My Journey out of Perfectionism and Depression
I am going to start with telling a little about myself. I am 49 years old. I grew up in a very conservative Christian home. Very structured. Meals and family devotions only varied a few minutes from day to day. If you were supposed to be in the barn at 6:00 am you were there and taught that you should always be 5-10 minutes early. I was converted around 13. I was very conscientious and was often troubled because I thought I had to live perfectly. I had a tremendous fear of doing wrong. Fear of what others thought of me. If a bad thought passed through my mind, I felt I had to repent immediately.
My mother got a brain tumor and died when I was 14 years old. Dad remarried when I was around 16. The next years till 20 were very tough with a new mom and extreme frustration. Lots of adjustments in the home, etc. I seldom felt like I could measure up to what God expected of me so finally just took a don’t care attitude and did what I wanted up to a point.
I did finally settle down to a certain measure of satisfied Christian life. I married at 20 and enjoyed my life with my wife but often struggled with believing God was forgiving me. I would spend lots of time repenting, trying to get sorry enough for my sins when I would fail. Then I would give up and say I can’t do it and just live life. Up and down, highs and lows all the time. I started doctoring and my doctor put me on depression meds to try to even me out and to try to help with my depression. Tried 4-5 different ones over 7-8 years. Gradually I went downhill in my thoughts and negative thinking. Thoughts like you’re worthless, I can’t do it, I am good for nothing, I’m just a piece of junk, would roll over and over in my mind like a continuous recording.
I lost my desire to live, and thoughts of suicide began to come into my mind more and more. When things would go wrong on the farm my thoughts would immediately be, I can’t do it. It’s always this way for me. I would spiral down over 2-3 days till I just holed up in bed for a while. Then slowly over 2-4 days I would recover. Then more and more I would think of suicide and think there is no hope. Many, many times I wished I was dead. I visited my doctor, and he was very concerned. He said he had never seen me so low. He encouraged me to reach out to my pastor and seek counselling. I did talk to my pastor once, but didn’t follow through with more visits. I was up and down for a while with my lows getting lower all the time. Then thoughts came that I am so depressed and no good that my wife and children would be better off without me. More suicide thoughts. I found that when I was so low I had no power over sin. At this time, I could no longer control my thoughts as far as negative thinking and thoughts that I am no good, etc. They just rolled over and over again and again.
Then depression really set in and something made me reach out to my minister. He was very concerned and encouraged me to again doctor and also counseling. He would send me messages like, how are you doing? I am praying for you.
So, I went to my doctor and told him my heart, even telling him of sins I struggled with. He said you need to talk to your pastor and get counseling. He said more medicine isn’t the answer. He asked, Can I pray with you? I said yes. He prayed such a kind prayer that God would heal me. I couldn’t help it. I just cried. He didn’t judge me at all. He told me that God loved me so much. Folks, this is the doctor. I am convinced God was working through him.
My pastor had been giving me quite a bit of advice and I could not really process it. I finally told him I just need someone to talk to and not a lot of advice. My mind just couldn’t handle it at all. It was too weak. I felt kind of numb.
Then somewhere here I had an experience that came out of the blue. My wife and I went after some equipment approximately 5 hours away. We left in the late afternoon and drove till after dark. Suddenly we blew a tire on the trailer. I stopped and took care of it so we could keep going. I noticed then that we had lost one of the ramps, so we went back a ways to try to find it. It was dark so we couldn’t find it. We got a motel and got up early the next morning. We tried to find a tire place that could sell me a tire. Finally found a store open. Asked if they had a tire that size. The man said yes, they kept them in stock. He looked and looked and finally found one in the corner of the upstairs. He put it on, and I went to pay and the manager said, We don’t have a tire like that. He said I have a bunch coming in in a few days, but we don’t have that tire in our system anywhere. He finally figured out what to charge me and I paid.
As we drove away my wife said, do you think that God put that tire there for us? I told her it had never crossed my mind. I began to think about it and God began to soften my heart. As we were driving my thoughts kept going back to that tire. What if it was that God loved me so much that he did that for me??? We also had a prayer that God would help us find the ramp. I had quit praying for things like this because I just didn’t think God really cared about me anyway. When I thought about praying about something the thoughts would come that It’s no use, it won’t do any good, etc. We drove back an hour or so and I said I think I saw sparks on the road here at this spot in the dark last night. We looked and there was the ramp against a sign on a very steep bank. If it had not hit the sign, it would have disappeared down the bank. My heart began to melt as I thought about if. God loves me, God loves me, went over and over in my mind. I just couldn’t believe it! I was so overwhelmed. I cannot describe how I felt, just so full of the thought that Jesus loves me that… I just don’t know what to say here.
Somewhere in here I sent my pastor a message and just poured out my heart of everything there, frustrations of things in the congregation, things that were in my heart, bitterness, all kinds of things. I told him that I would probably be expelled for what all I said, and do you know what he said? All he said was, do it again, don’t wait so long to tell me next time. Message me anytime. I couldn’t believe it! No judgement! No telling me I was wrong! All I felt was love. God’s love.
At this point I was finally willing to begin counselling. I sent a message to Russell Spence as that is who my pastor encouraged me to talk to. We began talking and set up a schedule to talk once a week. Russell asked if I would be willing to take the course, (Learning To Tell Myself The Truth) by William Backus. I purchased the book, and we began to go through it week by week. I began to see how that negative thinking had been affecting my life and how to recognize and change my thinking. I learned that even if I felt like it did absolutely no good to try to still go and do something, like even sweep the shed, or wash a vehicle, etc. That even if thoughts were in my mind that it does no good, to still go and do something simple. I learned that it was ok if there were people that didn’t like or appreciate me because God still did, and my family still did and I still had friends that cared about me. I am learning that perfectionism is not what God requires but that He still loves me even when I fail. I have also learned that when I am so hard on myself, I am also hard on others, my wife, my family, my church brothers and sisters. That when my heart is warm with God’s love it’s ok if they make mistakes also. Another thing I am learning is to tell myself I did a good job if something turned out good, those words of affirmation to myself instead of always picking at the little imperfections I see when I finish a project. I had thought that that was pride.
Since I finished that course Russell and I have been talking approximately every 2 weeks. Sometimes I go backwards for a few days and need help again. It seems that it is just little steps that I need to take to keep gaining ground with depression.
I have found that for me to continue to grow I must be open with others about my struggle. Not just everyone but a few I can trust. It has been so hard to be open about this struggle to others. I always thought I had a strong mind, and I was so embarrassed to have anyone know about my depression. Now I find that if I am open to different ones, I have more power over my thoughts and I don’t get so low. Right now, I am sharing with my pastor and with a brother who also has been struggling with anxiety etc. These are little steps that Russell said I need to take to keep growing and I am finding that is the truth. That I am sharing my story here is one of the steps. It is so hard to open up to others about this all. I have been encouraged to find others who I can share with, like a support group, a brother or 2 but I am struggling with who I should talk to etc. I need to find someone soon.
So, am I healed? No, but I am gaining, I know Jesus loves me and that makes such a difference, I am a different person then I was 6 months ago because of God and medication and counseling. There is a desire in me that I could somehow help others who are struggling also. I am so thankful that the black, black days, with no hope, no desire to live are not with me lately. Because God loves me! How can it be???