“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” Psalm 42:11
If you struggle with depression, you’re not alone. I have lost count of how many people, both women and men, who have admitted to me that they have struggled with depression at one time or another. I must reiterate that I am not an expert beyond what I have experienced, personally. There are as many different experiences with depression as there are people who have it. Depression comes in many shapes and sizes. Some struggle with a short stint of depression, usually triggered by an event or an imbalance in their physiology. Others, like me, have a lifelong history with this unwanted companion. And just as there are different types and experiences, there are also many different ways of treating depression. Some people are eventually set free from the struggle, while others must continue to endure.
For those who have never experienced clinical depression (beyond just being sad for a time), I’d like to share what it’s like for me. Others who have experienced this struggle may identify with my experience, but I will not be so presumptuous as to claim that this describes everyone.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, depression is when someone is sad and gloomy; dejected; downcast. I’m pretty sure most people are familiar with this definition. However, another definition for depressed, and one that paints a perfect mental picture is: pressed down, or situated lower than the general surface.
Basically, it’s like being in a pit. A deep…dark…pit. Everyone else is walking around on the surface, while the person struggling with depression is removed. They can’t see the world around them because they are situated lower than everyone else. They usually are not able to pull themselves out of the pit because they are pressed down by the weight of it. Depression is so…heavy. It’s like putting on a 200 pound suit and being told to climb out of a deep, muddy hole. You want out, so bad, but the weight is too much to bear. You try and try and try to dig your way out, but there is no way…there is no hope. This pushes you down even further into the pit. You struggle so hard, and for so long, that you become tired and your body literally aches – from head to toe – all the time. Sometimes, you are pressed down so far into that pit that you can’t even see the light of day above you. All light…all hope, is gone. There is nothing left, but darkness.
Life around the depressed person continues on, but they are not a part of it. They are too busy feeling around in the dark, looking for anything that may give them hope. Someone in the depths of that kind of darkness may be surrounded by blessings, and constant encouragement from loved ones, but they cannot see because of the darkness…and they cannot hear because they are just too far away.
THIS is how I feel when I am in the midst of a bout of depression. Like I stated before, I have struggled with sadness to one degree or another for a majority of my life. Even as a child I remember feeling a heaviness that other kids didn’t seem to have. As a teen I would contemplate how I might kill myself, you know, just for funsies. Morbid, I know, but there you have it.
During my teen years, I began turning to alcohol and drugs to ease the pain, but the effects of the drug and alcohol abuse would make me spiral even further into the pit. However, no matter how sad I got; no matter how dark my mind became, there was always one thing that would bring me back from the edge. They are the words my great-grandfather said to me shortly before he passed away. He said, “Allison, no matter what, you make sure you get to Heaven. That’s where I’ll be. I want you there with me. You make sure you do what you need to do to get to Heaven!” I had prayed the prayer of salvation when I was twelve and assured my great-grandfather that I was good-to-go! Little did I know that God would use those words, especially during the years that I wandered from the faith, to speak light and life into me.
You see, God was always there. In my darkest moments, even as I turned away from Him, He ensured that I would have something to cling to until this prodigal daughter returned.
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
– End of Part 1 of 3 –
This is the first post (in three parts) in a short series of posts on my experience with anxiety and depression. You can find Part 2 here and Part 3 here. I’m not an expert, nor do I have all the answers…but I do know that I am not alone. People who deal with anxiety and depression can feel very isolated. Those who have never experienced anxiety or depression may not know what to say or how to interact with someone struggling with these conditions. So, in my own little corner of the world, speaking from my personal experiences, I would like to begin to remove some of the mystery, and the stigma, of anxiety and depression…especially within the Church. And most importantly, I want those who are struggling to know that they are not alone.