A Timeline of Titles

Things I’ve been in thirty-nine years: Miracle Confident Big Sister (twice) Broken Baptized Insecure Dancer Depressed (a few times) Athlete Dislocated Sleep-Deprived Student Graduate Overwhelmed Teacher Mourner Lost Unsure Home (again) Coach Assistant Associate Editor Writer Worried Best Friend Girlfriend … Continue reading

Depression Can

Depression is sitting behind thick glass—a translucent wall. You know the sun is shining, but you cannot feel its warmth. Depression is being a well that’s run dry, seeing everyone’s thirst, and knowing you’re empty. Depression comes like a thief. … Continue reading

Happiness Takes Courage

Happiness takes courage. You have to be brave to surrender to joy. When every molecule of your being has been mourning—when loss has permeated and ruptured your heart—you must be dauntless to pursue mirth. You must find great multitudes of … Continue reading

There Is Hope in This Day

There is hope in this day. There is joy and laughter and light. There is love in this day, Despite uncertain times. – Some days are darker. Some days mirth is harder to find. Some days leave you spent and … Continue reading

Depression Is Not a Weakness

When I find myself lying in bed beneath the invisible weight of depression, I often call myself lazy. It is unjust, especially because the misdiagnosis leads to the wrong set of antidotes. Depression is not sloth. You don’t tell someone with a broken leg to go for a long run in order to feel better. You give her a cast and crutches. You let him sit down. There is a difference between not wanting to and not being able to (even if the reasons are hard to articulate or prove).

For me, depression is a state of being rather than one sensation or feeling. It becomes my environment and world. It consumes me and every ounce of energy I muster. Like a dark forest, it utterly surrounds me—and the way out is hard and long and confounding.

My depression is like water. It is at once tiny and great. Small, because there are few things it can’t penetrate. Massive, because its end always seems an infinite distance away. I constantly feel that I’m in the middle of it—making no progress towards its end. And then one day, and very unceremoniously, I awake to find I’ve left it behind (or it’s left me). No matter how dark and vast it was, it always ends eventually. Perhaps God lifts me out of it like an emotional search and rescue team, because I never recognize the approach of the end, just that it’s behind me.

When I’m depressed, I feel as though an unreachable part of myself is broken. But the cause of my discomfort won’t show up on an MRI or x-ray. The pain is at once real and intangible—oppressive and insubstantial. I perceive it, but I can’t point to where it hurts—because there is no one place that aches. The pain is nowhere and omnipresent.

Depression is an exasperating enigma. It feels like a puzzle everyone else has been able to solve. It is frustrating because it’s like being restrained by something that isn’t there at all. It feels like starving at a buffet or remaining in a jail cell after being declared innocent. It is sitting in a dark, deep hole with a ladder, but you can’t see—let alone reach—it.

All too often depression doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Too many find it impossible to reconcile with our fast-paced, wealth/success/pleasure-driven world. We tend to avoid our more difficult feelings, so depression gets denied and dismissed. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, but many feel (or act) as though it is.

Depression is not a failure just as winter is not a mistake among the seasons. Denying depression is like expecting summer to supply snow or autumn to bear blossoms. And just as the world has rain, wind, cold, and sun, your emotional life exists on a vast spectrum. Certainly some feelings are easier to experience while others are more challenging to endure, but all of them have rights to your time and attention.

Depression is not a weakness. In fact, it takes great strength. For someone who is depressed, even the easy parts of life require effort. It is hard work to reside in the darker parts of yourself. It takes great courage to admit you’re broken or to seek help.

Too often depression gets minimized or glossed over because it hasn’t earned the respect afforded most physical diseases and injuries. But just because I can’t point to exactly where it hurts, show you how I’m broken on an x-ray, or prove I’m sick by taking a blood test, doesn’t mean I’m okay and it’s all in my head. I mean it is all in my head, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Not everything that resides in your mind is imaginary.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4).

A Great Depression

When a great depression assaults my emotional economy, I must turn off the lights and close my doors. I cannot open up to the business of living. I cannot tend shop, man the register, or make myself change out of my pajamas.

Sadness comes at a high cost. It leaves me bankrupt. My dreams and envisioned futures become murky and obscured. Melancholy devours all profits and depletes my reserves.

When I am depressed, I am closed. Sheets of sadness cover my tables. Those passing by find apathy on display in my windows. So much time must be budgeted for sleep, that I can’t afford to pay my utilities. And so my light and heat have been shut off. I am cold. I am dark. My storehouses are empty except for dust.

Sadness is a recession into myself. There is no force in my work. Even the simplest task is taxing. Unemployment rates are up. A poverty of spirit grips my soul and moves my mental state to the slums—to the doldrums.

With depression, foreclosure becomes my inevitability. New sentiments must make competitive offers. Will depression sell? Or will it hold on? The purchase process is lengthy. Negotiations are testy. My emotions are held in escrow until ownership is transferred.

When the transaction is complete, restoration can begin—tentatively at first. Please pardon our appearance in the in-between.

The first step is to take stock. Some junk must be thrown out. Then there are things worth saving: new emotional inventory, lessons learned, and accrued empathy. Sadness is a loss that pays dividends in self-understanding. After assessment, a thorough cleaning. The built-up muck of regrets, insecurities, failed investments of energy, emotion, and relationships must be scrubbed. Broken dreams repaired, replaced, or mourned. Blueprints for no longer being blue will be drawn up. Then rebuilding can begin in earnest. A few counterproductive barriers torn down. New walls built, others reinforced. The final steps: A fresh coat of paint in an optimistic shade, pictures of bliss hung, storerooms replenished. A new register obtained for change—one that both makes and accepts it.

Open under new management, I feel renewed and full of promise. Sadness may browse or make a purchase, but it is no longer the landlord. Profits wane and grow, but my outlook remains positive. My new emotional owners are benevolent and prepared. They have done this before. Less affected by the fluctuations in the external markets, they focus on preserving the integrity of the product—keeping me whole.

No matter how great, no depression lasts forever. There is always a rebound. Recovery, in time, will come. Closing shop for a spell may be necessary. What resources remain must be kept secure. My personal psychological property is to be saved from complete forfeiture—lest I see its assets auctioned and its structures razed to the ground. Then one day it’s just an empty plot and nothing more.

Only in closing—only in shutting down—only in complete surrender to the emotional poverty a great depression brings about—only then can gains be made and renovations take place. Only then can a new wealth of experience fund my grand reopening.

Falling to Pieces

Falling to pieces isn’t easy. It takes a great effort of release to allow the self to shatter and scatter into the messiness of life—to let the parts of who you are and were separate so that who you will be becomes even more puzzling.

It is no simple thing to become unhinged—to unmoor your mind from rational thought and allow the swell of raw and violent emotions to drag you out to the depths of despair in a sea of loss and doubt. You could drown out there.

Depression has no shortcuts. There is no graceful descent. You cannot see the bottom from here. It feels infinite—a perpetual free-fall in the dark into a deeper darkness. All the while breathlessly waiting for the inevitable impact of hitting bottom and breaking down all over again.

There is no diplomatic protocol for melancholy. It is a ruthless conquering army, ever claiming more and more emotional territory—launching unquenchable assaults until apathy is your only refuge, and retreat your only ally.

There are no benefits at this job. Forcing smiles to appease the happy, going through the motions so others don’t worry. Laboring to live beneath an invisible yet oppressive weight—pushing the breath right out of you so that you’re drowning in oxygen.

Sadness is a narcissist—always wanting all of your attention, and taking all of your energy for itself. It is an emotional glutton, a parasite devouring feelings. It is an atrophy of energy until even the shedding of tears is too tiresome a work. To sleep—to dream—becomes the highlight of your day—anything to help you escape.

You’ll find no simple solutions. Being blue is complex. There are many hues of sadness—the spectrum is infinite. No pleasure is indelible. Laughter passes through you like a thin sheet on a windblown clothesline. Food, though filling, isn’t satisfying. Nothing is gratifying. All is dim and gray. It hurts to stay awake.

And then one day, and without warning, the roiling dark waters begin to recede. You can see the sun for all its warm brightness. Colors are released. Where once your expanse of despair was a bottomless sea, now fertile soil awaits hope’s seeds. You begin to absorb joy again. Laughter inflates your mood and lifts you up out of your despair. Instead of falling apart, you start flying. Instead of shutting down, you start thriving. Sometimes it just takes time for all the shattered pieces of you to find their way home again.