Where there is life there is hope
I want you to hear me saying it, that is where I’m rooted.
But here is where I’m at.
Sharing is not to normalize depression or anxiety or to simplify and speak generally about mental health. It’s to deconstruct how comfortable — or how uncomfortably okay — we have become with unseeing or ignoring, and even falsely engaging with those that are in the struggle.
I know because I’m in the struggle. Today, yesterday, the last couple of months. I’m wrestling depression in this season.
Is that shameful? No.
It has come in waves throughout my life, some more hard-hitting than others.
And I can promise that you have stood shoulder to shoulder with others who are eye to eye with the same ill-suffering, in shifting ways that are intimate to them. And they may not even be able to muster up the courage to let the words slip off their tongue.
It may even be you.
We are not immune to suffering this side of heaven. And from where I stand nearing thirty years, suffering is not one size fits all. It is not neat and tidy. It doesn’t reside in textbook boxes. It isn’t confined to a fixed point.
Suffering is the result of sin, suffering meets broken people in a broken world, and suffering makes us long for the home that is free of it.
Someone once told me that describing depression is like trying to describe a room that is pitch black. It makes my chest tight and my mind heavy.
Sometimes I feel like a fraud because who am I to talk about struggling in this realm of brokenness? Don’t I take and share supplements that helped all of that two years ago Don’t I have faith in a God who is bigger than my mentality?
Don’t I have a happy life?
And then I inhale and exhale all the whole and broken bits of me and remember,
I’m a human.
There is a mantra that at stand still I see spinning around my mind.
Mamahood shouldn’t be hard. There are eggs for the morning and baby giggles fill my day. The days are busy with good things. My family is well loved and my boys are learning to love well. I have joy. We have a roof over our head, the resources we need, a dynamic community and the walls of church homes that give us that weekly, daily bread.
So why does depression still find a present space in my life?
If you’re a Christian, can you even be depressed?
If you’re a strong woman, can strength and depression really coexist?
How have there been times in my life where I have fought the compulsive thoughts to just call the end to my story?
What am I doing wrong?
Is something wrong with me?
I have wrestled here the last couple of months.
I’m hot and cold. Oil and water. The left and right parts of my brain doing less of a job complimenting each other and more so finding friction. Yet, somehow, I feel more alive with the Spirit than I ever have. It’s an intimate space that I’m grateful to be wading in.
Part hormones raging and shifting through my body? Probably.
But it’s a strange paradox and I think God is holding me here in a beautiful suspension, letting me feel the tension in my great need for just that — the strength of His hold, not my own. And He’s letting me see the grave world of it around me, to start speaking louder for it, even as I fight despondency.
To deconstruct my experience and those silently suffering, be it for my husband or someone else reading who can benefit, here is what I know.
Depression is as much a physical illness as any other that a doctor can diagnose. And it doesn’t have to be silent.
It’s also a spiritual battleground. And regardless of how hard the earth-fight is, God has already won.
The church, our faith communities, our families and our friends need to do a better job at creating healthy conversation and spaces for processing the very real nature of this brokenness.
We need to do a better job at showing up, beyond a social media status, for those that are facing any mental health steer-away from livelihood.
Did you know that in the United States, depression has a lifetime prevalence of 17 percent, and ranks second among all illnesses and injuries as a cause of disability?
And these are just the known and courageously fought cases.
Do you find being present for those struggling in their mental health more difficult than being present for someone fighting a chronic illness? or cancer? or grief? or loss?
They are all suffering. Darkness exists.
And I don’t mean that lightly. It has been my experience. Within church walls and my closest circles I have felt and experienced misunderstanding, avoidance and loneliness.
And if the knowledge of my hope-filled life in Christ weren’t my survival thread, I might very well be turned away from church walls and relationship with other humans out of fear that my humanness was less than worthy.
In each of these “depressed” seasons I have been given fix-it solutions. I’ve been told to pray harder, I’ve been asked why I doubt God, friends have smiled at me uncomfortably and changed the subject, heads have turned as I share bravely, faith leaders have told me that it is a deficit in faith and referred me to scripture to meditate on, and I have had counseling suggested.
Have these things been helpful or spurred me on towards hope?
Not really no, not directly out of context.
So yes, while it is a living darkness that exists and hangs an often unforseen cloud above many a person’s head, there are also light-bearers that are chasing these clouds away or pulling us back into the sunshine as best as they can.
With the strength and hope in Christ. The Light of Life.
How are they doing it?
They are present, actually present.
They do not measure the suffering against another.
They do not live in a state of comparison and judgement about the aching.
They inquire, they ask the questions, and they don’t bolt or throw up their walls.
They offer the likeness of our Lord. That He too suffered, even in grave despair.
They offer what He Himself asked in His greatest suffering.
For friends to surround Him, to keep watch, to pray.
They show up in the darkest hour.
Listening ears. Understanding hearts. They are not dismissive to the suffering and they welcome the soul of the individual to be poured out into their safe hands.
They create space for rest and reset, healing and quiet.
And they call it strength.
They offer a partnership in the battle, in the small and big ways.
Tangible things like breakfast meet-ups, and rearranging routine and time. Baking pies and just because text messages. Pressing beyond “how are you?”. Holding babies while tired moms shower. Taking long walks, doing togetherness well, even in silence. Gripping hands in prayer. Letting the “unload” happen even in curse words and tears and irrational feelings. Encouraging the do-overs and speaking life into unbelief. Sending videos that light spontaneous laughter.
But most of all they really see the person.
They invite the knocking and leave a space at the table. And they see the ones who aren’t able to get to their feet alone and drag them to the table anyways. Even if it’s hard and uncomfortable.
For those that have seen and sat with me, thank you.
For those that need a space to sit, I’m always always here for you too, eyes wide open.