Sometimes something simple will surprise you with the thoughts it unlocks, the change it creates in your thinking.
One in particular - God of the precipices - stayed with me, buried itself in my mind and invited me to rethink a metaphor I have used often.
Let me back up. I have depression and anxiety. Sometimes they are just background noise. And sometimes I have major depressive episodes that last months or even years.
My most recent major depression started sometime around my second year at my current call. Thankfully, I already had a therapist. Still, even with regular appointments, it took me longer than I want to admit to realize how bad my depression had gotten.
One day I was finally able to name to her that I needed to reconsider medication. My history with anti-depressants had been less than positive so it was a big step for me to say I was more worried about my depression symptoms than possible medication side effects.
Fast forward six to eight months later, after waiting for an open appointment and slowly increasing my new medication (I am very thankful for compassionate medical professionals that understand med anxiety). When it reached therapeutic levels, I described the experience as feeling as if my mind and emotions were waking up with a pins and needles sensation like when your leg falls asleep.
After being in the numb stage of depression for months, *feeling* things was weird and scary. And what scared me most was any sad or negative feeling. I could cry again but I was afraid to let myself - what if I can't stop?
What if I start feeling sad and just stay that way?
What if I fall back in the deep, shadowy hole of depression?
Several years later, depression and anxiety managed by meds and therapy, that fear remains. At times, it makes being present with my own emotions difficult. I still wonder if disappointment will become despair, if loneliness will become isolation, if grief will become depression.
In therapy and with friends, I talk about being afraid of falling over the edge, of getting stuck and not being able to climb back out.*
As someone who was an emotional, "sensitive" child who cried often and easily, this new reality is still disconcerting to me. I *want* to not be afraid of my emotions. I want tears to come when I need them.
And so as I colored the small portion of that picture that was the waterfall, I prayed "God of the precipices" and I thought about how beautiful, majestic, awe-inspiring waterfalls are.
My love for the mountains is in no small part related to the image and sound of North Carolina mountain creeks. Of watching water flow over and down the sides of rocks, winding its way down and around with the most calming noise.
Later that day, I sat by one of those creeks I love so much. Listening, watching, thinking. Returning to the God of precipices.
A few years ago, while in the mountains for a family reunion, we went on a hike, spurred on by the waterfall that waited for us at the end. While the waterfall was beautiful (see picture), it was also an unforgivable disappointment for one of my nieces because she couldn't play in it! I felt her pain. I understood the desire to experience a waterfall up close and personal, to feel the water as it changed elevations, and revel in the joy of cool mountain water. It was the same desire that led my family to board a boat outfitted in blue ponchos to experience Niagara Falls up close and personal when I was 10 years old.
With this prayer to the God of precipices, remembering the awe of waterfalls through a child's eyes, the sights and sounds of the creek, came the realization that sometimes a drop, a change, creates something remarkable.** Something to experience and not just observe.
Maybe it's time for me to stop thinking of sadness, grief, disappointment, loneliness as the trap door into the unseen terror of a mine shaft. Maybe it's time to start seeing them as I see the water flow in a creek or over a waterfall. Part of the journey. Not the end, not a trap. Just the flow of life. A part of God's wondrous creation.
Maybe, if I'm not as afraid of the fall, I'll also be more open to happiness, joy, excitement. My least favorite part of a roller coaster is the slow climb to the top. For a similar reason, the fear of climbing too high - because it just means a longer fall - also mutes my ability to feel and experience life.
True, sometimes the drop has seemed more like Niagara Falls. But I have always survived. Maybe with some bruises and scars, but eventually life, and my emotions, level out again.
When I have been numb from prolonged depression, when I have sought equilibrium instead of authenticity in my emotions, my life has been lesser for it.
God of precipices,
when falling over the edge
is a beautiful opportunity,
help me let go of fear,
and with courage
*Enter overused story found in multiple places of the guy who falls in a hole, see The West Wing Season 2 Episode 10 "Noel"
**Not always. Sometimes. Not every horrible experience, mental health struggle, or immense grief or anger has a silver lining. And there are those who don't survive. Like every metaphor, this one is not perfect or universal.