By Jessica Ramos
Return to Rest oh my soul,
For the Lord has been good to me
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling
That I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living
There was a time that darkness consumed every bit of my being. My chest felt tight, my heartbeat was as fast as a caged bird — flapping around in agony, desiring to escape, with no hope in sight. My palms were moist, a knot formed so tightly in my throat that it felt like I was constantly gasping helplessly for air. Hope(less), with no end of the pain and agony I felt each and every day. Wishing, pleading, looking for a way out — but the only way out that I could see was death.
Getting out of bed each day felt like a beast of its own.
As soon as my eyes opened each morning the deep ache in my heart began. I lived in a state of fight or flight, always moving, always thinking — followed by overthinking. Some days I moved so fast to get through my routine that I couldn’t even remember how I got from one task to the next. I lived in a state of autopilot. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin whether I was alone or surrounded by other people; you know, that feeling like your skin is literally crawling. Most days I felt as if I was having an out-of-body experience, an empty-shell-version of myself went through the motions day in and day out, while my spirit screamed in desperation as she saw the disaster ensue before her eyes.
Depression starts off small at times.
Life takes a hard turn and it brings sadness, stress, worry, anxiety. These symptoms, if not addressed, can grow into a roaring beast.
In my darkness, I fought each and every day to feel better, to be better. I went to yoga almost every day, I ran anywhere from three-to-five miles every other day, I meditated, I gardened regularly, I sat on the beach and felt the sand in my toes as I watched the sunset, I ate a completely clean diet, I lost weight. Even still, I got in my car daily to commute to work and thought about crashing my car into the nearest guard rail, and that was the only thought that brought me even the slightest bit of relief.
In this midst of my hurt, God began to meet me exactly where I was and I didn’t even know it.
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” Exodus 14:14
In the middle of a hot and sweaty power yoga class, I stopped my practice after an extremely difficult sequence and got into a child’s pose — a pose of surrender, a pose of rest. I laid there with my forehead pressed to my yoga mat, trying to catch my breath and trying to make sense of my feelings. As I laid there, I wept. That was the first time in years that I felt as if the presence of the Lord was all around me, it consumed me until all of the emotions that I fought so hard to push and pack down as much as I could come right up to the top of the cup and spilled out of me like a floodgate had been released.
At the depths of my pain, I remember a day that I was at whits end. I felt so triggered at that moment that I knew I needed help. I reached out to a close friend and told her that I was having suicidal thoughts and I began to scare myself because I had begun to make a plan. She asked that I come over right after work, and I did.
I remember sitting on the floor of her apartment and weeping from my soul. As I laid there and wept, God showed up. She told me that a few months before, The Lord had given her a note for me, but He told her to wait to share it with me.
She shared it with me that day.
“I love you dearly my sweet daughter. Do not count failures, stack them up neatly and store them in the hidden closet in the back room. Remember that I wash all things new. My mercies are new each and every day, but they are hard to see and feel when you are busy keeping things neat and tidy in your own strength. Come to me, I will give you rest. Meet me in the place we have always met time and time again. The secret place, I am waiting for you there. The place where we worked out things in the past. Just you and me.“
If I broke apart this love letter to you to show you how many times God confirmed that this was straight-up him, this testimony would go on and on. What I will share about this love letter is that he confirmed the foundation of my struggle — doing everything in my OWN strength. He also confirmed something that I had rarely ever shared with anyone, my term for my quiet time for him - my secret place. Long before the worship song “Wrap me in your arms” ever came out, this had been my name for my quiet time.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion…” Philippians 1:6
By no means am I a trained professional on the topic of depression and anxiety. I can only share my experience from the perspective of someone who suffered for a very long time with it. There was a combination of both spiritual work and physical work that took place for the journey of healing to begin to take place. For me, it meant going to the secret place on a regular basis — and I allowed that time to look different every day. Some days all I did was journal a couple of minutes, other days I would incorporate hand lettering into my journal of my favorite verse or worship song. And some days I ugly-cried in my car as I screamed at God.
I allowed myself to feel my pain, to sit with my discomfort, and I became vulnerable to a few trusted people.
I also met with my doctor and told him what had been happening, I was placed on an antidepressant and a medication to take in the middle of the panic attacks. I was hesitant at first to start a medication. But after discussing the benefits with my doctor and weighing out the pros and cons, I decided to start it with an end in mind. I was on these medications for no more than a year before deciding that it was time to come off. It’s been more than two years. While there are times that I feel triggered, I have continued to support my journey of healing through meeting with a therapist regularly, finding a community of women that I can lean on, and most importantly, keeping my connection to God in my quiet place. It’s where and how healing happens the fastest… In his presence.
“…in your presence there is fullness of joy…” Psalms 16:11
People tend to see suicide as the deepest form of selfishness. They see it only from the perspective of the family and friends left with this gaping hole of hurt and unanswered questions in their hearts. I do not want to take away the grief, pain, and confusion that comes with such tragedy. But I would like to offer some thoughts.
Have we considered the gaping hole that had been widening in the heart of our loved one who felt that the only option left was to take their life?
Did we stop and look up from our phones long enough to realize there was an issue?
Did we see the signs and not say anything because it's uncomfortable?
Did we see them slowly slipping away and were we too busy with our own problems?
Can we take more responsibility than just posting a hotline number on social media when celebrities' suicide triggers emotion?
Can we take action, and actually be the hands and feet of Christ.
I not only want to share my testimony with you, but I also want to bring about a call to action.
The battle of depression and mood disorders are taking the lives of many. Can we help encourage each other, reach out more, be intentional in our friendships and relationships, check in on one another, do something more than just talk about it? Can we gather together and declare spiritual warfare against the enemy who is constantly trying to kill, steal, and destroy our minds, hearts, and lives? What can you do? Today I challenge you to take a step toward being a deeper part of someone's life by checking in on them, praying for them and genuinely seeing how they are doing.