life:filtered

…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

The Great Depression, 2012 April 13, 2016

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 3:13 pm
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In February of 2012, Super Bowl Sunday, I fell into the worst depression of my life. The Great Depression. There is pain so raw that you become numb. Darkness so deep that it’s blinding. I was drowning in an ocean of darkness. Always clawing at the waves, fighting against the undertow, reaching the surface only to gasp and find my burning lungs filling with thick, black water before being pulled under again.

By Monday, worn down by months of this blinding darkness and pain, I simply gave up. I quit. All I could think about was death. I wanted to be dead. Actually, I didn’t really want to be dead, I just didn’t want to live in the darkness and pain anymore. The light had been almost completely extinguished, barely the flicker of a distant match in a cave, and I couldn’t see my way to the light. So, wanting the pain to be over, I walked further down the path than I’d ever dared:  I considered the end. I am not proud of the fact that I fantasized about suicide. It is a shame that runs deep, but it is the truth. I did not make a plan. I had no pills at the ready, the knives stayed in the block, I did not fill the bathtub. But the longing was there, rooted deep inside. As Kathryn Green-McCreight writes in her book Darkness Is My Only Companion, “It [suicidal energy] is not wanting to hurt the self. It is simply wanting not to hurt.

Having traveled so far down that dark road, I called a friend, but she didn’t answer. It was by grace that she called me back at arguably the worst time. I told her where I was, what I was contemplating. And Heather, she didn’t panic. She kept me on the phone, talking with me for forty-five minutes. Praying for me in the car rider line as she waited for her children at school. Until Brian got home, she talked. Just hearing another voice was enough to pull me away from the precarious ledge I was standing on. After we hung up, she called friend, who called another friend, and soon my little network was praying.

I told Brian. Saying the words out loud somehow gave them less power and the urge to die was fading. The pain was still there, the darkness still suffocating, the waters still raging, but I could breathe just a little bit.

I spent the next day in bed, alternately crying and sleeping. Brian stayed home from work to watch me. I saw my doctor that afternoon. Unable to look him in the eye, he bent down and met my eyes, not letting my shame take me any further down the road than I already was. This was serious and did I need to be in the hospital? I was adamant that I didn’t need to be hospitalized. I was scared, though in all honestly, I probably should have been someplace safe. I was embarrassed and ashamed at the thought, though, and he accepted my pleas that I not be in a psychiatric hospital. I was sent home with a prescription for Zoloft and five sleeping pills. The sleeping pills he gave to Brian, not trusting me with a medication that could be used for ill purposes.

During The Great Depression, I all but lost my faith. Questioning God, asking why, but getting no answer. I lay in the mire with Job. I cried in the night; I cried in the day. I especially cried when surrounded by his people in church. When confronted with the life-giving words of Scripture, I cried, longing to believe the truth being presented. I ached with my need for God and for that Light that shines in the darkness.

The days turned into weeks, turned into months, still dark but growing a little lighter day by day as the anti-depressant kicked in. It took more than three months for me to recover from The Great Depression.  Unfortunately, in May, I rebounded and flipped into mania, although I did not know at the time that mania was the cause of my euphoria. I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar and simply thought I was feeling great after the long months of depression. I had beat it, I thought. I had beat back depression and run into the light. And the light was so bright that, again, I was blinded.

©stephanie g. pepper

 

being stable January 18, 2015

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 2:43 pm
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After a lifetime of ups and downs, riding a roller coaster I never bought a ticket for, I can finally say it: I am stable.

I woke up one morning and realized that I felt good. Not the good that comes from mania, but normal good. I felt normal emotions with ordinary highs and lows. Over time, I realized that the “normal” was sticking around. And that makes me really happy. Because after so long being either in mania or depression, mostly depression, I feel like a human being. No deep darkness, no painful emptiness. No sleepless nights and raging mania. It’s a profound relief that I’m not sure I can describe. It’s like getting off that roller coaster when you hate roller coasters. Like finally crawling into bed after a long day. Like finally holding that baby you’ve carried for nine months. Relief where you close your eyes and sigh because whatever it is, it’s finally over.

It’s a combination of medications and therapy (huge shout-out to my psych nurse and therapist!). It’s striving every day for normalcy. Taking meds every day, going to therapy twice a month. Doing things that make me healthy.

And writing is a therapist prescribed part of my treatment.

So here I am writing. Once again stepping out and shedding light into the darkness. Opening myself up to judgment because of my illness. But I’ve found some things out in the last few months. One, that people are way more supportive than I ever thought. Two, that my mental illness does not define me. Three, that there is Light in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. God has answered my prayer, and the prayers of many others, for rest from the disease I carry.

 

telling you December 13, 2013

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 6:00 am
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It’s taken me a while to write this post. Months really. It’s a hard one for me to write because it means being really vulnerable. Opening myself up to judgment. But I have dig deep and say it anyway because they say that a thing loses its power in the light. So here it goes.

I have bipolar disorder.

And that’s a really scary thing for me because of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness and one like bipolar in particular. But it’s a relief too. To finally have an explanation for living the life I have lived.



So first, the facts:

I was diagnosed in August after 14 years of unsuccessful treatment for major depression.

I first experienced symptoms of the disorder at 22 while in college.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by “recurring episodes of mania and depression that can last from one day to months. This mental illness causes unusual and dramatic shifts in mood, energy and the ability to think clearly. Cycles of high (manic) and low (depressive) moods may follow an irregular pattern that differs from the typical ups ands downs experienced by most people.” (NAMI.org)

Bipolar is NOT what you see on TV shows and read about in most books. Most people can live relatively normal lives (once they get on and stay on the right medications).

Bipolar is also not a character flaw, but a chemical imbalance in the brain.

I am not alone.



So why have I chosen to push back the curtain of darkness and let in the light? Because I’m tired. Tired of hiding, tired of living in the shadows not able to say what I need to say. Tired of not being who I am because I’m afraid of what people will think. This won’t ever go away. Sure the symptoms may lessen and I’ll have fewer episodes when my psych nurse and I find the right meds and I learn good coping skills. But this is here to stay. And the reality is, I have to embrace it. I have to open up this part of me and choose to be vulnerable to whatever people might say or think or do. I am afraid. Afraid that people may push me away or think I’m dangerous or crazy. But this is a part of me. Of how God made me, how he fearfully and wonderfully made me. And it’s not a mistake. I think I have this disorder because maybe someday, I’ll walk down this road with someone else, because I’m not the only one.

I can’t be.