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Depression

I struggle with depression.

I don’t know how long, but it’s flared up over the past few years.

In my senior year at Baylor, it was the major factor in delaying my graduation for a year. Even as I went home into a better environment, it was hard. Now that I’m living up here in Illinois, it’s been much harder.

It’s the feelings of being overwhelmed, with no way out. Feelings of guilt and shame for letting things get overwhelming. Feelings of loneliness and isolation, longing to be safe at home. Fear of leaving the house, of encountering other people. It’s illogical and, when I look back, easy to overcome, but while I’m in a bout of depression, it’s like I’m struggling in quicksand, only to get sucked in more and more.

I’ve always had these struggles with low self-esteem, sense of identity, thoughts of guilt and shame, need for community, desire for independence, and finding balance between introversion and extroversion.

It’s hard to put it into words. Truthfully, it’s easier to write it down in a blog post that very few people will actually read. It’s embarrassing and hard to express in words, in person.

The best way I can try to describe it is that it is like levels of darkness. At times, I can see the world with a bright outlook on life. Other times, things seem gray, my life seems gray, my heart seems gray, apathetic, just ok. Other times, things are dark, and I can’t seem to escape my own trap of bad thinking. I can’t see an escape. The one glimmer of hope I have is the love of God and the fact that I know I am made with a purpose. I have never struggled with suicidal thoughts, and I thank God for that.

But I know that my depression is just a part of life. I still am trying to find the balance between ignoring it and giving it too much attention. But I know that it is one of the thorns in my flesh, and it (eventually) shows me how much I need God. Here’s a quote from Rich Mullins that sheds light on the issue:

“Loneliness is a part of our experience and if we are looking for relief from loneliness in friendship, we are only going to frustrate the friendship. Friendship, camaraderie, intimacy, all those things and loneliness live together in the same experience.”

The same is true with depression and the rest of life. I can’t replace my depression with the good things of life– they all dwell together and they must all find their proper place, or rather I must decide and work to find those proper places.

I have seen and will be seeing a counselor this Spring. I have had a few people, teachers and friends who have been encouraging and understanding in this time. I have developed structures and prayers to keep me on track, but I never know how it’s going to hit, when, or how hard.

I can explain this all very well, and it probably doesn’t seem like that big of a problem from the outside. But I see it like this. At times, my dog gets something stuck in her fur, something that will get tangled and maybe cause further pain. So I try to cut it out or wash it out or pick it out, and it seems like a very little thing to me. But she’s hurting. And I sometimes can’t see how much it’s hurting, and I get annoyed with her, just want her to know how easy it is to get this over with. But she can’t understand in the pain. And that’s how I feel sometimes.

I hope this provided some insight, at least into my struggle. It may be completely different from someone else. But all I ask for is grace.

Here are some stories that provide insight on my struggle.

I saw this movie in the midst of my senior year, and it helped me understand and communicate my depression. It actually brings tears to my eyes to just watch the trailer.  Check out more at: http://focusfeatures.com/its_kind_of_a_funny_story

If you have ever read Hyperbole and a Half, this is the latest post from the author. (If you haven’t, check out more at http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/) But this has been the last update in over a year. Allie Bosch wrote about her depression in 2011, and has still been struggling since then. Her honesty in part has helped me become more honest. But this funny yet sad comic gives visuals to the struggle. http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

Finally, here’s an image I ran across that made me want to finally make this post. I have to say, I’ve been very fortunate, because I haven’t encountered the animosity and miscomprehension that others struggling with depression have faced. I’m grateful for that grace. But here is another representation of the struggle.

It’s a part of me, just like the injured hand is a part of the guy above. And like any wound, it must be treated. But it’s a work in progress.

Man, I really wanted to end the post here, but I can’t. Because I must express my gratitude for this gift of the struggle. A friend of mine sharing his testimony suggested that he’d been “gifted with pain.” It is a gift, though painful, because it allows the recipient to give to others also in pain. No, not give pain to others, but give love, compassion, hope, and help.

Rich Mullins struggled with pain for most of his life, a spiritual pain, I’m not sure if it was depression, but it was certainly a darkness. And Brennan Manning, one of his inspirations and friends, said a certain story did well in expressing Rich’s struggle. This story comes a play by Thornton Wilder called The Angel that Troubled the Waters. Here’s Manning’s telling:

The scene is a doctor who comes to the pool every day, wanting to be healed of his melancholy and his gloom and his sadness. Finally the angel appears. The doctor, he’s a medical doctor, goes to step into the water.

The angel blocks his entrance and says, ‘No, step back, the healing is not for you.’

“The doctor pleads, ‘But I’ve got to get into the water. I can’t live this way.’

“The angel says, ‘No, this moment is not for you.’

“And he says, ‘But how can I live this way?’

“The angel says to him, ‘Doctor, without your wounds, where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service only wounded soldiers can serve.’ “And to me the theme of that story is the theme to Rich Mullins’s life. All grace, all light, all truth, all power are communicated though the vulnerability, the brokenness, the utter honesty of men and women who have been shipwrecked, heartbroken, broken in the wheels of living. In love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.

It’s a fight. I am a soldier in the fray. I am wounded, but the wound is a gift. It’s a struggle. It’s pain. It is levels of darkness and fears and feelings and is overwhelming. But it’s grace all the same.

Grace to you, whoever you are, wherever you are.

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