Tuesday, December 2, 2008

They Could Have Been the Worst Four Years of My Life

The years of 2003 to 2006 could have been the worst four years of my life. My health was literally disintegrating before my eyes.

Although I had been gradually going deaf since my late teens, in 2004, my thirty-eighth year, I lost all hearing in my left ear. This crippled me. I had to leave the church band, could not engage in social dialogue, stopped listening to music (one of my greatest pastimes), could not hear the television, and almost drove my family crazy asking them to constantly repeat themselves. Otosclerosis, an inherited disease that causes the calcification of the bones of the middle ear, was the cause of this ailment. Yet of equal concern to me was the accompanying tinnitus. Although both ears suffered from it, my deaf ear produced a cacophony of continuous, ‘deafening’ sounds, including roaring, thundering, grating, and an extremely deep humming that was extremely unsettling.

Not long before losing my hearing in one ear, I was diagnosed as suffering from complex partial epilepsy, confirmed by undergoing MRI and EEG scans. Prior to this, I had never heard of this condition, thinking the partial-seizures to be a symptom of depression. At this time I ceased taking anti-depressants and took anti-seizure medication, which had (and still has) quite horrid side effects. I lost interest in almost all of my hobbies, entered a continual state of exhaustion, and both short term and long term memory deteriorated significantly.

During these years a recurring injury received from my childhood worsened to the point that I was frequently afflicted by agonising, throbbing pain for ten hours a day, for up to three months at a time. (An operation in 2006 healed this injury.)

It was a Sunday morning in November 2004, when I had come down with the flu for the sixth time in a row, (which may have had something to do with burning the candle at both ends recently…) that I reached a crossroads. With the deafness, epilepsy, injury and apparent inability to return to any semblance of health, I felt the crushing weight of despair threatening to descend upon me. This was the last straw.

I had a choice. My life appeared to be in a state of utter disarray. I could succumb to despair and slip into the miry pit of depression, or I could turn to Jesus and rely upon His strength in my weakness, as He said to Paul in 2 Cor 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

I chose the second option. While I drove down Canterbury Road that November summer morning, I waited upon Jesus and recalled something I had heard in a sermon. My life was like riding in a bus, and the bus driver was Jesus. I was comforted by the fact that the bus driver always knew the destination and how to get there. This was my situation in a nutshell. Although my life appeared to be a complete mess and out of control, this was not the truth. The truth was that Jesus was in control of my life. I had nothing to fear. Jesus said in John 10:27-28, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.”

So rather than let these burdensome troubles drive me to depression, I surrendered them to Jesus and placed my trust in Him. The pressures faded away and hope, joy, and peace prevailed.

May I ask you, the reader, a question here?

Considering the breadth of my troubles at this time, does it seem too easy?

I know the Bible says in James 1:2 to ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,’ but trust me, although I reach this place eventually, this is not my initial reaction to trials!

Perhaps you are wondering why it did not take me days, weeks or months to learn to cope with these trials. How could I, after going through so much, ‘seem’ to shrug off their debilitating affects and yet live a normal life?

The only reason these afflictions did not drag me headlong into depression’s merciless grip was because I had already been down that road, back in 1990. It began with an eight-month period of living hell which included an endless cycle of debilitating anxiety attacks, chronic insomnia, crippling feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, utter despair at what was happening to me, and much more. As the days turned to weeks and then to months, I was crippled by the fear that this ‘thing’ that had overcome me would never lessen or end.

Here is an extract from my diary dated February 20th, 1990. (At this time, I had no idea what was wrong with me.)

Oh Lord, when will this end?
Day after day, I remain trapped
In this endless personal hell of pain and confusion.
I want to get out of myself!
To be someone else, anyone but me.
The me I know is gone, yet somehow I am still me.
I must escape from myself, but
I'm trapped in a suffocatingly small, dark room.
I know there is sunlight outside.
I run, push, and strive to reach that light,
But the room comes with me--I cannot get out!
Why? Because I am the room.
Jesus, for what reason have you allowed this?
Where are you? How long will you remain silent?
They say that others who have been down this route
Have left signposts along the way
To help those like me find the way out.
But where are these signposts?

By His grace and provision, Jesus helped me overcome depression and live a normal life again. And in learning how to cope with depression, Jesus set me free so that I need never again succumb to its depths. Galatians 5:1 ‘It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.’ In conclusion, it was because of what I learnt during my trials of the early 1990s, that I was able to endure the trials of 2003 to 2006 and through Christ, overcome them.

The purpose of this blog is to encourage all (myself included!) undergoing trials and tribulations to establish Jesus Christ as the cornerstone, or foundation upon which to build our lives, and through His strength, endure and overcome those trials in order to live life to the full. John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

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    1. Okay, WoW! The power you have allowed to work in your life, the power of God, is so evident throughout your testimony. It seems to me that the more a person suffers, the more clearly he sees his need for a Savior. This post puts a stamp on that.

      "My life was like riding in a bus, and the bus driver was Jesus. I was comforted by the fact that the bus driver always knew the destination and how to get there. This was my situation in a nutshell."

      That is great comfort and an analogy I won't forget. Love your blog, Peter, and I know that I am going to receive a great deal of wisdom and hope by reading it.

    2. WOW, Peter. God is SO faithful, and I am extremely encouraged to read this. I am very eager to continue to read your thoughts. I will certainly be back!

    3. What an encouraging testimony, Peter. The analogy of the bus driver is very comforting--very. Thanks for passing that on, it's one that I'll remember often.

      Welcome to blogdom!

    4. Peter, What an amazing testimony. It's wonderful and encouraging to read of how the Lord worked in your life.

      The picture at the top of your blog is beautiful...

    5. Peter, this is so touching and beautiful because you are showing how God can work through you to make something great for HIM!

      I have noticed that some of the best writing comes from those who have lived through some very hard and painful experiences.

      I'm glad you have started this blog. I pray that it will encourage others. I did me.

    6. Such an encouraging post and a "guidepost" for others on the journey. Thank you for being a voice out here and for lighting the way.

    7. WOW! I totally agree with LauraLee!

      Blessing Peter...now this is what I originally wanted to do on my blog.
      I wanted to blog like this about surviving this (bpd or clinical depression or any storm actually)!

      You are indeed a writer! I have been so blessed and plan to take a day soon to read from here until the current post! I pray that having Christ as your cornerstone & this Bible verse of 2 Cor. 12 you will see more victories & triumphs!
      This indeed is a great ministry & testimony! (I usually don't read blogs of males, no offense intended to any male for this reason I follow discreetly but I did post your button)!

      Thank you, Peter for sharing your journey through depression but having discovered this crippling or deafening illness certainly complicated & I can understand your great loss & resulting in this.

      Amazing!May God continue to give you strength!

    8. Dear Anonymous,
      Thanks so much for dropping by my blog, and for the encouraging feedback - you have really blessed me. The blog has been a real labour of love and difficult at times, but the Lord has taken me through and out of depression, and my prayer is that he'll use my testimony to help others in the same way.

      And I can relate to your comment regarding not normally reading blogs written by guys. On that topic I have had more than one comment from sisters in Christ suffering from depression, who have remarked how strange it is to meet someone who understands what they are going through, but from a guy's perspective.

      God bless :)

    9. Hi, Peter

      Thank you for posting this series. I'm celebrating a year since a terrible bout with depression and anxiety. I've never experienced anything like it…like losing the love and enjoyment of everything all at once and feeling an uncomfortable electric current running through my mind and body. Scary stuff. Praise God that I am much better today. I'm using your series of posts as a devotional. Thanks again.

    10. Hi Wayne,
      Thanks for dropping by. So glad you are feeling much better now. I can so relate to what you shared about depression. I wrote in my diary while depressed that it was a type of suffering that defied all comprehension. I hope the blog can be of encouragement to you.
      I had a quick look at your profile and blog, and will have to drop by again later. I'm also a big LOTR and Matrix fan.
      God bless

    11. Me, going back over your site all over again rereading from the start. It's good what you share and as reading this....which I'm sure you realize that you are the 'signposts' that you refer to in your poem, but for those now facing this such as myself. Thank you for being this signpost for us, all of us, even those who may be in denial or just simply may not realize what's going on with them, like I didn't for months, until just recently.

      And here I am again, with one of the big depression signs; up at 2:21AM, surviving on 30 hrs sleep per week...(IF)...no joke; and want to sleep and do nothing during the day. The only, only think I care to still do, which I guess is a good thing to still have this desire is to work on my love and passion with Photography. I am a mother and how horrible that I am not nearly the mother I desire and need to be because of this...this...parasite!

    12. Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

      2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

      3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

      4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

      5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

      6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.