Over the weekend Lady Gaga co-hosted a conference at Yale with a goal of letting people to speak out about who they are (and aren’t). She initiated the hashtag #IamNotJust at the #EmotionRevolution conference and the hash was trending all weekend. What this says to me is there are a lot of people that need to speak up and bring those hidden things into the light, AND people need hope that life can improve.
I added to the conversation in a tweet “#IamNotJust a depression overcomer, I have a glorious story to tell. I am deeply loved and it set me free.” It has over 2.1 million impressions on Twitter. Not that I care about the number, but I think what was engaging about the tweet is it says I have been there and come through. Depression is a horrible experience. I’ve hated every minute. But I do have a glorious story to tell of overcoming. Please let me share a little of my story.
In November 2002 I became suicidal. I was on a plane when it happened, I was going out of my skull feeling trapped with no where to go. I thought to myself, “When I get off the plane, I’ll get my rental and drive into a gas truck.” When I got off the plane I called a couple of friends who talked me off the ledge. I don’t know why that wave of anxiety hit me so hard that I literally developed a plan to end my life. I’m glad I didn’t.
One of my friends told me that I needed to find a counselor and talk this through. A month later, I sought one out. And the journey began from there. There were lots of ups and downs, but mostly downs. There were lots of early morning walks in the dark because I was so terrifyingly anxious I couldn’t sleep, and I could call a friend on the east coast to talk me off the ledge again. I felt anxious 24/7. It never left, like a raincloud hovering constantly. “Will I ever feel normal again?” “Will I ever feel hope again?” “Will I ever feel happy again?”
In January 2005, another massive wave of terror anxiety hit and I went suicidal again. Amidst a perfect storm I was sent reeling. I did not have a place of my own, so I was living with a family, who asked me to relocate while they had their house painted, and the new family I was staying with asked me to pack my things too, and my job was moving from California to Florida, and I didn’t want to move to Florida, and a girl I thought I liked gave me the “we’re just friends” talk. Homeless, jobless, hopeless, and sleepless. Because I couldn’t sleep with all the anxiety I was feeling, I was a zombie all day. Living in a fog, while under a cloud, lost in a forest without a GPS. For 2 1/2 years I walked under that cloud.
Then one day I noticed I felt different, and I realized I felt different for about a week. And I was stunned. How did this happen? How was hope now restored?
I can’t possibly give the answers for how it all happened in a few words. But here are a few quick thoughts, and I will supplement them in upcoming posts.
- I met with a counselor once a week. I wished I could have been Bob Wylie from “What About Bob?” and seen him every day. But I also needed time to process. We walked through family of origin stuff and eventually I was able to put pieces together enough to make sense of why anxiety rises up in me at times.
- When my second wave of anxiety hit, I finally saw a psych who helped me finally get leveled out with meds. I think I might have ended it without the meds. Sometimes the stuff we deal with is bio-chemical related and meds can help. Don’t be afraid to try.
- Fortunately, I had a few friends who let me just be me. They let me talk when I needed to, or just let me nap on their couch when I needed that. I’m deeply grateful to those friends.
- I clung to eternal and unchanging spiritual truths. Psalm 23 of the Bible says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me…” God being with me even when I was in the valley of death was a constant for me. And as much as I wanted to lay down, cry and die, the writer says he walks through the valley. To me, that meant I couldn’t lay down, but needed to keep walking. That valley looked way too long and way too high to climb up out of…too impossible. But the only way out was to keep moving.
When I came out from under that cloud, I realized two things. When I started to care about things other than me and obsessing about what was going on with me, I actually had some things I was moving toward. That gave me hope. And when you are getting near the crest of the mountain it begins to be less steep, not as hard, and you actually get to see what else is around. Coming out of my depression was also like finally getting out of that valley of death. Hope came back. I couldn’t have re-emerged without God’s help walking with me through the valley. I wouldn’t be alive either. I’m glad I kept walking, as hard as each step was. Every step is one stride closer to exiting the valley. Keep walking friends.
If you have hope, share it out on twitter, instagram, and Facebook with the hashtag #IhaveHopeBecause . There is more to this #GloriousStory in posts to come.