Depression and Sorrow

I was absolutely unprepared for the emotional tidal wave that hit me.

Last week, Ginny Owens spoke at a chapel service at Belmont. Ginny is a Dove award-winning Christian artist, a Belmont alumna and adjunct songwriter professor. I grew up listening to Ginny’s music, and was excited to hear her speak, but my primary motivation in attending was to support my colleagues who had planned the program.

As chapel began, my face was buried into my iphone as I fired off a couple last second emails. Usually chapel starts with a few worship songs led by Belmont students.  So, as the piano began to play, I didn’t think anything of it. Then a voice began to sing, a voice that sounded like a familiar friend, and suddenly– I froze.

My heart sank deep into my stomach. A wave a nausea swept over me and I knew what was about to happen.

It was Ginny singing. It was a song I knew well.

And then I burst into tears.

Like the have-to-hold-your-breath because you’d make horrible noises if you didn’t, kind of tears. This was especially awkward as I sat sandwiched in between a student I didn’t know and a 50-something year old male coworker of mine.

I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. I could barely keep it under control.

When I was high school, I suffered from depression.  You never would have known it from the outside. I buried it deep within.

I was a perfectionist, a performer, and I played my part very well. A happy-go-lucky teenage girl who pretty much had everything she could want in life. I was high achieving, high functioning, and was absolutely miserable deep down.

For over a year, I spent every morning before school and every lunch break during the summer, sitting in my car, listening to Ginny Owens, crying.  I would cry for almost an hour, force myself to stop, wait for my eyes to lose their puffiness and redness, and walk into school or back to my job as if everything was perfect.

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don’t know the reason why you brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do
I will go through the valley
If You want me to

Now I’m not who I was
When I took my first step
And I’m clinging to the promise
You’re not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
I will go through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When you lead me through a world that’s not my own
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I’ll never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me
And I’m all by myself
And I can’t hear You answer my cries for help
I’ll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the valley
If You want me to

-Ginny Owens, If You Want Me To

That was one of the songs Ginny sang last week at Belmont, and that was also one of the songs I listened to every single day for over a year while I struggled through feelings of sadness, loneliness, and emptiness.

But the tears last week were complicated.

Certainly, the song and Ginny’s voice transported me back in time to the maroon interior of my 1996 Chevy Corsica. I felt the loneliness and depression like it was yesterday.

But I also sat in the present: in a plush chair in the middle of a gorgeous chapel at Belmont University. And my tears were tears of relief and gratitude and joy– overwhelmed by how far God has taken me, how loving and gracious He has been to me, and how much He has rescued me.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m sharing this with you (and the entire internet) other than the fact that as I sat in my chair, washed over by Ginny’s song, I knew I needed to share it.

I don’t talk about this part of my story much. Mostly because I feel so far removed from it, but also because– for some reason– I downplay it.  Part of me wonders if it wasn’t just a typical teen thing–overly emotional and feeling alone.  But crying in your car for an hour for 365+ days is not normal– or at least, it shouldn’t be!  And at that moment in chapel, when my past and present so violently collided, I realized that to not share that part of my story is to steal from God’s goodness and glory in my life.  He rescued me from the pit. And He used that valley to strengthen me, deepen my faith, and fix my eyes on Him for the yeas to come.

If you’re struggling with depression…

I want you to know you are not alone.

You are loved deeply by God. He sees you; He cares for you; and He is intimately aware of your suffering and hurt.

If you are hiding your grief from everyone around you– I beg you to tell someone. Tell someone who cares about you. Tell someone who is safe. You are allowing your heart to live in darkness, but the only way to begin healing is to step into the light. The shame you feel will loosen its grip on you once you expose it and shine light on it. There is freedom in the light.

It will get better. Continue to anchor your hope in the Lord. Trust in Him. He will never leave you. He has great plans for you–even as you struggle through the valley– for your good and for His glory. I am a walking testimony of that. If you keep your eyes fixed on Him, He will rescue you.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)