Sitting alone on a cold floor, editing, waiting… “You really can’t be that tired, it’s not like you actually serve people.” A comment I came face to face with a few months ago.
After a year I found myself back at Grand West for Colour Conference. This time, a completely different story. No late nights watching rehearsals, making notes, planning, preparing, nothing… Just shooting. Sadly this day I found myself facing a small mental problem that I’ve been battling with for over a year. “Nicolette, are you taking the volunteer photo?” A question I got all week. I distanced myself so far away from that stage that people didn’t even know I was at the volunteer rally. If you haven’t noticed; I am driven by excellence, task orientated and an extremely aggressive shooter. I had one chance to prove myself. And I didn’t.
Lights off, gear packed and ready to go. Like always, normal routine check done. Camera bag in the same spot, laptop packed and all camera batteries on charge… ready for Colour Conference. But today, the familiar got interrupted. I sat at the table with a cup of coffee, face to face with an old friend… Depression. Some people travel through isolated deserts and others through beautiful wildernesses. Not me. I went camping in the epicenter of hell and I actually didn’t want to live anymore. Let’s just say I was stuck in a bad season.
Some things started to surface in my life. These “things” are the things that church leaders don’t talk about, don’t struggle with or even mention in a corporate setting. For as long as I can remember depression has been part of my life. I didn’t want people to know, so I created an image. The confident photographer known by everyone. Until I burned out…
Bright and early on the Friday morning of Colour 2016. Photography gear cleaned and packed. Wearing all black with white high-tops and on my way to the Colour Network High Tea. Everyone was expectant. Some people were sharing about what God has done in the first conference and others show their anticipation for the next one. I enjoyed shooting it, but Heaven on Earth it was hot! With a smile on my face I was still waiting… waiting for breakthrough.
By the time I got to the arena the place were packed with people. Girls were already standing in lines waiting for the doors to open. As I walked in I saw all the worship leaders on stage doing the final sound check. I was super excited to shoot worship. The lights looked absolutely amazing. I went backstage, walked up those wonderful stairs and started setting up. Camera ready, fired up and ready to shoot.
I stood in my position waiting for the opener. The atmosphere was thick and tangible. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait any longer. I was standing face to face with 5 000 women ready to worship. I took a deep breath as the lights dimmed for the opener to start. And Boom! Start of Colour Conference 2. This is what I live for! As soon as the opener and worship was over I ran back to go and edit.
The start of day 2 will be the only time when the whole foyer smells like coffee and perfume. I wouldn’t say that that blend would sell. But who cares? Getting ready for a long day of shooting, I had to convince myself why I do what I do. I sat backstage with a coffee and a smile. The smile was very important, because no one could know about the brokenness and sadness that I’m currently facing.
I mentally prepared myself for the warfare prayer and worship session. The speakers started to share their personal stories and with tears streaming down my face and uncontrollably crying, this is the first time that I’ve ever heard someone on a platform talking about not receiving or seeing miraculous healing take place. This has been an ongoing battle inside of me every time I’m in a corporate setting. I felt butt naked and vulnerable as I was sobbing over the fact that I haven’t received my healing. But for once I can relate to someone. By the way, crying and shooting is not necessarily the best combination.
Standing backstage, knowing all masks are off. It was time to be real. Hiding behind a camera won’t solve my problem. Photography is what I do, it’s not who I am. I had to be real about the fact that I actually have a problem and that it is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not easy being a leader right up front helping everyone but also in the back of your head struggling with suicide. To be honest with you, I don’t know if I will be healed and if my healing is on the other side of Eternity.
The biggest struggle that I’ve had was to prove myself over and over again. I had to get a revelation of if Jesus stood in front of you asking “I see you, is that not enough?” Will I be content? Will I say yes? I kept looking for my identity in the wrong places, people and activities. I lived with the fact that depression is part of me and it started to rule me. It was an excuse for my actions and behaviours.
The hardest part was the realisation that there are about 10 000 people between the 2 conferences and they are walking around with the same problem. This blog won’t heal you and it’s definitely not the answer to your question. But I can say that I understand. I had to learn how to let go of the past. I had to learn how to trust my friends and leaders. I had to learn that the people that I do life with are for me and not against me… I had to learn that I am loved.
I didn’t walk out of Colour Conference made whole. I walked out with hope and appreciation for the people in my life. Let’s just say, there was a lot more, but it’s not going to fit my story at this moment… I want people to understand that depression is a real struggle.
I hope that my personal story shed some light and life into yours. I pray that you would hold onto the promise of healing and not give up and I ask that you will let people into your life that will help you walk the journey.