Honesty Hour: Experiencing Depression in Times of Blessing

Here’s something I’ve never seen a blog post about: planning a wedding while you’re dealing with depression. I’ve also never seen a blog post on how to make life altering, important decisions when you’re crippled with anxiety. 

Maybe the material is out there and I’m just not seeing it. Maybe one of the 3 people reading this will pass along an article and all of what I feel like writing here will seem redundant. But here I am, 3 and a half weeks away from The Big Day and The Even Bigger Move, and I have something I feel like sharing about my experience.

It’s very difficult to describe what it’s like to go through the happiest days of your life with a cloudy sky above. Now don’t get me wrong, the good days outnumber the bad, but at times it feels the other way around. There are times when everything seems to dictated by how I feel, versus reality. Depression has a way of twisting your perspective, and anxiety takes your alternate reality, blows it out of proportion and makes you feel like the walls are closing in on you. 

There are a number of factors that make this time in life uniquely stressful. But there are a few basic rules that help me no matter what- whether I’m planning the wedding, researching visas, looking for apartments, thinking about hauling all my earthly belongings across an ocean and everything in between. 

Here are a few (admittedly cliche) things that help me when I’m overwhelmed, when I’m anxious, or when I feel guilty for feeling depressed during what’s supposed to be the happiest time in my life. Maybe they will help somebody or encourage somebody or maybe no one will read this and I’m saying these things to myself. All of the above are okay. 

To preface things: There’s ultimately no point in telling yourself “you shouldn’t be feeling like this, you should be overflowing with happiness!” Obviously, in a perfect world, that is true. And for many people that is their experience. But this is your experience. No matter how you should feel, this is how you actually feel, and this is what you have to work with. So start there. 

1. Take a step back from how you feel

When I’m depressed, the smallest molehill feels like Mount Doom. And when there are a hundred decisions that need to be made, like the ones that come with planning a wedding, I feel completely helpless to do anything. It’s good to take a breath, and try to identify objective truths about the situation you’re in. 90% of the time, things are not as intimidating or overwhelming as I have initially perceived them to be. 

2. Speak truth to yourself

Very cliche. Very important. Sometimes I can’t trust what my brain is telling me because it’s usually telling me lies- “they’re all waiting to watch you fail,” “you’re disappointing people,” “you’re pathetic for struggling like this,” etc. It’s all garbage. 

Jesus died for me. That’s a reality. I’m precious to Him. That’s a reality. I have loving, supportive family and friends around me. Every vital need I have ever had has been met. It helps to count your blessings and recognize that everything will be okay because you have felt this way before and God carried you through it. You’ve been low before, and you were carried out of it before. Bear that in mind when you’re facing challenges you feel incapable of handling: you are not alone, you never have been, and you never will be. 

3. Take a day off

Iyanu and I have a rule that we don’t do wedding planning or move planning on the weekends. I find that simply taking a break from planning is hugely beneficial. It’s okay to not be The World’s Most Productive Woman. In most cases, what feels urgent can wait until Monday, and when you arrive at Monday, the decisions you face may seem much simpler and more straightforward. 

4. Take good care of yourself

Get out of bed. Open the shades. Turn on the lights. Eat something. Drink water. Shower. Clean and organize your living space. It’s okay to cry through the whole thing. But keep going. I get to the end of the day sometimes, and these things are all I can claim for the day. I got out of bed. I didn’t give in to sitting in the dark. Maybe I made no progress on anything else. But I got out of bed. And that’s something to be proud of. Take care of yourself and facing what’s ahead of you won’t seem quite as daunting. 

5. Rely on the Friend who’s always there

“Oh what peace we often forfeit, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Do you ever wish that you could perfectly communicate exactly what you’re experiencing to someone so that they would understand EXACTLY how you are feeling and why you’re overwhelmed? 

God created me and knows exactly what I’m facing, how I’m feeling about it and how overwhelmed I get sometimes. He knows. He sees. Sometimes I just want someone to see that I’m struggling with feeling depressed or anxious- I want to feel understood. Well, He understands. He keeps track. He doesn’t forget all the times I’ve felt defeated, or anxious, or overwhelmed. That’s the kind of Friend He is. 

When you have a Friend like that, you can tell Him anything. And it really, truly helps. Spill your guts, cry all you want, talk to Him about it all- down to the tiniest little detail. Isn’t that what you’d tell your friend if you were venting over a cup of coffee during a get-together? Get it all off your chest, and move forward. 

No matter what happens, on June 10th, I get to marry the love of my life. All the plans will fall into place, or they won’t, and that’s okay too. But God’s given me a really precious person to share my life with, and that’s one of the greatest blessings a person can have. I can’t wait to start a lifetime of adventures and quiet times, laughter and tears, sickness and health and everything in between with the man of my dreams in 23 days!

Out with the old, in with almost nothing

You know that scene in You’ve Got Mail, the greatest romantic comedy of all time, when Kathleen Kelly has decided to close her shop? I’d say spoiler alert but it’s been 18 years, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I feel bad for you. Birdie, the woman who is practically Kathleen’s surrogate mother, tells her how brave she’s being for “daring to imagine that you could have another life.” She encourages her bold move to close the store while reminding her that she’s “marching in to the unknown armed with… Nothing!”

That’s a bit how I was feeling this week. The closer we get to the wedding (148 days, holla!), the more stuff I’m getting rid of- clothes, shoes, knick-knacks, clutter. In order to streamline the move, I’m taking just my clothes, a few little belongings, books and records.

The way I see it, you can look at this two ways: you can make a big, sad deal about it, or you can get excited to simplify and start a new life.

In a way, I’m marching into the unknown, armed with nothing. Leaving the familiar isn’t easy, even for those who move frequently and are always looking for new experiences. With this being my first “big” move, I find myself looking at my stuff, my clothes, my little cluttery junk and having trouble throwing it all in the donation pile.

But when I give it a second thought, isn’t that kind of what we’re supposed to do in life in general? Reading through Matthew 6, part of the Sermon on the Mount, was in my devotional plan this morning and what an awesome reminder it is.

Destructible, perishable, moth and rust targets- that’s what is going in my donation pile. Yes, I’m going to keep the things I need, things that represent people, memories and happy times. I think when Jesus was saying these things about earthly possessions, He’s more concerned about our attitude toward our treasures than the treasures themselves.

So I’m not sad to be simplifying. In fact, I feel a dozen pounds lighter. It’s good to start fresh, to have a blank slate and to have only the things I need. That will help me start an entirely new life overseas with no looking back. It serves as a good reminder to hold loosely to things that are fleeting- You literally cannot take it with you, not just to Heaven, but to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean too.

I cannot wait to start fresh in an incredible city, making memories and learning lessons that will last longer than that sweater I’ve had since 9th grade!

Accomplished this week: sending save-the-dates, booking a ceremony venue, and donating clothes

Preparing for the biggest year of my life: Lessons from the Bible (and Ferris Bueller)

2015 was without a doubt the most eventful year of my life- graduating college, meeting and falling in love with (and getting engaged to) my best friend, planning a wedding and looking ahead to an international move to the UK. Great! Perfect!

But 2016 is the year that that looking ahead, those plans- they all have to be carried out. And at 2 am, it overwhelmed me.

I’m a textbook stockpiler and the middle of the night is prime time for remembering all the things you’re facing at the same time: visa applications, student loan debt, wedding planning, and moving to a different part of the world.

From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

-Psalm 61:2

This was where I was emotionally- overwhelmed. But it wasn’t where I was spiritually- praying for guidance and resting in the perfect plan God has for my life.

So as I went to read my Bible this morning, my heart was still heavy- burdened with the weight of challenges that the year holds. And I was trying to carry that weight myself.

Until BOOM! Psalm 98 was dropped in my lap:

Oh sing to the Lord a new song,
for He has done marvelous things!
His right hand and His holy arm
have worked salvation for Him.

What a joyful song! “Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together.” That kind of language doesn’t accompany a furrowed brow and heavy heart- The Lord has done SUCH marvelous things!

What incredible experiences are ahead of me in 2016! In the process of worrying, I forgot about thanksgiving. I forgot about God’s plan for my life. Yep, I’m still pretty intimidated by the year ahead, but happy to be reminded of the blessings, joy and peace that come from being a child of God.

So I spent the rest of the morning enjoying some of my many blessings, with such joy in my heart. Playing with my little nephew, listening to good music, looking at pictures of Iyanu and I, and remembering that while the future is scary and unknown to me, it’s not to my Heavenly Father.

So in the months ahead- the planning, the marrying, the moving, the adjusting- I’m going to make a more concerted effort to stop and smell the roses.

As Ferris Bueller says: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Here’s to not missing out on life, trusting the Lord, and enjoying the ride in 2016.