My Journey…From Ruin to Recovery – by Charlene Arnold

I was 39 old when I realized I had been suffering from depression since my teenage years. The dysfunction that had always been a part of my life had come to a head. I was facing a separation from my husband after 23 years of marriage and my life was spiraling out of control. Not only was I facing an impending divorce, but I had to sell my home and uproot my children. I ultimately was forced to leave my dream job as a result of my depression.

Before this, I firmly believed that Christians couldn’t be depressed, but after those events hit me in 2004, I could no longer deny that I was in a depressed state. As I studied more about the symptoms, I couldn’t think of a time in my life when I wasn’t depressed. Even during major milestones in life when I should have been happy, I wasn’t.

There were many causes for the initial depression I was experiencing; childhood trauma, the loss of loved ones and the corresponding grief that goes with it, as well as disappointments in life. I realized that my response to the trials and tribulations in my life is what was keeping me in prolonged depression and eventually resulted in bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness and unbelief. I became numb to the things around me, and as a clinician would say, I had “flat affect”.  The hardest pill to swallow was when I realized that my faith wasn’t what I thought it was, which allowed depression to tighten its grip on me.

Instead of running toward God, I went in the opposite direction. After being in denial for so long, I began to embrace depression as my identity. I had no real vision for my future or life in general.  I had been living my life based on other people’s desires and expectations and had not yet learned how to make decisions for myself. I didn’t even know who I was or what I liked because I was too busy living for others, which was not living at all.

At my lowest low, I would spend hours trying to figure out how to take my life in a way that my sons would not be the ones who found me. I spent days, months, and years just watching TV and being idle. I believed the many lies of the enemy, Satan, and tried to rid myself of anything spiritual. I mistakenly thought I had to renounce my faith (I didn’t) because I didn’t see any other choice.

I didn’t believe anything, or anyone could help me, and I began sabotaging myself, which included rejecting assistance from others. I knew my problem was a spiritual one, and didn’t think secular therapy, treatment, or medication would help me. I was wrong. Secular therapy wasn’t a cure-all, but it did aid in my recovery.

The initial medications I was prescribed made me nauseous or weren’t strong enough, and it took a while to find what worked best for me. Even with a treatment regimen, the spiritual battles I was experiencing at the same time seemed to negate the medical treatment I was undergoing. Some of the diagnoses I was labeled with seemed canned or a matter of medical routine rather than a real diagnosis. However, at the time I was not in a condition to advocate for myself, nor did I care to, because I had no interest in pursuing any kind of treatment for my depression.

I eventually became institutionalized in 2013, when my sons found me in a nearly catatonic state. From sun up to sun down, I ruminated over the idea of taking my life, what a failure I was in every way, and how spiritually bound and hopeless I was. I believed I had strayed too far from God to ever be restored. I got comfortable in my pitiful state, and it became a crutch for staying stuck.

My prayer life was nearly non-existent; I had stopped reading my Bible and going to church regularly, but I did continue reading Our Daily Bread devotionals regularly, allowing God to continue speaking to my heart. My oldest son would go out of his way to try to invite me to the church he was attending at the time. He was the Director of Music there, but even that didn’t move me. I refused to go because I was just too stuck. My heart was hard.

Somehow in 2015, he finally convinced me to go on Easter Sunday. I didn’t want to be there. I felt like I was blaspheming and dishonoring God by being there because my heart wasn’t right. Little did I know, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I began attending church intermittently over the next year, struggling the entire time. Finally, nearly a year later on Good Friday, I was at the end of my rope. After a year of attending church, I still felt hopeless. I was in Kennedy Hospital’s partial inpatient group therapy and spent most of my time attempting to minister to others rather than addressing my real issues, because I didn’t think anyone would understand. I don’t think I even understood, so how could I communicate them to someone else?

On Easter Sunday, I wanted to attend church again but due to some challenges, I was running late and knew I would miss most of the service. I thought it would be pointless to attend, but for some reason, I was still determined to go. By the time we arrived, the message was over, and it was time for the altar call. During the Pastor’s prayer, he mentioned repentance, a word I didn’t hear very often.

Before I could get to my seat, I quickly and desperately asked God how long was He going to allow me to keep coming and going from His house with seemingly no change. At that moment the Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart in a familiar way, but it had been a while since I had experienced Him in this way. No one else knew what was going on between the Lord and I at that moment. I simply began to worship Him the best way I knew how. His message to me that day was “no more half-stepping or side-stepping. I must be all in 100%.”

I knew I needed to repent, and I realized that although I believed in God and knew He was real, I had a problem committing to Him. I may have known Jesus as Savior, but I did not yet know Him as Lord, which was wreaking havoc in my life, resulting in discontentment, and defeat. Being out of the will of God and living a life with unrepentant and unconfessed sin kept me in the bondage of depression. God didn’t want to just be first in my life, He wanted to be Lord, and rightfully so.

I couldn’t fake it with God anymore. It was never my intention to be phony, but life experiences taught me to wear a mask, even though I didn’t always know that’s what I was doing. I realized my inability to commit to God, and anything else, was the root cause of my prolonged depression. It had become a stronghold in my life that Satan, manipulated to keep me bound and stuck. Now, I had to learn to trust God for everything.

My recovery is directly attributed to a change in my prayer life. I remember distinctly praying and asking God to revolutionize my prayer life. God blessed me with an all-expenses paid retreat to Word of Life Camp in upstate New York, as a chaperone for the youth. The keynote speaker spoke about the lackadaisical approach of many believers when it comes to prayer. Some of us were so convicted we were in tears. The next year, I was given a book called The Battle Plan for Prayer by Stephen and Alex Kendrick. My prayer was answered, and my life was forever changed.

The unconditional love of my children and ex-husband was invaluable. At my worst, they still loved me through it. I’m blessed to know that my children and I are in an ongoing healing process rooted and grounded in God’s love, where we can rebuild from. God has given me an abundant life and restored the years that have been eaten up due to my disobedience.

Life is improving, and I have the best relationship that I’ve ever had with my children and grandchildren. We have an open dialogue and can be honest with one another. Unfortunately, my ex-husband passed away before we could effectively address all our issues, however I’m blessed that we remained good friends until his death. I must continue to believe God does all things well and He makes no mistakes. I still marvel at the fact that with all that I did wrong against my children and others, they never remained bitter and were still able to show empathy toward me. That’s a gift. I’ve realized through writing my story, that I no longer have to carry the guilt of the past.

My children are thriving in life despite my shortcomings. Although I should have been six feet under a long time ago, God instead has given me “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that I might be called a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. I know I’m able to rebuild the old ruins, raise up the former desolations, and renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations,” according to Isaiah 61:3-4.

Depression could have been my complete downfall and ruin, but now I’m sharing my story with other moms. Nobody but God could bring me full circle as He has. I’m not all that I should be yet, and I have not arrived, but I’m actively participating in the journey. I’m nothing like what I used to be and it’s only because of God and my faith. I eventually came to terms with the fact that I have an illness, but the illness doesn’t have me. It is not my identity. It’s ongoing and may be lifelong but it’s manageable and treatable.

I am a work in progress. I am “God’s workmanship (masterpiece) created in Christ Jesus called to do good works” as Ephesians 2:10 tells us. I’m on a journey, and I don’t claim to be an authority on anything, but I do know what Jesus did for me. He has redeemed my life, and stirred up gifts and talents that were dormant for years, enabling me to use my own material to encourage myself and others.

My future is bright, and I’m now focused on three major areas – prayer, evangelism, and networking. The Lord has opened doors for me to engage in all three of these areas as led by Him. I am currently involved in two prayer line ministries as well as a street evangelism ministry. I’m also encouraged to reinvent myself and plan to publish my first poetry book and start a gift and crafting business.

I’ve come to learn that my depression has at least three elements to it. Some of it is a chemical imbalance requiring medication to regulate. Some of it is self-inflicted; how I respond or react to life. And some of it is spiritually based; part of the ongoing warfare we are all engaged in as believers in Christ. I maintain my overcomer status through effectual consistent prayer, reading and studying the Bible, and being accountable to family and other like-minded believers. When I look back, I’m in awe and wonder how I got from where I was to where I am now. I’ve always been a later bloomer, but by God’s grace, I’m ready to live and utilize my spiritual gifts to the fullest.

Encouragement for Moms:

There are many causes of depression. Make sure when you are examining the cause of depression in your life, you also check for and guard against any unaddressed sin in your life because it is a sure-fire recipe for prolonged depression. I had to get treatment for my depression, talk through my issues, and repent and confess my sins to God and sometimes to others who I knew would pray for me rather than judge me. I had to go back to the basics, the fundamentals. I had to go back to the gospel of Jesus Christ and cry out to God. This is what brought me through and what keeps me in recovery. Like the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe.” My breakthrough occurred when I surrendered all my hurts, pain, failures, attempts at ministry, and faulty thinking – EVERYTHING – to Jesus for real. Now, this is a daily process rooted in prayer, His Word, and the support of my community of believers.

I also want you to know that my story is not that unique, but it is personal. Depression is not uncommon. Many suffer from it unaware as I did. If you find yourself being cynical, sarcastic, bitter, often lashing out, internalizing everything until you reach a boiling point of rage, or often withdrawing from others, you may likely have an issue with depression and should seek help immediately. I want to encourage you that God who is rich in mercy meets us where we are on a personal level, but He loves us too much to leave us in a fallen state. He comes to help and heal, not to hurt or harm although it may seem like it at times as we go through the transformation process. If you are prone to fits of rage, run, don’t walk to get help – either through therapy, your church, family, or friends, or a combination of these resources. You are doing yourself and your loved ones a disservice by remaining in denial or delaying treatment.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like, feels like, or how long it’s been; God can save and deliver to the uttermost those that come to God through Christ and put their trust in Him. It doesn’t matter what you’re facing, what you’ve done, or how long you’ve done it – GOD IS ABLE!!! SURRENDER ALL TO HIM!!!

Prayer for Moms:

Father God,

I thank You that You do all things well, and that with You nothing is ever wasted. You redeem every aspect of our lives and turn it around for Your glory. I pray that eyes and ears would be opened to the

possibility of long-term healing from the effects of depression. Depression does not have to be a life sentence but merely an affliction for which healing is possible and readily available. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but God delivers them out of them all. Thank You for creating us to be Faith-Filled Moms, walking in the authority given to us by our Savior and Lord. Thank You for all the trials and

tribulations that bring us to a higher place in You. You are able to bring us through what seems impossible.

These things we pray in the mighty matchless name of Jesus, with thanksgiving in our hearts, Amen!

(The Road from Ruin to Recovery)

Depression, a silent killer of hopes and dreams
Consuming every aspect of life, it seems
Darkness descends, heaviness abounds.
Isolating myself, not wanting anyone around

A forced smile, a sheepish grin
A cover for the sadness lurking deep within
It becomes an unwanted disloyal friend.
Rearing its head time and time again

Reliving past mistakes over, and over again.
Will this nightmare ever end?
Unable to budge from its evil grip.
Is this who I am? Will I ever flip the script?

This was my existence for most of my life.
A wasteland of turmoil and strife
But then one day God’s light appeared.
Calming my most fearsome fears

My breakthrough came when I sought His face.
When I came from out of my hiding place
Now clothed with a new outlook; a calling to pursue.
The same can be true for you.

Just cast your cares upon the One who cares.
Jesus is willing, your burdens to share.
Believe it or not He’s always there.
Waiting to hear your heart-felt prayers.

Goodbye depression, you’re not welcome here.
For my Lord collects all my tears
Now His joy is my strength, no longer bound in sin
Now confidently able to hold up my chin.

Shouting HALLELUJAH! For my way is finally clear
A new song to sing year after year.
So, I’ll call upon the Lord throughout my journey.
Having discovered the answer, the key
To walking the road from ruin to recovery.

Written by Charlene Arnold

Want to hear more of Charlene’s Story? Watch our Moms Night In Conversation on YouTube:

Or watch on the Faith-Filled Moms Facebook page here.

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