I read through the checklist. It's been a while since I've done so.
Feelings of sadness ... "I think I can check that one off." I think as I wipe my tears on my pillow. Loss of interest in normal activities. Maybe that's why I dread church, getting out of the house, doing much of anything other than escaping into a TV show? Fatigue, decreased energy, marked changes in sleep habits ... Do I count this one when lately I can't fall asleep until well after midnight, even on a weekday? ... Probably so. Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, making decisions ... that's pretty much my life.
I read item after item on the list, mentally checking them off as I recognize myself in this clinical description of "depression." But even as I get the the end of "the list," I wonder if anyone in whom I confided would really understand how crippling this fight has become for me .... It's just so much more than a checklist of symptoms.
- It's an overwhelming feeling that I'm failing at all the things in life that I most wanted to do well.
- It is the consuming desire to have someone ... anyone ... love me enough to pursue me ... yet again and again feeling forgotten and alone.
- It is being afraid to enter new relationships, because you feel like all you have to offer is neediness, and you have nothing of value left to contribute.
- It's knowing that my life is safer, better, healthier, and more secure than probably 90% of the people in the world, but still feeling like it is all about to collapse beneath me.
- It is being afraid to even entertain dreaming about the future, because your life looks nothing like the dreams you indulged when you were younger, and you wonder if dreaming and planning are just a waste of time, and you're just too tired to do it anymore.
- It's feeling like there are always people looking over my shoulder, watching, criticizing me ... waiting for the one mistake they can use to call the homeowners' association, or DCF, or even just someone else to tell.
- It's hating holidays and significant dates ... every ... single ... one of them.
- It's not knowing where to go or who to call for help, because if they knew how bad you are, they'd never stick around, or because they would promise help, but then forget about you.
- It is feeling like none of this is ever going to end ... like the rest of my life I will be struggling with bill collectors and the pain of a broken heart and being alone.
- It is a hopelessness that goes beyond description, because the lies and the fears are stamped deep within, and nothing really offers anything more than a temporary escape from them.
- And yes, it's even that nagging thought that everyone you love would be better off without you messing up their lives as well, even though you are fighting to remind yourself that the impact of suicide would break their hearts and leave them with permanent scars.
Depression is a monster, eating you from the inside out. It's shadow seems to go on and on, far beyond the reach of an escape. Even when treated medically, prescriptions only seem to mask the pain, and all it takes is running out of happy pills a week before you can afford to refill them and you see those specters hiding again in the shadows again.
As if clawing against the depression itself wasn't enough, being a believer saved by faith in Christ through God's grace makes it harder. All those questions: Why can't I hear God - is it because of my own sin? If God is the Healer why am I still so broken? What is wrong with my faith, that I can't just trust God and get past all of this? Where is there someone in the church ... anyone ... who can live up to Christ's call to love me ... or am I just too much for them? The enemy of my soul plays on my internal struggle, assaulting me with even scripture to drag me farther down into the quicksand of depression.
Depression is so much more than medical. It is a "brain thing," and a "thought process thing," and so medicine and counseling can help. But it's also a social thing - that sense that I am alone and there is no one who really wants to come alongside me because they are all busy too, and am I really worth the trouble? It is a spiritual thing, because there is a very real war going on for my purpose, and a very real enemy who can't snatch me from the hand of God, but who can make me ineffective for His kingdom by hurling all of hell against me, knowing that every sphere of my being is being taxed to its limit.
"Severe depression is often beyond description. And when such deep and painful feelings cannot be explained, they cut to the heart of one's spiritual being." Dan G. Blazer
Because depression is such a nebulous experience - a black hole sucking all of my life away - and because it is such an effective weapon in the enemy's hands, it requires a coordinated, ongoing plan of attack to provide relief from it.
"Humans are intricately complex creatures. When things go wrong in us, they do so in myriad and nuanced ways. If churches want to effectively minister to the whole of fallen humanity, they must reckon with this complexity.... Those who bear the marks of despair on their bodies need a community that bears the world's only sure hope in its body. They need communities that rehearse this hope again and again and delight in their shared foretaste of God's promised world to come. They need to see that this great promise, secured by Christ's resurrection, compels us to work amidst the wreckage in hope. In so doing, the church provides her depressed members with a plausible hope and a tangible reminder of the message they most need to hear: This sin-riddled reality does not have the last word. Christ as embodied in his church is the last word." Dan G. Blazer
I am convinced that the church community is the place where people suffering from depression could find various solutions to relieve some of the burden of their battle, but I have yet to see how it should be worked out. Hopefully as I share my thoughts, comments, observations and so on here on this blog, I will find some answers and offer some of the hope that comes by trusting in Christ and continuing to put one foot on the floor followed by the other each morning. I believe that even the darkness of depression is a place where Jesus can be glorified and a broken place that God can heal. Hopefully that will be seen as I share my journey through depression here.