The Storms of Life

Photo By;
Andi Chewning – Norway 2012

“We are all drifting reefwards now, and faith is our only anchor.”
―  Bram Stoker, Dracula

I am not really sure where I am going with this today, my anchor has been lifted and while I am not adrift, I have not really navigated this course before. I want to write what is in my heart without censoring it the way I usually do. I censor my thoughts in an attempt to please others, to impress others and/or to avoid offending someone. Today, I just want to write what is on my heart.

I saw a picture on the news in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy of a seven ton cargo ship that had been tossed on shore a mile inland. The ship was huge, and it was beyond my ability to imagine what kind of force it must have taken to move it a mile away from the shore. I knew its anchor must have been tremendous yet it was not sufficient to save it, and I got to wondering about anchors and their purposes.

Storms come in many shapes and sizes from super storms  like Sandy to a cooling shower on a hot, humid day. They can cause great physical damage or emotional upheavals. They frequently bring death, destruction and pain.  And, anchors, those things which we use to negate some of that damage are not always sufficient.  That tanker’s anchor certainly didn’t protect it very well, and while a storm shelter may provide protection from a tornado what happens in its aftermath? How do you survive, cope and rebuild? How are all those people on the East Coast of the United States making it through the long, dark, cold days and nights without food, lights and heat? What keeps them going? What keeps any of us going when we lose someone we love, when we get divorced, when our friends betray us, when “life happens?” For me it is faith. Faith is my anchor and without it I just drift through life without purpose or direction at the mercy of the whims of fate.

I have raised five children and not all of them had he benefit of a strong faith, but I have noticed that the ones that I raised with a belief in a power greater than themselves had less traumatic teenage years than those that did not. They had an anchor that steadied them against the floods of peer pressure, drugs, low self-esteem and the Hollywood stereotypes of success.  Their faith, I believe, steadied them, and provided them with a secure knowledge of a power greater than themselves and their peers, and a larger worldview than their narrow, short lifespans provided them. This empowered them to stand firm and fight against the storms of life.

So too, in my own life, as I have battled depression, anxiety and stress, my faith – storm mangled as it is – has seen me through, provided me with an anchor and kept me safe to journey on toward new horizons in my life. It is my hope that all of you find a faith with which to anchor your lives and souls, a faith that will lead you to new adventures, larger horizons and more glorious manifestations of the Creator’s love in your lives.

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
―  Paulo Coelho, Brida

I am wondering…



Exactly How I Feel Lately

“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they’re ok, then it’s you.”
Rita Mae Brown

I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. I had it even before I knew I had it, and long before I even knew what it meant to be “depressed.”  My depression has always been cyclical in nature meaning that I suffered from continual, on-going low levels of depression interspersed with serious depressive episodes where the only solution appeared to be suicide.  I can still clearly remember the first time I thought about suicide, the feeling of not wanting to be alive, and I can clearly remember my shock.  I was only 16-17 years old, and even though my life would have never made the “Leave It To Beaver”  cut, it was still life and I still wanted it. Until, that piercing moment when the thought occurred to me, “Maybe I should just kill myself.” 

I was in the car with my first husband, I don’t remember what we were talking about but I do remember the hopelessness, the pain and the despair.  I also remember that the thought shook the very foundations of my concepts of the sanctity of life, reality and sanity.  A million questions ran through my brain as it tried to digest the unpalatable reality of my new world.

Who in their right mind does not want to live? What was happening to me? Was I losing my mind?  I would never find the answers to these questions, but I was to suffer much worse over the rest of my life as this mild form of depressive thought spiraled out of control and led up to three major depressive episodes. The first of these episodes, occurred about 40 years ago and lasted nine months.  The second occurred in 1996 and lasted two years. The most recent bout happened in 2003 and lasted nine long years. A key feature of these episodes, aside from not wanting to live, is the inability to function, to cry, to laugh, to live. I spent the better part of the last nine years in bed:  sleeping late, taking long naps and going to bed very early. I also spent the last nine years heavily medicated as only drugs could control my constant companions: self-loathing, discouragement, and overwhelming hopelessness.

Recent studies indicate that one in every 10 Americans suffer from depression of some sort, with 4 of those individuals, nearly half, suffering from major depressive episodes. However, in light of my own recent experiences, I have a ton of more questions to ask.  Like, what causes it? Why don’t the treatments work better? And, who says what depression really is? I can believe you are depressed if you want to kill yourself, but are you depressed if you simply just don’t like the current circumstances in your life?

I know they have charts, grids and tests, I have taken enough those tests myself to build a bonfire with them, but who establishes the standards and measurements for those tests and charts? If you perceive yourself as being depressed, are you? Or, if you perceive yourself as being not depressed, are you?  From my own experience, I think it is a combination of both. I think there is a physical and inherited tendency toward depression, but I also think how I perceive myself also factors into the reality of its severity.  The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is quotes as saying, “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

And, I am wondering, is this true? I cannot explain what has happened to me, or what has happened in the past. I do not understand why the depression is gone, why it happened in the first place, and if it will come again. Studies suggest that those who have suffered one major depressive episode will like suffer another, and that each new episode will be more severe than the last.  I, personally, have found this to be true, and I am terribly afraid that if it happens again, I won’t survive.

 However, today, I am good! I am in a new place, an environment of my own making where I am free of depression, and once again, I am wondering…what and who I am? I have never experienced this level of freedom, this level of energy, or this level of love in my life: love for my children, my husband, my students, my pets, my friends and my God. I awake, when I sleep, energized and ready to take on the world. I am excited about my career, my writing and even posting on Facebook. So, I am wondering, is this what normal people do? Is this what life is all about? Or, am I must in a manic phase of a manic/depressive episode. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.”  Is this me now?  I don’t know, but I am wondering. 

“Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.”
William Shakespeare, Richard III