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Once upon a time I was just like everybody else…

Perhaps I’m getting off on the wrong foot, here.

Once upon a time I didn’t think about what I did, or at least I didn’t let myself think about any of it.  When we let the laundry pile up, though, eventually we are going to actually have to do it or else we will have no clothes.  I suppose you could just try buying new clothes to replace the dirty ones, but eventually that well will run dry.  Even for the rich and famous.  Inevitably, we will all find ourselves at the washing machine.  Ah yes, the great inescapable washing machine of the mind…of life.  I have obviously gotten carried away with this analogy, but the point is that I would refuse to think about certain things until necessity mandated that I do so.  I eventually had to think about them because they were piling up and room had to be made. And at the risk of beating a dead horse, it really was very much like the process of doing laundry.  By hand.  Each piece, each thought, would have to be dragged up and down that washboard, scraping my knuckles and burning my hands on hot water and soap.  And then I would have to wring out as much water as possible, sweating from the effort.  Give them a good shake, and spread them around on the grass to dry.  Each piece, each thought, needed handling because that’s what the process requires.  So when I did (think about everything), think about the different things I was (or wasn’t) doing, I would have to shrug my shoulders and say that in the end I was willing to make the trade.

Life really is all about barter and trade, isn’t it?

And laundry.

(I just don’t think there’s any way around the laundry).

Here’s the thing.  I have sometimes done what is right and it made me really happy, and I have sometimes done what is wrong and it made me really happy.  I think we have to be careful when we put too much emphasis on consequences.  I believe in God and heaven and hell and sin.  I believe that, as a Christian, I need to act in a way that supports that (i.e. if you call yourself a Christian, you should be following the teachings of the Bible, which is the guidebook of Christianity).  I think we try to get people to avoid “sinning” because we don’t want them to blacken their hearts and ruin their lives.  But it’s not really like that, is it?  At least, not all the time.  (Maybe not even most of the time.  I have my own theories about why that is, but I’m going to keep moving forward…)  What I’m trying to say is that I have made plenty of poor choices and have not reaped any traumatizing results.  To be sure, I could have.  I could have been the lucky son-of-a-gun who got an STD or got pregnant young or overdosed or whatever, but I wasn’t.  And that’s the way it is for a good portion of us.  So that most of us don’t really have any consequences at all.  Don’t get me wrong- the poor choices I’ve made haven’t made my life better.   I have certainly embarrassed myself, and maybe even experienced some real, deep shame now and again.  In the end, regardless of trauma or minimal repercussions, I did discover that we can’t just do whatever we want to do and not accumulate some baggage from it all.  I think in society’s eyes, though, we don’t really think we are accumulating baggage.  We think we are accumulating “memories”.

The simple fact of the matter is that nothing can compare to those really good times we have had.  I’m sure you all know what I mean when I say “good times”.  I’m sure you can fill in the blanks with your own good times.  I could try to paint you this really romanticized version of mine, and I could even make you wish that you had been there too.  Being with other people, to the limits of our mind, soul, and body, is the most incredible thing on the planet.  I can try to convince you that it isn’t, but it’s a moot point.  And for those of you that may not know, a moot point is the same as saying that something is obsolete.  For instance, I could erase everything that I just wrote about how charming experiences of the body can be, and we would be right back to where we started.  For the academic, we would call this a presupposition: a self-evident truth.  Which means that we both walked onto this scene already understanding that the stimulation of the senses is perhaps the loudest siren of them all.

I’m going to take a step back from all of these words and simply tell you about a conversation that I just had with someone.

This someone has been one of my closest friends for years now.  We lived together when we were young, in our late teens and early twenties, and we spent our weekends doing whatever we wanted.  I would like to assure you that our pastimes would probably qualify as mild at most, we were basically at Boy Meets World level, but to us they were racy and thrilling, and I think that’s what it’s really about.  That night, though, we were talking again about how badly we sometimes want those weekends back.

As we talked, we began to dissect this problematic concept.

As Christians, and not just in title but as truly Bible-believing, on-fire-for-God kind of Christians, we knew that we shouldn’t be wistful about the times of reckless abandon and poor choices.  We began a back and forth about how our hearts pull at these desires, even though we are secure, and at peace in our security.  We even know that those desires are counter-productive to said security.

So we began to dissect it all.

And I do believe we got to the bottom of it.

Do any of you remember the wisest man who ever lived?  His name was Solomon.  So of course you won’t actually remember him, because he was around a really long time, but you probably know who I’m talking about, anyway.  Most people, even those with no religious ties or affiliations, could suggest that Solomon (or at least, “some guy from the Bible”) was the wisest man who ever lived.  Just the fact that we are still talking about him lends itself to the statement.  Back in his day, people came from all over the world to listen to what he had to say.  Nowadays, people try to say that Solomon wasn’t all that.  That people in Egypt were saying the same things that Solomon was saying.  What we fail to realize, though, is that those rulers from Egypt were travelling to listen to Solomon, and then referring to his teachings in their own writings.

I mention this ancient man because even in those ancient days he spent most of his life following goosebumps and good times.  You can see what he means when he says, “There is nothing new under the sun.”  When his time was drawing to a close he began to panic a little bit.  And he wondered how it was possible to panic: he was the wisest man who ever lived, the absolute richest, and he had probably done everything that there was to be done (he was married to one thousand women, for starters).

Solomon began to realize that God had set eternity in our hearts.

Who on this earth doesn’t want to live forever?  I mean, no one really wants to die.  Oh, sure, there are people who think that it is preferable to being alive, but they would easily trade death with a life of peace.  We all just want peace.

The very ebb and flow to everything reveals that there is a purpose.  This is probably where a lot of brains start hurting, but I’m going to encourage you to let the throb set in.  You see, the balance to life is the proof that there is purpose.  Rain waters the plants, which evaporate the rain back into the clouds, which will rain back down on them again and cause them to grow.  Birds drop seeds as they fly, which grow into vegetation that will feed the birds, who will drop the seeds when they eat or take the food back to their homes, and more vegetation will grow.  Can you believe that if nature has a purpose, how much more do we?

We need to talk about the big things of life, because life is big.  I mean, we’re talking about life here, people.  We are talking about us.  You and me and our families, our children, our grandchildren, our sisters and brothers and dearest friends and even Ulysses Yuletide who takes your order at Starbucks.  We need to talk about choices.  Did you know that it is now almost universally accepted that a fetus in utero is one hundred percent a living person?  Unfortunately, it took some serious technology to get us this far, but there is now no denying that an unborn baby is just as alive as a newborn baby.  Even pro-choice accepts this dynamic; their stand persists in choice.

Okay.  I can work with choices.

What do our choices do, though?  Right?  Otherwise I wouldn’t care about the poor ones I’ve made, and I certainly wouldn’t care about what Solomon had to say about the poor ones that he’s made.  The fact of the matter is that a vast majority of people actually don’t care about their choices, in a legitimate way.  I think it has to do with this prevailing idea that we only live once. YOLO, anyone?  So this is where I’m going to dig back in.

It’s this concept of only living once.  It’s this drive to never stop experiencing.  It’s this obsession with not wanting to miss out on a golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Do you see what I’m saying?  I’ve got to spend this money, I’ve got to go out while I’m young, I’ve got to take this trip, I’ve got to go deeper into debt, I’ve got to abuse my body, at the very least I’ve got to think about how I only live once and there is just so freaking much to do.  Even worse, there is so much I’m going to miss out on.  Am I right?  It doesn’t matter if we go to Ireland this year; next year we are going to want to go to Japan.  It doesn’t matter if we got our new leather jacket; next month we are going to get that fabulous pair of boots.

Did you know that you can only wear one outfit at a time?

I’m being serious.  It doesn’t matter how many pairs of clothes you have, you can only wear one at a time.  Said what?  It’s true.  It really is.  How about this: the less clothes that you own, the less laundry you will have to do.  Remember my big schpiel about laundry, and about how our memories are like laundry and it piles up but we still have to do that dirty laundry?  We still have to take them all out and handle each piece?  And sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard we scrub, we’ve still got a spaghetti stain in the middle of our favorite shirt.  (Am I the only one who would probably still wear it?)

We all want to live forever.

I’m not going to lie.  It is a downright sacrifice to not do certain things anymore.  But it’s okay.  Just because I can do something doesn’t mean that I need to.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself, or like I’m missing out, I can rest in my convictions because I know that, in the end, I don’t need to accumulate those generic life experience.  I am completely secure in the fact that I may die one day, but I will absolutely live forever.

There is no urgency in me.  At least not when it comes to me.

I have happily made the trade.  It really, truly is a trade.  I have willingly, with all of my heart, traded in some of the more popular pastimes, the frantic YOLO mindset, in exchange for the care and security that only God can provide.  Even though I experience those twinges of nostalgia, the phantom itch, if you will, I have no worries.  I think about people living for their weekends, and the amazing parties, and I understand how they are feeling.  I felt that way before too.  Then I sigh, and feel some sadness, because when the rubber meets the road those people are on their own.  They have those deep-seated worries that come with being their own god.  Everything.  And I mean everything, is on their shoulders.  The goings-on in the world make no sense, the reality of bills that need paid are ever-present, the crossing of the fingers that the house won’t burn down, that you won’t get cancer…  These people are completely on their own.

And so I breathe a sigh of relief.

Maybe I don’t have the kind of fun that pretty much everyone else is having, but I have peace.  My house can burn down and I know that I will be provided for.  I could get cancer, but I know my place in eternity is secure.  This is what I have traded for, and I am good with it.  I am more than good with it.  I am so, so, so grateful.

I was getting evaluated at the VA because I had been out of the military for about a year by then, and they wanted to do a follow-up to make sure that I was doing OK, holistically, so to speak.  By then I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact that something was really wrong with me, and that my husband deserved to be with someone who would be proactive and responsible.  I knew in my heart that I couldn’t be a good wife if I was refusing to find a better way.

I like to think that I would have eventually girded my loins and taken the plunge into the bottomless and icy cold black hole of the mental health world on my own. What it really comes down to, though, if I am remembering correctly, is that my cousin was going to school to get her degree in therapy at the same time I couldn’t stop thinking about giving it a try again. I told her that I had been having a nagging in the back of my bleached out mind about going to therapy, but I just couldn’t understand why it was necessary. What was the difference between talking to my friends or paying some random person for the same thing?  It made me angry to think about, to tell you the truth. It made me feel taken advantage of and out-of-control. It made me want to say ‘damnit’ all the time, which I did. And a lot worse.

Very nicely, my cousin had said to me, “Well, cousin…” (we all call each other cousin; not in a hill-billy back-country kind of way but in the kind of way you would say ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ or ‘aunt’ or ‘your majesty’ or ‘teacher’. It is who they are, and it really brings people a good laugh when they are around us. It fills them with joy, really, to see us be so reverent about each other). She said, ”Well, cousin, a therapist is a professional. And that means they hear what you have to say, and then they teach you the proper skills to help you work through that, so that you don’t have to deal with it anymore, and so that you can know what to do in the future.”

This was very distracting for me.  It was very distracting because now it made sense.  Now I had to do it.

Then the VA contacted me and told me about the evaluation, and it was during that visit that I revealed my complacency about life and/or driving to the physician, and then I found myself on my first visit to my new therapist (whom I will henceforth refer to as ‘the doctor’.  Give credit where credit is due, you know?).

I was very nervous about this lady not being a Christian, but I had to go to her because she was free through the VA and because God wanted to use her in such an amazing way in my life. She could never know how much He worked through her. And that is just so beautiful to me. God always finds a way to keep His promises, even when it doesn’t seem like He has anything to use. He can use anything He wants. And I love that. My therapist did not profess Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, but she for sure equipped me and walked me through a very dark night of the soul and here I am today, living out loud for Christ, and all because of her. She didn’t even get to see me through until the end; she didn’t even get to see the dawn breaking over me, shedding light into my bleached out mind, but it all started with her. Do you remember how the Bible says to plant the seed, to nurture the seeds that others have planted, even if we don’t see the results? This woman wasn’t even a Christian and she was living by that principle.

I am so strong now, so healthy, so confident and secure that I am probably kind of annoying.

I gave the doctor a really hard time the first time I went to see her. The first couple times. The whole time, actually, as I’m looking back on it. You would think that I had a court order to be there, or something.

Most of what we talked about eludes me, but I left my time with her full to the brim and recharged on three basic principles.

The first principle was the practice of mindfulness. This may sound very New Age and Buddhist to the more spiritually sensitive of you. I will confess right here and now that I am an avid doer of yoga, but that you shouldn’t be alarmed because I am in no way a Yogi.  I love the exercise of yoga: I do not worship it, or myself, or my ‘practice’, but it is impossible to feel yucky inside out after leaving a yoga session.  Yoga is the epitome of mindfulness, which is life-changing for someone with anxiety.

Mindfulness is the intentional process of removing thoughts from your mind. I’m not sure what the actual definition of it is, but that is what I took away from it. Anxiety usually yields about a hundred thoughts in just as many seconds. None of them make sense, and none of them do any good. They are just exhausting, which yields even more anxiety. It is even worse when a single thought revisits on rapid fire. I’ve spent hours, even days, honestly I’ve spent years, obsessing over the same thoughts and ideas. And the really awful thing is that no matter how much I thought about them they didn’t change, or get better, or resolve. My mind was on the fritz.

Mindfulness if kind of like meditation in that you are supposed to picture the actual process of taking out these thoughts and putting them away. Setting them on a leaf that goes floating by, if you will. It is recognizing that the world does not end, and that no one is in jeopardy, if I say ‘no’ to some of my many thoughts.  It is recognizing that not all thoughts are legitimate, or even valid, and that they are something that just ‘happen’, instead of something that we ‘produce’.  As mindfulness is practiced it becomes easier to be aware of racing thoughts, and to harness them and reign them in. To discard them and shuffle them about.

Each time I saw her, the doctor would walk me through an exercise in mindfulness.  When I was home I never actually sat down by myself and went through it, but I developed an awareness about my mental process, and with practice I have gotten very good at keeping my thoughts in check. Anti-anxiety medicine really helps with this.  It is crucial, to be honest.  I suppose this is where I should make my plug for psychiatric medication.  For instance, my thyroid hormone is no good so I have to take a thyroid replacement.  The hormones controlling my emotions are also not in the greatest of working order.  I honestly don’t know if they ever will be.  But anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine are an actual supplement for something that our body is supposed to produce a certain way but isn’t.  This might be harder for you to understand if you are not a woman, and I don’t say that because I am a feminist but because it’s true.  You know those pictures of the mad scientist’s chemistry lab, with bubbling beakers and tubes dripping neon fluids?  This is what the inside of a woman’s body looks like.  Women go through a constant cycle of hormone changes, if you catch my drift, and I am not reducing women to their biology I am just stating a fact. I am kind of cursed when it comes to hormones, in an all around kind of way, and it sucks tremendously.  Just as I am not ashamed for taking my thyroid medication, I am not ashamed for taking my anti-anxiety medicine.  I even have to take birth control for extra hormonal support.

With room in my mind, thanks to mindfulness (which was supported by my new prescription of Zoloft), the doctor and I were able to start digging around in there. “What is actually going on in here?” we said to my mind.

This is when the ultimate enlightening moment of my life came about.  I hope that the word ‘enlightening’ is not offensive to you since I was just talking about yoga and mindfulness.  I don’t mean it in the Eastern way of ‘transcendence’ but in the more historical way of ‘the dawning of reason’.  It is the second of the three principles I mentioned earlier; second only because it happened after the introduction of mindfulness and before the third.  You see, I learned that boundaries are not only healthy but necessary for a relationship to work well.  I didn’t know that boundaries even existed in relationships, for better or for worse.  I just thought people were interacting and what you got was what you got.  For example, when I was a young teen I worked at a pizza place where the manager would actually yell at me.  He knew that it was wrong because he would joke about it at the end of the day as if he was afraid I was going to tell on him.  But the fact of the matter was that I didn’t know it was wrong.  I would feel like I was going to be sick as i walked to work, but I never put two and two together.  It is safe to say that I was naive when it came to boundaries.

The doctor and I spent a long time working on that, and what healthy relationships are supposed to look like, and I suddenly found myself able to be in healthy relationships. I had gone for so long with messes everywhere.  That began to change, and I began to see and realize the merit, the actual benefit, of other human beings. Not only that, but that I also could be beneficial to others, and that I mattered too. It was like coming alive, and that is really cool.  If the word ‘enlightenment’ bothered you earlier just pretend I said ‘cool’.

The third principle from my time with the doctor could not have been so successful without the second, and vice versa.

I think this is when I really began to stop giving her such a hard time. Like I said, I gave her a hard time.  I was really aggressive with this lady, and it wasn’t necessarily because I wanted to be a jerk but because there was an actual physical process inside of me that kept me from interacting openly with another human being.  I mean, if I couldn’t fight the urge, I would go in the closet to cry so that my husband wouldn’t know.  I knew that this lady would have to drag me out of myself, and by the grace of God she rose to the challenge.  By the third session she had thrown out the relaxed posture with her hands folded and she was sitting up straighter; she completely changed her tone of voice from docile to challenging, and she began to fill in the silences, keeping things moving, pushing back at my shoves. It was quite exhilarating, really, and I probably should have taken my running shoes to each appointment so that I could have gone for a jog. That would have been a great idea.  I guess that is what they mean when they say that hindsight is twenty twenty.

The third principle was introduced when she stopped us in the middle of our conversation. I was probably saying something about how angry it made me feel when people say that happiness is a choice. I used to want to throw things at people when they said that: wouldn’t I actually be happy if I could be? I wanted to say ‘damnit’ at them and throw things heavy enough and hard enough to do some damange. My mind would just protest that, you know?

The doctor probably stopped me when I was in the middle of going on about the injustice of it all, and she had me stand up.
We were in an office, so it was kind of cramped, and I was feeling kind of embarrassed about having to stand up, but it would have been even more embarrassing to refuse so I did what she said.

She gave me her empty trash bin and filled it up with some enormous books from her bookshelf.  She told me that the trash bin full of psych material was like my depression. She made me hold the bin out as far from my body as I could and walk across the room. Of course I wanted to be good at it but I wasn’t, because the point wasn’t about being good at it, it was about how hard it was to carry a burden like that. She told me then to hold the bin in a way that was comfortable for me, and to walk across the room like that, and so I did.

The depression is there either way, she told me. It’s not about getting rid of the depression, because it will be there as long as it will be there. It’s about how we manage it. It’s about how we ‘hold’ it. The depression wasn’t myself, it was a burden in my life, it was something that I had to carry for the time being, which is why I took it so personally, because I couldn’t get rid of it, but I could manage it well if I only knew how.

I’m really glad that I didn’t start laughing hysterically, or even crying for that matter, because that would have really ruined the moment for me. The point is that I suddenly felt so incredibly liberated that I wanted to celebrate.

I left that day a new person.

The depression did not leave me right after my time with the doctor.  It was as she said: it was just something in my life.  I continued taking my medicine, and I coupled it with therapy off and on. I learned how to manage my thoughts and feelings while my body was being mended. I would not have been able to bridge the gap emotionally if the gaps had not been bridged physiologically, I know that for certain.

I learned that the best way to get rid of the anxiety was not to bully myself through it but to accept that I needed an anti-inflammatory.  That is the cool way of describing anti-anxiety medicine.  I heard it on one of the many radio programs that I listen to, and thankfully Christian radio today tries to get the word out that it’s okay to take psychiatric medicine; that we don’t have to feel guilty for it, like we’re not letting the Holy Spirit do His job if we are on them or something.  The guy on the program explained how anti-anxiety medicine is like an anti-inflammatory for the brain, and that really resonated with me.  I would go from zero to sixty in an instant, completely unable to talk myself down, and all of this felt compounded because I internalized everything and never threw things or yelled.  So the anti-inflammatory meds for my mind probably lengthened my life by a few years.  They say that stress shaves off some of our time, and stress is one word for what I was going through.

As an added bonus the medication helped me prioritize.  Since, like anyone with a good case of anxiety, I was a control freak, I had to learn how to let God be in charge.  I really wanted to let God be in charge, but this is probably what took me the longest to achieve, and I am still achieving it today.  It has been one heck of a process, letting go little bits here, little bits there, always finding new ones, always discovering that I have taken back a previously surrendered area.  At this time in my life, and for some time now, I can honestly say that I do not worry much because I have complete confidence in the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth, and you can take that straight to the bank.

The greatest freedom a person can know is the sweetest surrender.

In time I began to feel the sneaking suspicion that I wasn’t depressed anymore. It was creeping up on me sometimes, the thought that I was free of it. But I was too afraid to think about it outright, and too afraid to say it out loud. I had been depressed most of my life, it seemed straight-up impossible to not be anymore. I didn’t want to draw attention to it in case I got depressed again right away and had to be like, “Nevermind.”

Sure enough, though, it was really gone, and I began to talk about it.

I am so thankful to God for that, and I pray His blessings on all those amazing doctors and specialists out there who change people’s lives by helping them see what life really looks like.  Of course it didn’t stay away forever. I already said everyone has a bent, and mine is depression and/or anxiety, but at least I understand that it will not last forever, that it cannot last forever because one day I will be living in a perfect body, restored to my Creator in Heaven, and none of all of this will matter anymore.

I struggled with depression for years and years and years; for most of my life, really.

I actually get depressed just thinking about getting depressed again, it sucks that bad.

The thing about depression is that you aren’t just in a bad mood. It’s not that you are sad and cry easily, or that you sit around crying for no reason. It’s that you aren’t operating as a human being. Your soul knows that it is supposed to act one way (smile at the beautiful sunshine), but your head is not letting you. It is keeping you hostage. It takes that natural instinct of satisfaction in the sunshine and washes it in bleach, so that it looks like the rest of what you just felt. I think it’s like starting to feel something and then, every single time, you stop mid-feeling. Imagine that our thoughts and feelings are all riding a train, and they all look and seem as different as they are supposed to.  At the last stop, before they come out of us as words or actions, something malfunctions, they drive through a force-field that zaps everything into bone-white empty boxes.   This is why people don’t actually like being depressed, or think that they are cool because they are depressed, or even why you can’t say, “I don’t mind being depressed.” This is why depression is an actual physiological thing and not a bandwagon some assume we have jumped on.

More on the physiology of it all later, but first:

I didn’t know how to find God in the midst of my depression.  It does turn out that He was there all along, and that’s something that I really appreciate about Him.  I have learned that I can simply trust that He is always there, always interceding for me; it may not seem like it at the time but my own personal experiences have shown that I can always recognize His presence when I look back.

God really does like to make sure that He keeps His promises to us.  As humans we have a lot of junk to deal with.  Junk inside of ourselves, inside of other people…even the most beautiful and innocent piece of nature has some kind of junk.  It’s hard to believe He is there a lot of the time.  Everyone always breaks their promises at some point or another, and it’s our natural instinct to assume that God will too.  A lot of us are even on the lookout for ways to say that God has broken His promises.  Some of us, like me, just fall asleep and wait until God comes to rescue us.  I thought that I didn’t have to do anything; if I just keep my eyes closed I assumed that one day when I opened them everything would look different.  But not only different, it would look better.

Because of my depression I was very frustrated, so I dealt with a lot of anger.  Just about everything made me angry. I remember feeling so angry when my friend was buying her first house, even though it was clearly the best option for them.  It just made sense for them to buy a house.  When she told me about it, I remember just being bent out of shape, and I was so perturbed at being perturbed. I knew that it didn’t make an ounce of sense to be angry.  I would say to myself, “What on earth is your problem?  Just get over yourself and snap out of it!”  No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t feel happiness or excitement for her, I could only feel annoyed, and I just really hated having such an opinion about everything.  Especially opinions that didn’t even make an ounce of sense.  It was driving me crazy.

Back then, when all of this was happening, I thought that I was choosing to be angry, and so I would try to bully myself out of it.  I truly didn’t understand the connection between the depression and the anger.  I was just so sick of always being around myself, so bent out of shape about everything.  I mean, if you get down to it, anger is basically deliberate. But what I didn’t know at the time was that anger is an expression of something else.  Did you know that a lot of people who can’t communicate well, say the elderly with dementia, or some people with special needs, they will begin to act angry and aggressive if they are experiencing some sort of physical pain or other type of disturbance?  So if someone who is normally pretty laid back starts throwing stuff, or shouting obscenities, you can rest assured you need to check their temperature, or make sure their little toe isn’t bent back inside of their shoe.

At some point, though, the chronically frustrated/irritated/angry people have to recognize what is happening, and admit how much it sucks for them, or at least for everyone around them.  Unfortunately, I get the feeling that a lot of people just plain like to get angry. It makes them feel good about themselves. They associate it with power and validation and justice, so they think they have a right to be angry. I can honestly say that I did not like it.  I hated it.  I felt like I was infected by a disease; that I was dying; that I was betraying myself and that I couldn’t get myself to stop.

Following this new-found self-awareness in regards to the whole anger problem, the next step absolutely needs to be making it right. It’s not okay to just shrug and say, “This is how it is. This is how I am.” That simply isn’t true. We aren’t meant to be angry. Angry isn’t a personality trait. It’s a defense. It is ammunition for a war. There are simply no acceptable excuses for it.

I spent a lot of time gnashing my teeth and harassing God, asking Him, “Why don’t You fight for me?”  I was incredibly angry, and this was the real kind of anger, not the kind of frustrated anger.  This was the angry-at-God kind of anger, which looks unlike anything else.  One day, it was as if I came into the eye of the storm, and He was there, asking me, “Why don’t you fight for yourself?”  I thought that was really wrong.  After all, I am only a small human, and I should not have to fight my battles.  God was supposed to vindicate me like all of those really empowering verses say.  From then on, every time I would ask Him, why didn’t He fight for me, I felt His same answer coming back to me: why don’t you fight for yourself.

This went on for a really long time.

The thing about depression is that it makes you anxious (at least for the control freaks).  Now, allow me to elaborate: when you hear somebody say that they have anxiety it doesn’t mean they don’t like sitting still, or that they are high-energy. It means that they are solely focused on everything going wrong.  Even if it doesn’t seem like anything is going wrong to the innocent bystander, it is obviously going wrong since it is out of our control.  Obviously.  And since depression takes the control away from us, we begin to feel anxiety; we begin to see that the world is literally swirling down a huge giant toilet. This is what people mean when they say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It isn’t actually a handbasket, per se, unless ‘handbasket’ is another word for ‘toilet’, which could be a possibility in some languages.  You never know.

Since the world is being flushed down the toilet the person with anxiety feels like they are simultaneously spinning like mad and drowning. It is not surprising for people with anxiety to puke a lot, and that’s a fact. I don’t actually know that it is a fact, but I am basically certain that it is. At least it was for me. I got a lot of migraines, and my nerves were bad, and so I would puke a lot. My body was apparently trying to purge the disturbance.  Some people smoke or drink because of their anxiety. I puked.

I had been dealing with all of this, all of this depression and anxiety, from the time I was a small child.  I call it my ‘bent’.  We all have one, they just look different on each person.  I was a morbid kid, and I was a morose youth.  I was pretty self-obsessed, and incredibly stand-offish.  I was afraid of everything.  Literally.  I wouldn’t even play in my front yard because I was afraid of being kidnapped.  I have no idea how on earth I joined the military.

The Marine Corps, people.

It doesn’t make an ounce of sense.  Accept that it was the direction God wanted to send me in, and it was where I went, and I’m so glad that I did.  Because I really grew up during my time in the military.  I blossomed, if you will.  I met my husband, and so many incredibly friends.  I had amazing experiences, and I am proud of all I accomplished.  And yes, I got the free college, which is the guise I joined under.  I didn’t know that it was God sending me into my life, I thought I was just choosing free school.  I was obsessed with school.  I was good at it, and I loved being smart, so I thought I should just keep going to school, and since I couldn’t afford it, I would do an enlistment in the military, and then get four years of free school.  Easy peasy.  And if I was going to do the military I was going to do it right, you know, and some deranged side of me wanted to go to Marine Corps bootcamp.  What is up with that…

I mention all of that because the first half of my time in the military was amazing.  I was on top of the world.  The second half was hell on wheels.  And I was dealing with undiscovered health problems.  So, man, did my angry problems go through the roof.

By the time I came back to the civilian world, I had really reached the point where I was totally strung out. I honest to God didn’t relax. (I would swear to God but that is taboo). I was always doing something. Even in my downtime I was keeping busy with something else. When I slept my dreams were all bad. All of the hollow places in my body ached, and it turns out these exist primarily in and between the bones, in the guts, and in those spaces of the skull that fill with mucus during a sinus infection.  I do believe that our cells might also possess some hollow places.  My skin hurt.  When I say that my skin hurt I actually mean that my skin hurt, so that I did not like someone to even brush against me, and this was probably from all of the hairs standing on end because of all the energy I produced.  I still don’t know how I didn’t set off car alarms just by walking by, or why dogs didn’t bark at me because of the high-frequency buzz coming off of me, or that I didn’t cause all light bulbs to blow up.  I was always rocking my teeth back and forth against each other; my knee was always bouncing.  People would comment on this bouncing knee.  “Nervous?” they would ask.  I don’t remember what I said in response.  Probably something like that I was cold.  Which was probably also true. I was always cold.  We called it being a freeze-baby.

I wouldn’t argue if you accused me of being melodramatic.  I know what all of this sounds like; the desperate attempt at a haunting yet redemptive memoir, a riveting turned cathartic Hallmark movie… I suppose in part this is because I am a writer and I have to get you to sympathize with what I am saying.  I do admit that I tend towards the sensational in a rather low key kind of way, if that is allowed.  It would probably not surprise you to find out that I am a hypochondriac.  And when I was younger I never tried to mask my brooding (what I fondly referred to as my ‘depth’).  This was unfortunate for the rest of the world.  I was occasionally outlandish and brazen but ultimately I was a sullen individual, not prone to casual conversation, and a lot of people admit that they did not find me to be friendly.  Unless we were actually friends.  Because I was what the times referred to as ’emo’ this made me kind of proud.  I am really embarrassed about this.  I guess looking back I can say that the ’emo’ phase ended after I entered the military at the ripe old age of seventeen, and it transformed into recklessness and various forms of lunacy.  By the time I got out of the military at the ripe old age of twenty-two I was an actual stone instead of a person, and this was to save everyone and mostly myself from what was going on inside of me.

Thank goodness I began to be tired of it all.  I wasn’t an imbecile.  I knew that I needed help, but I flat-out forbade myself from seeking it.  I was completely against the stigma.  Been there done that.  Unfortunately, the practitioners I had seen as a teenager probably thought I was pathetic.  Even though they called themselves child psychologists, I don’t think they knew much about teenagers.  They barely tried to tap into me and were happy to prescribe my pills.  I lied to them a lot.

It was kind of a miracle that I wound up telling the physician that I didn’t care if I drove my car into a tree.

It kind of just came out.

Before you roll your eyes, it wasn’t a melodramatic moment at all.  It was actually really casual.  She was asking the questions she was supposed to ask, and I think I just sighed in resignation and said, “Well, ma’am, quality of life really isn’t that great right now, considering I wouldn’t even mind if my car wound up driving into a tree.”  I’m sure I smiled apologetically, and she didn’t write down “watches too many romance movies.”  She put down her pen and began a conversation with me about what could be done to get it taken care of.

I walked away from my faith once.

I told God that everyone was always trying to tell me what to do.  That I only had control over what I believed in.  “I’m sorry,” I said.  I really did say that to Him.  And then I gave some speech about how I was going to exercise what little control I had and say ‘no’.

Of course I was young.

I would have had to be.

Anybody with experience and maturity knows that control and decision-making, the process of disbelief and unbelief, and even believing, look quite a bit different than the scenario I created.

My choice meant that I would not pray.  I would not read my Bible.

This wound up being very hard for me to do.

I found myself feeling very lonely.

I was, am, an introvert by nature.  In those days I feared and avoided people.  As a result, God was my best friend.  He was always there, and I was always talking to Him.

At that point I had been reading my Bible every morning and every evening for years.  Literally.  When I was twelve, I was filled with a sense of spirituality and promised God that I would read my Bible at the start of every day, and at the end of it, until death joined us in Heaven.  I was sitting in the hall at my aunt’s house.  I was a little awed at myself for the commitment I had made, and a little impressed too.  I think I had secretly been wanting to make a promise to God for a while, ever since I heard something, or maybe read something, about how serious and intense it is when we make a promise to God.  Heaven forbid you break a promise to your Creator.  I thought the whole idea was romantic and terrifying.  I was so intimidated and wanted to not be intimidated.  I wanted to be the saint that would make a promise.  And keep it.

I didn’t keep that promise.  In it’s entirety.  On the other hand, I spent the next 15 years in the Word, twice a day, just about every day.  To suddenly not be doing it, on purpose, actually hurt.

I think I was even fiending.

By day three I caved.

I had the emptiness of a few days without my God.

If I really was in control over what I believed, than I was choosing Him.

My spirit had been unable to detach from His.  I needed to speak to Him in the hallways of my school, in the dampness of my basement bedroom.  I had to begin each day with Words of encouragement and end each one with Words of solace.

I hated the choice I had made to walk away from Him.  The only person I was hurting was myself.

I haven’t looked back since.

Thank you, God, SO MUCH, for taking me back.