Broken : Preface

Depression can cause you to lose your self-identity. Portrait of Anathalie Jean-Charles.
Photo credit: Rosanita Solon

Broken 1/6

I Want to Live!

It happened the night of May 19th 2018 into the early hours of the following day. There was a sudden shift in my life, and everything turned around for me! However, prior to that pivotal point, I had just spent the worst 48 hours of my life.

Everything started on the Friday evening of May 18th around 10:00 PM. The classic movie I Want to Live! was airing on TV. It is loosely inspired by the true story of Barbara Graham who was ostensibly wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to the gas chamber. This 2 hour film shows the endless journey of this woman trying to escape her sentence. Released in 1958 in black and white, the film portrays, with great suspense, the heavy reality of the death row: the expectation, the disappointment, the false hope, the pressure, the betrayal, the tension, the manipulation, as well as the conspiracy starting from the investigation up until the execution. The emotional build-up is substantial throughout the Oscar-winning film.

Okay! I have to admit that I am the kind of girl who cries when I watch a poignant scene or a very touching movie. But this was totally different. This movie had stirred up emotions in me that were deeply suppressed within my soul. As I watched the movie, I went through feelings of post-traumatic shock linked to the murder of my 23 year old nephew which had happened 6 weeks earlier. It’s crazy how the brain is able to make connections to an unrelated event simply by observing another situation that is completely detached, yet similar. Every time the clock was shown on the screen, every time the phone rang in the hopes of it being the Governor calling, every time the execution got pushed back… E-V-E-R-Y T-I-M-E… In my mind, all I could see was my family and me sitting in the waiting room of the Santa Cabrini Hospital intensive care unit desperately waiting for news concerning my nephew. Every time the doors of the intensive care unit opened, we gasped. Would he live? Would he die? Was he still alive? Had he woken up? Could he be revived? The stress was simply unbearable… Imagine going through this for 30 hours, without eating or sleeping…

Broken 2/6

As I was saying, the film had triggered in me feelings of post-traumatic shock, but during that time, I was actually in the process of recovering from a major clinical depression that had been diagnosed in June 2017. Yup! It had only been 12 weeks since I had started to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, when suddenly—BAM! A family tragedy hit us. I had no other choice but to be strong for my brother and nephews who were suffering from the violent loss of a son and brother.

Needless to say, I cried all night long. Oh, just how many times did I ask God to take me away with Him that night? How many times did I muffle my cries in my pillow so that my parents wouldn’t hear me wailing in the room next door? Just how many pills did I swallow to numb the pain? I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. When I closed my eyes, all I could see was the hospital’s hallway with its swinging doors that opened and closed without anyone going through them to bring us comforting news—or any kind of news for that matter! No ER doctors, no surgeons, and no nurses to inform us of anything. Nothing. Only the unbearable wait.

Broken 3/6

Sinking into the Abyss of Self-Pity

On Saturday, after a long restless night and unable to go back to sleep, I finally turned on the TV in the middle of the day. The royal wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry was airing! Up until now, any reason was a good reason for me to cry, right?! I cried tears of joy for Meghan who was getting remarried, but this time, not only to a man who was crazy in love with her (you could see it in his eyes—the way he was gazing at her!), but to a Prince! She had won the jackpot! Until now, she was just a pretty African-American star, a commoner with no hopes of ever reaching royalty, and yet, she had found her way into the house of the Queen of England. Wasn’t it remarkable? Then, I started feeling sorry for myself… “This kind of thing only happens to others… But me?! Pfff! Who am I? I’m just a pitiful, broken, unwanted woman. A regular man wouldn’t even choose me, less so a prince.”

And that was it! It was the beginning of another round into my dark, obscure, distorted, morbid and sometimes even obscene thoughts. After begging God to take me away with Him for the umpteenth time, and with the help of some sleeping pills, I finally fell asleep.

Broken 4/6

To be Reborn with a New Song

On Sunday morning, something quite strange happened. You see, often, when one struggles with depression, mornings are particularly painful. It’s not always due to the fact that it is so difficult to find the strength or energy to get out of bed and face life. No. For me, it was especially due to this recurring feeling that would never leave me: like a Siamese twin, like a foreign body that had been grafted to my soul, like a knot in my stomach, like a golf ball stuck to the bottom of my throat. This weight, this pain, this cloud above my head… It was a gruesome presence that greeted me every morning as I was just starting to slowly wake from my gentle slumber—you know the short-lived moment between dream and reality… Whenever my dreams started to fade away, I would beg God to keep me asleep a little longer so that I wouldn’t have to feel the full weight of that constant pain. On the threshold of the real and the unreal world, I would normally feel the pain quietly settle into my chest and gradually spread throughout the rest of my body. But… not that morning.

On Sunday May 20th, I woke up with an unfamiliar worship song on my heart. I can still remember, just before opening my eyes, how I was surrounded by a white cottony cloud. The sky was coloured like the summer dawn—pink, purple, and yellow light exploded from everywhere. The clouds were forming words that are now fuzzy in my memory, but I particularly remember the word “LOVE” in the sky. All of my other memories are foggy; I hardly have any feelings attached to this moment. I woke up with words on my lips. I was chanting praises… But the second I realized that I did not know the song I was singing, the tune escaped my mind.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear [with great reverence]
And will trust confidently in the Lord. Ps. 40:3, AMP

It was really strange: I was not sad, but I was not happy either. I merely felt soothed. I got up from my bed and remembered the song we were singing in the hospital’s waiting room while we waited for news of my nephew. I got ready to go to church since I was serving that Sunday. As I was getting dressed, I heard a voice whisper to me: “Fix your hair, make yourself pretty, wear something nice!” It must have been more than a year and a half since I had bothered to dress up (really dress up) to go anywhere.

Broken 5/6

On the Path to Restoration

On my way to church, I played Sinach’s Way Maker song, but in Creole. It was the song that we had sung at the hospital. From the first few notes of the song, I was filled with elation. I sang, I cried tears of joy; my heart was soothed and healed. I no longer had a knot in my stomach or anything stuck in my throat. God had flooded my heart with joy. But there’s more. Six weeks ago, at 2 am, when I had received my sister’s call about my nephew, I shouted to God: “He cannot leave now; he does not know you! He can’t leave now.” I will have the opportunity to share more about my nephew’s story in another blog post, but for now, just know that that Sunday morning, God gave me the inner conviction that my nephew did not die without Him and that he was in good hands. I was ecstatic AND at peace. What I know today is that I was miraculously healed from depression. It’s been 1 year, 6 months, and 8 days since I had my last depressive episode. Like everyone else, sometimes I get a little sad, and I still cry from time to time, but never to the extent of wanting to harm myself.

Photo credit: Rosanita Solon Image filter: Anathalie Jean-Charles

Brisée 6/6

God Heals

I believe that God heals in different ways: some through cognitive therapy, some with the help of medication, and others by His Hand. I do not know what happened that night, nor why God healed me. What I do know is that it was not by merit. He did it for me without me doing anything in return. My God is a God of Love, He is Sovereign, and He makes all things beautiful in His time, Eccles. 3:11.

Today I dedicate my life to helping those who are broken (like me) and who are suffering within their souls. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I want to accompany them so that they may also experience God’s grace and healing in their lives.

Portrait of Anathalie Jean-Charles. Photo credit : Christina Esteban Photography MUA : Sharleen Young

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