Layers of Depression
I would like to ask for grace at the beginning of this post. I am processing through this post and don't quite know where I am going. But, I feel like the thoughts I am having need to be said.
In light of Robin Williams tragic death, there has been much posting and chatter on the interwebs about suicide and faith and joy versus depression. As someone who has dealt with varying levels of depression for many years, and has known Jesus since I was 4, I feel like I have some perspective into this. I have never taken medication for my depression, although looking back, there were times in high school and college that I probably should have been taking something.
I was very good at hiding how bad I truly doing. But, in high school, looking back, I wish I had told someone how I was feeling. I was very depressed and while I never went so far as to make a plan, I considered suicide. I remember distinctly, when I got a car, I would think about what would happen if I were to swerve into oncoming traffic. I thought about how that seemed easier than pushing through whatever chemical and spiritual battle was going on. Now, to be clear, when I say spiritual, I don't believe that it is a lack of faith that caused my depression. No, I am thinking about how in Ephesians 6:4 we are told "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." I was very sad and very depressed, and yet, I also loved Jesus a whole lot. I was involved in church, I prayed, I read my Bible. It was not a lack of faith, but many factors both medical and spiritual that I believe led to me fighting depression. I firmly believe there are chemical imbalances and that modern medicine is a gift that we should use when we need it. I could have used some medicine back then. But, I never told my parents how bad I was feeling, I kept it all inside. With my 20/20 vision looking at the past, I would do things differently, but all I can do now is hopefully share my journey to help others.
In college, I struggled at varying degrees with my depression. Most of the time, I functioned perfectly well. And then certain weeks would hit and I would just quit. I would go to class (I was too type A to consider anything else), I might make it to any commitments I had (I was too interested in keeping up appearances to do anything else), but otherwise, you would find me in my room, curled in a ball, binge watching Gilmore Girls and pretending the world didn't exist. And in a few days or a couple of weeks, I would realize, that wasn't working. And I would push myself out the door. I would talk to friends, I would work on some craft, I would bake, I would get outside myself. Slowly, I peeled back the layers and would start to feel the world again. The weeks spent doing this in college taught me some amazing ways of coping with the depression. I learned some healthy rhythms for my life that help keep me in balance and help me to stay in a good place. I learned more about God and was reminded that when I was so sad I couldn't breathe, that he was right there next to me, holding me and reminding me that he loved me. I learned that community is essential for me to stay healthy. Again, some months, medication might have been a good choice for me, but I wasn't sure where to even start with that and so I did nothing. Sometimes, nothing is the best you can do when depressed. But, through work and the grace of God, I found hope and light again. I don't know why I made it through so many dark places when so many people don't, but for some reason, I did.
In my 20s, I have gotten better, bit by bit. I don't dive nearly as deep as I did just 5 years ago. Some days and some weeks are hard. I don't want to get out of bed. I find it hard to not to snap at everybody and just wish I could be at home watching TV and drowning out the pain of the world. ALthough I think most people wouldn't suspect anything at all. I am good at hiding the pain. I want people to think everything is ok. That is easier than answering the questions.
With war, terror, hunger, pain, suicide, children dying, the world seemingly in chaos, the feelings of not wanting to deal with day are stronger right now. They threaten some days to win. I have been able to push through, pretend like everything is ok. I journal a lot. I verbally process my feelings with those around me. I call my mom and talk to her about why everything feels wrong in the world. A dear friend reminded me of this verse today from Corinthains, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
So, I come back to Robin Williams. He was oh so funny. I have fond memories of watching Hook as a child and then seeing Dead Poets Society in my teens. He brought so much joy. But, he was also in a lot of pain. His private life was very public on the internet, you can read about his addictions and his sobriety. His depression and now his suicide. And for some reason, he felt that the best answer to whatever was happening in his life was death. I have the most profound compassion and grace for those who feel like death is better than continuing on in life. It is a dark place to be, and when there is no light, I can understand the feeling that to just stop seems better. You just want the feelings to stop.
There is a something beyond this world that gives me hope. We have a great light than has shined in the darkness. We have a God who desires to bring shalom to a dark and broken world. One day, all will be set right and peace will come again. I wait with anticipation for that day. For the day that, "He will wipe away 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.” Revelation 21:4
For more reading on depression, I have always loved this blog post on Hyperbole and Half. I think she does a fantastic job of describing how depression feels. Ann Voskamp also wrote a really lovely post today about depression and suicide.
If you are struggling with depression, can I encourage you to tell someone and to get help? Be it medication, be it counseling, be it both working together. But, don't live in silence with it. You will be surprised at how many people look at you and respond with a "you? me too!" And community is so important to moving from the darkness to the light.