Finding Hope in the Darkness
by Billy Beasley
Many of us read the news recently of the minister who took his life, leaving behind a wife and three children. Looking at their family photos it is easy to judge someone, much less a minister, blessed with such a beautiful family. I am not one of those.
Reflecting upon my life, I believe that I have suffered for most of it with a borderline type depression. But there have been two times in my life where the depression was so severe it nearly took my life.
One night long ago, as I drove around after foolishly consuming a large amount of whiskey, I decided to end my journey in the garage. I left the car idling, powered the windows tightly, and laid back in the seat listening to music. My rationalization was that if I just fell asleep with the engine running, that it would not really be suicide. Details are fuzzy all these years later and I can’t be certain if I fell asleep or not. What I do remember is that the clearest image of my teen age son, Micah, appeared suddenly and vividly. I shut the engine off and lived to fight another day.
I described this event to Scott, a wonderful Psychologist, I use to see. His response was one that I have never forgotten. “You realize that your son saved your life?”
Recently, I endured several days of darkness and my old familiar foe loomed. I found it difficult to even muster the energy to shop for groceries. My insomnia was at a fever pitch and I had little energy to exercise, perform chores, to write. I lay on the couch, watching mindless hours of television. And while I continued my routine of walking our dog in the woods each morning-I derived none of the usual joy or peace.
“Depression is the devil’s own disease.”
I believe depression is his most effective weapon. For if he can rob us of hope, we have very little left to face the battle with.
I kept my usual Wednesday workout routine with my friend Matt. He knew right away things were amiss with me.
There was a culmination of things that were eating away at my peace. One big one that only my wife, Julie, knew about was a disappointment in Christian leadership. I did not want to be viewed as one who caused division in church but I did share my concerns with Matt. He does not attend church where we do and more importantly I knew that what I said was in the vault and that he would believe me when I said I had no ulterior motive. His concern for me and the trust between us certainly lifted my spirits.
The Pastor that married Julie and I said many times from the pulpit, “Don’t isolate.” Throw in the fact that I am introverted and of course that is the first thing I want to do in times of trouble. I found myself searching the web for cabins in the mountains with the thought of let’s sell out and just move away. Live a simpler life away from people, with no organized religion as part of it.
Please understand I love my church. There is so much good about it that it so outweighs any fault I find. No church is perfect and if it were, it would cease to be that way the moment I entered.
I could have remained home alone for another day. Depleting my resources even more but I kept my appointment with Matt. It was not an instant cure, but it sure helped.
I am no expert on depression. I once said to Scott, that I was only an expert on my depression.
His response was. “And each bout has its own flavor.”
The two major battles of depression-the last being over sixteen years ago. (I hope some of you find hope in that.) I allowed myself to become emotionally exhausted. That is my big trigger. Don’t remain in a situation that is wearing me out. Make changes before the black hole sucks me into its grasp. Since that last time, I guard my emotional state. I learned with the first major bout that I was not Superman. It was quite a blow to my ego then, but I accept it now.
Most of us have days where we want to pull the covers over our head and shut the world out and that is okay. For a day or two, but any longer and we are inviting some real trouble into our lives.
There are going to be people who say callous, insensitive things like, “What do you have to be depressed about?” Do your best to tune them out. Or even better avoid them. We often say there are two types of people in this life to describe a certain scenario. This is very true of depression. There are those that know the debilitating pain and those that do not.
Find the right doctor. Keep trying until you find one that fits. Don’t allow your general doctor to treat you for depression. And if any doctor’s only answer is medication, be wary. I know some of you have to find the right medicine. There is no shame in that but there needs to be more than a prescription to combat the darkness.
Exercise has been one of my most effective tools. I am fortunate in that I enjoy lifting weights, biking, walking Teke in the woods. Find something you enjoy and let those endorphins release.
Pray and have others pray with you. Matt prayed over me that day.
People do care about you. Find support somewhere. Don’t go it alone. You will not win. The foe is too great.
I understand that the pain can be so intense that you can’t imagine a time when that is not the case.
I did not believe I could survive those two bouts, particularly the one in 2001-2002. That one was shorter in length but the intensity of it was indescribable. My mind firing one thought after another without rest and all of the thoughts wracked in guilt, shame, and hopelessness.
Somehow I survived. Maybe it was a Mom who never gave up wrestling with God over me. You can survive the pain. You can live to see a day when depression does not consume you.
Don’t give up. Please.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway- a traditionally published work of faith based fiction and the newly published novel, The Preacher's Letter. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read Billy’s “Sunday Inspiration” column on the 2nd Sunday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.