Dealing with Depression with the Word

1:03 PM Shonell Bacon 2 Comments

This past week has been an experience for me.

I actually had a day on campus where I just couldn't hold in my emotions any more. They shot through my mouth in the form of words as I talked to people. They leaked from my eyes in the form of tears as I sat in classrooms. They settled onto my face in the form of dull eyes and lifeless expression.

I was tired. And I was done.

I could not get my brain to slow down enough to get any work done, I was having panic attacks daily, and I knew I was slipping into a depression. Had been for weeks--was trying every and anything I could do to prevent it, but I didn't have the energy to care.

Out of desperation one day, I ran to my bible and closed my eyes. I whispered, "God, I know I haven't been faithful to you lately, but please give me a good word."

With eyes still closed, I shuffled through pages, finally letting the book open.

I then hovered my hands over the pages, wanting to feel a pull toward a particular passage.

I fell upon Zechariah 3:1-10.

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.
6 Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, 7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts:

‘ If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.
8 ‘ Hear, O Joshua, the high priest,
You and your companions who sit before you,
For they are a wondrous sign;
For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.
9 For behold, the stone
That I have laid before Joshua:
Upon the stone are seven eyes.
Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’
Says the LORD of hosts,

‘ And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10 In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts,

‘ Everyone will invite his neighbor
Under his vine and under his fig tree.’”

I talked to one of my close friends after reading it and did some research on the verse though neither of those were necessary; I knew the message God was sending me: in essence, God was restoring me, making me whole and cleansed despite my circumstances.

And I felt it was true. I believed it was true.

And then a few more days passed and despite this word from God, I was still down and depressed and unable to focus.

When I returned to the Bible for a word, I was presented with Isaiah 5:1-12. It made me sit up:

Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:

My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes.
3 “ And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
4 What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?
5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
6 I will lay it waste;
It shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come up briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds
That they rain no rain on it.”
7 For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.

8 Woe to those who join house to house;
They add field to field,
Till there is no place
Where they may dwell alone in the midst of the land!
9 In my hearing the LORD of hosts said,

“ Truly, many houses shall be desolate,
Great and beautiful ones, without inhabitant.
10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath,
And a homer of seed shall yield one ephah.”
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
That they may follow intoxicating drink;
Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!
12 The harp and the strings,
The tambourine and flute,
And wine are in their feasts;
But they do not regard the work of the LORD,
Nor consider the operation of His hands.

The message from this passage wasn't as sweet and loving as the former passage. The minute I read this I knew I was being reprimanded for allowing my depression, for allowing my mind to devalue me, to make me an unproductive vineyard. I managed to take one seed of doubt -- my inability to get academically productive -- and turned it into a crop full of failure. I managed to take every facet of what made me me and find a way to devalue it. Even when I had moments of happiness or moments where I believed things might be OK, they quickly evaporated and I returned to laboring in my field of devalue.

As I embark on a new week, I'm working hard to keep my head above water, keep my vision focused on positives, and finish this semester with part of my sanity intact.

I'm also realizing that as I try to creep out of this depression, going to the Word is what's going to help me most. God has never steered me wrong, and even when I feel like nothing can help me, I know that he can break through the hard shell of my walls and balm my bruises and heal me.


Letting God Navigate

4:49 AM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

It's hard. Letting God navigate.

You want so hard to be in control, to fix everything, to make everything perfect.

It's like you don't even know the truth: nobody is perfect.

It's been one of those things I've been learning this semester. Nobody's perfect. I'm not perfect. Things will happen. I'll want to give up. People will try to make me feel better. I will not listen to them. God will help me even when I don't feel like being helped.


And repeat, and repeat, and repeat.

These days, God has plenty of reasons to not be happy with me. For one thing, I haven't been going to church faithfully, and even though I'm not the person to hang my faith on weekly church amen, I do enjoy going to church.

Life has just been so hectic, so crazy that my sleeping schedule has been off and come Saturday night, I'm trying to justify getting up early to do work instead of going to church.

Yeah, it's been that bad.

The last several months have been an experience for me. The most interesting experience I've ever had, actually. Let's me know that you're never too old to be surprised.

While trying to stay focused on schoolwork, I dealt with major self issues while also worrying, lamenting, praying, dealing with big issues back home - with family and friends.

It's been hard - being here and not there. It's been hard - not being the fixer. It's been hard - just letting my prayer and thoughts be enough.

But it's what I had to do, so I did it. My family insisted. Mom and sister checking in on me, making sure I'm OK. My brother calling and texting with his jokes and telling me not to worry and keep chillin' with my books. My girlfriends telling me that I already have this degree, just keep moving forward to reach it. Even in the midst of their own angst and problems, they looked out for me.

And so did God. And so is God.

At each and every breaking point, he has been there, letting me know that I'll be OK. That I am OK.

He has never left my side even when I left my side.

Through the panic attacks, he's there, calming me, getting me back to the computer to write and work on projects.

Through the tears, he's there to have me turn on a song that makes me smile and revs up my heart and mind.

Through the angst, he's there to say, "Shonell, stop, OK? You got this. Can't you see that?"

And just when I think I can't see it, there comes a slither of light.

And I know that at some point, some point, I will be bathed in that light.

And that's enough to make me move to the side, give God the wheel, and ride this semester out to its positive, brilliantly lit conclusion.


Gettin' "Real" Real

12:40 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

I've been real in all my posts, but today, I feel the need to be "real" real.


Because these days, Shonell is a bit more raw, bit more open than usual, and "real" real is all that can come out.

So, what's the "real" real?

I'm tired. Stop. Actually, "tired" isn't strong enough a word. Neither is "exhausted."

There is no word.

And no, this isn't a whine. And no, I'm not comparing my life with anyone else's. Not looking for sympathy, and actually not sure I care if anyone cares that I feel this way. I just have to let it out because it's what I feel. Period.

School is kicking my butt from here to Africa and back.

Within the last two weeks, I've thought about just disappearing and returning to Louisiana at least ten times. Though it's probably been more. Mind is a blur these days. Memory flickers off and on.

It's been five years since I've been a student, and a lot has changed in me during that time. I was used to being the worker, the teacher - not the student.

And even the last time I was a student, things were different for me. School was all play, even the hard stuff. I was pursuing my MFA, and because I lived and breathed creative writing, everything new learned excited me. I was busy trying to figure out how I could use these techniques or theories or ideas in my stories.

And I even know about hard work. As a GT, I was expected to be a full-time student (12 credits), plus teach, plus do work in a grammar lab, plus attend readings, plus anything else that came up as opportunities that were "suggested" we take part in; believe me I know about having a full plate. I even know about wanting to high tail it...ironically enough, it had NOTHING to do with the amount of work that I had to do.

This experience, the one I'm in now. The one in which I don't have to teach or do grammar lab. I just have to be a student. GREATEST opportunity ever. And I've been lucky. I actually really like Lubbock. I like the area, the people (so far). I heart the school. The, their brilliance is tangible. When I'm in their presence, I can feel it, and I always try to secretly steal a piece and save for a dire moment of stupidity on my part. I haven't learned, thought about so much in all my life.

Now, having said that, this is by far the HARDEST thing I've ever done in my life. For a lot of reasons.

1- I'm in a new place.

2- I'm alone- and though I usually don't mind this, during the hard-hard times, I could really use a f2f hug and a "It's going to be OK."

3- I had never received a word from God so strongly before that propelled me to do something. I've told you many times how he told me to come here, to only apply to TTU. That makes it more urgent that I stay though recently, I'm ashamed to say, I started to think God didn't tell me anything, and I decided this all on my own...a weak attempt to put it all on me so that I can put tail between legs and leave and not blame God.

4- Read, read, read - I am drowning in words and have no idea how to connect it all into anything meaningful. When I see others that have managed to do so, I feel stupid, inadequate, unable to do it even more.

5- This is, for the most part, a new field for me. This isn't like a Ph.D. in mass comm in which I would be building upon the masters I already have, or a Ph.D. in English... or in Creative Writing, where - again - I would be building upon what I already know. I don't understand half of what gets shoved down my throat, so I don't feel comfortable enough with the material to understand it, synthesize it, and use it. I'm still in the trying to UNDERSTAND part.

The list of reasons could go on, but I think you get the point.

It's hard. It's only going to get harder as I work on annotated bibliographies, papers, studies, and finals within the next four weeks.

Sometimes, I wonder if I squandered time with other things - of course, one can always manage time better, but honestly, aside from this weekly blog and the tweets and Facebook comments I write, my life is compiled of three things - school, eating, and sometimes sleeping. There is hardly room for anything. For others, there might be, but this is my first semester after half a decade out of the classroom as a student, and I'm not as "quick" as I used to be (perhaps that will change after the first semester). Most of my life over the last several months has been right here. Sitting on the chair in front of my laptop while I read and took notes, read and wrote lit reviews, read and tried to develop ideas for paper topics. I mean I got cable two months ago haven't watched a week's worth of TV yet. Haven't watched one full game of football yet. School IS my life. Not sure how healthy that is.

The last few weeks, aside from being beyond tired, I've reached this stage where I get depressed and just don't care. The energy zaps from me and I can barely lift my head from the pillow. I just want to be left alone, in the quiet, to imagine things beyond the here and now.

As this has only gotten worse, I do see God trying to keep my head above water.

Two verses I've received within the last few days have really helped me to cling to whatever's left of my sanity.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart - Gal. 6:9

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward - Heb 10:35

I do believe this is for my good. I do believe I have grown very weary, and I'm working to see beyond the weariness to the blessing that this journey has been for me.

I do believe I have lost my confidence. Most of the time I feel stupid and unaware of anything significant, but I do believe that if I can regain my confidence and persevere great rewards are there for me to have.

And it's because of these, scratch that. It's because of GOD that I'm still here because Shonell is bone-weary and spends most of the hours of her day NOT CARING and NOT WANTING TO CARE but God manages to cover all that NOT CARING up and gets me up and wipes the tears and rubs the Bengay on the wrists and massages the temples so that I can do what needs to be done.

Shonell would say right now that she doesn't know what tomorrow will hold for her - will she make it or not? She has not the foggiest.

The God in me, however, would say I will make it. I've already made it, and I'm just going through the journey to the end of it: the great reward.

Right now, I'm too tired to trust anything that's going on in my mind.

I think I'm going to trust God. He's never led me astray. Don't think he would start doing it now.


Managing Happiness...with Writing?

1:29 PM Shonell Bacon 0 Comments

You know, I came to a conclusion recently that was quite baffling: Happiness will hinder my success.

I know what you're thinking, What in the world is wrong with this girl?

I know, I know. But let me explain.

You see, since I've been here, I've lived on a low-grade level of exhaustion. Beneath the eyes that are somewhat open, the mind that is almost alert, the brain cells that try to retain information; I am utterly exhausted.

If I sit in one spot for more than ten minutes, I can assure you that I will pass out, and I probably won't wake up for three, four, sometimes five hours.

Doing all the reading, researching, writing, etc. that I do for school drains me. Not whining. Just stating the obvious.

Anything over what I've been doing exhausts me even more.

One thing I haven't been doing a lot of is being happy. I've just been making do. Waking up, going to classes, reading, maybe spending one evening/afternoon a week with the fellows, perhaps some sleep. Repeat.

Sure, I laugh. Sometimes, I've even fallen into spastic fits of laughter, but it always dies down and I quickly return to somber, stay on track Shon.

There have been moments of happiness over the last few months, and it took me 'til now to realize that this happiness, when I don't manage it, puts me in a drunken stupor, affected my productivity for that day and for a day or two after the happiness has subsided.

SO, what does this mean? Should I just be depressed, sullen? Definitely not because I've been that, too, during this time, and Lord...*shaking head* put me into a whole other personality for almost a week.

What it means is that I need to manage my happiness.

Sounds read, I know, but in thinking about my situation, thinking about the six weeks of school left and the two lit reviews, three papers, two studies, and three final exams that must get completed between now and then, believe me, MANAGEMENT is key.

So, how do I manage happiness?

Um...don't know yet. LOL Still trying to figure that out.

I will say this - last week, I decided to jump on board and participate in NaNoWriMo. I've participated the last four years, and each year hit well over the 50k mark on each story. I didn't think I would do it this year. School takes up most of my time, and quite honestly, no idea had popped into my head for the last three months.

Before the last week of October, I always had a story outlined and ready to be written. This time, I had a title, a main character's name, and a loose idea of the basic plot of story. That's it.

And yesterday, first day of NaNo, I cleared the 5,000-word mark (pacing wise, it's good to think of say 1,667 words a day as a goal). Today, I went to Starbucks in the morning and made writing my first to-do of the day. Cross the 8k mark.

What I'm writing probably is crap, but you know what? I'm writing, and I will productive. Not only that, but I'm getting more done with school, too.

Want thing that always amazed me about November is how much I got done. When I was teaching five freshman comp courses and doing other stuff for school and participating in NaNo, nothing ever got slighted and it all got done well.

Maybe sparking my creativity is the happiness I need that will spark me enough to make it through to the end of the semester.

Creativity is not a flash-in-the-pan happiness. It doesn't spark you, drain you, and leave you passed out on the sofa for five hours.

It's a constant thrum, that makes your mind think of plots, characters, tension, climax...makes you happily get through Foucault so that you can get back to writing...makes you think about that to-do list and stay active to complete everything on it so that you can feel accomplished.

SO, in this musing, I guess I realized what can manage my happiness. What can keep me feeling happy and productive in all areas.

Creativity. Writing.

And it knew EXACTLY when to show up.