Light in the Fog: On Coping With Depression…Right Now

(photo credit here
I’ve discussed my struggle with depression in multiple posts; for each one that I wrote, I believed that I was getting closer and closer to finally putting it in the past. I wondered when that epiphany would come and I would know that all the pain was behind me. Over winter break I learned that certain family members had once dealt or were still dealing with it, to which I asked my Mom if I was at risk for anything. She assured me that I was probably one of the few, since I was a fairly happy and outgoing as a little kid; I didn’t start to exhibit any signs of such until I became a teenager. There were mentions of depressive disorders, but from what I can remember I was never officially tested for anything, and there was no concrete diagnosis  

But then in the weeks leading up to my twenty-first birthday, followed by what I’ve dubbed the usual “post-birthday blues” I was engulfed in negativity. I sat on my couch and cried ridiculously ugly tears. There was no darkness or dark thoughts of any kind. I just cried. I didn’t want to die, yet I was not sure how to live without constant anxiety and fear. 

And that’s when I began to wonder if I should be doing more; should I be formally evaluated, along with exploring the possibility of taking medication? Maybe that’s why it has taken me so long to get back up from the bottom. 

Yet, I truly feel in my heart that pills or some kind of prescription is not the answer for me; the deep feelings of sadness don’t come out of nowhere, but from ten years of having false truths reiterated to me over and over again. It’s not a constant occurence, but something that happens at specific times during the year; at the beginning of or toward the end of each semester, before or after a big event, and when I’m completely by myself for hours or days on end. 

Let me clarify that I am not against medication in itself; for some people it can be really beneficial if taken appropriately. On a personal level, medication would probably gloss over the roots of what I’ve had to learn how to cope with. I’m not going to speak for everyone that has walked in my shoes, but I don’t want to live a life void of emotion just because it may be labeled “bad”. When processed in a healthy way, releasing negative feelings can enable healing.

So then where did that leave me?

A week or two ago my counseling group went around and discussed positive thinking, and truthfully that concept has always been a bit of a sore subject; as a young girl,  the one question I was constantly asked was “why can’t you just be happy?” as though the whole thing was a switch I could just turn on and off when I wanted.  I have no problem with good thoughts and gratitude. Yet, sometimes the whole notion of having an optimistic attitude tends to become circumstantial, or even materialistic. 

And when it comes to giving thanks, I tend to think it’s not about what I’m thankful for, but whom I’m giving thanks to. 

Though I don’t discuss my faith in God all that much in person, I cannot deny that it is a huge part of how I have gotten through so many awful periods, even moments up to this point. There were times when it seemed like God was all I had, and there probably will be many more. Clinging to what I can’t see has not been easy, but it has tested me, strengthened me, molded me, and is still doing all of that every single day. 

I can’t simply “think positive” without looking to the One who has given all that goodness to me. 

I once thought that battling my demons was all about cutting toxic crap out, but then that becomes a life of exhausting yourself to avoid pain. Pain is a part of life, and it’s not possible to live life and avoid it at the same time. 

I can’t pour myself into living life fully unless I have spiritual nourishment being poured back into me. 

That being said, I don’t believe that churches and faith-based communities always handle this subject very well, particularly when someone admits that they’re struggling. While I haven’t had it happen personally, I’ve heard stories of others being told to “pray the pain away” in some form or another. Don’t get me wrong, I whole-heartedly believe in the power of prayer in terms of confronting and dealing with pain. It can do wonders. It sometimes is the only way the some people can make it through an entire day. But as far as being an answer? That just spells disaster right there. 

Why? You have no way of knowing when you’re going to come out the other side, or if you’ll ever be truly free from it. I’ve been in therapy for a year and a half, and I still have a lot of stuff to work through. There times when even in the midst of prayer, the pain is so excruciating that I can’t say a word. I don’t know where I’m going to be down the road, however many months or years it is. 

The thing is, choosing to have faith in God is not where you ask Him for things and he just magically gives them to you. Just as in any relationship, you have a part in it as well. You do what you can, and then let Him take care of the rest. 

Yes, God does work miracles. But those miracles don’t always come in the form we expect: sometimes it’s modern medicine. Sometimes it’s speaking through a pastor, a professional counselor, or a friend. Overall, it’s a little bit of giving and a little bit of receiving. 

In regards to receiving, it doesn’t just involved those that have to confront something like addiction or depression. The ones that have to watch a friend or family member go through this difficult journey are often the ones who can walk through it with them. The sad fact is, many choose to walk away instead. 

Of course you could say “I don’t know how to help!”or “I can’t handle this!” Let’s get one thing straight: if someone comes to you and tells you that they have a problem and/or their life is at stake, it is not about you! It’s not about you being comfortable. No one’s saying you have to have the answers, because sometimes there aren’t any. But don’t just make up some bullcrap and say that you can’t do anything, because that’s the worst lie of them all. 

Initially, it’s very likely that that person who is telling you will not want advice. Don’t spout Bible verses at them. Don’t say that God won’t give them anything they can’t take. And if there’s one phrase to avoid at all cost, it’s “Well, there’s always someone out there who has it worse than you.” In that moment, your loved one has hit bottom. It really can’t get any worse beyond that point. 

Instead, wrap your arms around them and tell them you love them. Let them cry, and know that it’s OK to cry with them. Let them talk. Let them scream. Just put aside your selfish desires and be in the present moment. 

But understand also that it’s not your responsibility to try and “save” them. I speak from experience when I say that trying to take care of or help a person who’s situation is out of control will only drain you, and do neither of you any good. Tell them you love them and that you will support them, but let them know that there are others who are better suited to help them sort through their pain, grief, etc. It doesn’t hurt to offer assistance in their search for a support group/program or a counselor. But you can’t take their whole weight on your shoulders. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that if somebody walks away from a relationship because they can’t take the other person’s brokeness, it only means one thing: they can’t stand to look in the mirror and face the broken spirit within themselves. 

So yes, I’m still dealing with depression. I no longer feel like doing anything drastic, but there are times where the pain is so agonizing that I can’t even move. Sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself. Emotionally, I’m running around in circles. I’m not always so strong.   I might want to just escape for a little while, and frankly I think that’s fine, as long as it’s not overly dangerous. 

I don’t hold anyone responsible for this; not the men who came into my life, took advantage of me and then broke my heart. Not the ones who promised to be there, but ultimately weren’t. Not the ones whose intentions were good, but were enacted in all the wrong ways. 

I was ten years old when this all started, and am now twenty-one.  I don’t know what the future holds, or whether this will be a life-long battle that I’ll have to fight. There’s a lot of history, and a lot of healing to be done. I’ve been told that some of it only God can do, and right now I don’t know if I understand that. 

While I can’t control how I feel, I can ultimately choose into joy. Psalm 30: 5 says “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” That doesn’t mean that everything will automatically work itself out or have a fairy-tale ending. For me, it just means that I have a choice not to be a product of my circumstances, my environment, or my past. It may not go away completely, but as time goes on, it will get easier to handle. 

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to always be happy in order to be accepted or loved. 

I will continue to walk forward, and along with that, I will continue to keep looking up. 

There is a light; you just have to find it, and then follow it.

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