Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Long Time Coming, Part One

Over the past few months I haven’t been writing very much.  Some things have come up in my life that have put blogging on the backburner.  I’ve alluded to all this and really didn’t mean to leave you hanging. There were a few things that needed to fall into place before I could write about it here, but I’ve been looking forward to it because even though not that many people read this, it’s really important to me.  It’s how I process what’s going on and what God is doing in my life.

I am going to do this in parts because I don’t think anyone wants to sit there and read my life story for four hours.  I have no idea how many parts there will be.  You know how I am with numbers.

It’s not a surprise that weakness and vulnerability are not celebrated characteristics in our society.  They aren’t even really acceptable within the “church” world.  I grew up going to church all. the. time.  And I’m glad I did.  Really.  I have great memories of time spent with my church family.  But growing up in a church that is way bigger than the town I currently live in doesn’t offer a lot of opportunities to be vulnerable.  You have to be a professional singer to be on the worship team, the bulletins are slick and perfect, there are a ton of people that look really put together all around you.

The problem is that it’s just as easy to be fake in a small church.  I proved that this fall, but there are some really important things God has taught me about weakness and vulnerability. The truth is I have never wanted to show any weakness because I’m totally not.

I don’t really know when I began to struggle.  Sometime last summer I guess.  I was tired and overwhelmed with life, parenting and ministry.  There were basic simple things that I could not accomplish like laundry or getting birthday presents in the mail.  I put on a good facade for everyone, including myself.  There were some good days and weeks but the overall direction was down. 

One morning in January I woke up and felt like I could not move.  It scared me enough that I dragged myself to the doctor.  My doctor was on maternity leave so I had to see an older man that was filling in.  I was less than thrilled with that but it turned out to be good.  We did a strep test and it was negative.  But instead of dismissing me with the normal call back if it gets worse, the doctor kept digging.  He finally asked, “Could you be depressed?”

At first I was shocked and my gut response was to burst into tears but I didn’t.  I just casually said maybe.  As I was driving home I realized he was right.  I don’t know if I could have been diagnosed as officially or clinically depressed.  Maybe I was just severely discouraged or disheartened.  I just didn’t realize it until he said it. 

On top of feeling overwhelmed, I felt extremely guilty.  I didn’t have it that bad.  I have a healthy family, food, shelter, transportation and plenty of other stuff.  There are people who’s children are dying of cancer or have lost their houses in a flood and they are plugging right long while I was sitting in my pajamas in the basement. 

I didn’t want to feel that way.  I kept thinking I should be able to snap out of it but I couldn’t.  The guilt only makes it worse.  Hiding it only makes you feel more alone.  Pretending you are fine makes you feel like a fake.  It quickly becomes a vicious cycle. 

It took its toll on all areas of my life. I really had no idea where to go from there.  But just having it out there was like a huge weight off my shoulders.  So, I was depressed or severely discouraged.  I’ve been reading a lot of information of depression and women.  If you are a woman, you are way more likely to be depressed.  The more kids you have, the more likely you’ll face it.  If your symptoms last more than 2 weeks, it’s not just a funk.  That is my unscientific summary.

Where does that leave me?  I don’t know the prognosis from a medical stand point, but spiritually it actually leaves me in a good place.  When Paul is struggling with a “thorn in the flesh”, he asks the Lord to take it away.  This is what he wrote the response was:

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10

How crazy is that?  Because I am weak, helpless and vulnerable, God can demonstrate His strength.  And He has. 

I had to slow down, re-examine some things, and trust God in a whole new way.  So I can’t say it was bad.  Hard?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes.  But bad?  No.


Bonny said...

Depression is so ... immobilizing! And so COMMON! It's sobering to think how many are suffering without even realizing it. I've had my own struggles w depression ... one of my kids is on antidepressants and it's been a lifesaver: figuratively - yes. Literally - very possibly yes, too. People just don't talk about it, do they? I'm glad you went to the doctor, Michelle! I really love you, girl!

Wayne Pederson said...

Dear, dear Michelle--
It's hard for a dad to read about the stuggles his beloved daughter is going through. I want to swwop in and be there for you.

It may be partially hereditary. I think my dad was often depressed. And I myself find times I hit the wall, get overwhelmingly fatigued and just don't want to talk to anybody.

I've called it "going into a funk" that you just can't work your way out of. I've learned the value of rest, solitude, silence as an antidote to depression. I've also found those times DO lead to a new and stronger reliance on our loving Father who understands, soothes, lifts and loves us out of that mental state.

Great people like King David, Abe Lincoln, Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon have had to deal with this tendency to get seriously down when things are overwhelming.

I go back to King David's response: Why are you discouraged, O my soul. Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praised him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you." Psalm 42:5,6

Just know: it's not that abnormal. And there is a remedy in rest, balance, and God. (Not easy when you're the mother of 5!!)

Love and prayers, Dad

mamabear said...

I will remember you in prayer! I have four children and know how difficult it is to be down for any reason. Praise God that you are closer to Him through this!

jdhvm said...

Thanks Michelle for your honesty. I think alot of people who suffer from depression think they can just fight themselves through it. When I get discouraged and I do, I find rest, and more time in God's word is the rememdy for me. I know this is harder to do when you have a larger family with a busy schedule, but my prayer for you si that this summer will be not filled to the brim but you will be able to enjoy your family and live simply.

Know that I am praying for your and Mike as I now how hard this can be on a husband too!

Love You!

Deb Hansen said...

By the way this is Deb Hansen in former post.

sharilyn said...

thank you, mm, for your honesty and for sharing your struggle... can't wait to read more of your story! will pray for you...and yes, in our weakness, He is our strength... actually, He is all the time, it's just that we don't realize it until we've bottomed out...

sending you prayers for encouragement...

Peter and Nancy said...

I am so grateful that your doctor put words to what you were going through, and that you're able to talk about it now. Your Dad's comments brought tears to my eyes -- what an amazing man.

There is a unique fatigue factor (as well as the potential for being discouraged) when you're a pastor's wife. If you ever want to talk, e-mail me and we can trade phone numbers:
With love,

SahlbergFamily said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steph VG said...

Love you, praying for you. Depression comes with the fibro sometimes, so I deal with it sometimes, too. I'm here if you need me.

Shan in Japan said...

As others have said, thank you for being honest and I am praying for you, even more now. I was just reading those verses in Corinthians. We are strong when we are weak. Why can't we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and weak? Why can't we allow others to be vulnerable and weak? I am praying that I learn how to do this better and as I do, to experience more of Jesus' strength in me.