I’m just sort of getting used to the idea that there’s a chance I have swung in and out of a low-grade depression over the past couple decades, that this is not just my second or third mini-bout like I’ve been telling myself, that it’s not something brand new to me, but that it is a part of my life and my personality and my experience as a human. I used to just think of myself as a melancholy, introverted, deep thinking, deep feeling realist. In retrospect, I think some of that might have been depression. And I’m honestly okay with that.
But here’s the thing that I must be aware of. Depression, for me, can become so familiar and so comfortable that I wrap it around myself like a favorite sweater; and I can tend to feed it, and indulge it, and revel in it, and oddly even favor it to the alternative (which, I suppose, is happiness), if I’m not careful.
It can be hard to walk yourself out of a season of depression when you find yourself used to it, and even more so, preferring it. Because I not only don’t mind what depression does to me, quote-unquote – the ways it makes me lower energy and more slow and more tired and more desirous of staying home – I actually kind of like those things. Or at least, when I’m in them, I can tell myself that I like them. It’s hard to know the difference sometimes.
And it’s tricky, because as a culture we tend to think the following:
happy = good
sad = bad
And so therefore, we are given a list of things to do when anything in our lives falls into the ‘bad’ category. (Or we give this list to ourselves.)
We’ve gained weight? That’s bad. We must lose weight. Do this and this and this to go from bad to good.
We didn’t get straight As? That’s bad. We must get higher grades. Do this and this and this to go from bad to good.
We’re single? That’s bad. We must find a partner. Do this and this and this to go from bad to good.
Our marriage is struggling? That’s bad. We must strengthen our marriage. Do this and this and this to go from bad to good.
We’re sad? That’s bad. We must make ourselves feel better. Do this and this and this to go from bad to good.
But what if we’re okay with being sad? Or being single? Or realizing that every marriage has its ups and downs? Or that we’re a B-student? Or that we are okay with a few extra pounds? What if it’s not the end of the world to us? What if we are just okay with how we’re feeling today, with who we are today?
And then, on the flipside, what if even that is the depression or denial talking? What if it’s the sadness that is luring me further into the dark cave with promises of rest and relief?
How do you know when to accept and embrace your reality? And how do you know when to fight against it?
(My personal experience is that I’ve never gone too far in my sadness. I have never once felt like I can’t get myself back to me. Though I definitely have seasons when I can’t shake the sad, when I feel like I’ve lost my happy, when I have wanted to stay in bed all day (I have actually never once spent an entire day in bed), I have always remained tethered to reality and to community and to myself, and I’m grateful for that.)
I think we will all go through sad seasons, and we will all go through happy seasons, and we will all go through every kind of season in between. And I truly believe it’s all okay. I truly don’t think “being happy” is the end-all-be-all of this life, and anything less than that should be avoided or covered over.
But if you find yourself with no energy, if you find yourself literally staying in bed for days at a time, if you’ve lost your purpose, if you are not speaking to anyone, if you feel alone in the world, if your tears are not running dry, if you are artificially numbing yourself in any way, it has more than likely gone too far for you, and I want to gently encourage you.
Today, I want you to take just one step. I’m not going to give you a list of five or ten things today. Just one. Today, I want you to reach out to someone. Talk to a friend, a pastor, a family member, a counselor, your doctor. It can be anyone you trust to hold your feelings with gentleness, who won’t belittle you, who will truly hear you, who can help you determine your next step or two.
And know this, God is in the sad. And the weight fluctuations. And the grades. And the singleness. And the marriage. And the grieving. And the pain. And the whatever. He hears you. He sees you. He has not left you to walk alone. He will never, ever leave you alone. Even when you feel alone, you are not alone.
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. –Zephaniah 3:17
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