How to Find a New Normal in the Messy Middle

“Honey, sometimes it isn’t about going back to normal. Maybe you need to create a new normal.”

That was the advice that my mother gave me the first time I wrestled depression at the age of 15. It’s stuck with me through the years, through crisis and transition and health challenges. Whenever I face another situation where my heart longs for “normal,” I remind myself that God promises to make all things new, not normal.

 

Walking through my first episode of severe depression, complete with self-harm, a medically induced manic episode, and suicide ideation, it changed me. I went from a goodie two shoes pastor’s daughter who had never struggled with doubts to a little more weathered girl who started grasping what it meant to wrestle with God.

 

Wrestling with God has often felt like the best picture for what it looks like to have mental health struggles as a Christian. You always walk away with a limp and a blessing. You never get to be quite the same person as before, but you also get a new name and a powerful destiny.

 

We don’t get to just go back to life before.

 

Often, I wish I could go back to a life before depression or a life before anxiety. I wish I could go back to life before my dad’s affair or parents’ divorce. I wish I could go back to a life where things were simpler, even though the reality is that life is always in transition and we will face new challenges (big and small) until we see Jesus face to face.

 

The constance of challenges is the most daunting thing to me. In fact, that’s where I usually get caught in a web of discouragement and disappointment.

 

I’m a big-picture person. I see the world as an intricate, overlapping mechanism. I’m all about holistic everything and the 10,000 foot view is my jam. So when I zoom out and think about the years and years of struggle, sometimes I just can’t see an end.

 

There are a lot of prayers that God hasn’t answered for me yet. There’s a lot of healing that I’m not experiencing despite all the prayer. It’s not that I’m expecting everything to change overnight, but the way that some situations continue to get worse is so frustrating to me.

 

Yet God is patiently reminding me that He makes all things new. There is no going backwards, only forwards. Yes, I believe that God will restore the years that the locust have eaten (Joel 2), but it probably won’t ever look the same as before the swarm.

 

I’m learning how to trust God in the incomplete. Not just believing that he will heal and restore, but I’m fighting to trust that even if it doesn’t happen in the way or timing that I’m begging for, He is still good. God’s goodness does not depend on my perception of my experiences – God’s goodness is simply a reality that I get to experience. 

 

It’s not always pretty or easy. My faith feels pretty paper thin many days. I stir up the courage to believe, just to come up against more disappointment. To surrender my desired outcomes, my plans, my hopes, my dreams… it’s hard. I want to visualize the perfect future and take control of my life. I even want to take hold of prophetic words and pray them into existence. Yet in this season, I simply am trying to keep my heart open.

 

Not cynical or doubtful, but open.

 

Open to a new, not so perfect normal. Open to the daily victories and reasons to be thankful. Open to doing the next right thing. Open to getting up no matter how many times I get knocked down. Open to experiencing more of a loving Father who provides for all my needs. Open to trusting a God that isn’t bound to my timelines or agendas. 

 

Right now, I don’t need to know how long the fight will last. I simply need to sit at the table prepared for me in the presence of my enemies – to eat, to rest, to laugh – even while surrounded on all sides. Maybe “new normal” is learning how to feast when surrounded. It’s not for forever; the battlefield is no place to build a home. But for right now, while the war is raging on all sides, there is joy to be found in the messy middle.

 

There is a new normal to be found each day as I learn to navigate the waiting. When I stop the striving and instead ground myself in the present reality of a God who loves me (even especially when I can’t feel it), each day holds not just another exhausting fight, but the peace of knowing that I’m far from alone.

 


 

Note:

I initially wrote this while coming out of a depressive episode this winter that lasted about a month. I’m very thankful for a few “better” weeks since + some extra clarity to edit these words.

Recently, I learned that my struggles with depression are likely attributed to Bipolar II (mild). This helped me understand why my depression tends to come in intense waves of about 2 weeks to 2 months where I could be “fine” one day and not able to think straight the next. I’m learning to understand my physical body and the chemical imbalances that cause my mind to go topsy turvy on me. I’m learning how to love Jesus on days of despair – how to amplify the voice of Love and turn down the volume of Lies. I’m learning how to receive, from God and people and how to be vulnerable when I’m not okay. I’m learning how to rest instead of quit.

As I learn, I want to stay open with others. It can be scary to share my heart online, but I really believe we need more Christian voices speaking loudly about mental health instead of whispering about it in corners or talking about it in vague sermon references. My experience isn’t everyone’s and what helps me may not help you, but I can give you my honesty. Hopefully that honesty will bring some light & connection to you wherever you are today.

If you want access to some of the tools that I use to fight anxiety and depression, you can download that for free here.

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