I composed and published the following post on November 26, 2017. I’m glad to say I have much more for which to be thankful. I am in a wonderful relationship with a beautiful and intelligent woman. I have been hired as a Faith & Mental Health Advocate for a vibrant and progressive church. My son has experienced a remarkable recovery from a mysterious, debilitating condition.
Yet, given my illness, I still cycle rapidly through bouts of depression and bursts of mania. Yesterday was a low point. I wanted to spend the day with my lady friend, but wound up wallowing in bed until 4:30 pm. The day got better and today hasn’t been so bad, but I still carry a pall of darkness that I can’t shake.
It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here’s what I wrote last year….
I have been mired in a holiday depression. I texted a friend about it and we had this exchange:
Friend: What do you think started the decline? Let’s break it down.
Me: Nostalgia over past holidays. They were not likely as good as I remember them. But my loss still seems palpable.
Friend: In Hebrews, the author talks about hearing God’s voice. and entering God’s rest. He ends up talking about the power of God’s Word. That has helped me. The idea we can enter God’s rest here — today.
Me: I’m not really connecting on the “rest” part. It’s more like I sleep fitfully then lie in bed to escape.
Friend: Would you say that nostalgia over past holidays is fundamentally a belief that there was a time when God was with you, and now God is not?
Me: I have always believed God is with me, even now. But now I feel God’s anger.
Friend: Can God be angry with his beloved child?
Me: No. I mean it’s different after Christ’s sacrifice. I know this, but I don’t feel it.
Friend: You may not, but it doesn’t change the Truth. So, first you feel unloved.
Me: Maybe. It’s more that I feel unworthy of love and I’m not accepting grace.
Friend: Do you believe that thought was the seed for the decline? Unworthy and not accepting grace.
Friend: Do the holidays increase feelings of unworthiness and lack of grace?
Me: Yep. I just feel numb. And my gut is wrenching.
Friend: I know. Are you going to write tonight?
Me: I don’t have to write, but I could write about something less personal, like a book review.
Friend: What feels most loving to you?
Me: The question I raise is what would be most helpful for my readers. Holiday depression is a real struggle for many of us with mental illness. If I could make some sense of it, I think that would help me and others. Doing at least one thing each day to engage others helps me feel better about myself. At the same time, I need to be careful that what I put out doesn’t bring other people down with me. I want to uplift.
Friend: Feeling unlovable would be a good topic.
Me: Good. “Loving the Unlovable.”
Friend: I like it!
Me: Okay. Do you mind if I work something up and send it for your review? I don’t trust writing when I am off.
Friend: Sure. I’d be happy to.
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But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
I don’t feel lovable, but I know that in Christ God has loved me. This knowledge gives me a reason to get out of bed each day. Even if it is 4 pm. Even if the voices inside my head are screaming out that God wants no part of me. Even if I feel like shit. unable to do anything. Even if the thought of going for a walk, making my bed, or even taking a shower seems like running a 3-minute mile.
God does not compare me to my previous self. God does not measure my goodness according to any standard others set for me. By the grace of Jesus Christ, God loves me even when I feel unlovable.
The amazing thing about God’s grace is that though no one is able to live up to God’s standard of holiness, Jesus Christ has made us worthy through his sacrifice on the cross. Through Christ, God loves the unlovable. God focuses not on the stains of our sin, but on the righteousness of Christ.
In the holiday season, even when I don’t feel thankful, I will give thanks. And maybe this Thanksgiving, I will be blessed as I share the blessings.