Over the past few weeks, I have faced a lot of battles. Most of those battles are silent, personal battles. The actual diagnosis of depression just gave a name to the face of something I have struggled with for several years. Over the past few weeks, I have heard from a large number of friends from all over the world regarding my initial blog about depression. There are so many of us out there that are fighting these silent battles every day. I am thankful for the fact that I no longer feel alone in this fight.
One of the biggest lies that we often believe is that no one else understands, that no one else cares, or wants to know about how hard we struggle at times. I mean, it's easy to believe. How often do those that we care about want to hear about the same struggle that we shared with them yesterday, or last week? We don't want to be a burden on anyone. So I, like many others, chose to keep it to myself for far too long. For me to heal, that has to change.
My dealings with depression started in about 2007, when some folks that I trusted greatly in our church, turned on myself and our pastor. The following months were confusing, dark, and extremely frustrating. Thankfully, we came through that event without any career damage, but the emotional effects of that encounter were pretty deep. Flash forward about 18 months, and I had moved into a new church ministry job in the same city. During this time, I experienced some extremely great highs in ministry...and something new that I had not experienced before. For reasons that I still do not understand, the pastor that I worked with began a series of mental and verbal abuses that became relentless. This went on for several months, and I had no idea how to handle it. From the outside, everything probably looked fine. Our youth ministry was flourishing, the church was in good condition financially and numerically, but the dark side of this church that I was seeing that was quite damaging to me. This abuse went on for months, and became more and more frequent. To this day, I still have no idea what brought it on, and believe me, I asked on multiple occasions. Sadly, like the saying goes, "If you hear a lie enough times, it begins to sound like truth" these words of untruth became real to me. Logically, I KNEW these words were false... but in times like this, ministry work can become very confusing. How do you follow the spiritual lead of a person when this kind of stuff is going on? It affected my view of ministry, of the church, even my view of church people. My view of ministry and the church were shaken to their core, but my faith in Jesus has never wavered. Praise Jesus for that...
After 10 months at that church, an abusive encounter occurred in front of the entire staff, and at that point, I knew that things were not going to get better. I chose to resign, and walk away before things got any worse. There were things that were done and said in that last meeting and the weeks after I left that honestly still make no sense to me. I was deeply wounded...worse than I ever had been before...on multiple levels. My pride was obviously splintered, but the deeper issue was that my very spirit had been shattered over the course of those 18 months. My will to get out of bed, or even eat a meal were gone. I had zero...and I mean ZERO desire to ever work in a church again. I was so worn down and exhausted from the struggle that for the first time, depression reared it's ugly head in my life.
There were many days spent locked up in my house. I only wanted to see my family, and tried keep myself occupied. I was unemployed, angry, battered and bruised...and not healing quickly. It was during these days that the most terrifying part of depression hit me...thoughts of suicide. I will never forget when those thoughts began to come. Don't get me wrong, I KNEW they were coming from satan, but he was relentless. Wave agter wave of attacks would come. It was brutal. I never actually thought about carrying these thoughts out, but experiencing this brought shame into my heart. It was just one more thing that seemed to be crashing down on me. However, the Lord saw fit to bring a couple of friends alongside me that had walked this road before. My friend, Nick Watts, walked with me through the entire time that this abuse was going on, and through the aftermath. He, along with a very encouraging letter from another friend, Jason Bishop, were anchors for me during all of this. Thankfully, the thoughts began to subside after much prayer, Bible study, and time with my family and friends. Praise God for those men...
That was five years ago. God has brought me through a lot since then. He restored me to ministry, moved me to a new city, and has opened new ministry experiences overseas that have been amazing. He even enabled me to forgive that pastor, and the others involved in that mess. I praise God for that. However, the story does not end there. The emotional and spiritual pain has not been erased. Just when I think I am past all of it, something will occur to bring those thoughts and feelings all back again, usually something at church. Thus, my dealings with depression tend to crop up every few months. Usually after God has done something amazing in our lives is when it hits the hardest. This summer, we had the best summer of ministry that we have ever been a part of. We saw many kids give their life to the Lord, had an amazing mission trip to Hungary, two amazing interns, and saw God move in mighty ways. But...like so many of the people we read about in the Bible...after the amazing times often come the dark times.
That is where I am today. I am now on some medication to help take the edge off of the emotional side of things, and I am speaking with a counselor that a good friend in ministry introduced me to. No, I am not past this yet...but with God's help, I am making progress. I am learning to trust people again, particularly people in church. Sharing parts of my story in this blog have been hugely helpful in trying to put some of these feelings to rest. I just pray that in doing so, that the Lord may use this blog to help others out there know that they are not alone in a struggle like this. Thank you for your prayers...please let me know how I can pray for you.... :)