The Hard Fight

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I am not sure of the origin of this quote, but it describes my life right now. If I’m being honest, everything feels hard right now. This time last week I was  in an inpatient mental health facility because things had gotten so bad that I thought almost daily about ending my life. I even had a plan that I didn’t realize was so specific and actionable until I voiced it to my therapist during an appointment that was a true provision from the Lord, since I originally wasn’t even supposed to meet with him that day, but was able to because he had an unexpected opening in his schedule. Thanks to the Lord and my therapist’s intervention, I did not act on my plan but instead checked myself into Lakeside in Memphis last Tuesday. Admitting to the people in my life that I was there was incredibly hard, and I have battled a lot of shame and guilt about this. But it truly was what needed to happen, and I left Lakeside feeling better than when I entered. I had a lot of time there to focus on myself, and I learned some valuable lessons and processed some hard things. 

However, none of that fixed me. I still came home with depression. The only difference is that now I want to live, whereas before I was ready to give up. I was tired of fighting all the negative, intrusive thoughts swirling around in my head. I was tired of trying to fake it through the day. I was tired of feeling alone in my pain. I was tired, full stop. But when people are tired, they rest; they don’t give up on life. I am so thankful that I didn’t give up. 

One thing I realized while I was gone is that despite all my thoughts to the contrary, a lot of people love me. When I let my family and close friends and some people at church know about the situation, not once did anyone act with anything other than love, support, and care for me. I don’t know why this surprised me since I surround myself with awesome people, but I had believed the lie that I was alone and unloved for far too long. I found myself overcome and humbled by all the love being poured out on me, all the prayers being prayed for me. I realized that, as my pastor told me, people are with me and for me. What a blessing that has been to me!

This week my husband gave me a small gift. It’s a squishy boxing glove, and he got it so I will remember to keep fighting and never give up. It’s also a reminder that I am not alone and that I am loved.IMG_3783

The boxing glove is also a reminder that I need to choose my hard. Living with depression is hard. I don’t know when this cloud will lift. Everything requires tons of mental energy, and I am exhausted by the end of the day. Then I learned at Lakeside that I need to change a lot of things in order to help improve my mental health: my thought patterns, my coping mechanisms, my sleeping and eating habits. Add to that adjusting to new medications and just living life, and all of it feels completely overwhelming and hard, and I know it will be. But as hard as all the change will be, it will not be harder than how I have been living. I resisted going to Lakeside initially because I didn’t want to put my family through that and I didn’t know what it would be like, but I also realized that my family would rather me be gone for a week instead of being gone for the rest of their lives. Then going to Lakeside didn’t seem quite as hard (although it in fact was one of the most difficult things I have ever done). Learning to change will require work and diligence, but I know that by choosing this hard thing I will hopefully one day lay aside the other hard thing—depression. It may be hard, but hard is not impossible. I will keep telling myself this, day after day, moment by moment, choice by choice, until I believe it.

I told my therapist that he saved my life, and I truly believe that. I also believe that it was no coincidence that I got that therapy appointment when I did. No, that was an act of the God who loves me and sees me and cares for me, even when I think He is far away. He marks all of my tears and keeps them in a bottle (Psalm 556:8). He will not restrain his mercy from me but will preserve me with His steadfast love and faithfulness (Psalm 40:11). 

I don’t know why I have to walk this road, but I hope that the Lord will redeem this struggle and use it for His good and His glory. The story is still being written, and I look forward to seeing where it goes. If you are reading this and relate to it but don’t know what to do, please reach out. Don’t be silent. Don’t give up. Fight the hard fight. 

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Lament for the Downcast Soul

The clouds loom gray above my head.
Will the sun ever pierce this gloom?
How long until the pain is gone?
How long until I feel more than a sense of doom?

Lord, You say You know my inmost thoughts;
You say You will not leave me.
So why is it that when I pray
My prayers never seem to get past the ceiling?

My feelings rage and seek to rule me,
Filling my heart with anger and pain.
I look around for help to find me
And pray for a break from this endless rain.

I yearn for the day when I can stop fighting
And rest in Your steadfast love alone.
Lord, make your face to shine upon me;
May I find mercy at your throne.

Help me hope in what I cannot see.
Help me trust in what I know is true.
Help me surrender the lies I believe
And gently guide me back to You.

When faith seems far and evils near,
Dear Lord, be kind to remind me
That though I think I’m all but lost,
Your grace will always find me.

–Erin Mount

Waiting for the Cloud to Lift

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A few months ago, depression settled over me like a cloud, coloring my world gray and dreary. The first few days, I chalked it up to hormones and waited for it to pass. The days stretched into a week, then two. Still I smiled and laughed and went about my day, hoping no one would notice, that no one would see I was shattering into a million pieces. Before long, I had mostly forgotten what it felt like to be happy, but I kept the mask plastered on my face, baring my soul to no one but God, in silent cries during the nights that began to stretch on and on interminably. But soon the pain threatened to come out of hiding and destroy me altogether, and so out of fear and with fear, I reached out. And in reaching out, I found light and love and compassion–things that of course had been there all along but to which I had been blinded.

With the help of professionals and loved ones, I’m working on finding a way out of the gray and back into a life lived in color, and for the first time in a long time, I have hope that one day I will smile and really mean it once again. Last night I read the words above from Lamentations and wept with how aptly the pain I feel is captured in this ancient text, and with how badly I want to also feel its certain hope. God knows my pain and heartache and despair, for He sent His Son here to feel it all and to one day put it all to death. God speed the day, but until He comes, I cling to the promise of His steadfast love holding me close, lighting up the darkness and putting an end to the night.

 

Too Much

I caught a glimpse of myself today as I was opening a set of glass doors, and I was caught off guard by how large I looked. Even though I have gained back 75 of the 90 pounds I lost many years ago, I think part of me sometimes still imagines that there’s a thinner version of myself walking around, even though I know what the numbers on the scale and on my clothes say. I live with this absurd fantasy in my head, despite reality literally staring me in the face every time I look in the mirror in the morning, and despite the way the fabric of my clothes pulls in places where it once hung loosely. I want so desperately to be the size I once was that I think I have convinced myself that I’m not THAT fat, that my weight isn’t THAT big of a problem. But when I feel the skin on my thighs rubbing painfully when I wear a skirt or dress, when I feel that same skin stretching uncomfortably taut when I cross my legs, when I feel the sides of a chair digging into my backside, when all I can think about when swimming at a public pool with my daughter is how many people are disgusted by me–those are signs of a problem. I am uncomfortable with my body and uncomfortable in my body.

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Photo by kinkate on Pexels.com

All of this makes me feel like “too much”–both in the literal and figurative sense of the word. I feel as though I quite literally take up too much space in the world, but I also feel like my ongoing struggle with my weight and food obsession make me too much for people. If people knew how many times a day I thought about eating junk, would they still be my friends? If I ballooned up to 400 pounds, would I be loved? Am I even loved now? Is there a point at which even God Himself will say, “Whoa there, Erin, I think I’m going to need to take a break from this relationship until you get your issues settled”? In my darkest moments (and there have been plenty of those), I ask all of these questions and more. And in my more rational moments, I know that the love of people I care about is not contingent upon how much I weigh. I know that I am loved deeply by my husband and family. I know that God loves me with a love I can’t even fully fathom and that it is nothing but pride and vanity that causes me to question His design. But somehow, sometimes, knowledge of this love isn’t enough. I haven’t believed it completely. If I did completely and utterly believe in God’s love for me, I wouldn’t choose other things above Him. I wouldn’t turn to food for comfort instead of to His Word. I wouldn’t chase after temporal pleasures instead of chasing after Him.

In a way I am in fact too much; I think too much of myself, too often. I spend too much time dwelling on my problems and not enough time dwelling on the Lord and His goodness. I trust too much in my own sufficiency rather than recognizing that I am completely needy. I waste too much energy on worthless pursuits and not enough energy working for the Lord and not for man. I fritter away too much time in front of a mirror, applying makeup and fixing my hair in the hopes that my face will be pretty enough that people won’t notice the rest of me, instead of cultivating the inward beauty of a heart that hungers and thirsts for God.

Since I am too much, I must pray as John does in John 3:30, “He must become greater, I must become less.” The important thing about my life ultimately isn’t how much weight I lose or don’t lose. The important thing about my life is that it points to Another altogether–Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect, sinless life I cannot live and gave me the redemption I could never hope to earn. May I live a life that brings honor to the One who can never get too much of my praise or receive too much glory.