Kim Woody hails from Memphis, Tennessee, Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll. She currently works as the Housing Assistant at St. Andrew's Hall at UBC and attends Grandview Calvary Baptist Church.
Can you tell us a bit about your struggle with depression?
I’ve always kind of struggled with melancholy. That’s not unusual, but mine may have been exacerbated by the fact that I grew up in a culture where we don’t talk about things like that. I wasn’t given permission to feel things strongly, especially negative emotions. So I grew up with quite a stunted understanding of emotions and the role they play. I just bottled things up and packed them down.
In high school I started to struggle with the expectation that a good follower of Christ should always have joy, because I did not. I started thinking about suicide and just not wanting to be. I felt heavy and sad, but because of the expectation to be joyful, I had no permission to actually feel that way.
Things came to a head when I was in college. In the summer of 2008 I suffered a breakdown of some kind and went into my senior year very low. That Christmas I found myself caught in some really dark thoughts and finally realized that I couldn’t claw my way out. I went to a doctor and was prescribed some antidepressants, but when I graduated that May my insurance ran out and I couldn’t afford them any more.
I spent the next three and a half years in and out of a really, really low place. And all of this was going on in conjunction with my struggles with my sexuality, and questions that I had about that: more things that I was not allowed to talk or ask questions about.
Then I came to Regent, and it got worse [laughs]. But in many ways, it was the darkness before the dawn. In my first semester, I found people who actually talked about things like depression and counseling and sexuality—people who actually talked! This was totally new to me, and it started me on a journey of talking. I started opening up to friends and eventually to my family, and in the summer of 2013 I started going to counseling. I’ve been going to the same therapist ever since.
It’s not over, though. Some of my darkest moments have come in the past year. But I’m in a good place in terms of counseling and a community and friends who talk about things. I have friends who are blunt and will say, “Okay, I love you. If you want to kill yourself, call me.” And I can tell them, “you’re on speed dial, I promise.”
What are some of the supports that you and other people have planted in your life to help you make it through?
First, before you can have courage to take the initiative and talk to people about things, someone else has to have courage for you. I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve been very proactive to say, “what’s going on? I see you struggling. Tell me what you’re feeling right now.” And that’s saved my life. They give me the courage I need to send a text when I can’t stop crying or I can’t get out of bed, and when I do, they tell me it’s okay.
The second thing has been belonging to Grandview Calvary Baptist Church. I can show up on Sunday morning and weep through half of the service and it’s okay, and I can show up to my home group and be honest when the week has sucked and I haven’t found God in it. It’s a church that’s real, where people ask questions and it’s safe to say, “I need you to believe for me this week.”
The third thing that has helped is professional counseling: having someone I can go to with darker things, without worrying that it’s too much. There are some things that I don’t completely reveal even to my closest friends. I don’t feel that it would be fair, because they’re not necessarily equipped to deal with it. But I can go to my counselor and just be honest.
It has also been helpful to have a couple of friends who ask me how counseling is going and what I’m working on. Sometimes I choose to do that work myself, but sometimes I let people in on the long-term vision, the long game that I’m playing. Usually I tell them “it’s going to be really hard, but these are some things that I’m going to be doing.” That brings some accountability.
The key supports for me have been good friends who are brave and pay attention, a church community where I feel safe, and a commitment to go to counseling and to work on these things. Woven throughout all of that, I find the kindness of Christ. I have felt the weight of his absence sometimes, or what I perceived to be his absence. But I’ve also sensed and been able to pray out of a depth of his love and of his presence. He doesn’t just go before me and isn’t just in the great moments in the past: I’ve felt that he sits with me. Sometimes that is all I can do, just sit.
It’s hard to trust and to have faith, but I do. Some days I just say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief,” and I fall on my face. But I always try to fall towards him, because I’ve known him to be a God who pursues. I know not everyone experiences that, and I don’t understand why I’ve been given this grace. There were times when I said, “Leave me the hell alone. I don’t want you. I don’t want this anymore: you’re useless to me. You’re horrible. Why am I the way I am?” But he just wouldn’t leave me alone.
Are there any things that you’ve experienced in Christian community that you would like to see people do differently?
Christian community is a blessing and a curse. We want to fix things. The people who love you don’t want you to hurt or feel alone. People quickly jump to: “well, you know, I’ve had an experience where this happened,” or “oh, you know, my friend was really depressed,” or “have you considered these options?” It’s almost the first place that they go.
And, man, especially when you’re in the depths, you just can’t go there. That is not helpful. Some of the most special times that I’ve had, the most helpful and good times, have been when people have just said, “I’m so sorry. That sounds really hard.” Or they’ve just been quiet.
We can’t lose our vision that we are all people in process. The Spirit is working out our salvation in different ways, but he will complete the good work that has been started. We have to have patience with that, and patience with other people. When we immediately try to fix things, we lose sight of the longer process.
It’s hard to stick with someone through the process, because it’s a lifelong thing. I remember hearing that people are good at sticking around during hard times for about six weeks. After that they forget or they get busy or they think, oh, it should be fine by now. But grief, depression, and more serious mental health issues are there for the rest of your life. I would like to see people have a greater vision for that long term care and journey, especially people who believe in the resurrected life in Christ.
What’s your prayer going forward?
In my heart of hearts, my prayer is, “God, please don’t let me be this way anymore. It’s exhausting for myself and it’s so much to ask of my community, over and over.” I feel what I cost people. But that is what it is to be part of the body of Christ.
In the depths of myself, healing is what I want. But I also hope and pray that this isn’t for no reason: that in some way it’s digging out a part of myself, digging out a space for others who struggle in similar ways. I pray that I can be growing in empathy as well as in knowledge and wisdom to minister to those people and love them and walk with them. I’m certainly growing in patience.
I just don’t want this to be for nothing. And I pray that it’s not something about myself that would bring shame. I don't want to bring shame to myself, but ultimately and especially, I don’t want to bring shame to the name of Jesus. That’s my prayer.