A Look Inside (My) Depression

“When was the last time you thought to yourself, you know what – I’m actually pretty good. I kinda like who I am,” asked my well-meaning counselor.

“What would it take for you to love yourself?”

“I don’t know – if I could lose weight, write a book, actively accomplish something that I’ve set out to do, like if I want to wake up early in the morning then to actually get out of bed at 5:30 AM when I’ve set my first alarm. To have finally completed the 12 Steps of my addiction recovery program.”

My counselor then proceeded to show me the places in which I’ve grown over the last year. “Justin, you’ve gone almost a full year without a relapse into your former pornography addiction. You’ve successfully had financial discussions with Allie without getting defensive and allowing it to turn into a fight. From what I can tell – you’re becoming rather successful at work, you’ve built healthier friendships and your relationship with Allie gets sweeter and sweeter.”

“So what is it going to take for you to love yourself?”

“Where would you say you are on your fantasy scale of who you want to be – on a scale of 1-10?”

“I don’t know – a 5, maybe.”

“And what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with being a 5 and telling yourself, “you know what if I improve to a 6 or 7 over the next few years, then I’m a champion. I’m overcoming my sinful nature and becoming a stronger man of God,” and maybe by the time you’re 40 you’re an 8, and so on and so forth.

I found myself far more engaged this session than previous ones. Often distracted by wondering if someone from work has texted me or if my wife is doing okay, or whatever other anxiety-ridden thing I might be missing out on – FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I found myself listening, emotionally there, and nearing tears of gratitude.

“Justin, I think you’re okay. You’re doing a great job. You’re doing some really hard stuff. You can’t take on the whole world all at once. What if you took your goals – let’s say you want to drop 40 lbs and we cut that way down and we say you want to lose 10 lbs in the next 6 months. That’s doable, right? And what if instead of beating yourself up every morning when the scale still reads 2** – you decide to celebrate the victory of going on a walk a couple times a week. Because that’s better than what you’re doing right now, right?”

You get the idea.

You’d think I was in 1st grade. The concepts were so basic, so simple, so “easy.” And yet for the last few months I’ve barely been able to get myself out of bed, get dressed, and accomplish anything. I’m convinced I’ll fail – I won’t reach the fantasy self (230 lbs, New York Times Bestselling Author, freed from shame and living in joy), so why try? I’m gonna snack, so why not have three snacks? I’m gonna get distracted, so why even take the laptop and the book to the coffee-shop with me?

Round and round goes the cyclical cycle of shame. Satan’s henchman whispering in my ear at night all the reasons I’m useless for God’s Kingdom. My neural pathways strangely trained to think the worst possible outcomes will occur in my life.

I could blame it on being introduced to pornography in my young teens. I could blame it on the way that’s affected my relationships and the shame and pain of doing things I regret because of that former addiction. I could blame it on the way loved ones reacted to my being found out – seen for what I was. I could continue to lay in bed and wait for the day of the dead to come knocking at my door, to take me home from the suffering.

Or.

I can wake up with a purpose – the purpose of loving being a 5 and becoming excited about the journey to becoming a 6. I can honestly share my story and my heart with others, knowing that there’s nothing to hide anymore – and as high and mighty as some may pretend to be, they have plenty of their own skeletons. Having always admired the authentic, why try so hard to be the polished?

So that’s why I’m writing today. I’m not so sure this blog even has all that much cohesion and I’m certain it’s not my best work; confident there’s much to be improved. But for someone that’s been sinking in depression for the last several months, simply externally processing and sharing my feelings and heart with my community is a win. Hitting “Publish” is a victory. It’s one small step toward becoming a 6. One step closer to becoming more like Christ, regretful to radiant, sorrowful to serendipitous, grave to grateful.

Let’s dust off the keyboard and see if I’ve still got it.

Until Next Time,

Justin

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No Pain, No Gain (Like You Haven’t Heard That Before)

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that one of the connecting points for many lasting friendships in the world is the endurance of pain, together. There I was sharing a margarita with a friend I hadn’t seen in several months and the conversation drifted to the tougher moments in life and how he could relate to x-y-z and I could relate to a-b-c. Perhaps that’s too simplistic a view, but being the sinful humans we are, we’ve all been hurt and we all have hurt, others. It’s our nature to be selfish, inflict pain, and to find ourselves in the crucible of sanctification, given the choice of asking for forgiveness and saying “F*** them, they’re not worth it.” We’ve all been guilty of choosing the latter at some point in life, but it’s never led anywhere fruitful. Bitterness and hatred is only serving yourself the poisoned wine, rather than giving it to your enemy. You’d be better off attempting to kill them with kindness, wouldn’t you?

Anyways – back to my point – in a world of filtered photos, edited texts, and Facebook posts that are a highlight reel of life…we need that one person to share that one painful story of rejection, anger, pain, hatred, betrayal, longing, addiction, abuse, etc. – and that’s all it takes – and then there’s an iconic moment in every redeeming friendship – a “me too – I’ve been there as well.”

I talked with a coworker about depression this week. Opening up about my need for counseling, I found myself given the opportunity to minister to his soul and providing him with helpful options that I’ve utilized for my own personal growth and journey towards freedom from the hatred and loathing of self.

All it took was an opening up, and a “hey, me too man.”

So I guess all of that is to say, you can filter your pictures and keep your Facebook as clean and crisp as you want, but my life is about to get as real as it gets.

I’ve spent enough of my time worrying about reputation, status, money, and what other people think about me, but as long as God says “well done, my good and faithful servant” and my wife is excited to see and kiss me when I get home, then I’ve lived life well. The rest doesn’t matter and it always works out in the end.

It’s amazing how much time we spend chasing peace and perfection, and some of the most peaceful, perfect, love-filled moments are those that are spent being honest and broken, and allowing love and grace to cover over them.

Tim Keller writes of a czar who adopted a son. The adopted son had squandered his wealth and was contemplating suicide due to his recklessness… (sounds like the Prodigal Son in a way)

“Because he couldn’t cover his gambling debts, he began to embezzle from his regiments funds. One night he was sitting in the tent looking at the books and he realized that his embezzlement was about to be discovered. He could hide it no longer from the accountants. He sat drinking heavily and prepared to kill himself. He had the revolver by his side and he took a few more drinks to strengthen his resolve for the suicide. But the drink was too potent and he passed out on the table.

That night the czar was doing what he often did. Disguised as a simple soldier, he was walking through the camp and the ranks, trying to assess the morale of his army, hearing what he could hear. He walked into his foster son’s tent and saw him slumped over the book. He read the book and realized what he had done and what he was about to do.

When the young man awoke hours later, to his surprise the revolver was gone. Then he saw a letter by his hand. To his shock, it was a promissory note, “I, the czar, will pay the full amount from my own personal funds to make up the difference found in this book.” And it was sealed with the czar’s personal seal. The czar had seen the young man’s sin clearly, the full dimensions of what he had done. But he had covered and paid for the sin personally.”

The crazy part is that Jesus does this for you and me, daily. We constantly squander the wealth and the gifts that He’s provided us with. We hurt our wonderful parents with our insensitivity to their wisdom, we hurt our spouse with our stubbornness to their pleas for wiser behavior and moral conduct, we disappoint our elders as they prod us toward holiness, and we discourage our brothers with our apathy – yet Jesus PAID our debt. He said, “I see what you’ve done and I know it fully. The price has been paid. Now come back home.”

I think my life’s calling is to call other’s home. I see what you’ve done – I’ve done some stupid shit too. Now let me pay the price for you, so that you can come back home. You don’t belong in the underworld anymore. Let me provide you with some clean linens and prepare a guest-room for you. You’re an esteemed guest, a high ranking official, and adopted heir to the King – grace and peace and love covers over you.

So friends, come home. Stop running. Stop hiding. Stop chasing success. Stop searching for happiness at the bottom of the bottle or at the sound of any empty pill bottle. Stop clicking through videos and images of women that don’t belong to you (I shouldn’t even look at my wife that way). Stop shopping until you drop. Stop buying friendships with your money. Stop connecting with others through your self-loathing.

Just stop.

You were worth it. You are worth it.

So worth it that he paid your debt in full and covered you in the finest clothes. “What we should say to each other on our wedding day is, ‘As great as you look today, someday you will stand with me before God in such beauty that it will make these clothes look like rags.” (Tim Keller, “The Meaning Of Marriage”)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our slight momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

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The Darkness Took Over (And Something About Gold)

At some point, the darkness took over. It convinced me I was worthless, incapable, and not strong enough to go on. Satan’s whispers that my past wrongdoings were in fact my true identity and that the righteous man I’d masqueraded to be was simply a false identity. I’d been found wanted and I’d never amount to anything ever again.

I wish I could say that I told the devil that he was wrong and quickly reclaimed my true identity in Christ, trusting and leaning into the light. But I didn’t. I stayed there in that dark place, allowing myself to remain imprisoned by the past. The darkness took over.

The Bible talks about how if we give in to sin long enough, God will hand us over to it and I believe the last decade of my life was a sort of testament to that. I tried to outrun and out-think the Lord, as if that were possible. I convinced myself that lies were the truth and that the truth was a lie and I believed whatever tickled my ears and my ego.

Something interesting happens when you get married. You may have been able to lie to yourself all those years, but now you’ve got the accountability of another that is relying on you as much as you’re relying on them, and eventually they end up knowing you better than you know yourself. With Allie’s loving, loyal, strong, constant companionship by my side, I began to have to face my emotional weaknesses and my past.

I discovered that I couldn’t keep secrets from her and I couldn’t pretend I only spent $30 that week if I truly spent $50 and went over the spending budget. I learned that a half-truth isn’t the truth and it’s always best to be open, honest, and sincere regarding everything, even if it’s “not a big deal.” With our lives intertwined and every decision we both individually make affecting both of us, there’s a lot more at stake and our individual “liberties” cannot be taken lightly. Self-discipline becomes all the more important when your lack of self-control in any area of life no longer affects just you, it begins to affect another person as well.

In roughly 5 weeks, Allie and I will have been married for a year. We will get to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. February 4th will be an amazing day to look back and remember all of the growth that we’ve experienced together. I am so proud of the woman she is today compared to the woman she was when I married her – not that she wasn’t already impressive then, just that I’ve seen her endure and remain steadfast through a whole year of highs and lows.

One of our favorite artists has a line that goes something like this, “It’s not about the mountain-tops, it’s about the walking in-between.” Ben Rector is right, it’s about walking through the valleys of life, together, that matters the most.

So yes, I let the darkness take over. And yes, I’ve been in a sad, depressed season – but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a valley. The sun will shine again. Spring will come. We will experience new highs and new lows in 2018. But most important of all, we will always be together. And the past for either of us, the darkness from our sin past and present and future, does not define us. It’s simply a part of the growing process.

In “Love Lives Here” written by Maria Goff, she talks about life being similar to a gold mine. We often hope to find gold laying around on the surface, easy to pick up and cash in on. But often, it’s found deeper in the mine, under lots of ugly rocks and dirt. It takes a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of time, but eventually we can all find the right within our hearts. And we’re wasting our time if we’re trying to dig up someone else’s gold because that’s not ours to have (gossip/envy). It’s when we’ve put in the hard work to discover the gifts within the cave of our hearts that we may come across treasures that could be passed on for generations. No longer do we have to be cursed by generational sins and struggles, but we can pass on the gifts of freedom, unconditional love, and refreshing joy.

So as we enter 2018 with our figurative and literal picks and shovels, may the Lord bless our digging, and may we all find some gold in the darkness.

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Insecure – A Social Experiment

A few days ago, I conducted a social experiment. Without much of a reason why, I posted this question – “What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of me?” My friends graciously provided over 20 honest, thoughtful, kind responses. My brother said, “Perfect!”- but we all know that’s simply not true; but my family has always been my greatest fans and cheerleaders. I’m grateful for them.

So why would I pose such a question? The truth is, I was feeling “insecure” (probably the most prodding response I received – but it was very accurate).

I needed to prove to myself that my own perception of myself was wrong – that the negative lies swirling around in my head that night did not define me. Some of them were true, but they did not define me. Yes – I’m not fiscally secure (yet), I could stand to continue watching my fitness (but I’ve started keeping a food/exercise diary on MyFitnessPal and I’ve cut back on “going out”); I could have more reinforcing conversations with myself, rather than fighting myself, etc. But those irritating moments and bad days do not define me.

There’s a scene in the movie Creed where Rocky is instructing Creed on shadow-boxing. He turns Creed to the wall of mirrors in the gym (probably my least favorite thing about any gym or bar I’ve ever been to) and he tells Creed that his toughest opponent is the one staring back at him in the mirror. You then – slightly humorously – see Creed intensely throwing punches and ducking to avoid them as he faces himself, his greatest threat yet.

I think that’s the greatest struggle a twentysomething has to face. I’m fairly certain that’s why we see so many people in their twenties lose their faith, walk away from the church, turn to destructive lifestyles, and turning their wheels for a period of time – until they finally reach the day entering their mid-to-late twenties (shoutout to my 26th birthday, fastly approaching!) and realize it’s time to fight their demons.

So I was sitting in my car outside the Library. Because I’m a nerd. Loud and proud. I love to read and learn and write. But mostly, I love stories and emotion.

I’m sitting there in my car, questioning life and doubting myself. And I asked my friends what they thought defined me, what they valued and believed to be true about their relationship/interaction with me and it turns out, they want to call out the brave, courageous, writer within that’s good at relationships, witty, goofy, Christian and yes – occasionally insecure. But the overwhelming theme was that they loved me for me. That I was enough. That I was indeed, worth it.

I’m Justin Meyer and I struggle with insecurity and occasionally retreat to poor habits or shut-down when confronted due to a sensitive heart. But those do not define me. That is not who I am.

I am enough. I am loved. I am, for the most part, respected and talented.

So thank you for contributing to my semi-vain study where I conducted a social-experiment regarding the lens through which you see me.

But at the end, I’m still holding to the belief that this life is for an audience of One. And I’ll continue sharing matters of the heart. Because in the end, that’s what counts. And the One thought I was worth everything – even His Son.

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(For the record, I hate cats. But this one looked pretty insecure. And I figured Allie would be thrilled that I featured a ‘cute’ kitten at least once. Enjoy it while you can – it won’t happen again. :P)

Winter

I hate Winter. It’s dark outside all of the time and it’s the easiest season of the year for me to become depressed in. Technically, I believe it’s still Fall out, but it’s dark when I go to work – and dark when I go home – so I consider it Winter. And I hate Winter.

Winter is cold, bleak, dangerous, rigid, and dark. Sometimes I think it has that exact affect on my heart – engaging a torrent of emotional angst and anxiety that closes in on me like the darkness outside tonight.

But it’s okay – I fight for joy. And I’m a lucky man, dating a pretty girl, that really values me beyond belief. In fact, I’m presently writing this on her MacBook Pro because my laptop has long since seen the grave and she was gracious enough to let me borrow this for a little while.

Something weird happens when you hit your mid-twenties. You grow increasingly restless with accepting the status-quo – the norm – what everyone else is doing and what everyone else wants for you. Your heart begins to ache for meaningful work and a meaningful life, filled with meaningful relationships that have a lasting impact.

You discover that if life is entirely about the rise and grind of a 9-5 job, then is it really worth living? Probably not. So you yearn to make an impact, to find your niche, to reach the heights the dreamer within you believed you capable of at the age of 18 (but then you let fear and anxiety rule your heart, rather than prayer and planning).

It’s a weird season of learning your parents were right, the young-adults you admired as a teenagers were just as scared as you are now, and there is no glory without struggle. No good man that has not wrestled with his inner demons first. The struggle yields perseverance; and perseverance develops character; and character calls out the Great in everyone.

Basically, we’re all human and make lots of messy mistakes. The men and women that we admire were not any less messy per se – they’ve simply learned how to overcome their struggles – how to not get psyched out by the competition – and how to always keep their eyes on the prize. In the end, it’s often their weaknesses that have become strengths, that make them more relatable and a more effective witness – God ends up using even our thorns to make the rose-garden of his Kingdom beautiful.

There are consequences for your actions and for your inaction. Whether you speak or remain silent – whether you fight or remain passive – whether you exercise or remain dormant – whether you indulge or go without; all of these things have a string of consequences. We are the sum of our yesterdays. There’s grace. There’s overcoming power. There’s freedom. There’s strength. There’s endurance. But you absolutely have to take responsibility for, and accept and love, the man (or woman) staring back at you in the mirror.

You have to forgive yourself and find yourself worth loving.

I’ve lived much of the last few years with clenched fists. I’ve hated the anxious, scared, tired, frustrated, unhealthy, unfit, victim of a man that I’ve been. I’ve stormed out of rooms and cussed in my car and cried shaking sobs of depletion, sinking to the floor in my bedroom.

But I’ve forgiven myself; I’ve decided I’m worth loving.

I’m worth fighting for.

And I will fight. I can and will live again. I’ll set out and accomplish my goals. I’ll become something, because I am something. Chosen and loved before I was even worth being chosen and loved – and far after I’d dismissed revelation for ‘discovery’.

Winter can be as dark and cold and crappy as it wishes. Because I’m a man on a mission to see the light, feel the warmth, and to cling to the joy around me.

I’m grateful for your tender love as you’ve taken the time to read this. Reach out to me if you need someone, because I promise you’re not the only one sometimes silently wrestling in the dark.

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Jailbreak

Never thought I’d escape,

Walls so thick; shackles and gates.

Fears had its hand on me,

Kept me from traveling.

But now I’m unraveling.
Freedom’s mirages,

Despair so bottomless.

Then I got caught up in this,

Forgot I’m an optimist.
Broken hearts shatter,

Millions of pieces; all of which matter.

Yet they’re separated,

Corroded, deteriorated.

Clean and sweep,

Fight and wheep.

You’ll never collect all the pieces,

That’s not where the peace is.
So insanity beckoned and I followed,

Called me in deeper until it swallowed.

All of the light within,

Where does this life begin?
I see it now – breaking through,

Streams of light, bold and true.

Like a sunburst through the clouds,

A peace comes down and surrounds.
I look down and there’s the key,

Pick it up and now I’m free,

Captive and prisoner to only me.
No more can this heart take,

Fists clenched and longing’s ache,

I’m running now – Jailbreak!
Hold me down and I’ll break free,

Can’t contain the fire in me.

I’ll Be Honest – Big Guys Hurt Too

Let me tell you something – I hate being overweight. It makes me sick to see myself in the mirror. And don’t worry, I’m not looking for sympathy. I just want to be vocal – to find my voice again. It’s been lost in the darkness of my own self-loathing.

I’ve ventured from charismatic and outgoing to shy and reserved – characteristics that have previously only been on my radar when talking to girls (when I was way younger). In other words, I’m a more sedated version of my previous “self” and lacking a great deal of the power and confidence that used to come from being a smart, personable, tall guy.

I’m still opinionated, vocal, and competitive (in the work-place), but I’m lacking in confidence pretty much everywhere else. One of the most attractive qualities, and a necessary one, is one’s ability to overcome. And I lack it. Zilch confidence in my ability to overcome myself.

I was crying the other night, because hurt people cry. I shamed myself for being a man that was losing it like an adolescent in his bedroom, but I’ve decided that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my hurt. I’m just a broken human-being. Someone else may have an addiction to meth or a problem with their anger that leads to abuse, while I have a problem with being motivated to exercise and I eat/drink too many calories. Person A is broken and Person B (me) is broken too, just different types of broken.

I hope that when I do (choosing to believe, in this moment anyways) overcome, I’ll be able to help others. Because I have so much empathy for big guys (and gals) now. I see them and know how much hurt they face when they decide to go with the second or third outfit they tried on, because they look “less fat” in it, or because the others just plain didn’t fit and your arms couldn’t move. I know that from the moment they wake up – it’s a struggle to believe in yourself – to think “I can do this.” I know what it’s like to sit in the manager’s office and wipe sweat from your forehead during a job interview. I also know that they often do everything in their power to avoid mirrors and being tagged in photos on Facebook that aren’t selfies from Instagram. And that your mortal “enemies” are those perfectly in-shape friends posting their gym selfies – #GetFit, because we know they’re so out-of-shape already (yes – heavy, unproductive sarcasm there – but you know EXACTLY what I mean).

All of that is to say, I get the struggle.

Hurting friends and family (for whatever reason – overweight, in debt, broken up with, treated unjustly, etc.), your feelings matter. They have value. And I don’t care if you’re 18 or 70, it’s okay to talk with someone – obviously probably not everyone – about how you’re torn and bruised inside. I hope someone reads this and says, “That’s me, too (in this area or others).” And to them, I want to say that you matter – that I love you – and that I have so much heart-felt fondness for your perseverance to continue the fight of life, even if you lost a battle or two.

Emotion isn’t weakness. We can harness its power for the greater good. Our tears can lead to prayers, anger to (healthy) action, anxiety to planning, and so on.

You are not yet beyond saving. You have yet to be defeated. Time hasn’t run out yet.

Keep running the race. I’m running (slow, but steady) with you. Let’s pray for, and love on, each other.

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