It coils itself around me, squeezing and choking the life out of every ounce of hope and joy I have. The world around me grows darker as I watch life move around me, but I find myself unable to participate, unable to feel what others feel. Their joy seems foreign and uncomfortable. Their pain is too much because I cannot help. All I feel is the pain: pain that pulses with grief and ices over with numbness.
There is an inky black heaviness that hangs on me. I cannot clean it off. I look up searching for help only to find myself sinking. The light above me grows dimmer.
It is here that I sit. Choaking, dirty, and out of reach.
The only option is to hide. I tell myself that if I hide I will not be too much. I can fade into the background of life itself, which is exactly where I want to be, and I will be safe there. I will not disappoint, but I will comfortably remain disappointed in myself. Except, this is a lie. This place hurts people. It hurts the people I love. This is a burden I cannot bear, and so I sink deeper.
I tell myself that if I push people away they will leave, and I will feel justified. And so I sink deeper.
The real war rages not against the people around me. It rages against myself. There is an internal hatred so cunning, so clever, that I do not know how to fight.
This, as I have learned over the years, is depression. It has been a constant companion for as far back as I can remember. What an oxymoron. The truth is, I did not know that I struggled with depression until I was in my third year of university. I thought that this was simply the result of my melancholy personality. Granted, it was a part of my personality that I abhorred. It was also something that I passively accepted.
I can still remember the moment my eyes opened the fact that I was struggling with something that I thought to be intrinsic to who I was as a person. I wish I could say that, upon this realization, I was delivered and free. Yet, realization and resolution mark only the beginnings of change.
Every time I find myself in this place, before the initial realization of what this place is and after, it has been accompanied by a deep shame. The shame is not simply wrapped in the fact that I am broken. We are all broken people in the process of healing, wishing the healing to be accomplished because the process is painful. The shame is the result of my relationship with God.
This place feels so far from God. In fact, more times than not, this place feels as if God is absent. I cannot see Him here; I cannot hear Him here. Worst of all, I cannot feel His love here. I cannot understand why His salvation does not eradicate my struggle. I cannot understand why His love is not powerful enough to pull me out of this place. I want to know where the instantaneous rescue is when I am here. I need all of the triggers to be identified and abolished. I need the healing, not the process.
This leads me to the present. Just this past month, I struggled with my most longstanding bought of depression. As the weeks turned into a month, I sank further into the realms of hopelessness and confusion. Standing on the other side of this, I can say that I have been wading through a place of aftershock. I am having to rebuild, to some extent, my very theology.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to share my testimony at a Bible study. I wanted to fight against this because I have often felt so discouraged with the lack of clear and exact deliverance in my story. But a testimony is not the radical shift from imperfection to perfection. It is a process of grace. It is a loving God working through our dirt and chokeholds to move us toward healing. At least, this is what I have been learning.
If my life is anything, it is a testimony to the fact that God holds on to those He loves. It does not seem to matter how far down I sunk or how much I doubted His love and capability in this midst of this place. He has always been there. He is the thin strand of light that somehow pierces through the darkness that seems to choke the life out all that is good in my life. He is the relationship that will not leave no matter how much I try to push it away. He is also a provider.
Over the past five years, as I have gone through the process of discovering what my battle is and actually attempting to fight to stand in a healthy place, He has provided relationships in my life that, by His grace alone, continue to fight for me and love me, even in the darkest places.
I continue to learn the painful joy of vulnerability in relationships. I continue to step into a classroom and find joy in the hearts and minds of my students even if, just moments before, my eyes were rimmed with tears and strength seemed absent. I continue to disappoint, and I continue to be forgiven.
It is here that I stand. Free, found, and breathing in the depth of life.
As I stand here at the beginning of twenty-six years, I have no idea what the next twenty-six have in store. I can retell countless joys in my life, and I can dive into an ocean of overwhelming sorrow. I wish I could tell you that I once struggled with depression, but thanks be to God I overcame.
I can tell you that I struggle with depression, and thanks be to God I am not defeated.