What Depression Means to Me: Introduction

photo-1422544834386-d121ef7c6ea8Gentle Reader,

Back in August, I wrote this post in an effort to illuminate, in a surfacy sort of way, the dark valley through which I am currently walking. Until now I have been hesitant to write much more about it. Depression’s got a bad reputation in Christian circles. Surely, if one is depressed, then one must be engaging in some sort of great sin. And if one sees a therapist? Might as well walk through the doors of the church with that scarlet letter tattooed on one’s chest. This is, in our plastic-molded mindset, unacceptable. Even unforgiveable.

I’m here to burst your bubble.

A little over a month ago, the day after attending a Women of Faith conference, I sat alone in my living room. Chris was with some of his extended family; I told him I didn’t feel good and wanted to stay home. Accepting that as a perfectly legitimate excuse, he left me to myself. Looking back, I wonder if I should have gone with him. Maybe that would only have delayed the inevitable. I don’t know.

I cleaned up the house, making sure that everything was in its proper place. I turned on the porch lights and flicked on the heat. I wanted the house to look warm and inviting. I wanted Chris to step inside and feel safe.

Because I didn’t plan to be there when he got back.

Sinking onto the couch, I held my keys in my hand. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I quietly ticked through a checklist. I would say goodbye to my dogs. Grab the knife. Get in the car. Drive as far away as I could. Abandon the car. Walk into the woods. Slit my wrists. Lay down and wait for animals or blood loss to overtake me.

I was going to kill myself.

I didn’t want Chris or anyone else to have to deal with a body. I thought it would be better for them all if I just disappeared.

Yes, yes. I hear you. “Suicide is selfish.” “Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.” “Suicide is an angry act.”

I know.

Believe me, I know.

Thing is, I don’t think anyone contemplates or carries out suicide because they want to hurt other people. The depth of pain within my own heart was so great, so crushing, that I just couldn’t bear to walk around with it anymore. And, honestly, I didn’t really think that anyone would mind if I were gone. I thought that everyone I knew would be happier and would be able to carry on with their lives without any trouble or mourning. I thought that killing myself would make the world a better place.

Writing that, I can see how irrational it all is. That’s the thing with depression, though: irrational seems rational.

Some depression is situational, brought on by traumatic or stressful events. That’s not my kind of depression. Flipping through old journals and notebooks, I see references going back about ten years to “the darkness.” It seems as if there has been a cloud chasing me, trying to overtake me. Unfortunately, the process was so gradual that I didn’t even realize that I had fallen into that darkness until I was in the midst of it.

This is clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder. There is something physically wrong with the structure and wiring of my brain. Signals don’t travel like they should. The hypothalamus is one region that is impacted greatly by clinical depression; this part of the brain actually shrinks. This small slice controls many automatic or subconscious bodily functions, like hunger, and plays a significant role in pituitary output. Subtly but powerfully, faulty perceptions generated by these improperly transmitted signals within the hypothalamus result in feelings of emptiness, deprivation and dissatisfaction.

In John 9, the disciples ask Jesus whose sin was responsible for a man’s blindness.

So, tell me, who sinned? Who sinned that my brain and particularly hypothalamus shouldn’t work properly? My parents? Me? My husband?

I dare you to answer that.

Yes, I’m angry. Angry at all the misconceptions and judgments. Angry about questions like, “Are you still depressed?” Of course I’m “still” depressed! While I do believe that I won’t always be at this low point because God is never content to leave us where we are and that there are many things I can do through cognitive behavioral therapy to learn new ways of living and coping, I will probably always be on medication. I will probably always have days where I wake up feeling melancholy. Unless God has plans to the contrary and there is a complete healing in my future, this is the reality.

I know that the purpose of this blog is to educate and encourage. While I had originally envisioned that the educating would have to do with Bible study, depression and anxiety is what we’re going to be talking about for the foreseeable future. It is not within me to sit idly, contented with frustration at the lack of understanding. You need to know what this is all about. You need to know how to respond. Whether you struggle or have never had a down day in your life, this is part of the fabric of our fallen world. It’s beyond time we face up to it.

I don’t know all there is to know. I’m not a medical professional – frankly, medical professionals don’t know all there is to know. I can’t diagnose you and I certainly can’t fix you. I can’t even fix myself. What I can do is share with you my own journey with an honesty that you might find borderline offensive. While it’s not my purpose to anger you, I don’t have the energy to wear a mask anymore. I can’t play the games.

Let’s talk about what is real.

My journey to faith. (15)

For all the posts in the What Depression Means to Me series, go here.

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7 thoughts on “What Depression Means to Me: Introduction

  1. I understand. I am a Christian and have experienced depression before due to physical illness.

    The good news is God is good, he loves you and wants you whole. He will get your through this. Praying for you…

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  2. Please, be borderline offensive. I’m more or less in the same boat with you, and I’m sick of feeling like I have to be fake because others can’t handle my “non-Christian” shortcomings.

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  3. You might inwardly think that most of the comments you’d get on this post, in respect to its nature, are from people who, for all intents and purposes, are just commenting because it would appear as though it’s appropriate to comfort you in such a time of distress as this.

    Nah. Don’t get me wrong, I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY by NO means devaluing the pain that you feel, and that I have felt before. But that’s not what I want. You don’t need comfort so much as you need someone to walk with you through this. I don’t see this as you seeking attention, because I can totally sympathize with you, and because, even though you might not see it so easily, God used you to bring Himself glory through it. Blog posts don’t have to be “educating” or “encouraging” to bring the Truth. Actually, on the contrary, I think it’s a bit selfish to hold back what’s really on your heart and instead be the happy, smart, safe Christian that you know that you’re probably not, if you know what I mean.

    What I really want to say is that you’re one of the few “depressed” people with the ability–nay, the gift–to look at your depression with an outsider’s eye and say, “Wait a second. This is irrational, not only for the obvious reasons, but because I am a beloved daughter of God.” Just know that God absolutely positively beyond a shadow of a doubt has massive plans for you, because otherwise, He wouldn’t be using you to sow seeds in lives around the world–the way I know He is through this blog–and through the other countless women you’ve reached in your sphere of influence through your passionate ministry. Suicide would just be a satanic attempt to cut God’s glory short. That being said, your P119C entries have been a bright spot for me these past few months–in dry seasons, sometimes the only Scripture I read all day. In fact, I remember one instance when one played a pivotal role in leading me into obedience which caused me to sow seeds into someone’s life, when I otherwise would’ve skipped over it. I cherish each and every one of them, even if I might not take the time to comment.

    Just tonight, my youth pastor, Garrett, gave a sermon on “Reasons why we can’t,” and for some odd reason, it came to mind when I read this. He said that an audible voice trumps whispers of lies we tell ourselves every time. Now, I know that it’s not like we can force our brains to think a certain way (believe me, I’ve tried), but I just feel like you need to know that if you’re feeling a cloud of darkness, know that the light can be found to chase it away when you stand up to it and confess to yourself with your own mouth the Truth found in the knowledge that God calls you His own.

    Suicide has always been an unspoken dark fancy of mine, mostly just something to philosophically muse over. When I catch myself wondering morbid “What-if”s, it disturbs me a bit to think that I’m capable of such horrible self-deception. But I really do think it’s true that depression and the consideration of suicide are just further manifestations of the fallen nature of humanity, and should be treated just as graciously as any other ailment which afflicts all of us.

    I’m not gonna say you need to get better, because it’s not my place to shove such an insensitive, sweeping statement your way. But know that you’re being prayed for by people you don’t even know for an ailment you never thought you’d let anyone else know about.

    I think God will honor and bless your honesty. And when you look back in ten years, I believe that you will look back and be able to say that God carried you through this valley in amazing, amazing ways.

    Grace and peace,
    The Abstract Thinker

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  4. I’m years late in reading this, having just discovered your blog through the Write 31 Days Challenge, but I want you to know I have been where you were/are in this battle with depression. I am still fighting it, although the “blackness” has, thank God, subsided somewhat. Let us lift each other up in our struggle to find light and joy.

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