One of my favorite quotes, supposedly from Plato, is worth remembering: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is facing a hard battle." Most days we are unaware of the struggles of others. Many times, we have no clue what battles they have fought.
At different times in my life, I have felt compelled to share my own story. My prayer is that it will bring encouragement if you are facing a battle. My words to you as you read are to keep fighting. Even if it is one breath at a time, keep breathing.
Twelve years ago, I was fighting for my very life. Not cancer, not injury, not anything physical. I was laying under the bed in my parents' house, in the very room I grew up in as a child. I was lost in a dark world of OCD and depression. I only know to call it OCD because that is what Dr. Rodriguez at Rivercrest hospital diagnosed me with during my eight day stay only a month or so earlier.
I was twenty-six years old, and was so incapacitated that my husband and I moved in with my parents so we could hopefully survive the ordeal.
Let me backtrack. The story I want to tell you- what happened while I was under that bed- will not make sense unless you know a little more. It might sound like some bragging, but bear with me.
In the twenty-five years prior to my crazy battle with depression, I had it all. I was a classic "over-achiever." I'm not overly smart, but I graduated from my small high school as valedictorian. Why? Because it was my goal and it would validate me.
My main passion in high school wasn't even academics, it was basketball. I was a decent athlete with (OCD) an ability to practice over and over until I got what I wanted: a full college scholarship.
Valedictorian. Full-ride athlete. (Homecoming queen nominee, student council Vice President, all-state volleyball player...you get the picture.) Fast forward to college, and more of the same. I worked tirelessly to maintain a GPA and make a name for myself as an athlete.
I graduated, took a teaching job in Colorado, moved back home to Texas, got married...and no longer had anything left to "achieve." My identity had been wrapped up in accolades and the praises of man. These were gone now. Other factors were involved in my mental decline, but my feeling of worthlessness due to my lack of accomplishments was definitely a major contributing factor.
So there I lay on my back in silence under the bed. I decided to have a conversation with God. I'm glad He was still listening, because the day before I had been walking up and down the street cursing at Him. I was quite mad.
I had been in the
choke-hold of depression for about a year and a half leading up to this day. I had tried going
to doctors, counselors, psychiatrists, church leaders. I had tried
numerous medicines (a dozen different ones by the time I recovered),
self-help books, more counseling, inpatient care when it got really dicey. Nothing was working and I was beyond angry.
My internal rant went something like this: "Why am I even here? I can't work. I can't cook. I can't even be a wife! I am worthless. Look at me, I'm laying under a bed and can't do anything! This is such a joke."
I knew God, but like I said, I was quite at odds with Him. He still loved me. He was trying to tell me so.
"I love you."
I argued back. "Yea, but I can't DO anything! You've got to get me out of this mess so I can get back to my life."
"I love you."
"Whatever. Look at me! I'm laying under a bed. I can't even move."
Then the moment that changed my life forever happened. My loving God gently said to me, "Brenda, if you never move out from under this bed for the rest of your life, I will love you all the same."
I was stunned. Could it be true? What if I never accomplished another thing in my entire life? God was saying it didn't matter.
My identity had been stripped down to nothing. I suppose God understood my stubborn heart would not be able to fully understand His love (and my inability to earn it) unless all false identities were gone.
The chains that had tightly wrapped around my life, the ones which unknowingly suffocated me for years, finally broke. None, including myself, had even seen them. They had been masked in trophies and accolades and scholarships. Many times I felt the weight of them, but never had I seen them until the praises of man fell by the wayside and I was left with emptiness.
In the emptiness, God met me and set me free forever. He told me He loved me no matter what. He redefined it for me. His love for me had nothing to do with what I did or didn't do, it had everything to do with Him. God is love. It is His nature and He cannot be otherwise. I wish I could explain this to you, but the only way I know how is to tell my story and pray you listen close. God is trying to tell you the same thing He told me.
So what happened after that day under the bed? I didn't return to health overnight. When I finally crawled out, I would still have another six months or so of intensive fighting to regain stability. Eventually, I found a medicine that worked. I found a counselor at church that clicked. I found a job. My husband and I found a house of our own. And I found out life was more peaceful without chains.
A few years later, I also found the bike. It has become one of my greatest allies in life. I still wrestle at times with some depression, and riding my bike in nature is the best medicine I have found.
God understands how I'm wired. He gets my funky brain and my innate desire to set goals and achieve stuff. What is awesome is I still get to do those things. In the past decade, I have been blessed to live some wildly fun adventures. The pictures and write-ups on this blog are some of my favorites.
The difference now is my perspective. I am truly free. I understand that my worth is not wrapped up in trophies or podiums, it is not threatened by age or injury. What I have cannot be added to or taken away. So if you see me smiling on my bike, now you know why.
I have no clue what your "hard battle" is. Maybe one fight is over, but you still have scars. Maybe you are in the trenches right now. Either way, I believe with all of me that the unconditional love of Jesus (not religion, but Jesus our friend and Savior) is the only enduring hope we have to see us through. He met me in my darkest hours, and He is right there ready to meet you. You, my friend, are loved.