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November 13, 2016

My Battle with Depression

First off, if you're going to have a heavy post I feel like you have to have a happy picture to lighten the mood. So there is that. 

And also because I'm not in the darkness anymore...thats not where this story ends. I am walking in the light and so happy to be here.

The thoughts going into this post are thoughts that have been circling around in my mind since May. Thats a good 7 months. But even in 7 months there are still things I do not know and things that still confuse me. But I am praying God leads my mind and my fingers as I type this. I am obviously not a professional on this subject...but this is simply my story and I am going to explain it the best I can in hopes that if anyone else is struggling with this or anything of the sort that you can find hope in the midst of your suffering.

In June of 2015 John Luke and I got married and it was the best day of my life. 
It was seriously everything I could have ever dreamed of and more. The month leading up to the wedding I can remember being super stressed out (which can be normal for any bride) and John Luke and I were arguing a lot (which I've also heard is pretty normal for couples during their engagement). But I mean super stressed and bad arguments. Something we were not really used to. After our wedding we spent two weeks on our honeymoon, first a week in Australia where my new husband was a groomsman in a wedding, and then a week in Bora Bora. But I remember multiple times during our honeymoon just crying for no reason. I couldn't explain it to John Luke, I was just sad. Y'all I was crying in Australia and Bora Bora... that is not normal behavior lol. 

So fast forward a month and we are moving to Virginia to start school at Liberty University. 
I expected it to be a challenging season of life but nothing could have prepared me for what we were getting into. We were newly married, 16 hours away from home, starting a new college, building a house, starting new jobs at the school + traveling to speaking engagements at least twice a month. We got to school to find our house was not ready but the sweetest family let us live in their house for a while. Our little home was supposed to be ready in October but we didn't get in until February. Our first year of marriage we lived in at least 10 different places, including AirBnBs and friends' homes. 

(Now I want to add this: Although it was a rough year for us, I realize how extremely blessed we are. We have each other; we have amazing families; we have incredible friends; we had a roof over our heads the whole time even if it wasn't our own; we had food; we had gas for cars; we were at an outstanding university; we were good financially. There are many people in this world that are struggling with far more than anything we have been through and I do not want to belittle anyone else's hardships. I just want to give you an idea of what life was like for us and although it could have been much, much worse, it was hard for me to go through.)

During this time I cried every single day. There was always this overwhelming feeling of sadness. I felt overwhelmed by social situations and talking to people. I was extremely stressed out over my classes. I got anxiety over driving. My heart was constantly aching. At first I felt like I had the right to be upset over moving. That I had the right to be mad. I didn't want to be happy about being there. I so often tried to replace my sadness with anger and bitterness. My flesh wanted to thrive in that. But in my soul I longed to be joyful again. I said to myself, "Give me a month to be upset and then I'll be fine." My soul was thirsting for God and I ran to Him. I was in the Word daily for encouragement. I asked Him to restore my joy. I declared the words to the songs in my worship music I listened to on the way to school while tears rolled down my face. The highlights of my week revolved around God, whether that was Bible study, worship at school, or my Bible classes.

But it was constantly a battle.

Every month there was the hope that we would move into our house and then we didn't and were off to the next AirBnB. Because we were traveling to speaking engagements and events, we were always struggling to keep up with our schoolwork (when I was used to being an "A" student). At the end of October I got into a car accident that shook me up and left me carless for 3 months. Then just other little ways the enemy just seemed to be after us. But we were confident that we were where The Lord wanted us and were in His will. Because in all the little ways the enemy would come at us, God would come right up and give us what we needed. Even though in my head I knew He was taking care of us, it was hard to make my feelings follow. I kept thinking, "Well whenever we move into our house I'll be fine", or "Whenever we get a break I'll be fine", or "Whenever we get to go home for summer I'll be fine." But everything that I thought would make me happy came and went and there was still this overwhelming feeling of sadness. 

(Through this John Luke was amazing and even to this day I get emotional at his faithfulness and dedication to me especially during that time. Marriage was actually not one of the problems. But eventually my problems were starting to put strain on our marriage.)

The end of the school year approached and I was deep in despair. Looking back on the year I felt like I had not changed at all. I felt that I had learned so much about God and about myself, but nothing transferred from my head into my heart. I questioned God and I questioned His goodness. I had come to the end of knowing what to do. Was I missing some major part of what it means to be a Christian? As I talked to a friend about it I can remember asking her, "Why has God not given me my joy back?" and I will never forget the words she said to me. 

"Mary Kate are you seeking God for what He can give you or are you seeking God because He is God?"

At the time I didn't completely grasp in the fullness what she had said, but nonetheless it stuck to me. 

I continued to struggle on into the beginning of summer break. 
(The best way I can explain it is if you have a happy/ sad meter where 0 is neutral, 10 is the happiest and -10 is the saddest, it was like I was constantly at a disposition starting at a -5....if that makes sense.) It was during our family beach trip that I couldn't handle it anymore and I called my mom. I talked to her and my dad for about an hour and then to Mrs. Korie for another an hour. And we finally came to a decision and that it was time to see a doctor to find out if this was some sort of chemical imbalance. 

(Right now I want to add a major part to maybe not necessarily this story but about my life. In high school I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. These are two things that play a decent factor in my life but are just sort of things I've just had to accept and learn to deal with. There are different levels of severity and they have always been very low for me.) 

My dad also has Lyme Disease and told me that there was a time in his life where he battled depression. So we decided to start there and I went to my doctors. We ended up discovering it was a combination of the birth control I was taking and a vitamin B12 deficiency. 

Even though I was overjoyed to be feeling better I was still so confused and left with so many questions. Was this all chemical and not spiritual? Was this something I could have never overcome without changing my chemicals back? 

And this is what I have come to:

The Mayo Clinic describes "major depressive disorder" or "clinical depression"  as something you cannot just "snap out of" and "most people feel better after medication, psychological counseling, or both." A chemical imbalance means that something is wrong that you cannot fix. I could have prayed to God to fix it but that would be the same as praying to God over fixing a broken bone. He most certainly can do it, but he's also given us doctors with the brains to be able to fix it. The same goes with depression. 

Now there is more than one type of depression. Among many, there are "clinical depression" and "situational depression" which can occur over a short period of time after traumatic changes in your life. 

Ok. This is where I have struggled big time:

"If I was struggling with clinical depression does that mean that my struggles and my story and what I have learned through it all cannot help someone who is struggling with situational depression?" or in other words would someone say to me or think of me, 'Well you do not understand and you cannot help me because you went to a doctor and were fixed."

But I am beginning to think that is a big, ole, fat lie straight from the devil. 

Because I do understand and I did go through the same pain and heartache and overwhelming sense of sadness. And when I look back EVERYTHING was spiritual the whole time. The enemy tried to tell me that all that time I spent praying, in the Word, and seeking the Lord was pointless and didn't help and that I didn't change, but OH how I did. Oh how the Lord came in and grew me. It may have not changed my situation but it was changing my focus. The enemy tried to tell me I didn't grow, but looking back at where I was last year I grew SO much. The Lord has shown me that the reason I wasn't feeling joy is because I was expecting Him to give it to me in the wrong places. I thought God would give me joy by giving me my house. I thought He would give me joy by changing my situation. I thought God would give me joy through this or through that, but God was saying

"Mary Kate!!! Your joy does not come through Me + anything! Your joy is in Me + nothing! Mary Kate don't seek Me for what I can give you, don't see me for joy, seek Me because I am God!"

Psalm 16:11 is my life verse now and is what I began to cling to. It says, "You make known to me the path of life, in Your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures for evermore."

Looking back He was with me every step of the way. Not only was He offering me Himself as my source of joy, but He was offering me so many things around me as bonuses but I was missing them because I was looking to get out of my depression though other things I thought He had for me. 

Looking back He was offering me joy in my depression even if it was a CONSTANT battle to receive  it. I was the one who didn't want to be in a constant battle and wanted it handed to me so I looked for it elsewhere instead of SOLELY in HIM.

Looking back at what was the toughest year of my life and what I despised for so long, I can finally look back at it and thank God for it. I can thank Him for His faithfulness to me. I can thank Him for a husband who sticks with me. I can thank Him for letting me be in the desert, because it was in that desert that I learned to cling to Him and seek Him like never before. 

So that leaves us with this:
 Even if I am not battling clinical depression anymore, there are still things I do have to battle. I still have a family battling lyme disease. I still am tired and honestly easily irritable all the time from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I still have a B12 deficiency where I have to give myself shots.
But you know what?
I have never been more thankful in my entire life. I am so grateful for a God who is offering me joy during my trials and a God who is offering me hope after my life on earth.
 God tells us that we will have troubles while we are on this earth because we live in a sinful world, but because I have my faith in Jesus I have the hope of heaven which can get me past anything that I can ever come across here on earth!

Psalm 27:13 
"I remain confident in this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

If you are struggling with depression try this:

1. Praise Him still. Let His praise ever be on your lips. Declare that the Lord is good and declare that He is who you now He is even if you are not feeling that way in the moment. 
2. Pray. Thank Him for the blessings in your life and then pray for other people. Get your mind off of your own problems and ask Him to help others where they are having problems.
3. Serve. I read today "Kindness is the twin sister of joy. You cannot have one without the other." Be kind to someone today and let the blessing rebound back to you. 
4. Talk to someone. You are not alone. Seek guidance from someone you know and trust. Asking for help doesn't show weakness, it shows courage.

Two of my favorite reads/ listens on joy are these:

1. Redeemed Girl Ministries, Fruits of the Sprit: Joy

2. The Bible App plan, A Jolt of Joy

So this is as deep as I believe we have gotten and I am honestly just sharing my heart with y'all.
My prayer is that God can use this in a mighty way to speak to you, anyone, even if its just one person and know that there is HOPE.

November 9, 2016

Birthday Dinner with the Boys

The weather lately in Lynchburg has been absolutely amazing!! I am definitely a summer kind of girl and am not a huge fan of winter, because I am not a fan of being cold, but lately it has been just perfect. I am hanging onto all the days where I can wear shorts or a dress and be perfectly comfortable. So the other night when John Luke and I headed out for a birthday dinner for one of his friends (I accidentally crashed guys' night, oops haha) I pulled out a dress since I won't be able to wear them much longer!

I also absolutely adore this necklace I have on. Sadie has the same one and let me borrow it for Brighton and Reed's wedding, and when I got home I just had to get one...I've barely taken it off since it came in the mail! Ex Voto Vintage was the sweetest to send me one :) It's like a tiny gold belt for your neck and I think thats just kinda the coolest thing haha.

Last year I struggled badly with depression (thinking hard about a post on that) and as a result of that found myself wearing a lot of black and dark colors. I do love black actually and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's where it was coming from for me. Lately I've been making it a point to bring color back into my wardrobe as somewhat of a declaration...telling the devil he has no foothold on me. My inside just feels so happy and joyful now that I want to express it on the outside in any way I can!

necklace: Ex Voto Vintage
boots: Duck and Dressing (similar here and here)

November 3, 2016

afternoon on the mount.

One of my favorite memories from last year was when John Luke and I got snowed in at our friends' house. One of my other favorite memories is when we decided to go on a hike 2 weeks later to have church on a mountain.

I think everyone was having a bit of cabin fever from being stuck inside with it being so cold! The snow had long melted in town, so we hit the road one chilly, March Sunday morning. Well none of us considered the fact that the tops of mountains, especially ones with lots of trees and shade, are much colder. So our 4 car caravan starts up the mountain and all of a sudden we have a slight problem: theres still a ton of snow. Well...we are a determined group...maybe not the wisest, but sure enough determined. So we went for it. And with only one car being 4 wheel drive, the other three got stuck immediately. But praise God for the volunteer firemen who happened to be out for a hike too, who  helped us get our cars turned around and then gave us a life up to the top! Turned out to be an AMAZING day. Especially after we got unstuck and made it home before dark.

SO...we decided to go back this year while there was no snow on the ground AND while the leaves are turning AND on the random November day that it happened to be 80 degrees :)

The last time we hit up this mountain Pippa was itty bitty, so she made half the trip in a backpack. But not this time...she was lapping us the whole way up!

We got to the top, spread out our blankets, pulled out the popcorn, then played a little frisbee, a little football, and a little spike ball.

All in all: great friends, great weather, great afternoon.

"'Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor will my covenant of peace be removed,' says the Lord who has compassion on you."
Isaiah 54:10


October 31, 2016

life lately


October 20, 2016

plenty of pops, plenty of laughs.

When on tour you've got late nights and plenty of time on a tour bus which (at least for me) tends to lead to lots of comfy lounge clothes. I am unashamedly the legging queen when I can be haha. So when Albion reached out and asked to send me and the girls some of their new lounge wear of course  I said yes!

So we snagged a few pics when we were in Birmingham after a stop by Steel City Pops. 

A sure way to a lot of laughs:

popsicles + photoshoot

Brighton and Bonnie Kate have on the jumpsuit in black.
Sadie and I both are wearing the jetsetter pants in black.
Sadie's sports bra is the Antigua Slate Exhale Bra

Also Albion is offering a discount code to y'all! Use LIVEORIGINAL for 15% off :)
 (and hurry because it ends on the 28th!!)
A big shout out to Max for snapping the pics!

Collaboration with Albion Fit.