Today I met up with a lovely friend of mine. It was one of those more like a mentor chats where I just sort of went BLAAAH and then we talked it through and we prayed. The lovely words above were some of the verses shared with me, and I have to say, it’s blown me away a little bit. For those who’ve been reading The Godly Hearts Column but haven’t ventured any further into previous blog posts, you probably won’t know this – but I suffer from depression. It’s recently hit the two-year mark and over the last few weeks it’s been a bit of a struggle. You know, not being able to get out of bed, eating irregularly and improperly, sleep is just a danger zone and my ability to just be ‘me’ has been literally thrown out the window. I write this post not as a guest, but just as Annie – the same Annie who’s written reams on self-image and self-esteem, singleness and mental health and everything else you’ll find on here.
The Godly Hearts Column was, and is, an attempt to talk honestly and openly about relationships. I’ve loved it so far, the stories we’ve had in and the interviews that have taken place have all been so interesting and heartfelt. It’s already been a bit of a journey. Yet even still, as I sit here after my little prayer sesh, the whole idea of writing this blog post is a little unnerving for me – once again, it means I have to be honest.
Still with me?
I don’t know if you’ve ever been really sad. I don’t mean the whole ‘oh no, David Tennant left Doctor Who’ kinda sad (although that really was a devastating day), but I mean really sad – where it takes you over; it’s heavy and it hurts. It doesn’t feel like it will ever STOP hurting. And I don’t know if you’ve ever felt lonely, or unwanted, or unappreciated – sometimes even suicidal. All because of this relentless sadness. In bits and pieces, segments and factions, this has been what my last 2 years have looked like. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been some happy in there – some serious happy, joy even, and that was a definite God thing. Cheers, Jesus. But the sadness is still here, and sometimes it feels like a separate person is sitting with me and talking to me; the voice in my head isn’t my voice anymore. Know what I mean?
Probably not. But please bear with me, I’ll get to the point in a sec. I guess you’re all wondering what on earth this has to do with the Godly Hearts Column; the discussion of relationships and romance and everything else fuzzy and warm. Well that’s just it – depression makes you feel unworthy of these fuzzy things. Friends over the years have talked of marriage with me, children, and all I can think about is how I want to crawl back into bed and cry because I can’t see past tomorrow. It’s difficult to accept sometimes that someone might be interested in me – aside from being the church’s answer to Bridget Jones – because when the sad days come, and when the clouds descend on a perfectly sunny day, it can be hard to understand why when all you feel is sadness that someone might see something other than sadness in you. Over the two years, I’ve pushed people away – both friends and otherwise – and for that I’m sorry. Really sorry, in fact. I get moody and upset and confused and eat too much ice cream – but not because I’m depressed, but because I’m a GIRL, and to some extent, this is what all girls do. We freak out, we get excited, we get nervous (as I’m sure you cheeky lads reading this do, too #equality)
But anyway. Just like every other girl, I worry about how I look from time to time. I panic that I’m getting fat or not eating right and get embarrassed when someone super hot is at the gym next to me and I feel all embarrassed and try to look sexy doing my lunges. HAHAHA. That’s beside the point, but anyway (again!). Just like every other girl I feel all these negative things about myself, despite knowing and believing that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am beautiful, even when I feel ugly. I am funny, even when no-one laughs. I am attractive, even when we do go out to the pub and no one letches on me at the bar (okay, that one is a blessing, definitely not complaining). But at the same time, sometimes I find that these feelings get so uncontrollably OUT of control that they are all massively magnified and I can’t stop feeling ugly, I can’t stop feeling unattractive or unloved. The sadness comes, the duvet covers my head. I feel alone.
I just want to get one thing straight before I carry on. I’m writing this post for men and women everywhere – those of us who know what it’s like to be living in a world of sunshine when all we feel is rain. I’m not writing this to sell my attributes, or evoke sympathy. I don’t need bubblewrap covering me or the infamous Christian head tilt (you know the one, something bad happens and suddenly our right ear is touching the ground in awkward sympathy). I am depressed, but I am NOT depression. Even at my worst, Jesus still looks at me as if I’m at my best. He still sees the funny, beautiful, gorgeously awkward and slightly inappropriate Annie that He put together before either of my parents or grandparents and their grandparents were even thought by THEIR parents that they might come to be.
So where am I going with this? Well. As written in one of my guest blogs, as Christians the first love should be Jesus. When people say that to me, I panicked all the time that they thought that meant that I always have to be jolly, always have to be smiling and never letting on how rubbish stuff is. That’s what love is, right? It’s the fuzzy and the warm stuff, isn’t it?
No, perhaps not after all. Maybe, love is patient, love is kind. Maybe it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Maybe it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Maybe love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. And maybe, just maybe, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Sound familiar? Check out 1 Corinthians 13 if you’re not totally convinced.
Jesus offers me life and peace by His Spirit, as it says up the top. This was what really struck me today when those words were shared with me. Peace and life. Life and peace. How appealing does that sound to someone going through what feels like a thunderstorm in my mind? Life and peace sounds like paradise, quite literally. But what I also realised, is that in the safety of His peace, in the safety of His life, I can find myself and my worth and my importance all over again. I can see that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. This love is the standard of love, for me. This love, a love that sacrificed itself on a Cross for me, that is the love that God felt I was worth. How amazing is that?
The Bible says that Christian marriage should reflect Christ’s relationship with the Church – we are even called His bride.
Being rooted in Christ, I can try to mirror God in my heart, I can be more like Him and so can Mr Annie – if Mr Annie is even out there. But what does that really mean? It means loving me at my worst. It means looking at me and seeing me for the whole person that I am, with all my flaws and my worries – and the big worry for anyone with depression is that no one will want to love us when the scary sadness comes to call. But something I’ve realised over the years and all too recently again, is that if you don’t want all of me, the good and the bad, then frankly, I don’t want you either. Love takes us just as WE are – as whole people – depression or otherwise, with all your crap and sin and issues. Jesus loved me at my worst, and I would like to think that I can grow into a woman who can love others when they are at their worst too, whilst learning to accept that I am worth that love in return when it gets tough all over again. But loving someone at their worst doesn’t mean going out of your depth to make them happy. It doesn’t mean acting like Superman or Wonder Woman and then making yourself ill when you’re too tired trying to fix everything. God is the fixer, not you and not me.
Give love as you feel love, that’s what I’m trying to say. And for those reading this who know the struggle of depression all too well, accept love. Accept the cup of tea made for you, the glass of wine bought for you in the pub (and no, not by the creepy letch. That doesn’t count) or the movie time with a friend that you really needed.
You are worth it, I promise.
Peace and blessings x