Part 1, Author: Beth Barrett.
Okay. Here’s a bit about me. I’m 58 years of age (nearly 59), married to Jeffrey for 36 years, have a gorgeous family – 2 sons, 2 daughters-in- laws and 2 grandchildren. I’m also a Christian and I have been suffering with clinical depression/anxiety disorder/social phobia for more than 29 years. (Yes, I did say married for 36 years and had depression for 29 and yes Jeffrey does indeed deserve many medals and commiserations in equal part).
For me depression was like an overnight personality transplant. It was completely discombobulating (favourite word, needed to work that in somehow, apologies). My depression was (and still is at times) a horridly horrible place – devoid of all colour, hope and self-worth.
Initially, I was referred to a psychiatrist at the local hospital. The doctor wanted to admit me to the psychiatric ward but I refused. I was given a bottle of anti-depressants and asked if I could be trusted not to overdose with them. I went home; decided I couldn’t be trusted and flushed the tablets down the toilet.
Some weeks later there was a knock at my front door. In the midst of tears I answered the door. A stranger introduced herself as attending my church. She was out and about visiting young mums. She was completely unaware of my situation but soon recognised what was going on because she had suffered post-natal depression many years before. Somehow I believed her more than I had anyone else. There began a beautiful relationship – she cared for my children whilst I trekked off to the psychiatrist each week. She met with me for bible study and prayer. I realised that God had sent an angel to my door that day.
Countless times I knelt before God and begged to be restored back to the old me. What I desperately wanted was instantaneous healing. But the Omniscient, Omnipotent One knew better. What He gave me were the tools to survive, along with the incredible knowledge that, with Him brokenness is not uselessness.
The first step in my ‘healing’ was the realisation that I needed to stop living every waking moment trying to find some way to be fixed. Over time I had bounced from one excellent psychologist or psychiatrist or counsellor to the next. It was time to stop chasing a cure.
The second step was accepting my limitations, working around them and moving on with life despite them. (As an aside – I often remind myself that the world is full of people like me who have ‘something’ they are working on, recovering from or learning to live with. I have a lovely friend who when driving prefers not to turn right across traffic. It does take her a little longer to get places but she gets there eventually.) It was amazingly freeing to accept my imperfect self rather than focussing on what I wished I could be. It’s highly likely that people who appear to be without issues are actually aliens.
The third step in my God-given healing was the realisation that God could use me despite of (and indeed because of) my issues and limitations.
One weird day I was asked if I would be willing to help out in our church office as a volunteer. Bizarrely I said yes. I went, sat in the car outside the building crying, terrified, and panicking. Got myself inside, accomplished a few tasks and went home, not keen to repeat that ever again. But I WAS asked again – same weird scenario and I said yes. Off I went. Hated the whole time there BUT afterwards there was a tiny hitherto unknown feeling of accomplishment, of helping, of being needed. It felt nice.
I eventually retired from working on staff at that church after 10 years. During those years I enjoyed my role in administration, organising conferences and events and accomplishing (for me) astounding things. You see apart from my illness I had no previous office experience – my only qualifications were in fashion design. There were also many dark episodes and times of struggle. It was rarely easy. I now know that God can use anyone, regardless of their limitations. If you think God can’t use you because of ‘something’, think again.
These days I am the secretary for the owner’s corporation where we live. This is another God-ordained role. It is an extremely fulfilling job (especially when not being yelled at) and enables me to serve my neighbours and deal with their issues from my home where I feel safe and comfortable. I continue to feel blessed to be used by
God just as I am and even though I still hope that maybe/ possibly/perhaps/one day I will be better than I am at the moment, right now, with His help I’m getting on with life and surviving quite nicely thank you.
Part 2 coming soon: Tools to help survive depression.
Beth is part of Thrive Community and she is author of the published book, “How I Survive the Depression Thing” Beth Barrett