Depression isn’t just something that comes over you once in a while. It is a condition that some people live with, like M.S., that gets better or worse, relapses and remits. Here is what it is like, from someone who knows:
We get up every day and we have plans just like anybody else, to go to work, school, or do all the ambitious things on our “things to do” list. Sometimes we have the inner and physical resources to see those plans through. Sometimes we surprise ourselves, like anyone else, and accomplish more than we hoped. We have as much determination as most people, probably more. But it’s like the hills we climb are so much steeper, our little “gas tanks” are so much smaller, and our “engines” are so much less powerful than the average person’s. We are just not as “well-made”, as well-armed, and not as well-equipped as the next guy. Some people doubt that. They think we are lazy, unmotivated, or just like to “feel sorry for ourselves”. And yet those same people wouldn’t think anything of the limitations of a person born with defective legs, blindness, or a weak heart. No one just expects them to just “get over it”, or “snap out of it”.
Our efforts seem meager. But we are like that duck out on the pond who seems to be coasting along like anybody else, but we are always paddling like the dickens underneath. You can’t see that we are struggling, trembling, sweating, crying in pain to accomplish the things that come fairly easily to others. Most days we manage. We manage to get enough done to preserve the appearance of normalcy, of doing alright. The appearance of productivity. But behind our closed doors, or behind our daily routine of job, motherhood, or anything else that may be our lot in life, there is private anguish, and fear that one day our best valiant efforts will not be enough.
You may rub shoulders with us every day without even knowing that in privacy we long for relief, and just hope we can hold on until it comes. For the Christian it means acdepting that our existence was pre-determined by God, and so we must wait. Hang on, bear up, and wait. And when those dark days turn into long strings and beome weeks and months, and for some, even years, it becomes especially hard. Sometimes the frayed threads of our love for our family and closest friends is barely enough to hold us to the Earth against the tempting pull of “permanent relief” and the thought of being able to finally lay it all down. It comes down to a choice between feeling this awful inside, and never having to feel anything, ever again. No more excruciating exhaustion pulling down at your shoulders like an oxcart loaded with the weight that is your life. No more feeling ashamed, or ugly, or inadequate, or incompetent, weak, defective, and broken. It’s the conviction that you contribute so little to anyone or anything, and since you have so little to give or offer, you are sure beyond the initial blow, they’d eventually heal, and then be so much better off without you and your darkness. It’s feeling all this and knowing that you shouldn’t, knowing you should (and do) feel ashamed for feeling this way, and yet not being able to help it despite your willpower,. And all the willpower in the world is not enough to banish this darkness that comes smothering over you and blocks out all the air, all the light, all the hope and chokes out all your joy.
Depression is kind of like drowning…you have heard people say they always “get to a point where it would be so easy just to close my eyes and let it take me” and the drowning victim who survies is the one who realizes when that happens that they must “FIGHT NOW!”
Satan knows what our weaknesses are. I am not talking necessarily of sinful weakness. But real vulnerabilites. Much of what happens in our bodies mood-wise is chemical. He knows that for some people it is very easy to fall into mental darkness. So he does everything he can to perpetuate it. The depression sufferer may put up a valiant fight every day of his life but just as in everything else, Satan gets in his licks. No one likes to admit how dark and bad it gets. It’s hard enough to admit it when, feeling okay, but extremely hard in the midst of one of those dark times.
But just because that is an area where someone may have a very real vulnerability, we are still responsible to do battle against giving in to it. Go to the doctor. Take the prescribed meds. Sometimes a few months on meds can correct it and you don’t have to stay on them forever. Sometimes there is an underlying medical condition, which corrected, would eliminate the depression. Get out in the sunlight. 15 minutes of sunlight and 15 minutes of brisk walking can boost your mood for several hours. Doing it every day can be like little deposits into a “better mood” savings account. It may not make you all better today, but if you do it for a month, I promise you will feel better in a month than you would have otherwise.
Read your Bible and pray. Prayer is the antidote to anxiety. And the Word is noursihment to the soul.
Laugh! A merry heart doeth good like a medicine!
And it is my hope that just reading this, and knowing someone understands, will help someone.
Parts of this essay were previously published (in the book “Emerging Butterfly” by Tammi L. Morgan 2008 Publish America pp. 128-129- used by permission) but are the original work of the author of this blog.