Sunday, April 15, 2018

Holding the Broken

Photo by Kristine Weilert on Unsplash
“Everyone has had a taste of what depression feels like. Everyone feels the blues at times. Sadness, disappointment, fatigue, are normal parts of life. There is a connection between the blues and clinical depression, but the difference is like the difference between the sniffles and pneumonia.” – Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression
The darkest and loneliest time in my life happened last August. I, like everyone, have felt the blues, but in my 30 years of life, I hadn’t once come close to feeling the crippling effects and emptiness of depression, until then.

It was during summer, my favorite season. It was warm and sunny outside—which when you live in Washington, is reason enough to feel joy! Our boys were home for Summer Vacation and I got to spend each day enjoying them and the beauty outside. Friends surrounded us hiking or at the pool each day and yet I felt empty. The only person who knew what I was going through was James and he himself was going through a dark time as well.

James has dealt with depression throughout his life. Sexual abuse as a child can do that to you. But now his depression was more severe than ever before. In July, the month previous, he finally took those first steps to getting help—counseling for his depression and sexual abuse as a child.

My depression lasted almost a month and then just like that it was gone as quickly as it came. The night before it left me, after our kids were in bed, James and I lay on the floor, holding each other, both with tears in our eyes, both feeling the emptiness. It was a moment of despair and a moment of beauty. For a period of time, there was an empathetic connection where we both understood what the other was feeling.

The very next day my feelings of depression had faded. The challenges were still there and the future was still unknown, but the emptiness was gone. I look back at this experience and am so grateful for it. I know it was a blessing from God that helped me empathize with my husband. I understood on a deeper level a little of what he had been feeling his whole life.

That morning, as I was studying in the Bible, Romans 8 stuck out to me. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ...Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” I began to make the spiritual connection between this and what James was going through. In my own thoughts and feelings, depression is Hell, and Hell is the absence of love. Over the course of the next six months, this understanding would make all the difference.

As time went on, James’ counseling sessions got more intense. They began to uncover the deep wounds from childhood. As this happened, his depressive episodes were more frequent. When he would fall into that dark place, I could see it happen right before my own eyes. In just a matter of minutes, he would change from my kind, humble husband to an angry bump on a log. James is my other half, and in those moments, I felt more alone than ever before in my life.

One night, when James had fallen into a depressive episode I pleaded in my head with God to help me. I felt helpless, angry, and sad. The answer that came to me was distinct. It was a thought in my head, “Go give him a hug.” I was annoyed. I was angry with him. I did not want to go give him a hug. After a few minutes, I walked over to James and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I held him. Within a minute or two, I felt him melt into my arms and change back to himself.

Throughout the next few months, there would be many more episodes like this one. Sometimes I was humble enough to go hold him right away, other times I stubbornly sat and watched, making myself the victim, feeling angry and alone. No matter the case, every single time I chose to heed the prompting I had felt before—to hold him—it made all the difference.
“...people with depression usually experience a lowered self-esteem, feel hopeless, and blame themselves...[you] feel you don’t deserve any better.” – Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression
When James would go into a depressive episode he felt worthless, undeserving of love. He told me when I put my arms around him and held him, he felt like I was his Savior holding him.

When a child is sexually abused it has deep lasting effects. I wanted to write this article for a few reasons. First, to help people understand that when a child that has been sexually abused they need professional counseling to heal. Second, abuse affects everyone, not just the victim. And maybe the most important reason of all for writing this article, I want people to know, we all can help others heal. We can be His hands.

Megan Huntington is one of the founders of Run for Innocence.