Beth Morey is a writer and an artist, and pursues God in the midst of pain. She is no stranger to suffering, and she blogs her story with honesty, grace, and startling beauty. Beth is a real kindred spirit of mine, and I am delighted to have her God and Suffering story as the last one for 2013:
I thought that God healed me of depression. In the spring of 2011, I found myself suddenly, startlingly free of not only the depression that had been my constant companion since puberty, but also a deeply rooted eating disorder.
I was free. Forever, I thought.
But over the past year, the depression has returned. Silent and stalking, it crept up on me even though I was keeping an eye out, in spite of already seeing a therapist each week. Its weight pressed down and down upon me, until, eleven months after my son’s birth, I desperately booked myself an appointment with my OB/GYN to beg for anti-depressants.
She prescribed them. I drove straight from her office to the pharmacy to pick them up. My therapist later endorsed my being medicated for depression and anxiety. And – I didn’t swallow a single pill for another month.
I don’t know many people who are eager to take medication, especially for those “invisible” psychological needs. And in the church there is often a peculiar bias against mental unhealth, an implicit or explicit message of “If you had enough faith, depression would not be an issue.”
But it is an issue. A very real issue. And sometimes, those of us who suffer from this or similar issues need a little help (or a lot of it). And help can look like taking medication for a time, or maybe forever.
I have previously been prescribed and taken an anti-depressant. It did nothing. So when I finally brought myself to try this new medication, I did not expect much.
But it worked. It worked. Over the course of the four weeks it took for the medication to build up to an effective level in my body, I experienced a dramatic shift in quality of life. I went from being barely able to keep myself from lying down on the living room floor of our home and sleeping while my son played to having so much energy. I went from experiencing extreme anxiety from merely being in social situations to comfortably and ecclesiastically sharing minority and probably controversial opinions with a group of over thirty women.
I do not recognize this new woman that I have become. But I like her. Oh, I like her.
But some questions nag at me, and they are not small ones.
First: who am I? Who is my true self? Am I this new woman, bold and energetic? If I am, who have I been for the last three decades? And if I am not this new woman, if my true self is the person that I am when I am not medicated, should I be taking medication at all?
And second, and perhaps more importantly: how does this medication affect my walk with God?
Because, as much as I don’t like it, suffering points me to God. Whether by a direct route or a more roundabout wander, the suffering I have experienced in my life has always, always led me to God. There is nothing that grows me faster or truer than pain. And scriptures such as Romans 5, James 1, and Hebrews 12 support this idea.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4, MSG
And so I wonder – will the removal of profound and severe depression from my life, thanks to medication, even over the short-term, also remove growth in and toward God? By enjoying a respite from depression, am I making it impossible for myself to fully embody the person and the presence God created me for?
I hope not.
Because when I look at the work that is before me here in this very moment, it is the work of motherhood: changing myriad diapers, tucking away sacred memories than none but I can have because I am their only witness, kissing brave and salty tears away, feeding my son’s body out of my own.
Holy work. Hard work. The work that is set before me.
And work that I am incapable of doing to anywhere near the fullest measure when the depression makes my body and brain thick and dull and heavy and heavy and heavy. When my limbs are weighted to the floor, and my eyes constantly leak, and my soul retracts and contracts and there is so very, very little to give away to that little boy that I want to give my everything to.
I don’t know why my depression returned. But I choose to take my medication. I take it, for my son, because he is worth it.
And I also take it for me. Because I am worth it, too. And God is not opposed to health. How many did Jesus heal in his earthly ministry? So I swallow my pill every day, and trust that God is for me and with me in this, that He can and does use all of everything, and that includes a prescription for anti-depressants.
Beth Morey is a writer and the mixed media artist behind Epiphany Art Studio. She is also the author of the creative healing workbook, Life After Eating Disorder: How to Have One, and the force behind Made, the collaborative ecourse on art + faith (www.madecourse.wordpress.com). Beth writes about finding the beauty amongst the ashes of life on her blog (www.bethmorey.com). She lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their son, and their three naughty dogs.
Over to you:
- What do you think? How do we walk the line between the blessings of suffering and the freedom of healing?
- If you have experienced depression, how have you answered those questions of identity? Which is the ‘real you’?
This is the last God and Suffering: Our Story post for 2013, as we move through to Thanksgiving and Advent. The series will return at some point in 2014.