I’ve had a couple of discussions about it in the past couple days. I saw several posts and vlogs about it lately. I know many people who suffer with, from and through it. Heaven knows I have dealt with it enough myself.
So let’s just discuss it. I feel like maybe I’m supposed to speak about it.
Maybe you’ve figured out by now I’m talking about depression. Sadly, even in the 21st century, it’s still a taboo subject. It’s still cause for shame or at least embarrassment in America.
I’ve shared here and other places online about my own struggles with depression. I have had discussions publicly and via private message with people about it.
[DISCLAIMER: I’m not dispensing clinical advice to you or recommending you do a particular thing. I am just sharing MY experiences, MY “what works for me”, MY findings while researching the problem. You do what’s best for you, seek professional advice first and BE WELL!]
My motives are pretty simple and very straightforward. I think it’s important for people to be aware of depression…of the signs and symptoms, of the treatments, of the facts that there are many of us who suffer with it and how it would surprise you to find out how many of your friends, family and acquaintances are living with it right now.
First let’s look at what depression actually is and what it isn’t. What I have is referred to as “clinical depression” and it’s what many of the folks who have reached out to me also deal with.
[NOTE: Please make use of the many links I have put in this post. (the first one is in the previous paragraph!) If you don’t live with depression yourself, at least be educated enough to understand and help those around you who are living with it. I guarantee you there are more than you’d think.]
Clinical depression is that “black cloud” that sticks with you. It’s a “sadness” that you can’t explain or shake. I find that the best way to explain it to those who don’t understand is that I KNOW without a doubt I have MUCH to be thankful for,
I K-N-O-W it. But I can’t make myself be happy. And it’s not that I’m overtly sad or anxious. It’s just an indescribable inertness, if you will. A complete lack of energy, or perhaps an inability, to feel joy.
If you read all through the link for clinical (or major) depression (and I urge you to!) then you’ll see it lists the symptoms and then states “when it’s not caused by a medical condition or medication” and that’s where I depart from the medical book, as I usually do. (ha) I DO have medical conditions that can cause those symptoms. I even have a chronic disease which makes me much more susceptible to being depressed. (diabetes, to name just one) so I don’t fit “neatly” into a particular diagnosis. Lots of us don’t and that’s okay as long as you have a medical professional who can deal with that.
There are currently several types of depression recognized by the medical community. Some of these you’ve probably heard of, like “clinical depression”, “major depression”, “postpartum depression”, even PMS has its own depression called “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder”! That last link will take you to webmd.com’s list of these with links to more info on each of them. I’m not sure how valid some of these are, but perhaps medicine is just trying to give a name to the things we deal with all the time but never know what to call it. (for instance, on the list is “situational depression”…who on this earth hasn’t experienced that before? I’m not sure the emotions tied to various temporary events deserves a medical diagnosis, but that’s fodder for another post, right?–HA!)
Let me say that I don’t want to “push” depression and make it like so many things these days, cool or in any way desirable or something to be envied. That doesn’t make much sense I guess, but stick with me while I try to explain… Like so many things in our society, people try to put labels on various people and behaviors. Sometimes to make them ‘hip’ or whatever, sometimes to make them seem acceptable. (first thing that comes to mind is how ADD became a buzz-diagnosis so quickly and then, even though it can be a genuine problem for some people, it soon became the go-to excuse for not doing your work, not being dependable or responsible, etc., etc.) I don’t want to do that here. Depression is serious. It can be life-threatening at its worst, debilitating or at its very best, it can make living feel like a burden. So it’s not something to be trifled with in any way. I guess I just don’t want to come across as if I’m just tossing the word around and diminish the real significance of the disease.
Okay, so here, I want to share with you a video by a pastor I’ve met a time or two that I really admire. For one, he’s now an avid cyclist. (Seriously, the man’s a beast on a bike!) For two, he’s an honest-to-goodness Bible-believing man of God who isn’t afraid to speak truth. For three, he’s a loving husband and father and he also suffers from depression. I already like him, but after he posted this video on Facebook, I admired him even more. See for yourself as someone with a position of leadership and somewhat notoriety goes very public with how he struggled with and then overcame the monster that is depression: Pastor Greg Locke on Overcoming Depression
As you might guess, one of the reasons I so love this video is that he says cycling helped with his depression. Of course, not everyone can jump into this the way he did. Since I’ve been watching him for years now, I can tell you that he first got “into” bike riding when he went to the Goodwill and got a bike to ride in a charity ride. From there, apparently, he was hooked. He has since done a 3,000+ mile ride (IN TEN, that’s 10, one-zero, T-E-N DAYS!!) to the Pacific shore and also the Tour Divide, an unsupported mountain bike ride from Canada to Mexico! He’s a beast, I tell you!
I don’t foresee myself ever doing such amazing bike rides, and that’s okay. I have impressed myself enough with the longer rides I have been able to do. I’m just happy to be getting out and being active because before cycling, I was pretty much a couch potato. A long day of errands was about as much activity as this ol’ gal ever got! So, praise God that I have this activity to get me moving and inching toward better health!
Okay, back to the topic at hand. I hope you watched Greg’s video. Part of what was SO encouraging to me was the discovery that someone who seemed so alive, so interactive, so “with it” would have a problem with depression. It was like LIFE-GIVING to realize that he KNEW what it felt like, knew how it felt when someone says to you, “Just snap out of it. Just trust the Lord. Just read your Bible more.” When it was all you could do just to get out of bed in the morning, IF you even did that!
And I guess that’s the most important thing I want to do with this post. I want YOU to know that *I* KNOW. If you never meet another soul who understands depression, know this… you’ve stumbled across this minuscule spot on the web, this unknown web address to this post because God wanted you to know that you are not alone. Let’s face it, that’s the only way you’d have ended up here! Ha!
Maybe, if you happen to know me in real-life or you’ve read other posts here, maybe you never imagined that I have depression. Once you start being open about it, researching and talking to others, you will find that many of us who suffer from chronic clinical depression can be the funniest, goofiest, seemingly-up-beatest (Ha!) people you know. Here’s the thing.. it’s easy to fake it for a few hours. At least most of the time. So don’t assume that someone who’s always cracking jokes and smiling could never understand depression. Often, it’s a way to cope. That doesn’t mean we’re not genuinely funny or goofy, it’s just that that part of us isn’t the strongest during the dark-cloud times and so we relish our time of being able to laugh and make others laugh, because once that’s over, the cloud is back. At least that’s how depression is for me.
Y’know, you’d think that for those of us who cope that way, since it does feel so much better to be with a few people laughing it up we would seek that out, but in reality it finally becomes too hard. It gets to be too much effort to drag myself out to be with people, to even want to be with people. The devil and my own dark place will start to tell me no one really wants to be with me. They will just wonder what’s wrong with me…why am I so pale, why don’t I have any makeup on, why am I not talking as much, etc. Then there’s the whole monologue that goes, “You’d need to shower and fix your hair. You don’t have the energy for that. It’ll be too hard to smile enough or to ‘be your usual self’ and they’ll know something’s wrong. They will think you’re weird or sick or they’ll just wish you hadn’t come. What if it gets too hard to try and you burst out in tears. You can’t let them see you cry, and you’ll probably cry. No, just stay home. It’s easier that way.”
Only a few short months ago, that conversation played routinely in my head. I stopped going to the get-togethers with some of the most dear friends I have. I’m sure they knew something was up, but I couldn’t bring myself to just say, “Hey guys? I’m hurting. I’m in a bad spot. Nothing physical, no one in my family is terminal or has died, I just feel like crud and I can’t smile anymore. Pray for me. Tolerate me if I come around– encourage me to come around because it’s entirely too easy to convince myself not to!!”
I finally just had to come clean with them. Some of the reasons were deeply personal, so it was hard to even speak them out loud. Secrets in my marriage that were decades old, but they had contributed hugely to the massive black hole I was in and at that time, I had decided to confront and seek help for that and it had stirred up all kinds of ugly. It was HARD to tell my closest friends where I was and how bad I was hurting. They still probably don’t entirely understand, but at least they have an idea now and when I say that I’m feeling “dark” and need some prayer, they are on it. They don’t hesitate to check on me and encourage me, to ask questions which are not comfortable, not convenient to ask.
So I guess my next suggestion or bit of advice for you is this…get, find or make yourself some good friends. At least one. They don’t have to be people you talk to every day or even every week. It doesn’t have to be the person you do everything with (when you DO go do something)… It just needs to be someone you can count on to see through your hiding, your coping methods. Someone who will confront you when you have slipped into dark mode.
One last thing, there’s something even more taboo than depression and that’s suicide and having suicidal thoughts during a deeply depressed cycle. I won’t lie to you. I have been there. I’ve said before, I’m thankful to have my faith in God because I truly believe that’s the only thing that kept me from attempting to end myself years ago when the idea came to me often.
I now know that a permanent solution to a temporary problem is never the answer. It took growing in my faith and becoming solidly convinced that I am worth something to God and even when I feel I’m not worth anything to anyone, not even myself, I have to trust that God’s got a purpose for me being here. A lot of the lies I tell myself are that my family would be better off, my husband could find someone without my problems, who he wouldn’t have to worry about or care for, take to countless doctors or wake from a dead sleep to feed through a low blood sugar, who wasn’t so self-doubting that I paralyze myself and need him to make the simplest decisions… I think my kids could live without wondering if their mother is crazy, without her words that come out so carelessly unintentionally causing pain to them and the ones they love. Even when those quite loud thoughts are going through my mind every single day repeatedly, I can remind myself that God has a purpose. I don’t have to know what it is because He does. I just have to trust Him.
That kinda takes the pressure off me. *ha* So if you don’t know Jesus, I urge you to learn about Him and trust Him with your life. He will keep you safe if you will just trust Him. He’s the best friend and ally against depression I can recommend to you. He may not choose to deliver you out of the dark hole, but He will be with you in it and make you strong enough to endure it.
Hebrews 13:5 – “…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””