Have you ever wondered what depression looks like?
It looks like this:
All of these. I look happy, like I do most of the time in public.
I still smile. I go out. I shop. I attend family events. I attend trainings and help my team. I go to parties. I have family days. I go on dates with my husband. I go to church.
I get out of bed. I clean. I take care of my kids. I make food. I run errands. I grow friendships. I go to sleep. And do it all again the next day.
I also suffer from depression.
Depression doesn’t make it so that I can’t do anything fun. Depression doesn’t mean I don’t have an amazing life full of things and people to be grateful for. Depression doesn’t mean I don’t have a strong relationship with God.
Here’s what my depression means:
I’ve gone through a lot. And sometimes, just dealing with it all takes a lot out of me.
In the last 2-ish years, here are some things I’ve gone through:
-Ruptured ectopic pregnancy, and the loss of Oliva.
-Becoming a bereaved mom.
-Dad’s cancer returning.
-My grandma unexpectedly dying.
-Husband getting laid off of work. (Thankfully, that didn’t last long.)
-Loss of a promotion in my business. (I WILL get it back and will grow even more.)
-Loss of Caleb to miscarriage.
-Diagnosis of secondary infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss.
-Unexpected, devastating divorce in the family.
-Ryan’s grandpa’s health issues, impending death.
-Dad’s cancer growing. Unsure of treatment, or if it has spread. Still waiting to find out more.
-Dad’s bike accident and pulmonary embolism.
-Loss of Elliott to miscarriage.
-Failed foster placement.
-Loss of Sophie to miscarriage.
-Testing, testing, and more testing to no avail. Lots of health questions for me — and no answers yet.
This is just off the top of my head. I’m sure if I thought more about it, I could come up with more.
And here’s what all that means.
I have compounded, complicated grief (which means there are a lot of things to grieve all at once), and that has triggered a clinical depression. Sometimes the line between grief and depression is a fuzzy one.
I’m not just sad.
Sometimes I’m sad. But sometimes I’m mad. Sometimes I just don’t care — about anything. Sometimes I’m exhausted. Sometimes I’m impulsive. Sometimes I’m irritable. Sometimes I feel “depressed.” Sometimes I feel numb.
And sometimes, I really feel OK.
I can live my life. It just takes so much more out of me.
I can still function. Sort of.
This last week, my depression has been horrid. And yet, this last week I’ve gotten the most cleaning done ever in my life. I deep cleaned Ryan’s bathroom, dusted and organized our room, rearranged our room and little miss’s room, washed all the windows, dusted the house, deep cleaned the main bathroom, organized a shelf, cleaned my desk, tidied the office, cleaned my kitchen tons of times, did lots of dishes, swept, mopped, and vacuumed. I’ve hosted out-of-town company, and hosted a baby shower.
And yet, I’ve not worked my Arbonne business. That feels too overwhelming.
See, my functionality is selective. Some things feel doable. Others feel completely overwhelming. Some things I can’t believe I have the energy for (like cleaning.) Others times, I can barely muster the energy to smile at a well-meaning person. That just takes too much out of me.
Nights and mornings are the worst.
Most people see me during the day, when I’m most functional. I’m distracted by the duties of the day and my two kids, and it’s harder to be mopey. But in the morning when I wake up, it takes A LOT of energy to get out of bed, facing a life I didn’t choose. I want to stay in bed forever, with the covers pulled up over my head.
But I can’t. I must take care of the two precious kiddoes God has entrusted to me.
They get me out of bed, and keep me out of bed during the day (most days anyway.) They keep me distracted, for better or for worse, and I find myself going through the motions (and sometimes emotions) of life.
At night, once the demands have ended, I’m faced with the feelings I’ve been stuffing all day. The bubble up to the surface, and bleed out through my fingers onto my blog. They drip from my eyes when I try to squeeze them shut at night. The loss, the heartache, the lies, the feelings of despair or desperation, the emptiness, the numbness — it’s all right there, waiting fore me.
The distraction of the day is just that — a distraction. Depression does not leave. It patiently waits for me to visit as soon as I can. And the moment that there is quiet, the moment my heart is still, the claws come out and deeply drag into my heart. I’m in their grips again. And I can’t get out.
Then, a new days starts. And the cycle starts all over again.
Faith isn’t the answer.
Well, at least it’s not the only answer.
I find much comfort in Job’s story. When I read my Bible, I find the most camaraderie with those who have suffered. Those whose lives did not go according to THEIR plan. The ones who had tremendous bouts of faith — then ran away in fear and failure. Those people, those stories, are the ones that resonate with me.
If depression tells me anything, it’s that I’m empty.
I have fought that for a very, very long time. I don’t want to be empty. I want to be full of dreams, of goodness, of grace, of wisdom, of love. I want my heart, my soul and my life to overflow.
But as I pour into my life, my heart overflows. Not out of fullness, but out of emptiness. It is unable to contain anything I put into it. At the end of the day, I still feel empty.
I’m coming more to terms with this. Because often I try to fill my life with things that aren’t meant to be filling. And maybe depression is doing me a favor in not allowing the “lesser” things to fill me up.
My prayer is, “God, if I’m going to be empty, let me be empty for you. In your time, in your way, you fill me with nothing less than you.”
So yes, God is definitely the only one who can fill the hole. But I cannot rush it. I must go through this emptying, maybe even cleansing process, before I can be full of the right things.
I feel like that character in the Chronicles of Narnia. The kid who becomes a dragon, and Aslan takes him out in the middle of the night and claws all the scales, the flesh, everything off of him. In essence, tearing him to pieces until he is just a boy yet again.
At night I feel his claws on me, tearing away every wall I have built up. Every lie I have believed. Every false sense of security.
He tears away at the flesh of my heart, till I’m bleeding and empty. And only then can I become who I’m really meant to be.
If I just tried to have more “faith,” ignored this cleansing process, and hid behind church-pews, worship songs, and pity Christian sayings — I would be doing myself a huge disservice. These are Christian band-aids.
I don’t need a Band-Aid. I need the Creator of the Universe to heal me.
Depression is not my identity.
I was listening to a TED talk on depression yesterday. He said, “Depression is an issue — not an identity.” What a fabulous reminder. At times, it feels so all-encompassing that depression feels like ME. The whole of me, and not just a small part. Infertility and pregnancy loss can feel this way too.
I must keep in my mind that depression is just a small part of my life (ok, a big part) — but there is so much more to my identity than this.
I am NOT depression. Depression is NOT me.
It’s not just in my mind. And yet, it is.
Depression is not just me feeling sorry for myself all day long.
It is not the result of me having a negative outlook on life. Or on focusing on all the wrong things. It’s not a symptom of a lack of faith or the correct faith. Depression is not something I’ve just made up in my mind.
And yet, it is in my mind. It’s a chemical imbalance. It’s a breakdown in the functionality in one of the most important parts of my body — my brain. It’s a disease that requires treatment — not ignorance. It’s a symptom that something is wrong in both my mind and in my life experiences.
Depression is realizing that things that are supposed to feel happy, don’t. Depression is feeling a heavy burden on your shoulders, ALL DAY LONG. In good times and in bad. Depression is there, even when I’m not thinking about it. Depression requires so much more energy to function than I have. Depression makes it hard for me to feel naturally light, happy or whole.
Depression does not grow when I choose to focus on it. It doesn’t have more power over me when I label it. It’s claws do not sink deeper when I choose to confess, “Hi, my name is Rachel. And I’m a depressed Christian.”
Instead, by naming it, labeling it, calling it for what it is — I give myself some power back. The power to ask for help. The power to be myself. The power to be brutally honest, and allow others to be honest with me. The power to break down the walls of protection around my heart and let others in. The power to admit, “I can’t do it all. I can’t be it all. And that’s ok.”
It gives me the power to understand where others have been, and respond with more empathy. It gives me the power to add . . .
“Hi, my name is Rachel. I’m a depressed Christian . . . But that’s not ALL I am.”