One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is that I should always carry a notebook and a pen. There’s always a fear the black roller ball will dispose of itself in my jean pocket, but a quick check every ten minutes should see I get by without any major ink-cedents (sorry, not sorry). I reckon I have approximately 5 notebooks kicking about. There is usually at least one notebook in every room of my house due to the messy way I go about recording my sporadic thoughts. None of them are filled with thought provoking words of wisdom that I believe a generation must read. They are also all horrendously organised. At one point each book was assigned a different heading (one for lyrics, one for sermon notes) but it all got too jumbled too quick and I gave up.
There are lyrics, sermon notes, song titles, shower thoughts and just general nonsense. You should believe me when I say, Included on every page is a high amount of cringe inducing material that I care for no-one to read. The information contained would be heartbreakingly awkward for any who dare open and attempt to read the coffee stained, chocolate covered pages.
As the type of person who forgets to clear the pew in church of my personal items every Sunday or the type of idiot who leaves their wallet in work almost every day, I can be prone to leaving my notebook lying about for all the world to fall upon. My notebooks contain thoughts concerning the deepest caverns of my head and my heart, therefore its not something I really wish anyone to pick up and start browsing for fear of pure embarrassment.
Forgetting where I leave everything and anything is part and parcel of my daily routine. I know this is because every minute of every day my mind is awash with a cacophony of ridiculous thoughts. The barage of thoughts never seem to let up. Theres an endless to-ing and fro-ing between my head and my which heart builds up to a dizzying crescendo every day. When the cymbals crash and my mind dances itself into a daze I get to the moment when I would really care for my mind to become a blank canvas, as it was at the beginning of the day. This is why you will find my phone in the pew, or my brand new spectacles lying on the floor of your car almost every single time you kindly give my lazy backside a lift. Its not because I don’t care for these items, it’s because my thoughts are relentlessly overtaking one another bidding for pole position.
Documenting these thoughts is to me like trying to untangle a pair of my cheap earphones. Every single time when it comes to having to converse with people, I roll them up nice and neat, put them into my pocket in the most logical way and convince myself the wires will not get damaged or tangled in transit. As I reach for fiddly wires in my jean or coat pocket to resume my musical distraction, they are, for some strange reason in an un-holy mess. Whilst I know I’m being unnecessarily dramatic, I find it to be absolutely infuriating. Once I've huffed and puffed I begin the de-tangulation process, even though I know its going to happen again and again until I do something solid about the re-occurring ‘problem’. Writing is my de-tangulation process. When I put pen to paper, most of the time I have no idea why the words I catapult onto the page even matter. I have no idea when or if I will ever return to contemplate their meaning. The process begins a conversation between me and God and we can end up talking for a while. There is a fresh feeling that soothes my mind as though my brain is being drained of every drop of thought within it when I let go of the words weighing me down. It resets my brain, leaving me with a small window where I can catch a much needed mental breath. However before too long my thoughts are tangled once again and so too must I begin the process of unravelling my messy wires. I have finally realised that to de-tangle my thoughts there are many steps I need to be willing to take. These steps include God/people and medication, leaving me hopeful yet petrified.
There are a million and one articles that perfectly capture the discussion topic ‘How Christians should deal with mental health issues’. The articles articulate the subject matter in a way that I never could. Therefore I will choose to let them come to their own conclusions and kindly allow them to debate their own methods of managing the various mental health issues. My only aim of this blog is to add one more voice to the conversation. I want to put a face to the statistics that I am now included in. The triggers for my depression may be completely different to yours. The inward and outward manifestations may be similar or different to your own - but that’s O.K we can still help each other out by keeping the discussion open and genuinely loving each other as we are. I don’t get what you’re going through, and if you’re anything like me then you don’t get it 100% either. I'm a nobody but I want to try and remove just some of the stigma attached to a subject the Christian community has brushed over too often. Christians can be well meaning by saying, ‘well if you give it to God then he’ll sort you out, he is the source of all joy right?’ but this can be discouarging. Yes he really is, but please understand the difference between joy and happiness. Joy is embedded in the soul, happiness is a fleeting human emotion that disappears as soon as you have enjoyed the feeling.You may be different from me, but personally, I know I have a joy deep, deep down, engraved in my heart and my very bones. There are days when I just don’t feel happy. I’ve felt so guilty and ashamed, almost as though I were sinning. In the attempt of artificially whipping up some happiness it has left me feeling worse than before. Now I’ve learned not to search for the fleeting feeling of happiness, rather, I grip for dear life onto the person who is constant joy, peace, love and rest, Jesus.
Right now I’m at the point where I'm honestly too afraid to talk about my depression at a deeper level. What I do know is God remains and I in him. Only God knows why sometimes I feel so lost. Only he knows why i wake up most days feeling like a sledgehammer is bound to my chest.
It took me months before I bottled up the nerve to go and talk to my doctor. Seeing me how I was, was breaking my wife’s heart. Sara was waking up every day not knowing the version of Michael she was going to be encountering, the positive up beat one or the apathetic, tired and self defeating one. Surely this could have all waited until we were a few years married at least I thought. Truly Sara has been amazing, as cliched as it is, she really is a gift from God and a gift that I will never fully deserve. Treasure the people closest to you, they were placed there for reasons you may never know until years down the road.
I really didn’t feel worthy of talking to the doctor, I believed there were others much worse off than I was therefore it should be my priority to suck it up and deal with it alone. As simple as it sounds I am me and you are you. I talked about this in my comparison blog last week. I explained that we are dangerously self destructive when we begin comparing ourselves to others. To begin the process of healing I needed to take some ownership of what my next step was going to be and stop comparing myself to others. That next step was standing outside the doctors offices on a freezing Monday morning waiting for open surgery to begin letting the queue of fifty people in (I cant emphasise enough how truly bitter it was). I really didn’t want to be there but I knew I needed to be
Life doesn’t tend to take a step one, step two, step three path. Rather its like step ten happens then off to step three, and back to step two. It really is a fun and exhausting mess most of the time. A good part of our lives is taken up trying to figure out why certain things happen and figuring out why they happen at a particular moment. It can be really, really difficuly, and it may never ease until our final breath. There may not be an immediate solution but there are tools and people God has placed in your life to help you through. When you cant make sense of any of it then hold onto the one constant in this world, Jesus. He is unshakeable and unfailing. The foundation of my faith is built upon Jesus love, nothing else. When all else crumbles and blows to dust around me this one truth can never be removed. He is the hope upon which my life is built.
Sometimes my thoughts feel like a punch to the gut, when they do I try to overtake them with the knowledge of Gods promises for my life. My natural human emotions tell me I’m not good enough but through Jesus blood, God sees Christ in me and finds me more than worthy to eat and drink at his table.
I’ll keep writing in my notebook, it’s one of the places I like to converse with God. We like to talk a lot, and no topic is off limits. You should try it.
If you are experiencing a ounce of what I’m walking through right now, then go talk to a friend and go talk to a doctor. You are eternally loved and God is not ashamed of you.