactly what you need. I characterize it as having one or two brain cells functioning and you need more than that for some of those exercise classes. But each of us is different, so find an exercise that fits you but rebuilds the body and feeds the soul.

While you do this exercise that leaves your mind free, make the effort to keep in touch with God as Elijah did. In other words, talk to God even if it feels like He is not there. On the other hand, sometimes in depression it can feel so like God has abandonded you that you can't hear Him. Then it is easy to feel He doesn't want to talk to you. That is a feeling and sometimes feelings are accurate and sometimes they are not. God does want to talk with you.
Although, the Lord sent Elijah an angel, he sent a squirrel for Agnes Sansdford to watch. The Lord re-started her heart through that cute squirrel. What helps one can be different than what you need. Keep in touch with God as best you can, He is your trainer. Talk to Him even if it feels like He is not there.

A friend and I were talking this week about the recovery process. She gave me a benchmark for how to know when you are getting better. She said you know you are better when you actually SEE the cobwebs on your windowsill. You might not be able to do anything about them yet but that is okay. Before, you didn't even see them; so seeing them is improvement! There is hope.

Possible First Steps--
  • Exercise as per God's direction
  • Enjoy a cuppa and a healthy snack 
  • Take a shower and a nap
  • Watch the sun move across the lawn or the sun set or the moon rise. See something beautiful without demanding that you have an instant, dramatic WOW response because you may need to soak in beauty for a time before you feel a response.

Best Selling Author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive


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