Merri Ellen: Overcoming Depression
by: Kimi Johnson
Imagine sitting on a couch day after day, week after week. It’s a whole world going on around you yet you can’t respond. Someone asks you a question, you try to answer them but you just can’t get the strength to form any words. You’re mute. It feels like your life is over. The despair is so heavy, you just can’t seem to shake it. Your mind is racing a million miles per hour as you contemplate all the negative things that have happened to you. The betrayal, the failures, and disappointments are too much to bare. This is where Merri Ellen life stood over 10 years ago.
Enough is Enough
It was 2002, a year Merri Ellen will never forget. This was the year she was introduced to depression. Within a few weeks apart, she encountered three crisis situations that quickly caused her to become overwhelmed with life. It was like a whirlwind came and uprooted her entire life giving her little time to process it all. Some of the pain she experience was at the hands of people she trusted so betrayal ran deep. She lost an opportunity to play competitive women basketball which was the sport she was training with and as if that was not enough she lost her job. Sadly, these series of events left her emotionally broken, sitting on a couch mute for 30 days straight. “I remember my husband talking to me and I would just look at him with this look as to say --Why won’t you just kill me now? I was burned out,” Merri shares. “I couldn’t sleep. I would be awake all night and asleep all day. I would get up in the middle of the night and just stare out of the window. I walked in depression.” For Merri, it was a strong sense of lost and grief. She felt like God didn’t love her. “Finally, I went to the doctor because I was unable to cope.” For Merri it was very clear she was dealing with depression and she knew exactly where it stemmed from. She was dealing with situational depression.
Standing by Your Side
An enthusiastic personality of a young lady with a boisterous laugh that could be recognized miles away had transformed into a quiet, emotional, and confused one that was hard for anyone to accept yet her husband stood by her side. “He was absolutely heartbroken because I was a totally different person. It was hard for him to process at times but he was a trooper. He stood beside me the entire time. Thankfully he is an external processor so instead of holding things in he talked about it with his family and friend. I always had people comment on my boisterous laugh before this phase of depression. You could hear my laugh and I never had a serious personality. So going from that to a person that was mute was a drastic change but my husband was faithful. He hung in there. Honestly if it wasn’t for him and one of my close friends that would come give me a hand I don’t know where I would be.”
Planting a Seed
As the days passed her family managed to get her outside to walk and get some exercise.” I remember my father- in- law and I walking along side of each other. We looked down and there were coffee cups littered on the ground. He asked me if I thought it was the fault of the coffee shop that the litter was on the ground and I just looked at him strangely. He reminded me that even though I had been through so much hurt I should not attach all of the hurt to God who unconditionally loves me.” Could God really love me after all I had gone through? I had lost my dream and people I trusted. Merri wrestled with these thoughts as her father-in-law continued to talk. “He reminded me that we live in a world of hurt and that God still loves me and wants to carry us through the hurt. Yet I still couldn’t stop tearing myself up, attacking myself.”
The Light Begins to Shine
“One early morning at 3am I got out of bed because I was unable to sleep. The anger, bitterness, and depression caused me to be restless. I got up and started yelling at God through the window, looking outside as the rain poured down and tears fail down my face. I got out my bible and started reading in Psalms were David was crying out to God, emotionally raw asking, “God where are you?” I realized the cry in my heart was so similar because I too wondered where God was.” Then something happened. A moment that would change her life forever. “As I looked through my tears I saw a vision of God just opening his arms out to me and I heard Him say “Trust me.” It was like a father reaching down to pick up his child. And when he said “Trust me,” I remembered Proverbs 5:6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding, in all you ways submit to him and he will make your path straight. “But still, nothing made sense to me. I continued yelling at God. I remember thinking, you want me to trust you with all of this that has happened, you still want me to trust you? After I was done wrestling with God I finally came to a place where I surrendered and the light began to shine.” But it took Merri months of trusting in Jesus, through all of the pain before she would fully recover.
Share it with the World
When asked what made her decide share her story with others Merri replies,
“I remember talking to a dear friend of mine months after my recovery, Merri reflects. “I went out for coffee with this friend who was one that would come over and look after me when I was mute and just sitting on the couch. She would do things for me around the house like clean the bathroom and care for me.” Through the love of Christ she offered the kind of support I was in need of. She truly shared the love of Christ. As we were sitting having coffee she said to me, “Wow you have come a long way. You have to share your story.”
What stood out to Merri was the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was sold as a slave, his family betrayed him, and he was wrongly accused and thrown into to prison. Yet he trusted God and God used him to save an entire nation from famine. That’s the story that came to her mind when she was going through. “As I thought about the story of Joseph I thought there probably were many of time Joseph thought to himself this does not make sense but God is faithful so I am going to trust Him to turn this around and use it for His glory.” And God did. “So honestly if it had not been for that story of Joseph that I was able to pull strength from I probably would not have believed that I could trust God with all of the things that had happened to me. And then there is the story of Job. Which is another story to draw strength from.” Merri admits it was fairly difficult sharing her story at first but it wasn’t long before emails began coming in from all over the world thanking her. “Thankfully the website has reached over 90 countries. I realized that after telling my story it was no longer my story but God’s story living in me like the story of Joseph and Job.”
A Path to Purpose
Since 2002 Merri Ellen has definitely evolved into a woman of purpose sharing her story and educating people all over the world about depression. “What stands out the most is 2nd Cor. 1 when Paul is talking about his experience of feeling suicidal (include scripture 1-*) When we share our stories it gives hope to others. God is with us even in the brokenness. They realize they are not alone. So when people read my story they think okay, I can trust God. God is trustworthy. I can trust him through my brokenness. And they see that if God can help her He can help me. My purpose is to give honor and glory to God who walks with us. He raises the dead and so he basically has the power to raise the dead in our life. Like I felt dead and He gave me new life as a result, to give hope to others when they have no hope.”
Depression and You
Q&A with Merri Ellen
So what exactly is depression?
Depression is a state of constant despair that you cannot brush off. It is an indicator that something is wrong. It is a mood disorder that can affects how you live. Depression is something you should pay attention to because you can learn from it. For example, if she had avoided depression and ran away from it I probably would not be where she is today of leaning into it and leaned into her grief, trusting God in it and realized there is something wrong. If she had not embraced her journey with depression she would have be where she is today and she would not be impacting lives as she is today. It may be an indicator that you may have a physical element or that you may have to deal with some type of emotion that is saying hey what about me. Depression is constant and ongoing. Something that last a long period of time. There are different kinds of depression. Bipolar, seasonal depression. A longer state of despair that you can’t seem to shake on your own.
What are some strategies women can use to help cope with depression?
Coping with depression has to include the whole body. Take care of yourself nutritionally. Take vitamin supplements.
Exercise (start a daily walk, force yourself to get outside even if it is no further than the door step. Get fresh air and move. Drink clean water. Visit the doctor to see if you have health problems