From Emotional Ash Heap to Joy: the Map

By Nancy Virden (c)2020

I used to wish for a map of life, a trail of yellow bricks, or at least breadcrumbs to lead me to the best choices and outcomes. When I look back, which I try to not, hard truth can hurt my heart. Yes, mistakes, regrets, and humiliations dot the path backward; that map never showed up.

However, tucked further in memory yet as real, are those times my words encouraged others. Shows of courage and long-standing devotion despite opposition also mark my history. Friendships that survived distance and time, ministries that changed lives, acts of love, and forgiveness – these also are parts of my past. Flawed or not, I can honestly say I tried to be a blessing.

Emotional Ash Heap

Three episodes of major depression and a few minor ones seemed to jump out from nowhere. Oblivious to the denial and false hopes that formed their cover, these experiences revealed nothing helpful.

I believed depression was my fault. Everything was my fault. The daily barrage of insult that swirled in my head was homemade. While a few relationships forged steel links of pain and hopelessness, it was I who constructed the chain that nearly destroyed my mind.

In 2011, a final major depressive episode and suicide attempt landed me in the care of trained experts who understood. They had the tools and trained me on how to detach from the chain and never piece it back together.  So far, I view my life in two stages: before 2011 and after.


God’s presence was with me through many tough experiences. Yet a wall between us was my inability to recognize love, let alone God’s unfailing kind. Listening to my counselors opened a new window to what once felt impossible. God’s true love for this daughter poured over all the dark holes in my soul.

Learning to forgive my own choices led to forgiving the past along with people who had harmed me. This took time- about 4 years – as did healing from depression and suicidal thinking. Growth operates on a continuum rather than in huge jumps of progress.

Separating from negative and abusive forces took time too. Six years into this process, the final cut-off occurred in 2017.  Joy finally had room to move in. Investing in other people gave that happy mood longevity.

Still expecting two humans to sustain my emotional health was equal to the worship of false gods. Having nearly lost this Always The Fight ministry as a result, I asked God for another chance and he gave it.  2019 was an adventure full of risks. By taking chances, my skills and trust were stretched and strengthened.  Joy blossomed again and again. 

The path to joy starts with:

  • honesty
  • awareness
  • teachability
  • willingness to change

After that, patience with the process is important. Separation from abuse is necessary. Choosing to help others, and focusing on God and his Son Jesus as your only steadfast anchor clinches the deal. 

Joy is yours for the having. This is the map. 


Today’s Helpful Word  

Isaiah 61 (NIV)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to … bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy
instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.


Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. 


NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.., Carlo Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved


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