Prologue – Devotions for Depressed Souls (working title)
Low self-esteem is my middle name. Not really. It’s Ann. But it seems like I’ve lived with bad self-image as long as I have my middle name.
In childhood I can remember being fearless and wanting to try new things. When my best friend wanted to go on the snowmobile, I readily agreed even though she would purposefully spin the machine, tossing me off the back every time. I acted mad and stormed away, but it was secretly fun. She would zoom up to me on the snowmobile, extend a hand, and we would go at it again. It never deterred me, and I knew she wasn’t doing it to hurt me. We’re still friends even today.
As I grew up though, I got thrown a lot of times in different situations, but it stopped being fun when the people quit lending a hand to help me back up. My self-esteem and fearlessness began to crumble.
One friend used me to split the cost of a trip, but then treated me badly the entire vacation. I endured a week of icy silence from her in a state that was over five hundred miles from home, and I had no car to leave. Afterwards, she told me she didn’t want to be friends anymore because we didn’t have the same beliefs. It irritated her, she said, that I forced my beliefs on her. I don’t even remember ever having a religious based conversation with her.
A former boyfriend repeatedly told me how overweight I was and kept a schedule of my gym visits. He was trying to “help” me, he said. He wanted me to live forever to be with him. I worked out, ate healthy foods, lost over thirty pounds, and he still left me because I wasn’t what he wanted. It was a punch in the gut and a blow to my self-esteem.
To make me a better worker, my flaws were pointed out daily by almost every boss I’ve ever had so I would “know what I was doing wrong,” although I was rarely told what I was doing right.
Over and over again people put me down for “my own good.” Maybe it made them feel better to say they were “helping” me.
The more “help” offered the less I liked myself. I started down a spiral of self-doubt and despair. Some days it’s hard to even get out of bed. What’s the point? I’ll just fail today, too, like I’ve failed for the past forty years—how will today be different?
A friend frequently offers me this kind of advice: “Just be happy! Why care what others think?”
Probably because they keep telling me what they think. And how do you just “be happy”? I lost that somewhere along the way too. Recently I’ve noticed that I rarely have encouraging or happy thoughts. It’s hard for me to think positive things even when I am encouraged or praised by others. I deflect the good because the bad has cut so deep.
The other day my husband attempted to cheer me up by helping me to think of a relaxing place.
“Envision the ocean…the beach,” he said. “You love the beach. Isn’t it peaceful there? Aren’t you happy there?”
I knew he was trying his best, but my response deflated his encouragement instantly.
“The beach is so far. Is it windy? Is the sun out? I only like it when the sun is out. Are there a lot of people?… now I want to be on the beach and I’m not there… so now I’m more depressed.”
Even as the words left my mouth, I knew I had to make a change. My husband and I laughed about it because my thought process was so absurd and messed up, but this negative way of thinking about everything could eventually destroy my life.
In fact, it’s already affected my life and marriage. My husband and I talk about this negative outlook frequently and he tries to help (although in better ways than most have tried). He is discouraged as well because I cannot accept his self-less and unconditional love for me.
Why would anyone love me without restrictions? There is always something in it for the other person.
Christian friends all say, “Christ died for you!” and “He loves you so much!”—indicating that these things should ensure my happiness, but my mind won’t process the information. God’s love is unrestricted and unconditional, but I don’t ever feel worthy of His love either.
I began digging deeper into the notion that as a Christian I shouldn’t have these feelings about myself… which only started to make me feel worse. God isn’t here to show me Himself. He isn’t here to constantly bolster my completely deflated self-esteem.
Or is He?
So how could I change this perspective and acknowledge Christ’s love for me once and for all? What would it take to really believe I am loved for exactly who I am?
One morning, as I leafed through the Psalms, looking for some encouragement to just get me through one day, I realized that the Bible offers a plethora of encouragement as my friends keep telling me. Except it doesn’t seem to soak in when I read a verse here and there. I can’t get it to connect to ME.
What could I do to make that connection?
Then I felt God speak to me: “Read it from cover to cover and take notes.” I never considered this option. Wasn’t the Bible just a tool to pick out random verses to make me feel better? (I can hear my theology friends moaning…)
No, it isn’t meant for that. It’s meant as a study tool.
I made a vow to myself to start right then and there. I will work my way through the Bible writing down every instance of God’s love, care and provision for His children—from Adam to me. Those truths I will compare to my negative, self-doubting thoughts in hopes of dispelling the untruths of my deceitful brain. If nothing else, I surmise, I’ll know the word, and hopefully God, better. At the second level, with any luck, I’ll rid myself of this negative thought processing. At the third level, if I publish my findings, then maybe I’ll connect with others who feel this way and, maybe, even be able to help them in their journey out of the abyss. At the maximum level I might be able to help a sea of others to overcome self-doubt, downcast thoughts and behaviors, and to push past what others think and see only what God tells us—forever leaving behind the negative lifestyle.
So…are you with me? Are you willing to read on…and maybe even take your own notes?
Over the next several months I will post my findings off and on here on my blog as I work my way through the Bible. It won’t be every day or even every week, but I want to share this journey with my readers and hopefully reach out to many others. Please feel free to comment below about your journey and how you’re trying to overcome the negative thoughts as well as share my posts with those you think could benefit from them. Let’s start a discussion. The time is now to put an end to the negativity weighing us down.
I’m reaching my hand out to help you up. Will you do the same?