By MARY HAMILTON HARKINS
When we think of January, we often tend to think of new beginnings, i.e., this year I’m finally going to lose the weight, exercise, eat right, etc. We wonder if this will be our year to do or be x, y or z. A new year is a chance to start over, perhaps, even to redeem the past.
As a family nurse practitioner, I see this all the time, and not just in January. Patients will often tell me, “Sorry I’ve fallen off the wagon with my medications (with my diet, with my counseling). I’ll do better.” Sometimes they do and we get to celebrate their success, or they don’t, and it becomes another chance to start over.
I’m a firm believer in many chances — as a practitioner, as a person, and as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. In my personal life, I have fallen many times mentally, spiritually and physically; by His grace and the people He’s placed in my life, I’ve been able to get back up.
I have struggled many years with “the darkness,” as I term my anxiety and depression. Beginning in my sophomore year of college, about every two or three years I would cycle through a period of bad or major depression, clinically speaking. Each time I would look back and think, “Whew, that’s over with! And praise the Lord for bringing me safely through!” A new beginning had come, and the sun would shine once more.
Just as quickly, it seemed, it would happen again. About six years ago, during the last particularly bad episode, I told a psychiatric nurse practitioner my story. As I told it, he pointed out that my experience was harder, more severe, each time. How could I recover?
During that same time, I was hopeless, jobless (my illness had forced me to resign from the cancer clinic where I was working), and I felt lifeless. There was no chance for a new beginning, I thought, during several dark moments. I remember the lies Satan told me: “You’re not worthy; you’re hopeless; your life is meaningless; no one wants or loves you; you have ruined your career; you’re past the point of no return.”
But God! As I look back, I know He was with me all the time. He placed people, prayers and circumstances in my life that led me away from decisions with dangerous and deadly consequences. While He can and does work privately in a person’s heart, more often He uses people to make us better. In my case, through wise and competent doctors, He led me to an outpatient psychiatric care facility in Ridgeland with specialties including adult and adolescent mental health. In the many weeks that followed, I experienced healing and hope that not only restored me to my former self but also showed me what I was capable of achieving. This was my new beginning.
I am happy to say that with the right medication and regular check-ins with a trained, godly therapist, I have not gone through a season of major depression since that last time. While life will always have its challenges and hard and trying times, I am so thankful to be free from the turbulence and bondage of my own emotions. I am thankful I can use my experience to walk alongside others struggling with their own particular darkness or issue, my patients included.
Still, I look forward to the ultimate new beginning. God’s Word tells us in Revelation 21:4-5, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also He said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
Hallelujah, come Lord, quickly, come!
Mary Hamilton Harkins is a Jackson native and a certified family nurse practitioner at Magnolia Medical Clinic, practicing in the Gluckstadt and occasionally Flowood locations. When not seeing patients, she enjoys playing violin, writing stories and poetry, practicing ballet exercises at home, reading, being outside, crocheting, and being with her many friends and family. She is married to the wonderful and loving Keith Harkins. They have two dogs, two cats and multiple fish. Above all else, she is a believer of Jesus, and desires to put Him first in everything she does.