Practical Tips for the Hurting Mind

Each one of us goes through moments of stress and trauma from time to time—sometimes to the extreme. It is an inevitable part of the human experience. Fortunately, just because our brains are traumatized and our minds are wounded does not necessarily mean that our souls are sick as well. It could be the case, but oftentimes, I don’t think it to be true. As the Ph.D. graduate from Yale Divinity School, Rev. Dr. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, explains, “My brain certainly was sick, and my mind was sick, but God held my soul firmly throughout, keeping me longing for him—even though it felt as if I had been abandoned. Abandonment, however, is not God’s way of operating.” This truth keeps me the most comforted when I go through my bouts of stress, fear, anxiety, or anger. We can take comfort in knowing that our souls are still firmly held in the mighty hands of God, even when our sickened minds prevent us from feeling his comforting presence. As to taking care of our minds and our brains, here are a few practical tips to help carry us through the process of healing:

To Overcome the Temptation of Sleeping In:

  • Make an exciting or a relaxing daily routine for yourself. Write/type it out so that you’ll keep yourself accountable to this schedule.
  • Make it a point for yourself to sleep earlier and wake up earlier. Focus primarily on the morning routines. Give yourself time to get out of bed, wash your face, do some breathing exercises, and read a nice book or go for a walk around the block. Make your morning as relaxing as possible so that it sets a positive foundation for the rest of your day.
  • If you have trouble sleeping at night, I recommend that you put away your electronics, read a book for 30 minutes, and then do this breathing exercise for 5 minutes: Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. It knocks me right out every time.

To Heal Your Sore Throat From Excessive Screaming:

  1. Steep a cup of chamomile tea (or any other type of floral tea)
  2. Squeeze in a slice of lemon
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of raw honey
  4. Drink every night before bed and every morning when you wake up. Its healing effects should be noticeable within the first morning after you drink it. Keep doing this until your throat heals completely.

To Keep Your Eyes From Swelling After Excessive Crying:

  1. Fill a zip lock bag with some ice cubes
  2. Wrap the zip lock bag with a handkerchief or a thin hand towel
  3. Lay this bundle of coldness on your eyes for 30 minutes before you sleep (or 1 hour max, with breaks in between). The next day, your eyes won’t even have any traces of dark circles, let alone swelling. This works like magic.

To Keep Your Mind From Racing:

  • Read a helpful book every night before you sleep (the Bible, a self-help book, an article about someone overcoming their tribulations, etc.)
  • Please do those breathing exercises before you sleep and after you wake.
  • Interrupt your own thoughts with this phrase: What if God will help me?
  • I’m the master of over-thinking and over-stressing when I’m going through a spell of anxiety. Recently, however, I’ve been revealed this phrase, and it has helped me to instantly calm down in the midst of my emotional storms. Stop yourself from treading down the road of negative thinking by repeating the phrase, “What if God will help me?” And then let the situation fall into place. Don’t meddle with it in your mind.

To Find the Motivation to Complete Mundane Tasks:

  • Schedule one or two errands a day into your daily routine, AT MOST. Do not go over this limit or else it’ll have aversive effects—rather than helping you feel productive, you’ll begin to feel overwhelmed yet again.
  • Write out your tasks in a checkbox format. As you complete each task, check it off or cross it out. This will give you a significant sense of accomplishment for the day, and you’ll remember this feeling the next time you have another mundane task to complete.

To Find Time to Relax in the Midst of a Crazy Schedule:

  • Delegate some of your tasks to someone else. No, you don’t need to do every single thing. There are people who could help you, who would do as decent of a job at it as you would.
  • Say, “No, thanks!” to some unnecessary responsibilities. Good things are not always God things. What I mean by this is that you don’t need to say yes to every good thing on your schedule—whether it is a group hang out, a movie, a ministry opportunity, or even working overtime. Discern which tasks God wants you to really focus on, and let go of all the extras if you can. There is no shame in using discernment when making decisions.
  • Set one day out of your week where you can relax and simply do things! Set a few hours to go for a hike or to read a book, or both. This is called a Sabbath. Taking a Sabbath is extremely important in maintaining your general wellbeing. As fragile humans, we need so much rest to maintain our level of energy and productivity. There is no shame in taking a Sabbath. It does not make you lazy or unproductive. Instead, it will do quite the opposite: improve your mood, your productivity, your mental wellbeing, and your overall satisfaction in life. 

I sincerely hope this list of tips will help carry you through the tough times. I’ve been there many times before, and it’s never an easy route. Having come out of them alive, however, the best I could do is to offer you some solutions that have worked for me. Let me know if you have any tips that have worked for you! I would love to learn from them. Have a beautiful, relaxing, fulfilling, and extraordinary day!

The Truth About My Depression - Pt. 2

“Depression increases our longing for the

Healing one, yet veils our view of him.”

- Rev. Dr. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Darkness is My Only Companion

 

Not too long after I wrote the preceding article, I experienced another terrible panic attack on the 210 Freeway. Everything happened so quickly that I’d forgotten what sparked my anxiety altogether. All I remember from that experience is that I had felt the lows of depression and the highs of stress and anxiety all day, and something trivial finally happened to ignite my brain and trigger a full on suicidal panic attack. As soon as I got onto the 210 Freeway heading homeward, I sobbed my eyes out. The next thing I knew, I was screaming so loud my own ears were shocked. I screamed until my vocal chords didn’t allow me to scream any longer. I damaged them pretty badly. By this point, I think I was going about 2 miles per hour on the freeway. Cars were avoiding me left and right. Rather than being afraid of getting into a car accident, however, I felt more lonely and lost than ever. Through my blurry vision, I saw myself lost in a sea of cars—every one of them avoiding me (for good reason). I was like a sore splinter—unwanted, avoided, dreaded.

To make matters worse, I began to experience something so terrifying I could only describe as the sudden withdrawal of the presence of God. I know that we don’t normally walk around feeling God’s presence everywhere, but most of the time, as Christians, we have this lingering sense of his presence that keeps us hopeful and comforted. In that particular moment, however, it felt as if that lingering presence was completely taken away from me. Gone. I was absolutely terrified. Through my sobs, I screamed out, “DAD, WHERE ARE YOU?! I’m LOST. Where did you GO?!” I don’t even know how many times I repeated those indignant questions. I demanded that he showed himself to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around why he would abandon me at that time, when I desperately needed his comfort the most. Of all the emotions I was experiencing, I never thought I’d have to experience God’s utter abandonment. I was infuriated, disappointed, and scared out of my mind. I wouldn’t wish this feeling upon my worst enemy. It gave me a true taste of what hell might look like—godless, abandoned, and excruciatingly dark.

Somehow, I got home safely (now I know that it was by his divine providence). I raced up the stairs to my apartment with only one thought on my mind. I opened the kitchen cabinet once more—a repeated scene of my mid high school years, and I bent over the kitchen counter wielding my choice of weapon. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. A few ‘tests’ showed that the darn thing was too blunt, and I was too afraid of the pain. I was enraged at how cowardly I behaved. I couldn’t even bear the physical pain of hurting myself. I hope you’ll never have to go through the same pathetic experience as I did—caught in between the ‘cowardice’ of life and the painfulness of death. When it comes to fragile moments like these, I think that God’s angels are fighting to keep you alive. I imagine that they’re scrambling frantically to get you to notice something—anything—that’s worth holding onto. At that moment, I was convinced to throw the dull knife down when a loved one decided to rush over to help me. I would never forget the details of that painful night. Just having a soul there to weep with me through the pain helped me bind up some of my mental wounds and heal for the night. I calmed down in their embrace and found the will to utter, “I felt the withdrawal of God’s presence.” I couldn’t even bring myself to explain any further—I was already shaking and shuddering from that reminder. It was absolutely terrifying. There really is no other way to describe how scary the lack of God actually feels. In retrospect, however, I now know that it was a symptom of my depression. God didn’t leave me there on that freeway all by myself; neither did he abandon me while I struggled to kill myself in my kitchen. If he weren’t there, I would’ve been gone.

 

“My brain certainly was sick, and my mind was sick,

but God held my soul firmly throughout,

keeping me longing for him—even though it felt to me

as if I had been abandoned.

Abandonment, however, is not God’s way of operating.”

- Rev. Dr. Kathryn Greene-McCreight

 

The problem is that depression and anxiety oftentimes block our view of God. It really does suck because we tend to seek God the most when we’re hurting, but this particular type of hurt prevents us from feeling his presence. Like Rev. Dr. Kathryn Greene-McCreight explains in Darkness is My Only Companion, “During a depression, as during Noah’s flood, the good providence of God is hidden from view.” In my personal experience, I found this to be convincingly true. It is not that God plays hide and seek with us, or that he is ashamed of us and thus chooses to leave when we’re at our lowest. No, I imagine that he sits through the pain with us and sends help for us. He is proactive in preserving us, even if we can’t feel him. Another thing I found to be extremely comforting is the fact that our relationship with him is not at all based on our feelings. Like Greene-McCreight powerfully explains, “If we really believed that feeling is the essence of the Christian faith, the depressed Christian would be given all the more ammunition for self-destruction.” I believe this passage to be true, because if our entire relationship with God is based on how well we feel we’re doing with God, then the ones who are diseased with apathy are utterly doomed. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although our sickly brains and minds prevent us from perceiving his presence, our souls are still held firmly in his mighty hands. God’s relationship with us is based on his grace and mercy, not whether or not we could feel his presence. Despite our sick brains, our healthy souls are still held captive in his embrace—outside of our awareness. That is the power of the grace of God.

Rev. Dr. Greene-McCreight explains more of this in detail in her eye-opening book, Darkness is My Only Companion. Despite the ominous title, I assure you that this is one of the best texts you could read about how to reconcile Christianity with mental illness. I’ve been gobbling up as many Christian self-help books I could get my hands on because of my determination to battle this life-sucking disease. I want to desperately encourage you to not give into the temptation of giving in. Does that make sense? Sometimes, it is just so easy to let ourselves think, “Life sucks. I’d rather die instead. Why not? There’s nothing to live for, anyway.” Even if all of those things seem absolutely true in the moment, our apathy, or anxiety, is a master of blocking out the big picture. What is the big picture? When you zoom out of the crosshairs of “life sucks, I want to die, life is purposeless,” etc., you will see that:

1.     You still have life in you, which in itself mean that you still have purpose. Chase that purpose down to the very end. Deck it out with God if you have to. He’d be more than willing to wrestle it out with you until you’re humbled by his truth.

2.     People do care about you. Even if they’re not available during the times when you just happen to go through some of your episodes, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care enough about you. I fall into this trap all the time and it often comes close to pushing me over the edge. But it’s a lie. People do care; they’re just not perfect. And neither are we. If they’re unavailable, there are countless hotlines for us to consult. Even with pure strangers, we can experience a profound sense of care. YOU ARE CARED FOR!

If you ever experience something as detrimental as the hiddenness of God, as did I, your memory would serve you well. While you are still sober minded, it will be beneficial to remember that God’s presence is never dictated by your awareness. He is omnipresent—everywhere, at all times, during all circumstances. On the other hand, we are not omniscient. We don’t always have the awareness to detect his presence—especially when our brains are unhealthy. That is OKAY. Our relationship with God is NOT determined by our ability to sense his spirit. Our relationship with God is determined by his decision to love us and to keep our souls protected in his mighty hands. Let’s allow this head-knowledge save us from doing something regretful when we are flipping our lids. God is always with us— albeit above our shallow awareness.

I hope that this article will come in handy for those who could relate to me in some way. I hope that my experiences and small life lessons are of comfort to you and to those whom you love. I would love nothing more than for my measly writings to help those who feel like they are on the edge of life get to a more hopeful place. When it seems like there are all the reasons in the world to end our lives, God is always willing to give us just one more reason to hold onto. Just let go of your ammunition and let God reveal to you his amazing, tear-jerking, undeserving, PURPOSEFUL blueprint for your life. It’ll be worthwhile to stick around to see his perfect plans unveil.

The Truth About My Depression - Pt. 1

“You keep track of all my sorrows.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

You have recorded each one in your book.”

-Psalm 56:8

 

            Truth is, I’ve been waiting for weeks for my depression to completely go away so that I can write about how great of a breakthrough I’ve had or how I turned my life around 180 degrees, but the honest reality is that depression is oftentimes the sad dog that comes crawling back no matter how many times you kick it to the curb. My depression (sparked by PTSD) just happens to be one of those reoccurring things, and although I’ve gotten comfortable living with it for a while, coming clean about it to others is still such a terrifying thing. I worry about being judged as inferior, incapable or disabled in some way. It somehow feels shameful to admit to one’s depression, especially as a devout Christian. The stigma of mental illness often extends even to the furthermost corners of the church culture, I feel. After many doubts about whether or not I should write an in-the-process article, I finally realized that holding back from being vulnerable about my problems out of the fear of judgment is not the right way to go about it at all. After all, fear is what’s crippling me and is the main factor that’s causing my brain to react in such unhealthy ways. I’m writing this article to overcome those fears and to hopefully provide some insight on how to find the hope to ‘keep on keepin’ on,’ as they say, even in the midst of being drowned in mental darkness. The Word says that God is so holy that darkness is like light to Him, so there is no need to fear the darkness of depression. God is not afraid of the dark. He actually steps right into it with us, and He’ll keep shining his light until we can finally catch a glimpse of it ourselves.

            Going back to the beginning, I’ve always had a sense that something was wrong ever since I was in high school. I didn’t think anything was wrong with me, per se, but I felt that life wasn’t very significant and there was just a whole slab of PURPOSE missing from this structure. I would go through alternating spells of extreme anger, apathy, and excitement, triggered by both external and internal occurrences. My life at home was chaotic, my romantic life was broken, and my life at school was underwhelming. I felt so disappointed at the overall shabbiness of the brief time on Earth that I’d been given. I wanted more meaning out of my life, and joy, fulfillment, and the big P word—Purpose. I was so desperate for a sense of relief but I didn’t really know where to look or the specifics of what I really wanted. I just wanted OUT—even suicide seemed tempting. I remember several occasions where I lingered around the knife rack for way too long, trying to reason myself out of doing something overly dramatic or drastic. Eventually, my mental health problems worsened when I started chasing after things that gave me temporary happiness and relief. Whatever it took to get even the slightest sense of relief, I took it. This led to a whole strain of substance abuse and self-mutilation.

Isn’t that painfully ironic? In our ignorant desperation for true joy and fulfillment, we turn to self-destruction instead. We even revel in our darkness sometimes, just because the more we let it marinate in our bones, the more it numbs us to our problems. I’m not going to lie—it sure did its share in making me numb to my thoughts for a moment, but it had never given me any substantial sense of peace, hope, or fulfillment. Not even close. If anything, it made me feel a whole lot emptier. The huge downside of all of these mood enhancers—and the main thing that I tried to forget—is that they took a toll on my dopamine production, which means… yep: more depression.

One Saturday night, when I was just 16, I found myself intoxicated, stoned, and high on ecstasy all at the same time. It wasn’t an unusual Saturday for me. I had long been on a quest to get myself as trashed as possible any chance I got. This particular Saturday, though, I felt the numbest. I mean, I was so numb inside and out that I couldn’t even feel the temperature that night. I stumbled out of the house party and into someone’s car with a few people whom I didn’t really know. Techno music started blasting in the midst of drowned out laughter and incoherent conversations. I sat in the back, still numbed to my surroundings. Then the weirdest thing happened: I started sobbing. I cried my eyes out in that car despite not being able to cry for a long time leading up to that incident. I wept and wept, but the techno music continued playing, the voices never waivered, and the conversations were never disrupted. Everyone was intoxicated and numb. No one noticed that a girl was sobbing in the backseat.

While all of this was happening, I thought to myself, “Nobody truly loves you.” That was the heart-wrenching truth at that moment. It had been something I’d felt and had a sense of, but I had never given myself time to face it head on. That night, I did. I felt like my chest was being ripped open. It was a deep, excruciating pain that hurts down to the soul, to know that no one gives a fly about your existence. I continued to wallow in this pain for a moment, but then something amazing happened in that car. I suddenly had this image of a painting of Jesus in my mind—a painting that was displayed on the altar of my childhood home. It was as if God, at that moment, had reached out and said, “I love you.” And then I felt a huge wave of comfort, love, and warmth wash over me from head to toe. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my entire life. I believe it was the embrace of God. He hugged me and said, “I love you,” in that car, in the midst of all that darkness and brokenness. I felt so grateful and overjoyed I just sank back in my seat and enjoyed the comforting embrace for as long as I could. This was the beginning of my interest in Christianity and, thus, my personal journey with God.

 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:

While we were still sinners,

Christ died for us.”

-Romans 5:8

 

            Precedently, I hadn’t had the slightest interest in religion. I was forced to be Catholic when I was a toddler, but I never understood the point of all the rituals and the countless games and Morse-code-learning shenanigans during Sunday School. I didn’t know why Jesus had to die and it seemed like everyone I asked had no real idea, either. What do our sins have anything to do with him? If he himself chose to die, what does it have anything to do with us? And why are we learning Morse code? Those were some of the questions I’d ask myself very frequently. I was through with Catholicism and religion by the time I hit the 6th grade.

            Yet, God reached out to me when I was at my darkest, most broken point in my life. Despite me not ever having a relationship with him, and even disdaining what he stood for, he had compassion over me and reached out to me like a heartbroken father would. That embrace was the most sincere and reviving experience I’ve ever encountered. Thanks be to God, who orchestrated my salvation even through all the self-destructive choices I made. What a wonderful God and father!

            I believe that I was saved that very night, when he personally reached out to me. Saved as I was, I still continued to make conscious mistakes to hurt myself, other people, and even God after that incredible incident. I experienced my ‘honeymoon phase’ with Christianity, and then I became utterly lukewarm in my passion for God and my faith. As a forgetful human being, I’d soon forgotten all about the great encounter I had. I continued to make harmful choices both relationally and physically, all the while still going to church. I felt like I was attached to God by a thread. But right when I was beginning to lose hope yet again, he reached out to me in the nick of time and convinced my heart to take a leap of faith. I decided to go on a mission trip, and it was the best decision I had made since I accepted Christ into my life. The mission trip opened my eyes to the spiritual warfare that goes on every minute of the day. There truly is “no rest for the wicked.” The demons work extra hours to get us to the point of self-destruction, but the God of heaven’s armies is always steps ahead. On the mission trip, I was able to share my testimony with hundreds of people who have probably never even heard of Jesus before, and it empowered me to live with a purpose I’d never known before. It was that amazing P-word again. In my brokenness, I asked for purpose, and God gave me himself. If I had to choose only one lesson I learned from this eye-opening mission trip, it would be that there is a spiritual war waged for our souls. This reality catapulted me in a completely different direction in life. I soon started the TBM Project to sell art and used the proceeds to help local schools and homeless individuals. I gathered a group of young girls in my church and shepherded them in a group called The Ladies’ Covenant. I wrote about all of the great projects I spearheaded and it moved a UC Berkeley admissions tutor, who threw my personal statements in the “in” pile and gave me the chance of a lifetime to the attend the number one public university in the world. I did social justice work, got involved with my church’s nonprofit (WorldHarvest), and I lived out of the zeal and passion I received from my powerful encounter with God on the mission trip. I fell in love with God after spending so much time with him.

            Let’s now fast forward to present day: November 2015. I’m still in love with Jesus, still working on getting children sponsored to go to school, still can’t believe I graduated from Berkeley, and still… depressed? How can that be? After all of those irreplaceable experiences and encounters with the creator of the universe, why am I still depressed? Well, there have been a lot of external stressors I can pinpoint, and quite a bit of reasons I can throw on the table that would widen your eyes, but that’s not the point. Bad things will always happen. My reaction to those bad things, however, could be changed, and I’m doing whatever it takes to take care of my own mental health so that I can keep falling in love with Jesus and not, you know, falling off a bridge instead. I’ve thought many times about jumping off of one, or even stabbing myself, but thank God for sending me the support I needed to push through till today. I’ve had such dark moments these past few months. It took all of my strength to not grab the closest sharp object and kill myself during those moments of extreme anxiety. Even writing about this stirs up so much anxiety inside of me that I’m trembling. My body remembers what it’s like to be that desperate for a way out. It is incredibly hard for me to type out these words because I have only shared these details with my counselor and my best friends. But I think there are more people who could relate to this than meets the eye, so this needs to be addressed.

            The temptation of suicide is a real nagging ache, and it is so very difficult to shake off. Even while thinking of all of my current blessings, like a wonderful and Godly boyfriend, supportive best friends, comfortable shelter, and two great jobs, during times of extreme anxiety, even those blessings become stressors because I feel like I don’t deserve them. That’s why for those who understand where I’m coming from, you have to absolutely take advantage of your moments of calmness to take the action you need to help yourself when you are in deep distress. While you are still fine right now, please do these things for yourself:

1.     Pick two or three people to share your last suicidal incident with, or your suicidal tendencies in general. Then write their names and contacts out on a piece of paper and have that with you wherever you are. When you’re freaking out, take out those contacts and either call them or give them a text to let them know that something is up. Don’t ever go through it alone.

2.     Sign up for therapy or counseling, even if you’re feeling fine right now. You won’t be fine for long, trust me. Bad things will happen and it will set you off in a flurry. Having a counseling session scheduled each week will give you something helpful to look forward to. It’ll be the one place where you can vent your problems and the listener will actually know how to give you the help you need.

3.     Stop adding TASKS onto your schedule. Keep your schedule as is, and only drop the things that stress you out the most. Then replace those things with outdoor exercise, like hiking. Don’t just leave holes in your schedule where you’ll feel lost and have your mind wander down stressful routes. Get outdoors! Sunshine and exercise will make a huge difference in your mood.

4.     Make it a point to sleep at midnight at the latest everyday, and do breathing exercises to help ease you into sleep. Here’s one that I do everyday and it has greatly improved my sleeping schedule: Breathe in through your nose for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and then breathe out through your mouth for 8 counts. Do this for 4-5 minutes every night before you sleep. You’ll knock out like a baby.

Through all of my truly insane breakdowns, I could still see God’s hand at work in keeping me alive and well. He carried me through the storms using the people around me. My counselor said something at our last meeting that really stuck with me. He said that we should recognize those traumatizing events as having served their purpose. They brought me to know Christ and to meet the wonderful people I know now, but the thing is that they’ve already served their purpose. We don’t need them anymore. Now, we just have to say thank you to them and get rid of them. They’re not helping us anymore, so we don’t need them. That was so encouraging for me to hear because it is absolutely true. My pain and suffering really did serve a neat purpose in bringing me to where I am today. If it was so important to God that I should be shaped by these terrible events, that he painfully allowed them to happen, then I know that his plan for me is still ‘active’ and that I am still treading on the right path.

But to be completely honest, a lot of times, these negative events make me feel like I’m falling away from God’s grace. They make me doubt whether or not he even wants to help me at all. But the truth is that God’s grace abounds ESPECIALLY when we are at our weakest, because that’s when we get to share those rare moments of deep intimacy with him. He has always come through for me, even when I doubt. I know that there is still purpose for me to be here, exactly where I am in life—except I don’t need to be tied down by those traumatizing experiences anymore. They made me wiser and more independent, and they’ve allowed me to share those deep, dark, broken areas of my life with God and understand his heart like never before, but now it is time to get rid of their bad side effects. That’s all it is.

Do you have any trauma from the past that’s significantly affecting the way you react to negative situations today? I’m not going to pretend like I’m a professional therapist, but I do know why you should keep living and fighting it. You still have a purpose for being here. Your past got you to where you are, and who you are right now is fully loved and accepted by God, but you just have to work on getting those icky, traumatic after-effects out of your life. Don’t let the past hinder you from living an abundant life in the present. Invest time, effort, and even some money in improving your mental health. You’re still alive because there is still a great purpose for you, and you are still so, SO loved by the creator of the world. He holds you close to his heart, and it pains him when you’re in pain. He doesn’t look down on you and he doesn’t condemn you. He’s a good father. When you’re weeping, it makes him weep, too. He feels your pain but a hundred times deeper because you’re his child. And he wants you to get better. He’s going to set a table before you and throw a celebration for you after you walk through this dark valley together with him. He’s not going anywhere. He’s always with you, closer to you than your next breath. Read that over and over again, and let it settle in the back of your mind. The next time you have a breakdown or one of those terrifying moments of apathy, think to yourself: But God is so close. He is closer to me than my next breath.

            That is exactly why I keep going, and why I didn’t jump into the Arroyo no matter how envious I felt of Sam Sarpong. I recently circled the bridge four times, and finally drove back to my apartment with the vague sense of God being close to me, and I broke down. It was a hard moment, but I had the head knowledge that there was still purpose to my being here. I was not “stuck” at all. I’m journeying through this vast dark valley, but God is holding my hand and steadying me along. He remains closer to me than my next breath, even when my mind prevents me from sensing his presence.