- It was… a year.
So much I’d hoped to accomplish was left undone.
As the year wound down, I didn’t much care. At least when I wasn’t beating myself up about it. Do you know that ugly wrestling match between the worthlessness and apathy of chronic depression?
I ended the year in months-long, let’s call it mid-level depression.
I have not ended 2016 well.
And I must accept that my lackluster finish is more my fault than I’d like to admit.
Three years ago, suicidal depression ripped the rug out from under me and left me broken and unsure. I doubted everything about myself, my purpose, my abilities, and my future.
Before I understood and accepted that I needed medication, there were times all I could do was take the next shallow breath to get through the heartbeats that carried my body through moments I thought I could not endure. And I didn’t want to take that breath.
It’s impossible to sufficiently explain major depression to people who have not been in the pit. It doesn’t make sense. Even to those of us who have survived.
So, 2016… I haven’t felt the hopelessness that made me believe that everyone would be better off without me. One large trauma in my children’s lives when I took my life, instead of a lifetime with a mother so damaged and toxic they couldn’t come out of childhood whole.
Another year survived.
But I’m capable of doing more than just surviving now.
I don’t want to get to the end of 2017 with the same lack of progress.
The helplessness of my worst days oozed out and clung to me as I crawled, then stumbled away. At times, I let it engulf me instead of doing the work necessary to be as healthy as possible. It drags me in circles when I half-heartedly step forward.
I can’t fail if I don’t try, right?
I fail because I refuse to try.
Manageable and Measurable
Just getting by isn’t enough after crises pass. Just because my medication keeps the worst of the darkness at bay, it doesn’t mean I can afford to be lazy and choose to just drift instead of consistently making healthy choices. And pushing myself to set, and attain, goals
So, how can 2017 be more than just another year survived?
Well… I need to be more self-disciplined and choose to use my time better.
It’s doable. But not if I don’t DO.
I’m not a New Year’s Resolution person. Like the above goal, they tend to be vague, and therefore difficult to achieve or maintain. If I want to make steady progress, I need a series of manageable, measurable goals.
One problem… I have trouble evaluating the reasonableness and attainability of goals I think about setting. Since my brain went completely sideways, several times, I still doubt my judgment.
Ongoing depression steals my confidence in my calling.
Writing has been like slogging through heavy, dark, sticky mud for months now.
How do I master knowing when to force myself to push through, and when to step back so I can regroup, not just quit?
Balance has always been hard for me. And there are many demands on my time and attention.
Too often I don’t want to deal with it all.
Social media is one too-convenient way to disappear for a while, and escape the dissonance of wanting to accomplish, and not wanting to work hard.
What is manageable, even easy, one week, becomes monumental the next. Sisyphean.
I feel condemned to failure, that every effort I make will come to naught.
So why bother?
Yes, I need to do something different in 2017.
It must be drastically different without feeling like drastic change, if that makes sense.
So, regularly establishing manageable, measurable goals it is!
I hate to admit it, but I need to get back to the very basics, because I’ve let them slip.
First things first. A glass of water, then breakfast (with a Vitamin D supplement) and Bible-reading to start each day. Here I have some accountability established, at least for the Bible part. For the new year, I launched a Scripture reading and writing plan on my blog, and am grateful for each reader who signed up. This month’s theme is Renewal. If you’re interested in checking out Listen When He Speaks, it’s not too late to sign up and download the January list. The February 2017 theme is Perseverance.
Beyond that… I’m still working out the details.
The Big Picture
Sometimes the hardest thing about setting and keeping goals is lack of the right overarching long-term goal.
I want to end 2017 more fully me.
Talk about a vague goal, Melinda…
But here’s what I mean…
I am uniquely designed to fulfill God’s purpose.
But I’ve lost sight of who I am as I’ve lost sight of Who God is.
Being fully me isn’t about doing whatever I want whenever I want, it’s about accepting God’s authority even when it requires me to give up what I think I want.
It’s about learning God’s character, provision, and holiness, and living in accordance to His will.
Being me and living fully is sloughing off the lies that have shaped me. The lies that make me believe that I am not enough.
In Christ, I am free from the expectations and judgment of others. I am redeemed from my mistakes. I am whole in my brokenness.
My identity isn’t lost somewhere I need to search and find it. I could never live up to society’s impossible standards.
But, wait, you may be thinking, isn’t God’s standard perfection? If holiness isn’t an impossible standard, what is?
You’re right. On my own I’m petty and self-absorbed. I’m selfish and greedy. I put up walls, and I lash out when I feel threatened and when I’m afraid of being abandoned.
Which is why I can’t find myself merely by looking within, either.
I can’t make myself holy, but the beautiful thing is that God sees me through the righteousness of His Son, and even though I stand covered in Christ’s holiness, God also works in me to make me more like Christ.
And as I cooperate with His work in me, He also works through me.
As I said, I’m uniquely designed to fulfill His purpose. Only I can reflect His light and share His love and grace in the way He shaped me to.
God’s commands are not restrictive, they’re freeing.
Holiness isn’t being good. It’s being whole.
In 2017, I won’t pursue something as small and fleeting as happiness; I’ll pursue wholeness.
Melinda VanRy writes about mental illness and faith on her Fruit of Brokenness blog. She wants everyone to know they have inestimable worth, though she often fails to believe it for herself. Bouts of severe depression have nearly destroyed her but instead make her stronger and give her a desire to help others who struggle with mental illness and faith as she does. Melinda lives in New York with her husband, their three kids, and more cats than she ever wanted. If you’re thinking big city, don’t. The VanRy family makes their home in rural Central New York. Way closer to Canada than New York City. And not far from Lake Ontario, which she loves.