The subject of depression appears to resonate with the masses this time of year. It seems that every time I turn around there is another article or blog post about the topic. You know the ones: 10 Ways to Beat the Blues, Super Foods to Beat Depression, or the ever popular, Take This Quiz to Find out if You’re Depressed. As if I need a quiz to tell me why I feel as though my brain has been sucked out by aliens, my energy is nonexistent and I feel like bawling ‘til I barf, right? And the only super foods I feel like eating when I’m depressed are Nutter Butters, Snickers and anything made by the Frito-Lay company.
Depression is not an easy topic to discuss. Its very presence makes us uncomfortable even though many of us suffer from it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it will take a different form for each person. There are varying intensities, multiple symptoms and the root causes are legion. In the end, no one can truly understand exactly how you feel and that knowledge makes us feel isolated and sometimes even ashamed of our emotions. We withdraw in our aloneness and in the dark, like all real monsters, it grows and morphs and eventually consumes us.
I do not have a magic formula to give you. I do however have my own story and a turning point that has radically changed the nature of my particular beast.
I was lying in bed and the monologue in my head was in fine form. It went something like this: “I’m such a crappy mom. I’m ruining my kids. What possessed me to think I could homeschool them? And I’m an even worse wife. I hate to cook, am depressed all the time, and have let myself go. Why would he want to come home to this? I’m hideous. What do I have to be so sad about? What is wrong with me? They would be so much better off without me…” On this particular night, the God that I serve spoke to me. Not audibly, of course, but it was as strong as if He had and this is what I ‘heard’.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
A verse my children all have learned at AWANAs clubs and one I had heard countless times. On this night it took on a whole new light. As my inner critic belittled, berated, and shamed, I could see that my worst enemy was not the depression itself. I could suddenly see, with perfect clarity, that my nemesis was really me. And then it was as if Jesus was saying to me, “I would never speak to you this way. You don’t have to listen to this.” I realized then that I had the choice as to whose voice I would entertain. I cannot describe to you how incredibly freeing this epiphany was.
Did my bouts of depression magically go away? Of course not. But once I took my focus off of my destructive negative self-talk and instead put it back on the only One whose voice matters, the change was startling. No longer do I yearn for oblivion, even when the darkness is intense. Instead, I can see blessings even in the abyss. You see, it is when I am in a weakened state of mind that I can most clearly see my God working through me in the day-to-day. Every day that I drag out of bed before the kids are up to have my devotions, it is not of my own strength. When I get school taught without ripping anyone’s head off, have clean underwear in everyone’s drawers, a semi-nutritious meal on the table, it is at those times not of my own power. When I smile and play a game with my wee ones, or sit down to read them a book it is glaringly apparent that Someone is empowering me to do what needs to be done.
Quite frankly, I find a deep sense of peace and, dare I say, even a joy in this. Can one feel a deep sadness and even be depressed, yet hold a sense of joy in one’s heart? I say yes, indeed! We are not promised that we will never have dark, heavy, deeply sad feelings. However, our Jesus does promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Heb. 13:5) We are told that He is anointed to preach good tidings to the poor and heal the brokenhearted. (Is. 61:1) We are promised that NOTHING, can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:38-39) So it is with a sad, weary little smile that I can reflect on these things and feel the stirrings of joy in my heart even amidst the sadness.
In the end, my friends, I find once again that my life’s mantra holds true. Truth is absolute, but reality is malleable. The promises that my Lord gives me hold true no matter how I feel when I get up in the morning. Indeed, how I feel is actually irrelevant. My reality is how I choose to live each and every day.
So to my friends who can relate: You do not have to listen to the negative inner voice. The lover of our souls doesn’t speak words of hate. Personally, I will choose to tell that nasty inner critic to take a flying leap. I refuse to listen. I will not be defined by my fickle emotions, nor will I allow my children’s childhood memories to be tainted by my afflictions. I will choose to be free.