03 June 2011

musings on a retreat

*Note: I don't usually write about God and my faith on here. I've avoided that, but I want to be able to share more of my thoughts than I usually do; I'm tired of just writing about my knitting projects. Knitting doesn't usually bring me to think more deeply, and this does (I hope). So here goes.

Last weekend, I went on my church's Women's Retreat. I was too afraid to go last year, afraid to step out of the familiar. This year, willing to face the challenge of the unknown, even for a couple of days, I managed to go, although before I left I was pacing up and down and trying to convince myself that I didn't really have to go. But I was packed, and we were past the refund date, so when the buzzer rang, I picked up my bag and headed down the stairs.

My experience with retreats has been mixed over the years. There's the retreat center that my family went to every year, which was a second home for me. I worked there for a couple of summers and the place has an indefinable sense of peace about it. Even J. noticed it the one time we managed to go there together. In the last few years, the retreats I've been on haven't been so great. I was overwhelmed by the number of people I didn't know, and not terribly excited to be there in the first place, so I would spend the afternoon free time sleeping.

This time, I was determined to avoid doing that. I wanted to actually listen to the message of the retreat, and hopefully get to know people's names. I don't do that much socializing at church because the fellowship hall area is so noisy that I flee from the sound.

I wanted to listen this time, and try to be more open. My sense of panic ebbed and flowed during the weekend. Sometimes it was because I needed to pray about something (fitting, since the theme of the retreat was prayer), and sometimes it was simply my anxieties rising up again. An odd side-effect of my anti-depressants at the beginning was the occasional panic attack, and that sometimes resurfaces when I'm stressed. I managed it better than I'd expected, though; other than the moment before I'd left when I seriously considered staying home, I didn't have any terrible panic moments, and I was able to quiet my thoughts quite a bit.

Retreats always seem out of time to me, like the few short days there are something else entirely, not part of the normalcy of life, even though when I return, I bring back what I thought about. The pages of notes, when I look them over, surprise me now, less than a week later.

I'm open with a number of people about my depression, but not with others. I think I've mentioned it on here before, but I don't remember. If not, well, here it is. It's been a strange journey. When I remember where I was a year ago, I thank God that I finally got myself together enough to get help. It didn't really happen until the whispers in my ear grew too loud to ignore. Counseling helped some, and when autumn came last year it was as though I'd been released--the first rainfall was a restoration. It was one which didn't last, of course. By December I was back where I'd been, and I was falling apart once more. A month or two later, my counselor once more suggested medication, which initially I'd been very reluctant to consider. When God finally shook me into going, I managed to hold myself together at the doctor's as I described what was happening, rather than dissolving into tears, and he listened. It took a couple weeks for the medication to start working, and then, all of sudden, the whispers were quiet. In the past, they'd always gone away on their own, but it had been over a year this time, and it had just been getting worse, until now. I began to wonder if I should have gotten help years ago.

Some days are still pretty bad. Others are good. Most are mixed, like today. It came to me at the retreat that there is something good that can come out of this. Is this a discipline in faith? I'm not saying that God gave me depression to give me faith, but that out of my brokenness, out of my awareness of my own inadequacy, can He bring me to a deeper faith, a better sense of trust?

I'm not always good at keeping up with a prayer life. I talk to God, but I don't always listen to what He's saying. Sometimes all I find myself asking for is grace. Or for healing, for myself or for others. I don't like feeling broken, but if this is what it takes to bring me closer to the God I want to love and serve, then so be it. Christ, have mercy. And bring me into a better understanding of Your love.

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