Believe

One of my favorite animated movies (if not my absolute favorite) is “Rise of the Guardians”. There are so many reasons why I love this movie, but one of the things I love most about it is that it revolves around the idea that we choose to believe. The things in the world influence our ability to believe, but in the end, only we can conquer our own nightmares by choosing to face them and bring them to light.

I look at the stars in the sky, snowflakes that freeze on the window, and the hundreds of tiny little veins in a single leaf, and I just think to myself, “how can anyone not believe?” There is so much hope here, so much light. There is so much good in the world.

As someone who hardly knows what it’s like to not have depression, I have seen my share of darkness. Most of my life has been spent trying to find the light in the darkness. But because of that, I see light everywhere. I see light in the darkest corners of people who’s lives have been torn apart by addictions or mental illness. I see light in desperate situations where some will say, “what good could come of this?” And most importantly, I see light in myself. Even when I am in the depths of depression and death seems like the only escape and I ache for any bit of hope to hold onto, I find light in my faith that things will get better, that someone cares, that I am not alone.

People say that light and dark cannot exist in the same space. They are right to an extent. Light cannot inhabit the same molecules as the dark. But there is no room, no area, no place that I know of that has absolutely no darkness. Likewise, it is extremely difficult to create complete darkness. Light and dark seek to inhabit the same space, but darkness wins when light reaches its limit. Darkness is the absence of light because it exists when light is not there. 

Inside of us, darkness exists when we don’t choose to make light. I have always marvelled at how people can be so cruel. I don’t understand how people can hurt each other or become numb to the pain of another person. I guess it makes sense though that if you don’t choose to put light in yourself, the darkness will reside there instead. But I can’t help but see light in even the darkest of people. There has to be some good there, if they would just choose to turn towards it.

At Christmas time it is easy to dismiss the beliefs of children in Santa Claus or even in miracles, but it is that choice to believe that is so powerful. I want to believe in Santa. I want to believe in goodness. I want to believe that there is something better out there. I watch movies like “The Polar Express” and “The Santa Clause” and they make me want to believe in the impossible. I have seen the impossible over the last few years. I have experienced what I never even dreamed could happen.

So I guess my point with all of this is just to encourage you to believe. Believe in hope, in light, in goodness. Believe in something bigger than yourself. Believe that you are not alone in this world.

“All things are possible to those who believe.”

-adapted from Mark 9:23

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Purpose

The things that happen, the people that cross your path, and where life takes you can’t all be coincidences. There has to be something bigger here. The perfect timing needed to meet certain people and all the little steps that lead you to a certain place in your life where you can become friends cannot be random happenstance. There are too many factors, too many possible variations, too many choices along the way for some things to not be destiny.

I don’t understand a lot of things in this life, but I do believe there is a purpose. There is a purpose to you being here. There is a purpose to your life. There is a purpose to my life. We are not aimless beings wandering in a world of uncertainty and discord. We are travelling in a direction, making a course towards something. We may not know what yet, but as long as we keep trying, we will never really be lost because we are travelling towards where we’re supposed to be.

Living for the Good and the Bad

I have not wanted to die in about two weeks. This is the longest I have felt well since the two weeks last year between getting out of my worst episode of depression and being involved in a serious car accident. I feel as though I have gone through hell twice over the last two years. I went from being in the most pain I had ever been through emotionally and mentally to being in the most pain I had ever endured physically. There were so many days of wanting to give up, days where the pain was so bad that I would have done anything just to make it stop. But I finally feel like myself again. I feel free from the pain that dominated my life.

It is interesting how you look at things when you get better. I would not trade the last two years for anything. It was the most difficult time of my life, but also a time when I grew exponentially. I am not who I was two years ago. I am not even who I was two months ago. I have grown so much in these difficult circumstances. I found out what I am made of, who I am at my core, and what I am capable of. I have conquered my greatest giants of self-loathing, fear, and doubt. I have learned to trust. I have learned how to be vulnerable. I have learned that I have worth, that I am loved, and that I am strong and kind and giving.

The last two years have been both the best and worst of my life. Sometimes we think that things are all good or all bad. The glass is either half empty or half full. We are either happy or not. But maybe the glass just is. Maybe we just are. And maybe it is enough just to be- to be here, to be alive, to be human. The last two years have taught me that sometimes you have to go through the worst to discover the best that life has to offer. And no matter what happens, there is always good. Even when life is so completely horrible that you do not want to be here one more second, there is good.

I am glad that I stayed for the good… and for the bad. Sometimes we make life seem like only the good is worth living for. That’s not true. The bad is worth living for, too. Not because it is fun or happy or easy, but because it molds us. The bad things in life are the things that make us better. It is through our suffering that we learn compassion, forgiveness, love, endurance, perseverance, patience, strength, and many of the best qualities we can possess. We must choose to live for both the good and the bad, so that when things get hard, we keep going and refuse to give up.

So, here’s to living for everything this world has to offer- the good, the bad, and the mundane. Here’s to constant improvement and progression. Here’s to changing and learning and being. And here’s to better days ahead. 🙂

This is My Life

I was officially diagnosed earlier this year with chronic depression- early onset, which basically means I have had depression for as long as I can remember and it will likely keep coming back for the rest of my life. I hadn’t really pursued a diagnosis before this year because it seemed pretty obvious that I had depression and I didn’t need someone to tell me. But even with a diagnosis, it is sometimes hard to believe that this may never go away.

There are times when I am just so happy and at peace with the world that depression seems like a distant memory, hardly relevant to the joy I am experiencing. But the truth is, those exquisite moments of joy are possible because of the deep craters of despair that have come before them. This is my life. This is my reality. I am going to have moments of despair so strong that I forget anything good ever came before them. But I am also going to have moments of joy that are so incredible that I forget what pain feels like.

I feel like I am a pretty happy person. I love life. I see the good in it. I see the good in everything and everyone. I love people more than anything else in the world. But I wrote a post a couple years ago where I talked about drinking up happiness as much as I could when it came so that I could get through the next period of depression.

The last few months have been really amazing for me. I progressed so much mentally and emotionally that I felt like maybe depression was finally gone. All the self doubt and self hate and hurt from past experiences had all disappeared. I felt completely and totally whole for the first time in my life. But… I have chronic depression. So, it came back.

The point I am trying to make though is that sometimes having depression feels like trying to drink happiness through a cup with a hole in it. You do what you can to fill your cup and to keep it full, but it doesn’t always work. The thing is though, I have come to the point where I realize that it is okay. It is okay that I have chronic depression. It is okay that I have nothing to be sad about, and yet feel such deep despair that I cannot begin to describe the pain I am enduring. It is okay because I am alive. After everything, all the brokenness and lonely nights and heartbreaking thoughts, I am still here. I am still here to enjoy the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I am still here to listen to the sound of rain outside my window and drink hot chocolate and watch fun movies. I am still here to experience all that life has and all that life is.

So, maybe in an hour, I won’t be able to get out of bed because depression grips me so tightly that I can hardly breathe. But in the moments that I am well, during the times when I can see the beauty around me, I plan to love it all as much as I can. I plan to find joy in the difficult situations and enjoy the good times. I plan to live because I am here for a reason. And whatever that reason is, I’m going to make it a good life. This is my life, and I’m going to love every minute of it.

 

Be a Weed

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I had a thought today as I was looking at the weeds in our grass. Our sprinklers broke a few weeks ago and the grass has mostly died, but the weeds are still coming up green. As I looked at those weeds (and the other weeds growing between the cracks in the sidewalk), I had the thought, “I want to be like that.”

It is interesting to me that weeds are the plants that are the most stable, grow the best, and stay the greenest longest. Weeds have deeper roots than grass and as such, are very hard to kill. Everything about weeds is great, except that they are weeds. If grass came up without much work and stayed green without much watering and would keep coming back no matter how many times it was stepped on, most people would be delighted.

So what makes weeds so bad?

The short answer is that they don’t fit in. The longer answer is that they look out of place with the rest of the lawn, and they are hard to get rid of, even with weed killing spray and digging deep to try to take up the roots.

Anyway, to get to the point…

Being a weed is not always a good thing, but it can be very good to have the qualities of a weed in a lot of life’s situations. I want to be like a weed because of their resilience. I want to be like a weed because of their boldness in standing out from a crowd. I want to be like a weed because of the deep roots that ground them when life gets tough.

Don’t be afraid to be a weed in difficult circumstances. Be a weed in standing up against injustice. Be a weed in standing your ground when others are asking you to compromise your morals or values. Be a weed in fighting depression or anxiety or health issues or other trials. Be a weed in coming back up when life knocks you down. Be a weed in having roots so strong in what you believe in that no matter how far someone digs, they cannot kill that part of you. Be a weed when your circumstances are not ideal, but you are determined to grow up strong anyway.

And perhaps most of all, be a weed in being okay with being a weed. Be okay with being different. Be okay with not going with the crowd. Be okay with standing up for yourself. Not everyone will love you for it, but sometimes being a weed is the best thing you can be.

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Light in the Dark

“Service activates the light”

-Tim Ballard

I went to a devotional tonight where Tim Ballard spoke about finding light in the darkness. Tim Ballard started the organization, “Operation Underground Railroad,” which exists to rescue children from sex trafficking. His job is basically going into the darkness and saving people from it. What he said tonight really resonated with me.

I don’t know why I took things so hard growing up. My life really wasn’t that bad. I’m pretty sure my siblings didn’t see things the same way as I did, or at least it didn’t affect them the same way. I’m not exactly sure what triggered in me all of the thoughts and feelings that followed.

What I do know is what I learned from it all. I learned to take care of people. I learned that everybody hurts and gets stressed and afraid. I learned to protect the people I loved and to bring light to the lives of the people around me. Serving other people is so ingrained in me that I literally cannot stop myself from trying to help someone.

My world growing up often felt chaotic and unfriendly. Part of it was autism and anxiety and depression, part of it was circumstances, part of it was past experiences, but I felt like I was fighting off darkness. I kept putting out light though. I tried to help and serve and do good to others. I remember tutoring people all through high school, joining clubs and participating in activities that helped others, doing things around the house to help my parents. As long as I was doing something for someone, I felt good. The darkness set in at night when the world was quiet and I found myself alone, but as long as there was someone to help, there was light. Like Tim Ballard said tonight, “Service turns the light on.” For me, service was my light. It gave purpose and meaning to my life.

I struggle with being myself. I struggle with loving myself. I used to think I was a horrible person. I used to hate myself. I used to think I never did anything right. Over the last few years, I have been able to change those thoughts. But they still come back. I still struggle to see my worth. I know I need to be good to myself. I know I need to love myself like I love other people. I know it is important for me to take care of myself. I’m just not good at it.

But serving people, loving people, helping people? I am good at that. It is hard to fight the darkness, but service gives me hope. Seeing light go into someone else gives me hope. When I can’t see light going into others, I lose hope. Someday I hope I can put light into myself, too. But for now, I am glad to realize that helping others can be my light in the dark.

A New Person

It has been about a month since I last felt depressed. Realizing that I am not a bad person had a lot to do with that. Most people who know me would probably think it is strange that I would think of myself as a bad person, but it was the one belief that overpowered everything else in my life. It influenced every thought, action, and relationship. It ruled my life for so long that I hardly even recognized its influence because I was so accustomed to thinking that way.

I feel like a great weight has been lifted off me. I feel free. I used to be so scared all the time. I was scared of doing good things because I felt like a bad person so doing something good seemed hypocritical. I was also scared of not doing good things because I did not want to be a bad person. I was scared of getting close to people or making friends because I felt like it was just a matter of time before they found out how terrible I really was.

Looking back, my thoughts seem so strange. They did not make any sense. How could I be a bad person if I did not do anything to be mean or malicious or disrespectful? How could I be so bad if all anyone else saw in me was good? I guess that is how mental illness works though. Your thoughts are not inline with reality. Your thoughts directly contradict reality sometimes, but at the same time, your thoughts are reality. The way you see and think about the world is your reality, even if it is not true from the outside.

Now, I can look at how I used to think and see the flaws. I understand how I came to those beliefs and why I believed I was a bad person, but it is still difficult for me to believe I felt that way for so long. I mean, you would think that I would have noticed earlier. You would think that I would have recognized that these thoughts ruled my life. I guess I did recognize it to some extent, but I did not know how to change it. I would tell myself that my thoughts weren’t true, but I didn’t believe it. I believed my thoughts, not whatever I tried to tell myself.

I am not exactly sure what finally changed my thoughts. I had been going to therapy for a few weeks, and we were working on recognizing mental distortions.  I sat down one night and drew out my life and realized how and why I came to see myself as a bad person. I talked to my friends about it, and briefly to my therapist. Then one day, it was like all the pieces fit together in my mind. I recognized the lie and saw the truth, but, more importantly, I believed the truth.

I have felt like a new person since that time. The world seems brighter, more friendly and happier. I feel at peace with myself and everything around me. It is like clouds of darkness that had been there for years finally dispersed, and I can see the sun again. The strangest (and possibly most wonderful) thing is how I see my past now. I used to see hurt and sorrow and loneliness in my past. There were good times in the midst of that, but my general feeling was that the past was too painful to remember. Now, I see so much hope and light in past experiences. Even in the darkest times, I see the brightness of hope that was just beyond my view back then.

I am the happiest I have ever been! I wake up every day with a newness of life! The world seems wonderful and amazing! I see the beauty in everything! To someone that has been depressed for the majority of my life, it seems like a fairy tale and I am waiting to wake up or climb out of a rabbit hole like Alice in Wonderland. But this is real! The feelings are real because I have been freed from beliefs that weren’t real. It is not that I stepped into a better world, but rather that I stepped out of the darkness. I stepped out of a prison cell I did not know I was keeping myself in. Now I have a chance to be free, to find out what the world is really like without distorted lenses. I can’t express how truly excited I am to be alive now! The world is a beautiful place, and I am so excited to experience that beauty for the first time without anything distorting my view!