Maintaining long-term recovery from addiction is one thing. Add to that, a diagnosis of clinical depression and severe degenerative arthritis and we're talking a whole 'nother mammal rearing its' challenging head.
Most days, I quickly overcome both diagnoses with prayer and encouragement from family and friends. But sometimes, the depression jockeys for priority position and it's feels impossible to shake; lasting for months at a time. I know I can be a bit dramatic, charge it to being a Gemini or perhaps, it's in my genes; but, this time, I felt mind-napped; held hostage and exiled to the shadowlands of depression.
Darkness slowly usurped my normal effervescent personality, creativity, energy, desire, and stole my words. As a writer living with Clinical Depression, occasional writer blocks are a way of life. They pass and the pump remains primed and ready for the next word flow. However, this time, my depression overshadowed every area of my life. I felt like I was in the middle of a life block of biblical proportions.
Like I'd been exiled to an uncharted desert left alone with no oasis, my emotions seemed clumped and tossed aside like wads of dried clay; not fit for the a potter's wheel.
There were days, when I sat at the computer, tapped out my customary first line of every writing project: Show me, Lord. Ideas and words flitted like hummingbirds inside my mind, anxious to escape onto the freshly prepared page; but when I tried to capture a fist-full of sentences, poof, they were gone. Gone as quickly as a gold chain snatched, by a seasoned thief, from the neck of an unsuspecting subway rider.
Most phone calls went unanswered and voicemails unheard. Socializing stopped. It got so bad, that my son, grandkids, and friends, had to use coercion tactics, short of bribery, to get me out of the house. My to-do list grew into pages of tasks, left undone. Like unchecked ivy creeps its way upward, overtaking a brick house, so Clinical Depression overtook even the most minute details of my life.
Gray roots went unattended. Facials and manicures stopped. Eating, bathing, and breathing took what little strength and energy I had. My usual thought-provoking and humorous social network statuses morphed into scavenged quotes and images, then fell to silence. Life, once vibrant and rich with rainbow-color, became an unattended garden overrun with weeds of intentions and broken promises.
Finally, I came out of denial and reached out for help, starting with my physician, a psychologist, and my closet friends within the recovery community. Talking helped a bit, as did an adjusted antidepressant dosage. Yet, weeks later, I felt no significant change in my circumstances or behavior. I made an appointment with the psychologist; that, I must admit, I did not keep.
If only I could guesstimate an end date to this bout with depression, I could prayerfully etch the possibility of a brighter day on my soul, for hope's sake. Instead, despair crept its way, unimpeded. I remembered, I'd felt this way before. My thoughts toggled between, I should be further down the line in my life than I am and My life is at a standstill. I'm tired of the struggle; the pressing my way.
Desperate for relief, I decided to schedule daily Prayer Closet Time to shut myself away to feast on God's Word, ponder, pray, and sing in the most spiritual place in my house, the bathroom.
My prayers, salted with questions, peppered with anger, simmered in the oil of praise, bounced off the bathroom walls and into the Throne Room of God, "Lord, I need to know that You hear me. Are you nearer to me than I feel I am to You? Help me. I stretch my hands to You, because there is no other help I know. Be my oasis in the middle of this desert. My Light to dispel the darkness. Alleviate my doubt and fear, like you did for Jonah. The shadows, my ocean. Depression, my whale."
Sealed with tears, signed with the Name of Jesus, delivered with adoration and respect, I sat on the edge of my bathtub, emotionally exhausted. Wordless.
In the quiet, thoughts came to my mind too pure to be mine alone. Like a whispering wind resuscitating my heart, as a holy message from God, himself,
"Contrary to what you've believed all your life, idle hands are not always the devil's workshop. Instead, perhaps, idle hands are the prerequisite to becoming pliable for The Potter's Wheel. A yielded ax in the hands of The Woodcutter. Sometimes, My chosen one, you try, in our own strength, to make something happen--now. Sometimes, you get so caught up in doing; you forget the necessity of being. Call it a Holy Hush, for now is the time to be still and know that I am God. Allow Me to do what you cannot do for yourself, pull you out and set you back on course. As I did for Jonah; I'll do for you."
In awe, I sat motionless. It felt like the cold, weighty shackles, locked by doubt, fell off. I knew that I had to trust and not be afraid. Trust the unseen as if it were seen. I felt as fresh and fragrant as the air, after a brief summer storm. I felt calm in the knowledge that what I was in the midst of was not a Life Block of Biblical proportions; but a Holy Hush, designed by God.
By no means, did my circumstances change, nor was their a magical resolution handed to me during my Prayer Closet times; but what I get each time is a mind and heart-adjustment. Slowly, but most definitely, I will get to the other side of through.
I started exercising, including walking daily. My energy level has increased, and with this increase, my effervescence, creativity, ideas, and words are returning, along with original social network statuses, and getting out of the house more, spending more time with family and friends.
Now, when my phone rings, I usually answer. Most voicemails get responses. Checkmarks signal completed projects, though not in my normal goal numbers, yet. My home, again, is filled with a smorgasbord of music, and the rhythmic taps on keyboard remind me that my creative juices are beginning to trickle out pieces like this one.
With help from God, family, friends, professionals, and the recovery community, on May 20th, I celebrated 28 years clean free from the bondage of addiction and with my mind in tact. Though I'm out of the jungle, I'm not out of the woods. But at least, in the woods, the sky is visible and I know The Woodcutter is near.
Perhaps, you're experiencing a difficult time. Perhaps, you've prayed and nothing seems to be working. Persistent prayer does changes situations and circumstances; but, sometimes, ever so slowly. As my mentor, Dorine P., always reminded me, during days like these, "Stanice, recovery is a process; not an event. When a storm comes, just hold on, rock with it."
Even when the circumstances don't change, perhaps most important, God uses the shadows to change and ready us for the what-nexts in our lives. The Holy Hush periods are as vital as breathing. Yes, dodging the shadows of death in valleys, fending our way through the jungles of life, and exiles to deserts, will continue to be a part of our life experiences. However, if we figure God into the equation, give each day the best we can muster, in God's time, He will pull us through.
I pressed my way, to write this because I want you to know that you are not alone. I'm still going through. But, Chosen Ones, these hard places do not signal the end of our stories, only new and stronger chapters; designed by God and stamped with grace.