Lessons Learned in the Dark of Depression

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For over 25 years, I have gone in and out of the throes of depression. During my worst episodes, I seriously considered ending my life. Thankfully, every time I wanted to give up, God rescued me out of the pit of despair and helped me see His love and light. Even though I would have preferred to not go through the darkness for so long, and though I had wanted to give up so many times, I am thankful that God taught me so many valuable life lessons that I now strive to apply to my life:

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One lesson I learned from going through depressive episodes is to be more open and genuine with others in expressing my true self. In the past, I was so afraid of what people would think of me, that I never told anyone for a long time about my struggles, past and present. Unfortunately, I got so used to hiding that when I finally decided needed help with my issues, some people thought I really didn’t have those issues! However, the longer I struggled, the more apparent it became to me that I needed to talk to someone about my issues, and more than likely, several people.

Then, I started to talk. I began opening up the layers of my pain in my past. What I realized is that many of the people I opened up to struggled with similar issues! Also, I didn’t get most of the judgment or condemnation I had feared, and those that judged me were often the same ones that God would later remove from my life anyway. When I started opening up and being vulnerable with others, not only did I forge stronger bonds with those around me, but I found that the pain I went through in my depression lessened, as I started to heal.

Another lesson I learned from going through depression is to be value my time– especially the good, depression-free times– more. When I am depressed, I can only see the wounds and ugliness of myself and life. I feel like I am in a long, dark tunnel with no end to it. However, when I am content with life and glance back at (but not dwell) on my depressive episodes, I realize how blessed I am! Reflecting back causes me to value and appreciate the good times more, because I see how far God has brought me from the darkness of the worst of my depressive episodes.

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The most pertinent lesson that God has taught me from going through depression, in my mind, is that He had a purpose and a plan for allowing me to walk in the dark for so long. I have learned that God has been using my struggle with depression, and the past hurts that had exacerbated my depression, to help me minister to others with similar or even more complex issues than I ever had!  He has also used my struggle with depression to help me be more compassionate and caring towards others in pain, and in order to strengthen my character by tearing down the layers of selfishness and self-righteousness in my heart.

If anyone is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts right now, know that God has a good purpose for all you have been through. We may never know what it is this side of the world, but God never wastes our pain.  Let this be our hope to never give up no matter what life brings us.

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Butterfly

You thought no one would want you

You thought you were hideous

That none would truly love you

That you were doomed forever

 

But then you saw a bright light

Someone who saw your beauty

And not just an ugly sight

Giving you true hope inside

 

Despite all you have gone through

You are a true butterfly

And I will always love you

And the beauty inside you

Why I Have Hope Everyday

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I wrote on April 9, 1999, when I was still in high school: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”  I had no hope. I was fine physically, but I was slowly dying inside. 

I’m thankful that I didn’t die or take my own life.  Though I didn’t know it on April 9, about one year later, I would find Hope. Hope that helped me through the storms, and come out on the other side being greeted with a beaming joy and confidence that I had only dreamed of years before. Hope has also given me drive to persevere, even when I thought I could never make it. Hope has redeemed relationships that I thought were forever shattered.  Hope has taken the junk in my life, and made it a treasure. 

Hope was, and always is, Jesus.

Hope has given me purpose to live.  Before I became a follower of Christ, I was living aimlessly, for myself. I had adequate material things, but I never really thought about blessing others with it.  I wanted to excel academically, but that was getting more and more difficult, and my limitations were becoming more apparent. 

With Jesus, I have realized that the world is so much bigger than me. With Jesus, I am able to partner with Him to share His great love and hope for a world that is looking for something bigger than the pain and the drudgery that life often brings.

Hope has given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I still struggle with depression occasionally, but now even in it, I have hope that God will bring good out of even that.  I have hope, because God’s strength and light will help me overcome a depressive episode.  I have hope because God has surrounded me with a group of people who love and care for me.

Hope has given me renewed confidence and joy that I had never known before.  Since I found Hope, He has provided me with several communities of believers who have had my back and who care for one another.  This support network I have had has helped me through some of the toughest times of my life, and even helped deliver me from some really bad situations.

Hope has provided me with my current job and some great managers, including several that believed in me enough to help me learn new things.  I want to give a shout out to my now-former manager Elizabeth* who believed in me enough to allow me to train to be a back-up cashier and learn some managerial tasks as well.  I want to give a shout out to my now former manager Chris* who took the chance and first hired me. 

Hope has provided me a great mentor, in J, who always believed in my abilities and was God’s message to me that He would use me to accomplish His great will in my life. 

Hope has provided me countless wonderful friends who have put up with my depressive episodes and have helped cheer me on. 

Hope has given me much hope for the future. Hope has given me freedom from the shackles that held me back in my past. 

The Necessity of Compassion at Work

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Recently, I have seen or witnessed more than my fair share of what happens when compassion is lacking or absent in the workplace. I saw a video of a person vandalizing company property because they had been bullied so much there. Now, there is even training in many companies of how to survive a workplace shooting! What has this world come to? And how can we do our part to make sure each associate and client in the workplace is treated with dignity and respect?

One of the ways we can do this is by showing compassion to others. According to Merriam- Webster.com, compassion can be defined as “ sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress to alleviate it.” (“Definition of Compassion, Merriam-Webster). In other words, compassion is having a heart to help and heal others through their pain and struggles.

Why we should show compassion:

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The primary reason for us to show compassion is because Christ did. In Matt 9:36, when he was preaching in the cities to crowds, He “was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” In Matt 15:32, Jesus said to His disciples, “ I have compassion on the multitude,because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” In each instance, Jesus wanted to provide for them, either or both physical or spiritual nourishment. Compassion is different from pity in that compassion strives for action, while pity is more passive and often takes a hint of condescension.

We should also show compassion for the sake of our humanity. When we regularly and intentionally show compassion to others, we become more caring, and thus, more human. Some people reason if they stop caring about others, they won’t get hurt. While that may have some truth to it, being completely apathetic breeds monsters. The results are people murdering and/ or abusing others “for fun” or just to suit some sadistic fantasy.  These people are so callous, they no longer have the capacity to truly care about anyone outside themselves.

Furthermore, we should show compassion for others to help save lives or at least avert violence in the workplace. In the example of a person being bullied by colleagues and even managers, what if instead they tried to ascribe dignity and compassion to them? What if instead of participating in workplace gossip, we focused instead on thanking those who work hard for us everyday? If someone is clearly distraught or upset, instead of ignoring or ridiculing them, we should try to comfort and be encouraging to them.  When we do this for the people who work with us, or for our clients, we can sometimes save their lives. Maybe if more people showed compassion, less troubled people would be tempted to wreak havoc at our jobs. Instead, they would have more motivation to do something positive with their lives because they know someone cares.

Last, but not least, compassion breeds productivity. For example, one of my now-former managers, *Elizabeth, knew I was very stressed one day, and instead of punishing me or getting upset at me, reiterated the qualities she admired in me, and encouraged me to not give up. Also, Elizabeth also allowed me to learn many things under her direction and didn’t give up on me when I didn’t get it right the first time. Her compassion for me when I was stressed and when no one else believed in me is a big part of what kept me going during tough times in our store.  Now when I’m stressed and remember what Elizabeth said to me, I feel much more motivated to persevere through the stress.

Ways to Demonstrate Compassion:

Some of the ways we should demonstrate compassion are:

  1. To encourage others who are going through a tough time.– When someone looks stressed or upset, be there to comfort and encourage them. For instance, if a co-worker is going through a divorce with their soon-to-be ex spouse, tell them they are not alone and help them through that with whatever you can.
  2. To pray for others.– Another way we can demonstrate compassion at work is to be willing to pray for others if they tell you of a need or concern and are open to prayer. Many people see our willingness to care enough to put their needs and concerns before the Lord as a refreshing and positive thing.
  3. To serve others.– I have had several coworkers who have struggled with physical health issues, so I have offered to help them with some of their tasks. This allows them to be more relaxed and thus heal faster, then if they had to work at the same frantic pace that may be expected of them when they are 100%. Another way one can help is to pick up some of their shifts if they anticipate not being able to work at all.
  4. To appreciate others’ good work– When you see someone doing a good job or if someone does something to help you, thank them. Write a note of encouragement and appreciation to the colleagues that have helped you the most, and the managers that do above and beyond what is expected of them.

As you can see, compassion goes a long way to improving morale and general workplace conditions. When we show compassion and care, we learn to be more Christlike; we avoid becoming callous monsters, we can help save lives, and help increase productivity, and thus profit for our company.

Source:

“Definition of Compassion.” (July 10, 2019). Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion .

What I Learned From Rachel Scott’s Life

On April 9, 1999, I wrote in my journal that I was dying inside. Nine days later, on April 20, one of my now-beloved faith heroes, Rachel Joy Scott, was shot and killed by one of her classmates. Her legacy and impact, however, will live on for many, many years. One of the lives that she has touched is mine. I have been so inspired by what I learned about how she lived her life! The three major things I learned about life from how she lived is 1) how to appreciate people and things in one’s life more. 2.) how to be amazing— and strive for more than “average” or the status quo. 3.) how to be authentic.

First of all, Rachel was known by others as being appreciative of what she had. In fact, according to the book, Rachel’s Tears by Beth Nimmo and Darrell Scott, she always stopped on her walks to look at the flowers and to engage with babies and small children when she went to the mall in her area ( Nimmo and Scott, 69). She also had the reputation of really engaging with the people she encountered on a regular basis and helping them when needed. Because of what I learned about how Rachel lived her life, I also aim to be an encouraging presence in others’ lives, instead of being a whiner or Debby downer. In order to do this, like Rachel, I must be willing to sacrifice my time in order to really be able to engage and invest in others.  In fact, in his book, “Chain Reaction,” Darrell Scott reiterates this fact. He says, “Many people are too busy, but if we want to be helpful, we will need to take the time.(Scott, 115).

Secondly, Rachel once wrote, according to multiple sources, that she wouldn’t “ be labeled as average.” In all the books and articles I had ever read about her, I sensed that Rachel Scott wasn’t one of those people who just lived to “get by”. She wanted to try her best in order to impact as many people as she could, for positive. She constantly strived to improve herself after she sensed that she fell short, both in her relationships with others and things like her job and work at school. She didn’t care if the people she encountered were outcasts or in any way different from her or perceived societal norms. She interacted with the people that needed her encouragement and love the most, even if it cost her reputation. I also aim to be so much more than “average” or the “status quo”. Like Rachel, I aim to upset the apple cart when necessary. I also aim to impact as many people as possible with the love Jesus Christ and countless others have graciously shown me. How much more satisfying life is when we strive to do our best everyday and not just do something halfheartedly.

Finally, another lesson I learned from how Rachel lived her life is how to be authentic. From all that I have read and heard about Rachel, I gathered that she was honest about her feelings and struggles, and therefore was able to be more relatable to others. It bothers me, however, when people act like they are perfect and don’t have any struggles, because I know they are hiding something from me and probably aren’t trustworthy either.  Rachel, in what I have gathered about her, was almost never, if ever, like this! I learned from her life to be open about my personal struggles, not so others will pity me, but to be more trustworthy and honest about who I really am, and to comfort and encourage those going through similar issues. I also learned that if one is honest about their struggles, it opens up the opportunity for others to open up as well, with less fear of being judged or condemned for their problems. This is where healing begins!

I have never personally met Rachel Scott, but am very excited to be able to meet her in paradise someday. To me, she is almost everything I would love to be–appreciative of others, amazing (or at least more than average), and most of all, authentic. This is why she remains one of my “faith heroes” today.


Sources:

Nimmo, Beth and Darrell Scott. (2000). Rachel’s Tears. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Scott, Darrell, with Steve Rabey. (2001). Chain Reaction. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Why I Don’t Do Fake


Image by Erik Stein from Pixabay , edit by: Patricia G.

It has been said in both media and general health circles that artificial flavoring, colors, and additives can have harmful effects on the body.  I can attest from personal experience that artificial people can also have harmful effects on us.  What do I mean by artificial, or “fake “ people? I do not mean that they physically do not exist in reality or that they are worthless, but, rather that these people display behaviors that regularly hide who they really are and their true intentions. For instance, fake people will be “kind” to you only if you are beneficial for them and do exactly what they want. When they realize you are a unique person with your own dreams and desires, or when you no longer can meet their desires, their true intentions will show.

In our society, many people tend to strive for power and prestige of some sort, whether it be popularity, money, or some other kind of status. This has led some to become so desperate, that they feel the need to impress and hide their true selves. There also seems to be a narcissistic tendency in these people and in societal culture in general.

I used to, when I was growing up, want similar prestige, thinking if I worked hard enough and succeeded in school, I would somehow gain the love and acceptance from others I so craved. However, when Jesus took a hold of my life, I realized that I really wanted authentic acceptance and love, things that only happened when God helped me open up and not fear who I was inside.

I don’t do fake.

I don’t do fake, because fakeness creates distance and separation between people. I have a problem with people who have a facade of never having trouble or personality deficits, because it 99.9% of the time means they are hiding something from you, while simultaneously pretending to be someone who they are really not. In fact, in my life, I have had to limit contact with several people like this, because I realized my friendship with them would no longer be sustainable if I wasn’t able to trust them. Fake- ness separates people and creates walls between them.

One of the reasons I created this blog is to strive everyday to live vulnerably and authentically. I have realized that if we are open to others about our struggles, it frees others from the fear of condemnation and judgment, and allows them to be more able to share their issues and struggles.

I don’t do fake because fake- ness impairs one’ s ability to truly love. Because many people wear facades and become “fake” to advance and/ or protect themselves, they become  so self-focused, they can give little or nothing to others around them. True love, by definition, is giving oneself for the benefit of another. When we are authentic, we are more free to give of ourselves because we are not tied down by fears of being exposed or rejected on a basis of our lies. When I was able to be more authentic with people in my life, I found that I became more confident in myself and my ability to give something of value to them.

I don’t do fake because it is deceptive and disappointing. Satan is the “Father of Lies,” and thus fakeness too. Christ was never fake! He always told people what He really thought and didn’t hide His true self from anyone, including His deity! In fact, He was so authentic that it irritated and angered the Pharisees, who lived in hiddenness and hypocrisy in order to maintain their power and prestige over the common people! I strive to be like Christ by not being afraid to show my true self to others. Of course it can be scary to show one’s true self because not everyone will accept you, but it’s better than being “loved” for who you are really notAlso, there will be people who will appreciate and accept your authenticity, and how freeing is that! Also, the truth will always be found out in the end. Yes, one may get away with being inauthentic for a while, but the day will come when they will be exposed as the fraud they had been all along. Don’t let that be you!

I don’t do fake because it devalues oneself and others. When someone hides from me and masquerades into someone who they are really not deep inside, they are, in essence, telling me they don’t think I’m worth the truth!  When we consistently hide our true selves from others, we are also devaluing ourselves because we are unconsciously telling ourselves that we are not worth loving for who we really are. We thus  say to ourselves that we have to create an “ideal” self to be acceptable to us and others.

I don’t do fake, and neither should you. Shine forth as the unique and beautiful person you were created to be, and strive not to be afraid of your struggles and flaws because everyone has them!

Being Different, Being Me

written February 26, 2019

I am not like many, or even, most people. At my church, most people are older than me, have children and even grandchildren, are married, and have been there for a long time.  In contrast, I am single, have exactly zero children, and have only attended this current church for a little over two years. I’m not only different at church, but also at work.  While many people at my job have either hated or just tolerated their job, most of the time, I find great joy and passion in my job, which is why I strive to give it my all every day. In general society, I am different from what most would consider “the norm” because I am neurodivergent, have the rarest Myers-Briggs personality type there is (In case, you are wondering, I’m an INFJ, and have only found one person in real life with this exact type as me!), and love organizing things more than most people.

And I like it that way.

Being different has forced me to not be able to hide myself behind a veneer of familiarity well, leading me to be able to be more genuine. For instance, when I try to hide behind a veneer, such as having no passion for my work and not trying my best, people will immediately notice something is wrong and that I am not really being “myself.” In fact, one time when I was just trying to get things “done” and not really striving for excellence, a manager admonished me for that, but understood I was just really stressed out.  Standing out in my differences has allowed me to be more genuine because I know I have an interesting life story to tell others.

Being different has also enabled me to bring a fresh perspective and new ideas into the world around me. Because I am realizing that many people do not think like I do, when I say something from my heart and offer my unique perspective on things, people will be more apt to listen to me since I stand apart, than to someone whose ideas are more common .  Being different has also helped me to learn about other perspectives with a fresh and more invigorating view. For instance, I observe that many people use small talk to get to know a person better. I do, too, however, I also strive to see into the soul and observe what their dreams and goals are in life by what they talk about.

Being different has helped me move away from the status quo when necessary. For instance, when I see or hear of something that I feel is not right, I won’t be as afraid to say so , because I am not pressured to maintain the status quo as other people may.  Even when most people are doing “A”, I won’t be afraid to do “B’ if I feel that would be the right thing to do. Sometimes, because I am different than most, I stand out more anyway.  So, I am less afraid of backlash in standing up for what is right.

Being different has motivated me to stand up for and support people who have been unfairly discriminated against due to their differences, including, but not limited to, certain minority ethnic groups, people who struggle with mental illness, those who are disabled,  and other societal identifiers that may be outside “the norm”.  Because I have also experienced teasing and bullying throughout my life due to my differences, I am able to better understand what it is like to be ridiculed, ignored, and bullied because of them.  These painful experiences have enabled me to have more compassion for and better able to relate to others who have been through similar abuse and bullying.

Yes, I am often considered an anomaly to the norms of society. Yes, I may be sometimes treated unjustly because of them. However, not being like most of society has allowed me to have a greater impact on it then I otherwise would if I were a carbon copy of the “normal person” in society.

We may be more or less “normal” than the standards and characteristics that society may deem “normal,” but everyone has uniqueness that makes them stand out in some way. Embrace yours, and accept others!  Upset the applecart to do what is right sometimes, and use your differences to be a catalyst for positive change in this world!