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"There is hope for your future" declares the Lord

The warm breath swirled from the cows' nostrils. I stood in the frosty field, watching the curling patterns. Where was I and why was I there?

Pain. "You are on your own. You are hated."

I rocked as I crouched, hearing the constant measured tones of my father's voice, and mother's demands, deciding I had yet again been at fault, as they still were not happy. I had to try harder. It was my fault.

Pain. "You have failed. You are not worth listening to."

I walked out of church, holding my father's hand and saw a field of gold, glowing in the evening sun. Something yearning hit me, and I had that sense of beauty for many years.

Beauty, that flooded me through with unexpected lightness. "What is this?"

Why was he beating me this way? He had no right, because I always stood up for him against mother, I tried always to bring them together. How could this treatment link with loving?

Pain. "I have no value."

The Lord met me as a 14 year old and I became a Christian. This met with cold disdain from mother, anger from father. In our family anger was not expressed, but grave displeasure at my decision was tendered frequently.

Pain. "Your views are worthless."

I was baptised as a Believer. My father said, in a letter-tape, "You are no longer my daughter."

Pain. "Your views are of no value. You have no worth, no individuality."

I began to use defence mechanisms of intellectualism and repression. I decided that my views and my self would be accepted only if I did a perfect job of anything I was asked to do. Then I would not be criticised anymore. It would be hard to get close to anyone, as love only led to despair and hurt. Better to protect my self and not get hurt.

Father died, with only a minimal coming together between us. He refused any contact with me for months.

Pain. "You and your views have no value."

I enjoyed motherhood. Later I returned to teaching, dealing with Special Needs children in a mainstream secondary school.

Joy. "You have gifts from God, including compassion. They can make a difference to people. Your significance comes from the Lord."

The money ran out to pay me. I went to a Special School, for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties. I was promised training. This did not happen.

I had no support from teaching staff or management. The task was tough. I was constantly let down, as promises were not kept.

Pain. "You are not worth helping. We do not care if you fail. You are of no worth."

"We hate you, and we want you to know that." This was said to me daily.

Family concerns, with the death of my father-in-law, a suddenly demented mother-in-law, church problems. Heresy propounded, "If you have any problems in your lives that shows you are not a Christian."

Conflict. Pain. "You are not worthy of our love, the problems you face are your fault."

There I was, standing, still and fixed. In a field of cows. I should have been in school. I had no memory of how I had arrived at the field. I had begun to be ill but did not realise it.

For the next eight months I continued at the school with problems mounting and the workload intolerable. I did the work of seven people and was up at all hours of the night in preparation. The atmosphere grew to be frightening and nasty after an official report highlighted the fact that I was an excellent teacher, all the others failing.

Pain. Isolation. Ill health. "You are hated, despised, you are not understood, your views are not worth considering."

The teaching unions were called in. The head was retired on grounds of incompetence. The Head of the Local Education Authority lost her job due to negligence and culpability. Most of the teachers were asked to leave. The school was told to use all my lesson plans but they tore them up in front of me. All my work, gone.

Pain. "You and your views are not worth considering."

I walked out at the end of the term and refused to return. I was now very ill with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Numbness. Loss of self. No compassion No feeling. No hope. No God. No support. No point. No ability to think. No motivation. No Pain.

A shut down.

Real dreams of devastation, splitting apart, destruction.

Ahead of me lay four long years of medication, learning, and help from the mental health team, including the mental health chaplain. What was happening to me? Where was I?

From today's perspective, I see that I believed all those negative messages. At the time I felt numb and cocoon-like; I was not able to realise anything at all. I existed, staying in my cocoon. I told God that as He was not near to me then I would not bother to read His word. Let Him cope, I thought, not my problem. I shut off all communication with Him; He became dusty and irrelevant. I was truly alone.

Slowly the medication restored my brain's chemical balance and I began to function again. I began to be able to read once more, and I devoured many books trying to get an understanding of depression and the strangeness of the life I now lived. I went through a very difficult psychotherapy programme, once my psychiatrist was sure I could cope. It was immensely personal and I know the Lord was holding me in the situation. One day there was a release of an entire life of repressed anger and pain. The world tilted, but did not split apart. I screamed but no one minded. I learnt what anger was, how to recognise it, how to cope with my long repressed feelings. Then I had a long journey about forgiveness. The butterfly emerged cautiously.

The Lord was holding me gently all those hurting years. I was unaware of His love and presence. He was not 'real' to me.

There began to be an underlying sense of security now and then. Communication with Him was preserved for Sundays and a few groanings, then a period of hope began when I was able to go to a women's group in the new church we attended.

But this tentative launch out, although done cautiously and with great care, led to rejection again. I wobbled seriously, but had the support of a gracious elderly Christian, whose constancy built me up in a way that was delightful.

I was now functioning reasonably well, had even taken and passed an Open University exam, which was a great boost to my self esteem.

My psychiatrist was getting me ready to be discharged. It took me about 8 months to come to a state of readiness for this to happen.

After the incident with the women's group, and around March-April time, the moderator at my church mentioned "Christianity and Renewal" magazine. He wrote articles for it. There was an advert for the Christian Depression Pages (CDP), and I visited the site.

I began to realise the journey I had taken was one that many were on, and I wondered if some of my gained insights could possibly help others.

I linked with one or two people from the CDP message boards and then the challenging really started. I was beautifully encouraged to start Daily devotionals again. I had realised my compassion had returned, to a very great extent, and I began praying again, I found the Word sparkled, as it had not done for many years. The reality was solid; the Lord Jesus was there, in amongst His hurting family.

I was challenged by friends from CDP and greatly helped on a deeply personal issue.

It became clear that there were common themes to this experience of depression; people with different problems had similar thought patterns, similar ways of accessing the world, similar ways of not facing the hurts of life.

We really are fearfully and wonderfully made, and education and knowledge about this illness are essential for church people. Guilt and cruelty of uninformed church people can exacerbate the problems of depressed people.

Now the Lord's reality and strong love have returned - maybe they never really went away. I accessed His love without attributing it to Him, through all the various people and help I met in those four years.

With a friend I am learning Scripture, not as a duty or a 'work' but as a way of fixing the things of importance in my mind. I still have some problems with memory, but practice helps. I sometimes wake up singing choruses, I am woken to pray for particular situations, I am able to be in prayer and get on with physical life, for quite a lot of the time.

The walk and the challenge are not over; they have barely started.

After I left the psychiatrist I felt a curious yearning, a drawing after adventure, like an adolescent on the brink of life, love, adventure. The feeling grew and grew and was a fixed pain in my heart.

Then I read, "The Sacred Romance", and the words I had been using to describe how I felt were the words used by the author of this book. It was humbling to realise the Lord was speaking to me through these words. It is this book that colours this written testimony. Although I had learnt a huge amount about my self, my family s dynamics, my thinking patterns and defence mechanisms, and had begun the journey of forgiveness and growth, it was not until this yearning re-opened that I began to fully see how the Lord had been there all along. The yearning I felt as a child upon seeing the glowing cornfield was to do with an awareness of Beauty, recognition of the Creator.

The negative messages we learn to live by are familiar to depressives. We cope by erecting barriers, but really we have to be willing to change, for our minds to be renewed by the indwelling Holy Spirit and our Lord given a free hand in our lives to bind up our broken hearts. It is part of what He came to do.

Here I leave my testimony, for I have not yet arrived. It is an on-going process. I am still mourning because of those arrow type messages. And yet I know there is a way through, for God is good. I have friends who are standing with me and travelling alongside, in this growth struggle.

Copyright © 2001, Butterfly.