Hold on to Hope. No, Really: Hold on to Hope.

As this year draws to a close, I can’t help but look back and reflect. Friends, it’s been a hard year. Not just for me; so many of my friends and acquaintances have walked through dark times this year. Loved ones passing away, huge life changes, battles with depression, divorce, losing jobs, miscarriages – the list goes on and on. Not to mention all the scary craziness in our nation and around the world.

There are so many words I could use to describe the past year. Fear. Change. Depression. Exhaustion. Yet as I look back the word that floats to the top above all these words is “hope.” Hope makes all the difference.

This goes out to three of my friends in particular, though I believe others may find these words helpful as well. To the one who feels he must be strong; to the one who lost her art; to the one who feels dead inside: Hold on to hope. No, really: hold on to hope. If you have no hope left to hold onto, then chase after it with everything you have.

Hope is the thing with feathers, the thing that gets us through. Hope is what convinces you to pull back the covers one more time, face the world one more time, take one more step. Hope does not let us down, but guides us through without fail. Hope says that even though you are on the floor unable to move, there will be a better day. Hope tells you to put down the revolver. Hope tells you that you. can. make. it. through. One more time: You can make it through.

It gets better. Even if you cannot see it, trust that I can see it. If you have no hope, draw on mine. It gets better. There is so much ahead of you! Life is dark right now and everything hurts, but I am begging you: hold on to hope. I say this not from a place of perfection, but from a place of empathy: I have walked through the darkness and I have found the sun again, even if it’s not perfect.

I want you to know that people care about you. Even if no one else cares, I care about you. Each and every one of you, I care about you and I ache along with you. I will walk with you through this, you do not have to go alone.

 

Hope Does Not Let Us Down

My dear friends, it has been five long months since my last post, and I was not in a good place then. To be honest, I still have days when I’m not in a good place. The difference now, though, is that instead of just flat out not being in a good place, now I only have days where I’m not.

I talked to my counselor about what was going on, and she strongly recommended I speak to a psychiatrist to consider going on medication. As I mentioned before, that did not initially sit well with me. There’s all the stigma about being on meds, and I was afraid of being zombified. But I trust my counselor – I’ve been seeing her for five years, after all. If she truly thought I needed medication, maybe she was right. So I went to see the psychiatrist and told her about my issues and about my medication fears as well. Ultimately, she ended up putting me on a low dosage of an antidepressant.

Within days I felt better.

Life seemed more manageable; I no longer felt I was drowning in the ocean of life.

I’ve been on this medication for five months now, and I’m so glad I did. I still go to counseling and I’m still trying to work through my issues, but the medication makes it so I can continue to function like a human being while I do so. The meds didn’t flatten me – I can still write, I can still draw, I still have my creative spark.

I had to make some adjustments in other areas of my life, too. I dropped out of one of my three courses (of course, it had to be the one class I actually enjoyed… but it was my only elective). I stopped trying to push myself as hard, became more aware of my limits. I gave myself permission to not have to care about every single thing in the world (I mean, there are only so many things one person is capable of caring about, and that’s okay).

And I spent more time with my family. I went to my brother’s house almost every weekend for several months. I chilled with them. I went to garage sales with them. I held the baby. I played games with them. And somewhere in there God restored my soul.

I have had to remind myself daily that I am more than a conqueror, that hope does not let us down, and that He Himself is my peace. I have cried through hours of “It Is Well” and “Dead Come to Life” and “My Lighthouse.” And I have survived.

And I’m stronger now than I was before.

Friends, no matter the valley you’re walking through, no matter how hard life tries to defeat you, know that you. will. make. it. through. Hold onto the flicker of hope, chase after the light. And if you need to get help, get help. There is no shame in getting help. Did you hear me? There is no shame in getting help.

I Should Have Known

I should have known.
When I got home from work and put my headphones on. When my friend called and I hit the “reject” button.When I realized I had no words left.
I should have known.

But I didn’t, so it was the next morning, when I wasn’t “sick” but I still had no strength to get out of bed. When I had no spark in me. When I did not care about anything. When I (irrationally) screamed inside my head that I’m a colossal eff-up, just a big mistake. It was then that I recognized my old pall Depression is back for another visit.

I like to think that we live in a world more accepting and understanding about mental illness and mental health, and for the most part we do. People generally are no longer accused of being demon possessed if they are depressed, and we no longer prescribe isolation as treatment for depression. But we’re still not there. Society still tends to view those who openly own up to their depression as “less than,” as just needing to go have some fun. Or you get the other side who thinks you should just pop pills until you’re so medicated you are effectively a zombie (maybe that’s where the zombie apocalypse will come from).

Now don’t get me wrong, meds can be a wonderful tool for dealing with depression, and if that’s what you and your doctor have worked out as the best treatment for you, then I’m glad for you and wish you all the best of luck. But personally, I don’t want to be on meds. For one, I can’t really afford to be on meds. More than that, though, I’m afraid that I’ll lose my creativity. I’m not the most artistic person in the whole world by any means, but I am most certainly creative. I play piano and draw in my free time, and at work I lead projects and do a lot of graphic design. I’m extremely worried that if I go on meds I won’t be able to create anymore.

So for now I cope with depression as best as I can. And I’m grateful to have a boss who may not understand depression, but at least doesn’t give me grief about calling in sick more than I probably should.

This Is For You

This is for all of you out there who have ever verbally answered the question, “How are you?” with a flat “fine-how-are-you?” but inwardly said, “I’m not fine. I’m not even close to fine. In fact, my world is falling apart. But you don’t care, do you?”

This is for the the men who have been disrespected and belittled by women, but didn’t say anything about it for fear of worse ridicule or embarressment.

This is for the women who have been derided for staying home to raise their children. This is also for the women who were derided for not staying home to raise their children.

This is for people who have felt the icy rope of despair wrap itself round and round their necks until the only thought left in their heads is wanting to die. Because surely death is better than this hell you’re currently living in.

This is for the women and the men who battle daily with eating disorders. Because men have eating disorders too, but are less likely to get help for it.

This is for the teenagers who feel cut off from the world, isolated in an ocean of raging emotions that adults recurse to validate. Because those emotions are just as real as adult emotions, and therefore just as valid. Because your existence is is precious, and I promise life gets better. These are not the “best years of your life.” No, my friend, your life is just getting started.

This is for the weary, stressed out person in line at the grocery store. Because you haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in longer than you can remember, and that pile of coupons is all that stands between your groceries and your electricity being shut off. Because no matter what you do, you always seem to fail.

This is for you.

Someday I hope you can talk about it. Someday I hope you will be able to see the arms of Christ stretching wide to encircle you – you with all your hurts and scars and baggage from the years of pain and silence.  Someday I hope the words pour forth. May they break down the dam inside you, spilling out in a flood of messy release. Let them spill from your mouth and from your fingers onto journal pages, laptops, cellphones, wherever they can reach. And let the flood of words begin to fill in the potholes and ditches of your wounded soul. Let them fill until you can no longer see the ground, but instead see nothing but water, a serene and beautiful lake. And let there be peace within you.

From the mouth comes both hurt and healing, and someday I hope the very same mouths that have hurt you will speak healing words over you. Words of love, forgiveness, acceptance, freedom, peace. Words of reconciliation.

But even if they never do, I hope that someday you will find someone who will. Because no one should have to go through life carrying that much hurt and pain.

Sometimes it’s hard to talk about the things that are the most important to us, that have caused us the most pain. I get that. But if you’re ever ready and you have no one to tell it to, know that I am here. I will listen to you, cry with you, whatever you need. And I will speak life over you. Because everyone deserves a full life.

Even you.

Just Stay

You don’t have to be perfect
You don’t have to have your life all together
You don’t have to be rich
You don’t have to have the best job

You don’t have to be [insert everything you think you have to be here]

Just stay
Just show me your love
Just be kind
Just accept the inner me
Just be content with who you are
Just hold me when I cry
Just be forgiving
Just fight to uphold good
Just be honorable
Just trust me with your inner self
Just protect

You don’t have to be perfect
Just be the man I know you already are
And just stay

Psalm 23

Jesus watches over me: I have everything I need.
He takes me to a restful place,
he leads me along safe paths,
he renews my spirit.
His reputation ensures
he will never lead me astray.
Even though I walk
through a fog of depression,
I will fear no evil,
because Jesus is with me;
his instruments comfort me.
He will make sure I’m taken care of,
even when enemies surround me.
He gives me so many blessings,
I can’t contain them all.
I know His love and mercy
will be with me my whole life,
and I will live with Him forever.

This is a paraphrase of a Psalm that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. Depression may have struck me once again, but that does not change the fact that God still walks alongside me, taking care of me and protecting me.  He will stay with me, depressed or not.

This assurance allows me to hope even amidst forces trying to bind me up and crush me down. Hope is strongest when times are darkest, for it is then that hope is most desperately needed.  When times are high and life is good, hope is unnecessary; why do you need to hope for life to be better when life is already great? But when times are tough and life is rough, hope is what gets you through to another day and another and another.

Hold onto hope, for when you have nothing left to hold onto, hope will still be there.