Love, Joleen: Depression: There is Hope

Friday, February 21, 2014

Depression: There is Hope

I'm not sure how to begin this, so I am just going to jump right in. This is a story I've written and re-written in my head over the last couple of years, wanting desperately to come up with just the right thing to say. But there are no perfect words for this. This is my testimony, and tonight I'm sharing this story with someone else.

One of my longest and best friends, Adrian, lost his life-long battle with depression this week. I met Adrian online in 1999, when I was 16 years old. He was one of the first actual friends that I met online, back when our parents were still paying for dial up. Like me, Adrian formed most of his most lasting and meaningful relationships online. Back before online dating was all the rage, kids were forming crushes and friendships thousands of miles apart. Adrian lived only 20 minutes from me but it was a solid year before we had the opportunity to meet in person. I was still in high school and very active in my church. He was four years my senior and not even remotely interested in God. There were so many things different about us, that it's truly a wonder that we ever became friends. But we quickly became very good friends.

For the [nearly] fifteen years that followed, I've considered and referred to Adrian as one of my best friends. Although our in-person visits were few and far between, we communicated frequently. It's not my place or purpose to share the extent of Adrian's mental and emotional issues over the years, other than to mention that it was, in fact, a life-long battle.

I've made no secret here of my own struggles with anxiety and depression. Depression is an ugly thing. You may remember me writing about SAD back in December, which for me, was such a miniscule event in the grand scheme of things, but it still effected my life. We've come to the part in my writing that I'm having the most difficult time getting out. It might seem to some that I "over share" from time to time, but I truly consider my family, friends, and future before I post anything online. I know that once something is sent out into cyber space that you can't take it back and while I want to tell you my story, I ask that you please respect that this is something I went through, but not who I am.

In 2009 and 2010 I was going through a divorce followed by an extremely tumultuous and volatile relationship. So much of my life was utter chaos and I was living in darkness. I had turned away from my faith and God slowly over the years, and before I knew it, I was in the world "alone". I tried to fill this void in my life with men, alcohol, and eventually even drugs (although thankfully not terribly often and it never stuck).
This could easily have been the very last photo ever taken of me. 

I look happy right? Wrong. I was completely wasted. This is also the last time I ever saw my friend, Adrian, in person. I'm not going to get into specifics, but the night ended with me abandoning my friend 20 miles from his home, without a phone, and in the hospital for a 15 hour suicide watch. Over the course of the day I had consumed an entire fifth of vodka and several unknown pills in 105 degree heat. After an altercation over the phone upon arriving home, I swallowed 10,000 mg of Ibuprofen. My official diagnosis was "alcohol intoxication with impulsive act". The only reason I wasn't sent somewhere was that I had already scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist for the following week. I was in such a low place that I could have killed myself or others that day. Why am I telling you this? It's scary, I'll be honest. I was able to keep this from most of my family members and friends for this long, and it's scary to think what potential clients or employers might think of me now. But it has to be said. Depression kills people every single day.

Over the next several months, I was fighting an internal battle. It took several "rock bottoms" for me to make the decision that I wanted to live. I decided that 2011 would be my "Year of Healing". I started actively fighting my depression and anxiety by speaking with a therapist and taking low dosages of anti depressants. I tried to focus on the positives in my life but that took a great amount of will. Eventually I knew that a change of scenery was imperative and made the decision to pack up my car and move to Atlanta. It was the best decision of my life. The last several years have been a process of healing. I accepted Jesus back into my heart and my life is completely dedicated to him. I look back at everything I went through, and I praise God every day for seeing me through it all. Even now when depression or anxiety start to creep up on me, I make a physical effort to give it to God. I literally envision myself unburdening it all on Him. Who has more capable hands?

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall." - Psalm 55:22

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28

"The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." - Pslam 18:2

It saddens me greatly that I couldn't always be a Light in this world for my friend, Adrian. I don't feel guilty, but I do feel heartbroken over the entire situation. I wish that he could have seen joy in this world. I would have liked for him to meet my son this Spring, like we were so fond of talking about. I know in my heart that he knew that I loved him and I know that he loved me. Just Sunday night he told me, "I've loved you since *N Sync...". He always had a way of making me smile, even when he was down. He was literally the biggest fan of the Miami Hurricanes you could ever meet (hence his hat that I'm wearing in the picture). He loved loud screaming music and horror movies (much to my distaste, haha).  He loved his Peeps a little stale and could eat pizza every day of the week. He leaves behind his parents, sister, brother, his wife, their daughter, his son, and friends. I wish he knew how loved he really was.

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from depression, please get help. Depression is an illness and can be treated. Please seek any and all options available to you, because your life is valuable. You are important and you are loved. God is the Ultimate Healer. One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is our hope.

"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." - Psalm 147:3 

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." - 2 Timothy 1:7

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." - Jeremiah 29:11

Here are more verses for help with depression.

Adrian, I love you. 
I hope that by sharing our stories, it helps just one person. 
I will always remember you. 
Your friend, 

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