I used to be depressed. I was depressed for a long time.
In fact, when my Husband first met me, I told him, “If you want to know me, watch ‘The Hours’.” I identified with the female protagonists in the film- those who walked the day to day with a dreary heart.
I used to pen poems in my teens and when I studied abroad, a German friend told me that my poems reminded me of Sylvia Plath’s. I was a frog in a well then who didn’t read so much poetry as I did write them. I found Plath’s poems and realised how much we were pieces of each other.
Sylvia Plath famously described herself as being trapped under a Bell Jar that she could never escape from. I used to identify with that because of the oppression I felt inwardly and it affected how I also viewed my life outwardly. The crisis of self would become a crisis of circumstance because of self fulfilling prophecies. I was like Eeyore. I couldn’t believe good for myself.
I came out of depression when my Husband one day told me, “If you believe you have to be emotional and sad before you write something good, that’s terrible. Doesn’t it mean you’ll have to always be sad?” My husband is named Ian, a version of the name John, which means ‘grace’. In fact his Mandarin name means ‘grace shines forth’. Talk about amazing grace that found me. 🙂
I began to encounter Jesus again, together with my husband we began to see the gospel afresh. We prayed for our loved ones to also see this grace of Jesus- i was always a Christian but only understood grace in my mid twenties. Initially, we had loved ones telling us to not pray too daring a prayer, it has to be His will. Lol. Some of these loved ones are now mighty prayer warriors who pray daring prayers too. Thank you Jesus!
Well, back to the Bell Jar illustration. Tonight as we were talking, it hit me.
When a person is in a room with windows, when they look at the glass and focus on it, they see their reflection but the surroundings are blurred. You can try this also with a camera. It’s called focal point. When we choose to focus on our pain, our disappointments, we can’t see what lies ahead. The bible says that we are MORE than conquerors in Christ, but as long as we keep our eyes on our personal reflection in the glass, we remain blinkered to that victory.
But imagine if we take our eyes off ourselves and look through the window, we focus on the horizon. Suddenly we don’t see the boundaries that bind us in. We look beyond our limitations to see how unlimited He is. It’s like when you shift focus to a focal point beyond your reflection in the glass, you will no longer see yourself but you will see the vast unlimited possibilities beyond.
We limit ourselves when we focus on ourselves.
A famous experiment in the past saw people being placed in prisons with the cell doors unlocked. The participants could leave the prison anytime yet mired by disbelief, they didn’t even try to open the gates to step out.
That’s what our personal fears and limitations do to us- they prevent us from stepping out of our comfort zones. A comfort zone doesn’t always bring comfort. It is just a comfort zone because it is familiar. Sometimes being depressed becomes a habit of thought, the norm and so it becomes a comfort zone.
So how does one step out of that comfort zone?
First see how big He is, and how small your problem is.
My favourite exercise when I feel overwhelmed? I think about how vast the universe is, and then I picture the LORD who created it pinpointing on me and then my problem & suddenly my problem is microscopic, a nano issue to Him. I settle my eye gate.
Then I check my mouth gate. I praise and worship because when I praise Him, I am declaring my victory in spite of my situation. I watch what I say not to be legalistic, but to speak the good I want to see in my life. Planting my seed in His faithfulness. If I fail and speak out of line, i declare I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus unto victory. No guilt and condemnation weeds will prevent seeds of faith from taking root n sprouting.
Then I check my ear gate, faith comes from hearing and hearing the Word of Christos. I aim to tune my ears to the good stuff, to His promises of good in my life. When I hear right, I let the right words in to shape my thoughts and emotions.
Then I remember that Jesus is the fragrance that brings the LORD joy for me. And I breathe that joy in and breathe out my anxieties. And I am strengthened.
Each step with my listening, my seeing, my talking, my breathing in takes me far beyond the invisible Bell Jar that tries to bind me to all the limitations that I imagined out because of my fears and anxieties.
The man by the pool of Bethesda was asked if he wanted to be healed because he had an excuse for living in the season of defeat and despair- it is called self pity. One of my pastors brought me to see something I hadn’t seen before. He was asked if he wants to be healed because it means stepping out one’s comfort zone. It means beginning to work again (not legalistic work but good honest work), it means taking steps you don’t even know you can take.
Today I am free of that Bell Jar because I changed my focal points, because I decided to take steps out of my comfort zone knowing that when i look down to check out the footprints that there is just one set because He is carrying me.
A dear friend made it simple for me one day. I was anxious about my eldest boy and she asked me, “Do you trust Jesus?” “Yes.” “Okay, so if you trust Jesus then don’t worry.” So I decided there and then to take on an Alfred W Newman slogan for my own, “What me worry?”
He is therefore I am. He is not confined by impossibilities or Bell Jars, neither am I. We must not just step physically out of Egypt, we also need to step out of mental and emotional Egypt. He who is made free is free indeed.
And thus, I stepped out of the Bell Jar.