In our hopes to open doors and expose the amazing light God shines from those who know pain and adversity and heartache, Wendy and I have met so many extraordinary people. This is the 16th post in our Breaking Light series.
Today, we invite Dr. Michelle Bengtson to the table, author of Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression, releasing today. Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) has been a neuropsychologist for over twenty years. She interned at the University of Oklahoma with “The Father of Neuropsychology,” Dr. Oscar “Oz” Parsons, and completed postdoctoral training at both the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, and the University of Alabama Health Sciences Center in Birmingham, Alabama. She lives in Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband, their two sons, and two dogs. Among her favorite things are beaches, boating, and sea salt caramel. Learn more at www.drmichellebengtson.com.
Anna: Welcome, Dr. Bengtson. Thank you so much for joining us today. To help our readers get to know you a little, can you tell us of all the characters in the Bible, who you most relate to and why?
Dr. Bengtson: For many years of my life, I think I most related to Mary’s sister, Martha. I’m a do-er by nature, especially when tough times hit—that’s when I’m most likely to jump in and do. But in the last few years, I have certainly related to Job, enduring trial after trial.
Anna: It’s so encouraging to have people like Job in the Bible, whose stories of God’s faithfulness and presence bless us in such deep valleys. Martha reminds me that God knows each of us intimately, having created us to bless in unique ways and to grow in our calling.
What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Dr. Bengtson: Jeremiah 29:11 is my “life verse.” It says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a future and a hope.” That verse has comforted me through every difficult circumstance I have ever gone through, because it reminds me that God knows the end of my story, and He promises me that His plans for me are good. That gives me hope!
Anna: It’s a wonderful, deeply reassuring promise. What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys?
Dr. Bengtson: I’ve encountered many difficult valleys in my life. The most difficult was during the time when both my husband and my mother were going through cancer at the same time. During that time I also miscarried our baby. Not long after that I went through a very severe bout with depression. Right now we are walking through the valley of cancer with my husband again. It’s in these times that we have to hold on to each other and to God most strongly. In those periods of despair, I had to choose to trust God and His promises rather than trust my feelings.
Anna: I can’t even begin to fathom the hard of your journey. I’m so thankful you chose to lean so heavily on the truth of God’s Word.
In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in these valleys?
Dr. Bengtson: People often say to take one day at a time, but I have found that in my darkest days I had to take five minutes or even one minute at a time, drawing on God to sustain me for each moment. There were times when all I could do was prayerfully whisper, “God, help.” During those dark days, I played praise and worship music day and night, which helped me feel Him more closely.
Anna: Praise and worship music has such a healing effect, doesn’t it? I love that Scripture in the Psalms that calls us to sing ourselves into His Presence. I remember playing Kari Jobe’s I am not alone over and over again through my darkest days of PTSD.
Often, people apologize to us for these deep valleys: for the loss, the grief or the hard of our journey, wishing they could take it all away. What would you like to say to people whose hearts ache reading of your valley?
Dr. Bengtson: Please don’t say “If there’s anything I can do, let me know” because in the midst of the valley, it’s too hard to reach out and ask for help. It’s so much more helpful for people to specifically offer a specific way of helping. Similarly, if you can, pray with those who are in the valley rather than just saying you are praying. Sometimes what is needed most is a genuine hug, or the heartfelt question, “How are you really doing today?”
Anna: Such truth in what you share here.
In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
Dr. Bengtson: After those deep valleys, I went through a very dark season of depression. It was a time that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But Scripture tells us that He works all things together for our good. It also tells us that He will help us comfort others with the comfort He has given us. I have now written a book, “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” sharing my story, and in doing so, I’m able to comfort others who are now walking through their own deep valleys because I truly do understand.
Anna: So beautiful that God is now using your story of suffering to bless and comfort others.
How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Dr. Bengtson: I didn’t see it at the time. When I was going through the valley, I felt very alone and very isolated. I knew God was with me though. But now that I’m sharing about my journey through depression, there has been somewhat of a “Hope Prevails” community that has established. Depression is an epidemic, and if we ourselves haven’t suffered, we all know someone who has. We all long to know we aren’t alone, someone understands, and that we are still worthy and acceptable despite our struggle.
Anna: Thank you for choosing to share your story so vulnerably to bless others. I look forward to reading your book and being able to share it with others.
What has been the biggest blessing of the ministry and community that have grown through your deepest valleys?
Dr. Bengtson: The biggest blessing for me that has come out of my deepest valleys has been hearing from the readers of my book who have said that reading about my struggles has given them hope. To me, that is akin to what the Bible tells us about God giving us beauty for ashes. If sharing my story will give someone else encouragement and hope, then it’s worth it!
Anna: What a blessing it is to be able to gift that to others, isn’t it?
What obstacles have stood in the way of the ministry God has called you to through the hard? And how have you responded to these obstacles?
Dr. Bengtson: Probably the biggest obstacle of the ministry God called me to was the lies that the enemy had whispered to my heart that I believed for so many years. I had a dream of speaking and writing since I was a little girl, but I listened to the lie that I couldn’t speak or write, so I gave up that dream. Finally God got hold of my heart and very clearly told me that I could either continue to listen to those lies or I could listen to the one who gave me those gifts and talents and who gave me the dream. That’s when I started writing again, and that’s what prompted me to write “Hope Prevails” in obedience to His call.
Anna: I’m so thankful you listened to God’s voice and calling. What a blessing your book is going to be to so many.
What has worked against community from forming or being built up through the hard? How have you and others responded to these obstacles?
Dr. Bengtson: The biggest deterent from community forming has been the stigma attached to depression, and the shame that I felt as a mental health provider having suffered from depression. I thought I was supposed to have all the answers so I felt incredible shame when I succumbed to the same condition that I treated patients for.
I found, however, that when I began sharing my story, so many could relate. So many need someone to stand up and share their story so that they can say “Me too!” Now I write about it on my blog, and I share with others when I am asked to speak, and I’ve shared much of my personal journey in my book, “Hope Prevails.”
Anna: Oh how hard that must have been: the pressure and stigma you felt. The enemy is good at feeding us lies to cripple us and to attempt to thwart the powerful blessings of God. It’s amazing the freedom and peace we begin to experience when we start stepping into those feelings of fear in obedience to God’s calling upon us, isn’t it?
What is one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Dr. Bengtson: I have learned, when I look back over all the hard times I’ve had to endure (and we’ve only barely scratched the surface here), that I have made it through every difficult trial 100% of the time with God’s help. God is faithful, and it’s not over until God says it’s over. Because of Him, #Hope Prevails.
Author, speaker and board certified clinical neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson is also a wife, mother and friend. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Michelle Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com Dr. Bengtson’s book “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” (Revell publishers, August 16, 2016) is available for purchase now: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/
For more hope, stay connected with her at:
To order Hope Prevails: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/
Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)
Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression
Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Speaking from personal and professional experience, a neuropsychologist unpacks what depression is, shows how it affects us spiritually, and offers hope for living the abundant life.
Neuropsychologist Offers Hope to Those Struggling with Depression
-By 2020, depression will be our greatest epidemic worldwide
- An estimated 350 million people worldwide suffer from some form of depression
- As with the bestselling My Stroke of Insight, the author experienced the same condition she treats
- Helpful features include personal stories, biblical truths, prayers, and music recommendations
As a board-certified neuropsychologist, Dr. Michelle Bengtson has seen the devastation that people experience when depression sweeps into their lives. She knew what research advocated in terms of the most effective treatments and prescribed them to her clients. But when she personally experienced to the ravages of depression, she found that the treatments she had been using with her patients didn’t help her. As a result, her personal experience became the catalyst for a more holistic approach to treating depression in others.
In Hope Prevails, Dr. Bengtson writes with deep compassion and empathy, blending her extensive training and faith, to offer readers a hope that is grounded in God’s love and grace. She helps readers understand what depression is, how it affects them spiritually, and what, by God’s grace, it cannot do. The result is a treatment plan that addresses the whole person—not just chemical imbalances in the brain.
For those who struggle with depression and those that want to help them, Hope Prevails offers real help, hope, and healing for the future.