In this post I will be sharing a personal experience that’s challenging for me to talk about. As I promised in my first post, I will do my best to bring something authentic, transparent, and vulnerable to you. This requires me to share the great, good, bad, and ugly of my experience.
In an effort to fulfill my promise, I will be taking you back to 2011 when I suffered a deep, dark depression after leaving the Army in October, 2010.
No Meaning, No Medical, No Meds
At the time, I had already been diagnosed with combat related PTSD and Bipolar disorder. I had received therapy when I was in the Army, but after leaving the service, the family and I no longer had medical coverage.
Not having my medication dialed in or a treatment plan for my mental illnesses, I was stuck “sucking it up” trying to white knuckle it on my own.
After 8 years of honorable military service, I tried to transition from military life to being a civilian and it was more challenging than I expected. In the Army, I had a huge purpose, a consistent workout regimen, and access to mental health services that I needed. Upon leaving the military, all of this was gone and I struggled to find meaning and purpose.
This created an identity crisis in me and I slowly spiraled into depression as I self-medicated with alcohol.
A perfect storm of purposelessness, not taking my medication, being drunk, and extended bouts with intense insomnia led to me not being able to function and unable to fulfill my duties at my new armed security job.
My Deepest, Darkest Depression
What followed was one of the worst seasons of depression I have ever faced as an insuing financial storm danced upon the horizon. I was so depressed that I barely ate, couldn’t perform basic personal hygiene tasks, and could barely muster up enough energy to leave the couch and go to the bathroom.
As I sat on that couch spiraling lower into an emotional abyss, I lost control of my thoughts and dark forces began driving my mind. The lack of energy, food, and sleep led to not knowing the difference between what was real and what was imagined. For lack of better words, I had lost my mind.
What can only be best described as a demonic influence, I became angry and emotionally abusive to my wife and children. Recognizing that I was powerless and imprisioned in a living hell, I longed for the sweet release of death. I spent the good part of 3 days wishing I were dead.
The Black Box in My Closet
That morning, I no-call, no-showed and missed my shift at work. Ignoring the phone calls from my boss, and watching my mail box fill up, I took my post on the living room couch to lament my hellish existence. Hopefully, for the last time. As I lived my hell and bounced at the botton of the emotional abyss I was in a few more times, my thoughts turned darker.
Rather than, simply wishing that death would release me from the bonds of my desperate and pitiful existence, I began to envision ways that I could aid death in visiting me. I no longer longed for death. I wanted to conspire with the reaper in how he could take me out.
As I suffocated in a filthy house, dishes consuming the whole kitchen, laundry pouring out of the laundry room into the dining area, and our kids fending for themselves, I mustered up enough strength to go to the bathroom attached to the master bedroom.
After I finished going to the bathroom and laughed about going to the sink to wash my hands out of habit (what sense did it make to wash my hands if I would soon be dead?), I walked into my bedroom when a black box in my closet caught the corner of my eye. As I turned my attention to the dark box sitting like a trophy on the shelf, equal parts fear and liberation coarsed through my veins.
Inside that little black box was the answer to all my emotional turmoil and suffering. Contained inside that little black box was the weapon I had been assigned by my employers for my armed security job.
Divine Intervention 1: God Smiled At Me
As I ruminated about how I would off myself with the glock in that black box in my closet, a beam of bright light broke through the rain clouds above my house and lit up my bedroom. When my attention turned from the black box in my closet to the floor a few feet in from of me, the most beautiful and vibrant beam of light kissed my eyes.
Recognizing the odds of that taking place at the same time I was plotting my suicide, I immediately began to tear up. Like a malnourished puppy, that was the first time I absored love and affection in weeks. Being nothing short of a divine intervention, as that sun pushed back the forces of darkness and God smiled at me, I said a simple 3-word prayer through gritted teeth.
All I could get to come out of my mouth was, “God, help me!”
With tear-filled eyes, God’s divine intervention was enough to distract me from my suicidal ideations and get me to return to my post in the living room.
The darkness didn’t immediately lift. I still suffered trying to cast off thoughts of impending doom in the arena of my mind. I could sense that my wife was fed up at that point and would soon come home to let me know she couldn’t do this anymore.
Divine Intervention 2: God Spoke to My Wife
Around the same time I said my 3-word prayer, while my wife was driving home, the static on her radio became unbearable for her ears. The country radio station that she normally listened to gave way to a song that immediately caught my wife’s attention. It wasn’t country music that she heard, it was a Christian song.
Up until that point, for the first 15-20 minutes of her hour-long commute home from work that day, my wife had mulled over all the reasons she was stressed out and fed up with me and the grim conditions at home.
As she focused on all the reasons why she would leave if certain conditions hadn’t been met by the time she made it home that day, that’s when the song broke through the static on her radio. Trying to focus on the lyrics, she turned up the volume so she could make out what was coming through her speakers.
The uplifting melody and words of unconditional love and grace interupted her negative programming about me and our current circumstances. As she listened, her fellings of stress and anger gradually subsided – giving way to compassion, hope, love, and grace.
By the time she pulled into our driveway, her disposition towards our marriage and current circumstances had totally changed. She knew things would be chaotic when she went into our home, but she now was imbued with hope and optimism to face it one more time.
Would She Stay or Would She Go?
I was fully prepared to be met with judgment, shame, guilt, and threats of divorce when I heard my wife pull into our driveway. Lacking the energy to get up and act like I was trying to clean, or even fake a smile when she walked through the door, I resigned to not abandon my post on the couch.
When she walked through the door, I closed my eyes and braced for impact… much to my surprise, like an angel, my wife walked in front of me, bent down, looked me directly in the eyes, smiled, and kissed me.
God-like compassion, unconditional love, and unmerited favor pierced my heart and I began to weep uncontrollably as I watched my wife walk into the kitchen and start doing the 3-4 loads of dishes that had accumulated over the course of the last week.
After my wife did enough dishes for her to have the utensils she needed to make dinner, I sat on the couch overwhelmed with emotion. After she prepared dinner and we ate that evening, I shared with her my black box experience and how God had intervened.
We both cried as she told me about how God had intervened on her drive home. Overwhelmed by the divine interventions that had taken place that day, we reconciled and started working on gradually improving conditions.
The Darkness Lifted and I Lived to Fight Again
In the coming weeks, the darkness gradually lifted and I came back to life – being my “normal” self again. Things were far from perfect, but with hope and a renewed faith, we worked together to face life as it happened. After being in such a deep darkness, life seemed surreal to me. I was so emotionally raw that my kids smiling, a song, a movie, a sunrise would make me cry.
The only way that I can describe what I experienced during this season in my life is “soul cleansing.”
It felt, as if, I had passed a deadly test and God was rewarding me with a huge spiritual upgrade. I began to see/experience life in a whole new light. My faith was electric, tangible, and vibrant. My wife and kids noticed the difference but struggled to understand what I was going through.
They were also apprehensive, because they didn’t know how long the “high” would last.
Soul Cleansing: Leveling Up Spiritually
During this season of soul cleansing, the veil between the natural and the supernatural was extremely thin. It didn’t matter how audacious my prayers were, I couldn’t pray a prayer that God wouldn’t answer. I prayed that God would look over my health, my family, my marriage, and my finances. He did!
I tried to plug in with Veterans affairs (VA) to get the help I needed. Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far in the process. Back then, it wasn’t as easy as it is now to access the healthcare you need. We also had some financial issues that made it hard for me to coordinate/manage my appointments.
I started learning business and looking into going to college to get my business degree. Unlike before, I had a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. I no longer wanted to die, but started to enjoy life again.
It wouldn’t be the last time I would face another season of deep depression, but I had leveled up spiritually and would have more resolve the next go-round.
If you’ve drawn inspiration from my experience, let me know in the comments below. If you’d like to receive more content like this directly to your inbox, subscribe below to receive new content as soon as it’s published.
I’d love to hear from you! If you have questions or would like to just say hi, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. When time permits, I read and respond to every email I receive.
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