*This post is going to be exceptionally hard for to hit "publish" after writing. I am opening myself up to criticism and judgment. I am vulnerable. I am showing you my weakness. I am showing you my raw, aching heart. Please be kind. If you do not have something nice to say, kindly exit the blog right now. Remember, I am my own worst critic. So anything negative you have to say to me, I have already thought about and dwelled upon probably for weeks at a time, beating myself up about. So, no need to say anything negative in response to what you're about to read. I've already heard it all inside my own head.*
Depression is something that isn't talked about enough. And when it is mentioned in the media, movies, or in conversation, I have observed it's often either used as just another word for "sadness" (i.e. "This party is making me depressed...") or it's used as an insult or a negative word ("That outfit is so depressing..."). Or it's simply not understood. So I'm going to share with you my reality. I am going to share with you how I describe my depression.
What depression looks like for me
Depression is a chronic, cyclical, unpredictable part of my life. It has probably been a part of my life since puberty, but it wasn't until 4 years ago that I acknowledged my depression and talked to my doctor about it.
Depression, to me, means going for days, or sometimes weeks, without enjoying anything. TV? No thanks. Going out? Nah. Playing a game? Eh. Eating? I guess. But this also includes relationships... my husband, my children, friends, myself. (I love you, but... I just want to be alone.) I might go weeks, months, without connecting or reaching out to friends. I might avoid calls. I might try to make plans with you, then feel too "tired" or "exhausted" or "sick" to actually hang out with you. It's not personal. It's my depression.
It means days of wanting to stay in bed... All day long. All day, I think about how I don't want to be awake, and how I should be productive, but not being able to get one iota of productive activity in. Feeling like a zombie. When will this day be over? When is it time to go back to bed? Maybe when I wake up, I'll feel like doing things. Maybe when I wake up, I'll be myself again. Maybe when I wake up, I'll feel better. Maybe when I wake up, I'll feel... something. Anything.
And of course, then, like huge gray blanket over my entire heart, comes the natural consequence of the previously mentioned things: guilt. Guilt that I am a horrible mother. Who wouldn't enjoy their kids? What kind of mother am I? Why can't you just get out of bed and play with your own kids? Why is it so hard to take them to the park and enjoy time together? Man, your kids would be so much better off with that other mom as their mom. ANY other mom would be a better mom than you. Maybe I should go back to work full-time, because I am obviously not what they need.
Guilt that I'm a horrible friend. I have felt so out of it lately, I have neglected my friends. They probably think it's too much work to be my friend, because when I'm depressed, I'm not myself. When I'm depressed, I flake out on plans. When I'm depressed, I just want to hide. They probably think I'm the worst friend ever.
Guilt that I'm a horrible wife. Why would anyone want to be married to me? He must resent me when he has to make dinner, put the kids to bed, do the dishes, fold the laundry, and let the dogs out, on those days that I can't bring myself to do any of those things. After he has had to work all day. What kind of wife makes her husband do all of those things? I am so unappreciative of what he does for us. What a horrible wife. He deserves better. Much better. Speaking of him deserving better... he deserves a wife that can get herself out of bed to get to the gym. Because we all know the gym would do me some good...
Which leads to... Self-loathing.Shame. What would people think of me if they knew the real me? The hurting me. People can never know I struggle with these things. People cannot know! They will agree I am a horrible wife and mother. They will think, "Why does she even have kids? She doesn't deserve those sweet boys."
...Which leads to... more bad days of wanting to stay in bed. More guilt.
Don't you see the cycle?
What depression is not
Depression is not a choice. There is no amount of "willing" myself to get better that will work. There is no amount of wanting to not feel depressed that will "snap me out of" my depression. Yes, there are things that I can do to cope. There are choices I can make in the midst of my depression that are better than other choices. I am not by any means suggesting that depression gives me, or anyone, a free pass, to be neglectful or make poor choices. But what I am telling you is this: Depression is not just having a bad day. Depression is NOT just having a poor attitude. Depression is not just a short period of intense sadness. Depression is not something that you can just snap out of. Depression is not simply throwing yourself a pity-party.
Depression, for me, is part heredity. It's part chemical imbalance. And it's part circumstantial and situational. It's a combination of a lot of factors. For some people, depression may be rooted in past hurts, addictions, abuse, neglect, stress, hurtful relationships. This is not the case for me. I happen to think that a huge part of my depression truly is chemical, hormonal. It's an illness. And like any other illnesses, it can be treated. Like many other chronic illnesses, you have good periods, and not-so-good periods. And although a low dose of medication has helped me tremendously, it is not the only solution. It is not the end-all. And it's not necessarily right for everyone. It has, indeed, helped me have very few episodes of depression, and when I have had depression since starting medication, it's been much milder than prior to medication.
Depression is also not (necessarily) a sign of spiritual weakness. It is not a symptom of not having enough faith. (While depression can accompany those things, depression is not necessarily a result of those things. You can struggle with depression and have a close relationship with God.) Now, something you need to know before I go any further is this: I am a believer in the Almighty God. I believe He can do anything ("For nothing is impossible with God."-Luke 1:37).I believe he can heal anyone and anything. But I also know that just because He can heal anyone and anything, does not mean He will heal me of this depression. And that fact has nothing to do with His love for me. And it has nothing to do with my faith in Him. The actions and will of God are not for me to understand. I can, and do, pray about my depression. I pray He will give me wisdom through it. I pray that He will give me patience and that my love will not cease. I pray that these trials will develop endurance in me ("Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."-James 1:2-3) But prayer is not a wish list that God simply grants you. God's not a genie. (If only you prayed more. If only you prayed harder. If only you trusted God more. If only you focused on God's love for you instead of your sadness.) God has painted my life into a beautiful picture. This journey that is life is not promised to be easy. It's not promised that if you follow Jesus with all of your heart, you will be without pain or illness. It is not promised that if you love Jesus enough, or if you are a good enough person, you will be healed of your ailments. (I think of depression in the same way that I think of a physical illness. Would you accuse a person who is battling cancer of not praying hard enough, not having enough faith?) But what is promised is that God will always be with me, with you. He will never let me suffer alone. And as alone as I feel in my depression at times, I know I am never alone. And there are times that my faith fails. I lose hope. I feel so worn to the bone, that I just get weary from the battle. I'm human. That does not mean that I am any less of a Christ-follower. I am covered by His grace.
Depression isnotalways feeling sad. I have a lot of weeks, months that I feel normal. I love life. I am not depressed. Depression can come on me quickly, out of the blue, stay for several weeks, and leave me just as quickly as it came on. Depression does not always have a grip on me. Depression can come over me mildly. It can come over me hard. It varies so tremendously. It is unpredictable. It is a roller-coaster. It is up and down.
I share all of this with you so that you see my heart. So that you may understand a little bit more about me, and about depression. Depression looks different for every person. And all this? This is what depression is for me.
But I will tell you one final thing about my depression. It will not win. It does not define me. There is help, there is hope, it will not run my life.
*Disclaimer: I am in no way a medical professional. I am not giving you advice for your medical condition. The above post is simply my personal experiences. My opinions about my own depression. If you think you have depression, please seek medical advice from your doctor or mental health professional.