Kacie and I met through Camp Ozark some years ago... almost immediately we connected over our mutual love for CS Lewis and Tolkien, and all things deeply spiritual – we also both love to smile really big and laugh together! Kacie's heart makes any stranger feel warmly welcomed and dearly loved – she embraces even the most wayward with cheerful eyes and a kind empathy. I hope her words touch you, as they did me, and make you feel less alone in hard places. She has this insanely beautiful way of writing, and uses words the way an artist uses a paintbrush. Some day I hope she will write a book. I will be the first to buy it! Soo naturally, I asked her to write an "as you are" post:)
Follow along with her writings at @kaciemargo on Instagram.
Two things were consistently true as I grew up: I liked who I was, and I liked people liking who I was. I was also a normal teenage girl and not a mutant, so for sure I had my seasons of insecurity and despair, but overall, I look at my life and think without question: I was loved.
So if someone were to have asked me the question, “How has knowing that you are fully loved as you are changed your life?” I would not have known how to answer. I’ve always felt loved, and I’ve always felt that I was pretty easy to love.
As a general rule, I only showed up around others when I was full: full of joy, full of energy, full of drive, full of creativity and inspiration. There was a small pocket of people who had access to other things I was full of: snark, doubt, overthinking, sass. But for the most part I was full of joy, and it was a priority of mine to be seen as full.
all of a sudden,
I was empty.
Depression was the diagnosis. The first time I went to a therapist, within twenty minutes he was scribbling his signature for antidepressants. That made me angry. You know twenty minutes worth of my life and you’re trying to get me to pop a pill? So I left.* Then I turned to books. I read anything I could get my hands on about depression, searching desperately for ways to get out of it, as if there were a step by step tutorial to get me out, clean and unscathed. I prayed as much as I could and received as much prayer as I could, and when the heaviness didn’t lift, I began to panic.
I’m not a person people associate with the word depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to emotion and can feel all the feels, but at the end of the day, I can find a positive and hopeful angle. This time, I couldn’t.
Whatever this depression thing was… it hit hard. Like a thief in the night, y’all. Nobody was prepared. Especially me.
Then came the metaphors with no solutions:
I feel... like I’m drowning while people play on the beach.
I feel... like I’m in a glass jar, always just out of reach with no ability to escape or connect.
I feel... like I’m in a total fog.
I feel... like Sandra Bullock in the middle of space, untethered and floating sans gravity in dark matter.
I feel… like a total failure.
I feel… utterly unlovable.
I crawled through the fog of depression for two years. (And there are still days when I wake up and everything is dark and heavy.)
Cue... shame. I mean, who wants to feel like a little piece of squish stuck in a clam shell at the bottom of the ocean when they’re first married?
Cue... more shame. Hello, twenties! The time of your life! The time to determine what direction you’ll go! The time to maximize your potential! The time to make a lot of money and set yourself up for success! The time to dream!
Yet there I was, a dreamer and visionary in my past life, but in this new sucky sad life, I’m the girl that breaks down in tears because she doesn’t know what to make for lunch. Y’all. I’m for sure in the “live to eat” category rather than the “eat to live” one and I lost ten pounds simply because eating felt too hard. What?!?!
I did not feel worth a penny. I was newly wed and unemployed. I was attending a new church, so I did not have the opportunity nor the bandwidth to serve in any form of church leadership, let alone make friends. I had been a worship leader, speaker, and staff member in multiple ministry spaces for the last decade, and went straight to… nothing.
I felt so foreign to myself that I began to hate myself. My journal was filled with countless one-sentence entries. “I feel so empty.” “I don’t want to exist anymore.” “I just want to go away.” “F*#@.”
I felt like a complete and total failure. A failure of a wife. A failure of a Christian. A failure of a friend. A failure at everything.
With feelings of failure came self-condemnation. It was the ugliest. I literally lost every ounce of self confidence. My backbone shriveled into a limp noodle. My husband could so much as look at me the wrong way and I would burst into tears.
I blamed myself for being depressed. I completely exhausted the question, “What did I do wrong?”, convinced that the depression and fog was the consequence of some egregious mistake I had made along the way. I hunted down the “root” of my depression like it was my job.
Birth control. Burnout. Disappointment in myself. All real contributors to the fog and emptiness. So I quit birth control… some improvements. I journaled and read books on burnout… a couple perspective shifts. I went to more therapy… a couple more tweaks. These were good steps in the right direction, but none of them fixed me. Oh, how I wanted them to. I would have believed a telemarketer if they said they could help me quit depression (as if it were some bad life habit!)
There was not an easy way out, and there is almost never an easy way out. It is nuanced and hard and slow. Surrounded by people, it still feels lonely. And the only way out is through it.
But the focus of this post is not about my experience with depression. This post is about how I came to have a real answer to the question about being known I am fully loved as I am. Of all the unlikely and unfortunate teachers, depression stripped me of all the things I always felt loved for: joy, energy, positive perspective, ambition. My people did not withdraw their love from me, but I withdrew it from myself, and I did not believe it when others offered it.
So what was my turnaround? What was the moment where I began again to believe “you are loved wholly as you are?”
I’m sorry to say there wasn’t one. No big epiphany or breakthrough for me.
But you know what there was?
I tried to isolate as hard as I could, attempting to protect my people from an abundance of dark thoughts and despair. As hard as I tried to isolate, I found myself surrounded by presence.
There was the real presence of humans I could see with my own eyes: my husband, my friends, my neighbors. They stayed normal. My husband sat through the tears and did not cringe when my biggest triumph of the day was getting out of bed. They remained present. My friends were not phased. We texted and called and wrote letters like we always do. None of them withdrew from me when I attempted to withdraw from them.
And there was the real presence of One I could not see:
my Creator. He did not shame me or try to change me. He did not recoil at my anger or despair. He was not offended by my emptiness. He was not offended by my inability to hope. He was not offended by my inability to believe the best about Him, nor was He offended by my inability to trust in the goodness of anything.
Of all the miracles He could have performed in that season, of all the ways he could have answered my prayer to Please God, fix me, he offered this one:
I am near.
That’s it: I am near.
Did I believe it? B a r e l y. But “barely” was enough for belief to grow.
I would not have believed Him if he had said “I love you.” It would have been laughable. My brain was so consumed with thoughts of being unlovable that I would have resisted immediately. But I am near was a plot twist. And believing — slowly — that He is near has opened my heart to little slivers of other truths: like I am loved as I am.
If the Creator of the Universe is not only okay to be near me, full of depression and despair (arguably the most draining states of being), but also chooses to come near? Then he has to be full of either insanity or love. Or both. In my opinion, he is insane love. And whether I’m depressed or full of joy, He chooses to come near as I am.
So when it’s hard to believe — even still — that I am loved or loveable, I try to switch words around to truths I can believe a little easier:
I am loved at my weakest = He’s near when I suck.
I am loved when I am producing nothing. = He’s near when I really suck.
I am loved totally and completely. = He’s near and smiling.
Plot twist: I am not loved for my joy, or my leadership, or my good ideas, or my gifts, etc. Those may make me more loveable when they’re flourishing, but they are not the reason I am loved. I am loved *gulp* simply because I was created by Insane Love.
Hello, you. If knowing you are fully loved seems absolutely impossible, and if believing in Insane Love feels trite or ungraspable or simply unbelievable, I can and will still say to you: He is near.
People of faith have all sorts of ways to remember and remind. Some keep a prayer stone in their pocket. Others have rosaries. Others still have tattoos or practice mantras or keep rhythms in their day that help them remember what is true.
For me, as soon as I feel the fog of depression descending again, I close my eyes and think or speak You are near.
When the belief feels unattainable, I find a new place to sit. I’ll hike a mountain. I’ll drive to the edge of a beautiful lake. Or sit outside on my porch and watch fireflies. Or sit in the dirt and tend to my garden. But when belief feels hard or impossible, I have to go sit my butt in a beautiful space. Beauty creates thin spaces that make it easier to believe He is near.
Y’all. He always will be. And believing that is changing my life.
*Disclaimer: I am in no way discounting or undermining the real and amazing work that both psychiatrists and modern medicine can offer for the brain. I simply did not feel heard by the psychiatrist and ultimately decided medicine was not the right choice for me.
I also in no way assume anyone else’s experience with depression is the same as mine, so any sentences laced with humor are in no way intended to make light of depression nor are they intended to speak for anyone else who has experienced depression.