Running on Empty
Anxiety. Depression. Brokenness. Hurt.
No one asks for these burdens. No one hopes for loneliness and pain. Depression often creeps up and surprises its victims in the worst possible way. It did for me.
I didn’t wake up one day and pray, “Lord God, I think I’d like some time off of work, so maybe a bout of serious depression is in order.” No, it happened slowly, a little at a time, and before I knew it, I was in a pit of despair. I didn’t see this coming.
Let me backtrack a bit. Within a whirlwind of two months, Charles and I got married, traveled all up and down the east coast of the U.S. visiting family, and then moved to Taichung, Taiwan. It was a new country for Charles, a new city for me, and a new marriage and new jobs for both of us. There were so many transitions to make. We touched down in the plane and hit the ground running: unpacking, setting up our house, acclimating to city life, learning new jobs, preparing lesson plans for new classes, learning to live with each other, adjusting to culture stress, and doing it all without any of our familiar and beloved community close by. Everything was new, different, and rigorous. There was no time to slow down.
I spent much of the beginning of this school year running on empty. During the first semester, my strength started to crumble. I was physically sick and missed a lot of school. I began to deal with anxiety and minor panic attacks. I could hold myself together during school hours, but I cried almost every evening. I was breaking down fast. I started seeing a Christian clinical counselor who recommended a psychiatrist for anti-anxiety medication. I continued working with both the counselor and the doctor, but things grew worse. My anxiety turned into depression. Deep sadness enveloped me, and I felt like I was suffocating under the pressure.
Pretty soon, I couldn’t keep going. I took a week off from school and spent half of it with my sister Ashleigh; that was really refreshing. However, by the end of my week-long respite, I still wasn’t ready to go back to school. My leave of absence stretched into a month, then two, and finally, we decided I won’t go back this year.
It has been an incredibly difficult season of life. I didn’t ask for this. I never wanted to be on anti-depression medication. I never thought I would be so distressed that I’d need to take an extended leave of absence from work. But the reality is that my life took a turn, and I found myself calling out like the psalmist, saying: “Why are you downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me?”
Healing and Small Victories
My goals toward healing started out really small: for instance, taking Emi for a walk in the park near our home or washing the dishes without panicking. Then I started to progress to grander accomplishments like cooking a meal for my husband or walking onto the school campus without tears. When the high school musical rolled around, I braved the auditorium full of Morrison students, parents, and teachers with Charles and my sisters by my side (and I held back the tears until after we left the show). While these victories seem really minor, I have had to recognize them as part of my healing and growth. I’m taking little tiny baby steps, but they are steps nonetheless.
One of the reasons why I’m posting this very honest blog is so that I can write about the small victories in the future and celebrate them with my readers (a.k.a. friends and family). Sometimes just making a verbal recognition of a small accomplishment helps me to see that God is healing me little by little. [FYI, my next “victory” post will be about my Easter weekend and the wonderful time I had with my sisters in Kaohsiung!]
Hope in God
Psalm 42 has been significant to me at various times of my life when I have faced hardship. It is important to me again. In verse five, the poet says:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him,
My Savior and my God.
During my depression and anxiety, it has been difficult to lean on God. I haven’t questioned whether He is there, but I have questioned whether He is answering my prayers. I am beginning to realize that He hears every prayer and answers each one too…it’s just not always in the way or timing I want or expect. I am learning to put my hope in God even through the brokenness, weakness, and despair. In fact, doesn’t Paul tell us that God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9)? God is not working in spite of my weakness but rather through it.
So, where am I now?
I’m still healing, and I’m still taking time off of work. The school administration has been amazingly supportive of me as I’ve walked this road. They have given me as much time off as I need and focused on my healing as the most important thing.
Charles has been wonderful too; I couldn’t ask for a better husband who loves me and supports me in every way conceivable. Our marriage has grown and our communication has strengthened during this difficult time, and I am thankful that God has used this time of pain for good and growth.
In the month or so that we have left of this school year, my goal is to reach out to some ladies in the community who have extended loving hands and listening ears to me. At the beginning of my depression and anxiety, I didn’t have the time, energy, or life in me to get to know people in the community. Now I have the time, and I sense God urging me to make the best of it. Hopefully, next year I’ll come back to a stronger community and more friends.
And I’ll keep blogging. For me, writing is therapeutic. It helps me to process my thoughts and feelings as I seek to express myself to others. Writing on the blog is also a way for me to communicate to friends and family across the world about how to pray for me. Would you pray for me as I continue to seek the Lord and put my hope in Him?
I know that good will come from this season of pain. I know that God will not leave me and that, as my mom always reminds me, “this too shall pass.” I’m even beginning to get a bit excited about what God will teach me and how I will grow through this challenging season. I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.
8 thoughts on “I Will Yet Praise Him”
Praying for healing … You are not alone . I’ve walked in your shoes and it’s not easy but God does heal and if we take one day at a time and trust Him …we can live productive lives for The Lord Xoxo
Thank you, Adrienne. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone; a lot of people (especially women) have told me they’ve gone through similar seasons in their lives, and that’s encouraging. God is working, and I will continue to trust Him.
Christel, it took courage for you to write this blog and I sense in it a healing. Relying on Him is a safe place, He will not disappoint you. You will be in my prayers.
Thank you, Mona. I really appreciate your encouragement and prayers. I am beginning to sense the Lord’s healing myself, but it certainly is not in my impatient timing. I’m just looking forward to what He is teaching me through all of this.
We love you much. We are praying for you. You are so brave, Christel. This is a hard place. Healing is coming.
Thank you for taking the time to share. I’m a teacher overseas and had to take time off of work because of the illness and ultimately, the home going, of my mother. God has the been healing me slowly and I’ve wanted to rush the process but it is a gradual process of His grace being manifested in my life. I still have to learn how to be patient, still, how to trust the Father in my brokenness, but I’m comforted that He cares, He won’t leave me and He is faithful. May The Lord continue to carry you and show you His light in the midst of dark places.
Hey Christel! You may not remember, but you were a huge encouragement to me in high school especially during my Junior year when I was diagnosed with depression. I definitely didn’t think I would make it out of the hopeless darkness at the time, but God’s faithfulness and grace have brought me beyond those dark HCRHS days.=) Sometimes I look back and laugh at the irony, because I think you were one of the first people to tell me about (way) inland China (when I wasn’t even interested in minorities) and I’ve been living in KM for nearly five years now. Am definitely praying for you and know that our faithful Daddy will continue to hold you close even when you’re not feeling especially strong. 加油!
Thanks for the encouraging message you left. I hadn’t thought about that time in high school for a loooong time. I’m so thankful that God used me to help encourage you then. Praise the Lord! I’m also excited to hear that you’re serving in KM now. What a blessing you must be. I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing. Send me an email sometime if you think of it. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.