This is a bit of a follow-up to two different posts, which you can find here:

  1. Active Rest vs. Passive Rest
  2. Setting new goals vs. finding new systems

Even after trying to set some new goals for myself and trying to find some of my own resting techniques I was still struggling with feeling down in the dumps. So during the most recent session with my therapist (who I’ll refer to as “Dee”) I decided to talk with her about it.

Why you could be feeling depressed and why calling it depression isn’t always accurate or helpful

I started off my time with Dee by telling her that I felt depressed.

I went on for a while explaining various details, all of which seemed important to relate to her so that she could help me figure out how to not be depressed anymore. (Including some of the new goals I was attempting to set for myself.)

But rather than answering my questions or encouraging me to continue setting new goals for myself she replied, “Well, let’s go back to the first statement you made: You said you feel depressed. Now depression can mean a lot of things and be caused by a lot of things. So let’s start by telling me what you mean by that. Are you depressed because you’re sad? Are you depressed because you’re discouraged? What kind of depression are you experiencing?”

Emotions Wheel
An example of an emotions wheel, used in my online Dialectical Behavior Therapy Class

I told her that I felt like my life was adrift, meaningless. And I felt discouraged for not knowing what to do next, not knowing what my ultimate purpose was, and not knowing how to live out a meaningful life.

Okay then. Let’s talk about that.

See lots of things can cause depression. Sometimes it’s biological, sometimes it’s a life event, sometimes it’s your thought life. If you’re depressed because you feel like your life has no purpose then watching an entire season of The Office in one sitting isn’t really going to do much for you. In fact, it will probably make you feel even shittier. (Trust me on this one guys. I would know.)

On the other hand, if you are depressed because your boss is griping at you all the time and you hate your job then watching something funny (or participating in any activity than creates the opposite positive emotion to the negative one you are currently experiencing) can sometimes help.

In my case, I was discouraged by the idea that I should be in a more well-defined and established place in life. I felt like I had lost my ultimate purpose and worried I was wasting my life away.

The second part of my problem stemmed from the way I distract and run away from my depression or any ther negative emotion. So I asked how to balance living a meaningful purpose-filled life and not crash and burn in the process.

When I started to notice I was feeling depressed, what did I do? Well first I spent nearly an entire day in bed feeling scared and trying to figure out why I was feeling that way because I literally just came out of a really dark season and didn’t want to go through all that again.

I read all sorts of articles on finding out what my passions were and how to achieve my dreams. By the end of the day I had gone from deciding I needed a job to needing a college degree in everything. It didn’t really make me feel any better, but I thought it helped give me some direction.

The very next morning I got up, put my big girl pants on, and then like a mad woman I crammed about as many chores and tasks as I could manage into a 12 hour period.

Maybe twenty percent of those were tasks that actually needed to be done. But the other eighty percent were driven totally by the fear of feeling depressed and trying to bury it away.

But the point is there was no in between. And NONE of those things actually helped me get any closer to the things I thought I needed to do to have more purpose in my life.

I either wallowed in self-pity, hating it and fighting against every minute of it, or I just decided that I was going to keep myself so busy and distracted that I could entirely ignore my depression altogether. (at least until the nighttime anxiety kicks in right before bed.)

And that’s why I asked my Dee how I could balance living out a meaningful life and not completely empty myself or burn out (which just leads to even worse depression).

Her simple solution? Everyday prioritize and pick four or five of the things that need to be done and that make a difference in your immediate environment — at the very most — then do at least one thing exclusively for me.

The result will be that I’ll still feel like I accomplished something worthwhile in my day-to-day life (which will at least help with some of the nighttime anxiety), and then by spending about one hour a day caring for me I’ll keep from completely depleting myself and spiraling downwards any further.

It’s important to find things that I can do for myself that make me feel cared for, valued, loved. I need to do things that say, “Ashley you are so worth this. Your needs matter and you deserve to meet them in whatever way you know how. So why don’t you take a break and give Ashley some TLC?”

And it’s why I often find myself so frustrated and twisted up by the end of the day. Not only am I sometimes not  accomplishing much with my daily chore sometimes, but I’m also not trying to spend any focused time caring for myself. I’m doing neither and so I end up feeling like my needs are neglected and then anxious/stressed because the external needs around the home haven’t been taken care of.

So the two big questions she said I need to ask myself in the days to come are:

  1. What can I do today that will make me feel like I am making a difference?
    (Or, what are the four to five things I would like to accomplish today?)
  2. What can I do today that will make me feel calm and cared for in a way that no one else can?
    (Or, what is the one thing I would like to do just for myself to feel loved and cared for?)

Asking myself those two questions on a day-to-day basis will help me not feel so lost and pointless — which is fundamentally what was making me feel depressed.

Our Ultimate Goal as Christians and Your Unique Role as an Individual

So at least building that into my routine will help me in my day to day life, but I told Dee that I still felt like my bigger problem was that my life seemed like it was going no where and I didn’t have sense for a long-term goal to work towards.

She said that ultimately everyone’s universal goal for existing is to bring glory to God. That’s the same general, long-term purpose for all of us because as humans we are made in His image. But then we each have different and unique ways that we can go about bringing Him that glory.

See part of the reason I started feeling depressed (or discouraged) in the first place was because I compared myself to other people my age and what they’ve accomplished with their lives. One of the old lie tapes that likes to play in my head is, “You need to do more. You need to be more. You’re not enough. You’re not worth as much as them.”

So even though I felt depressed/discouraged/meaningless, I didn’t want to actually let myself feel that way because I thought if I could just catch up to everyone one else I wouldn’t need to feel that way anymore. Which is crazy talk.

My ultimate and long-term goal is to bring glory to God. And the unique way I am fulfilling that in the short-term presently is by reclaiming all the territory lost to the enemy and healing the areas that need healing.

That’s it.

Just by existing I bring God glory. But my specially designed purpose at this time is to do that via investing time and resources in my personal growth. I’m not bringing him the glory he deserves by constantly depleting myself and comparing myself to other people. Taking care of me is the absolute highest form of honor and praise I can give God presently. No more, no less.

That is a noble and worthy purpose.

And judging by the amount of time God has been spending on healing me seems to say it’s really important to him and he has some purpose for it that is unknown to me at this time. But that’s okay. He does.

For I know the plans I have for you…

And it could take a few years. Who knows? At least I don’t have to worry that I’m thirty years old and wasting my life away just because someone else who is also thirty years old is doing more than me.

some of those around you will not understand your journey. That's okay. They don't need to. It's not for them.

I did go ahead though and ask God at one point over the last couple days:” What am I doing with my life, God? What are we (Michael and I) doing? Will we ever live meaningful lives again?”

And do you know what his response was?

“You don’t need to know that right now. You will find your purpose when you seek me intentionally.”

And Dee literally said almost the same thing: “Your purpose right now is to reclaim the territory lost to the enemy. God will reveal your unique purpose to you. You’re just going to spin your wheels trying to discover it on your own or make it happen. Trust him and know that He knows the future and when he is ready to, he will bring your purpose to you. He has everything planned out even if you have no idea what’s going on. You’re tucked away for now and that’s exactly where you need to be.

We are owned by God. We are like tools in his garden shed and he gets to decide how and when we are used by him. Sometimes we get a cleaning up. Other times we’re put to use. And then other times we’re stored away until the proper time. But God is not careless with his tools.”

Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies… (John 12:24)

On the way home, I was listening to music and chewing on everything I talked about with my therapist. At one point during the drive I remembered a promise God gave me, gosh, nearly eight years ago now that I had forgotten about (see, this is why you write stuff down folks).

During that season I was experiencing a lot of intense personal spiritual warfare. Very real and hardcore spiritual warfare. After a lot of prayer and healing God finally told me one night, “I have great things in store for you. I have great things in store for you. I have great things in store for you.”

How could I forget such a powerful promise? Even in my darkest and most lost moments I can always hold on to the TRUTH/PROMISE/FACT that the Lord is for me. He is not against me. That he knows the plans and thoughts he has for me…

…plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear your voice and I will listen to you. Then with a deep longing you will seek Me and require Me as a vital necessity and you will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says the Lord, “and I will restore your fortunes and I will free you and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

I also happened to be listening to the song “Rise” by Josh Garrels at the same time. The verse where he sings: “All [that’s] lost will be, restored” is so powerful in my life right now. Michael said that God told him our word for the year 2016 is “Restoration.” 

Yes and amen to that. I’m taking back what the enemy stole. This is MY year.

I hung my head, for the last time
In surrender and despair
Before I’m dead, I’ll take the last climb
Up the mountain, face my fears
The time has come, to make a choice
Use my voice for the love of every man
My minds made up, never again
Never again, will I turn round

Though they may surround me like lions
And crush me on all sides
I may fall, but I will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

Take courage sons, for we must go under
The heart of darkness, and set them free
But don’t lose heart when you see the numbers
There’s no measure for, the faith we bring
It’s given us, to overcome
If we run, where the spirit calls us on
The greatest things, have yet to come
With the dawn, we will rise

Though they may surround us like lions
And crush us on all sides
we may fall, but we will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

[song by Josh Garrels from the album Love & War & The Sea In Between]

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