Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring 2017: Thoughts on Life, Loss, Depression, and Hope

grandpa and tractor
My grandpa, who passed away on April 4th
I'm about to get pretty real and pretty vulnerable for a few minutes, so bear with me while I process some things...

Say what you will about 2016, riddled with numerous celebrity deaths, weird politics, and racial unrest. Terrorist attacks all around the world, natural disasters, scandals. Drama in every social and political sector, everywhere in the world.

It seemed like every day there was something crazy happening.

sister in wedding gown
My beautiful sister on her wedding day
2016 was a dramatic year, I'll give you that. But hear me out: for my family, 2017 has held more life events, good and bad, in its first four months than in all of the previous year.

There have been several losses in the family. Also some exciting things, such as my sister’s wedding in March, my upcoming college graduation, and my first car. But personally, I've been dealing with stress about the future, work, portfolios, and final assignments. And I've felt pretty disconnected from some of my closest friends, due to busyness and changing life circumstances. 

(Quick side note: thankfully, my family got a new dog, a fluffy and adorable golden retriever mix named Otis, now ten months old. Playing with Otis has been good therapy for us all!)

But honestly...

...It’s been a very emotional start to the year.

I often jokingly say that mental health isn’t one of my strengths, having spent almost half of my life dealing with depression. 

How cute is Otis???
It waxes and wanes like the moon, grows and shrinks with the seasons. I don't talk about it much except with a few people, but it's always there, hovering in the background. 

I don't think it will ever really go away, and I've accepted that. I've learned my triggers (exhaustion is a big one) and I've learned ways to cope. I've learned that it's okay to cancel plans when I'm not doing okay, and I've learned to embrace the days that I am

But it’s only by God’s mercy that the shadow of depression hasn’t been at its darkest these last few months. If it were, I don’t know how I’d get through all of this.

Last night, my church held a Good Friday service and I couldn’t help reflecting on the losses and joys of this spring; the many highs and lows of emotion my loved ones and I have experienced. 

"Never Hide" collage
"Never Hide" a collage I made last fall about
my quiet struggle with depression, self-harm,
and being open and vulnerable with others.
Easter is the most important part of my Christian faith, but I’ll admit that this year it bears a lot more weight for me than most years. My grandpa passed away just a couple weeks ago, so April has been particularly difficult. The week before his passing was the most difficult and stressful week of my academic career, with the completion of my English portfolio and another big project for one of my classes.

All these heavy emotions have left me feeling raw and exposed, and more aware of the magnitude of Christ's sacrifice.

I remember when my brother was very young, his first Easter in our family (we adopted him at the age of 3), he cried when he heard the story of Jesus’ death. 

Here was this three-year-old child, hearing for the first time that the Jesus he’d heard so much about had died. We tried to explain it over and over, but it wasn’t until Easter morning that my little brother was able to understand that Jesus came back to life. 

I think about that every Easter, and wish for my response to the Easter story to be as raw and real as that three-year-old’s sobbing. This year may be the first that I’ve ever been on the verge of tears at the thought of Jesus’ death, but here I am. On the verge of tears.

With everything going on in my life, loss is very fresh in my mind. It doesn’t take much to turn my mind toward that darkness.

Peace. Paper, acrylic, and ink on canvas. 2016.
But today, I am thanking God. 

I thank God for every moment that my heart has felt pain mixed with hope. For someone who is all too familiar with the near-unbearable weight of depression, it’s good to feel only the pain of stress and loss, not despair. 

Today, I thank God for the good that has been interspersed with the bad. My sister’s wedding, my graduation in a few weeks, my completed portfolio, a sweet and adorable dog.

I thank God for every moment in which I have felt the excitement of what is to come, rather than feeling bound in darkness.

I thank God for tomorrow, the day we devote to celebrating Jesus' resurrection.

I had the privilege of preaching in an evening worship service on April 5th, but I thought seriously about canceling because it was the night after my grandpa passed away. 

I just felt too tired, too sad, too weak, too unqualified. 

I'd never preached, and I don't like public speaking. But I got up there. I spoke on prayer, and waiting for God when it seems like he's not listening.

worship band practicing
the band practicing before worship
Looking back, I think I needed to speak more than anyone in that audience needed to hear. God spoke to me more loudly that night than in a long time. 

After speaking, I finally felt hope. 

I was reminded that I don't need to know the answers, I don't need to understand the whys and the hows, I don't need to see the purpose or the plan. I just need to lean on God and trust that while he takes away, he also gives.

I'm choosing to remember that, as I turn from the darkness of Good Friday to the light of Easter morning. 


1 comment:

  1. Cailey,
    Your words touch my heart. They bring tears of joy, sadness and comfort. Thank you for sharing your heart because it helps in my healing too. I love & admire you.