Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Inundated with Depression

I have spent pretty much all of today immersed in depression. I felt it in my heart, my head, read it with my eyes, listened to a talk about depression, cried tears related to depression, craved (and ate) sugar because of depression. It's been rolling over and through me in wave after wave.

I felt raw all day. Last night I cried and stayed up too late trying to sort out how I felt. Today I read blog after blog about depression. When a beloved actor commits suicide, people share all their thoughts about mental illness, even the ones that are ignorant and hurtful. People who should have just listened spoke and caused harm instead of healing.

I've been listening to Jason Gray's latest album for the last few days. He doesn't really have a unique sound. He fits right in with the typical Christian pop music melody-wise. It's his lyrics that make him stand out from the crowd. His songs are the most honest songs I've ever heard.

I keep holding on to the lyrics from the end of this song: "You don't even have to speak/Just sit with me in the ashes here/And together we can pray for peace/To the one acquainted with our grief." It's just the worst when I risk being vulnerable, take off my mask, and let someone know how I've really been doing, how much depression has really been hurting me, and they try to fix it or they brush it off. Sometimes more than anything I just want a friend to bring me some ice cream and sit with me while we watch a couple episodes of Friends. I just want someone to be there, to sit with me in the pain, to walk beside me as I try to make it long enough for it to get better.

I've been feeling incredibly lonely over the past few months. I've been fighting depression mostly by myself. I've had long-distance support from my best friend who lives on the West Coast, and of course my therapist helps. But I'm still left alone most of the time. I was thinking tonight that fighting depression is like training for sports competition. I should disclose that my only experience with playing sports outside of gym class in high school was when I played flag football in college, so the analogy probably isn't perfect. But it's fourth and goal and I'm going for it (I'm so full of sports knowledge!).

I spend all day every day training (fighting depression). I know that I need help to know how to train better, more efficiently, so I hired a coach (counselor/therapist). He gives advice, educates, cheers me on. It's a special kind of relationship, but it's professional. I need more help than just one person can give me, more support, so I've sought out some teammates, as it were (other people who are walking their own journey of mental health). I've attended a depression support group a few times, and it is so encouraging to know I'm not the only one going through this. So now I feel like there are other people on the field who are working towards the same goal I am, and if we help each other we can all get closer to the goal (making it through each day, getting to a place where we feel more in control of our mental illness). What's missing are fans (friends). Fans just show up and cheer on the athletes. They're supportive even though they can't hop on the field and play the game for me. This is a game where critics are not welcome, but fans are deeply appreciated. I keep looking up at the stands hoping for someone to smile and wave at me, cheering me on, but the stands are empty. My family loves me, and I love them dearly, but they don't live near me. It's like they're watching on TV; they're cheering me on, but it's not the same as watching the game live. The thing about fans that is so great is that they're there only if they want to be. I pay my coach. He's totally on my team, helping me, cheering me on, but it's different. I want people to choose to root for me just because they care about me and believe in me. People who are actively in my life because they live here and they like me.

So all these thoughts and feelings have been rolling around in my head. I'm trying to sort out my faith in the midst of feeling like church is harming more than helping. I started trying to connect with God in different ways and discovered that I love going to mass at the catholic cathedral a mile from my apartment. It brings peace to my soul. It feels a little weird to share all this, to talk about how much depression hurts, to talk about how I'm trying new things which is scary but helpful. Tonight I was at a talk on depression, and after the speaker shared his own story of dealing with depression and anxiety, he shared some scripture. He talked about how the Bible is testimony, and there is tension between the testimonies it contains. The primary testimony is how God relates to the people with whom he chooses to be in relationship, how he sees them, rescues them, loves them. And there are testimonies that are in direct opposition to that primary testimony, people who acknowledge how God has shown up for their ancestors, but they also cry out asking why God has forsaken them. Thinking about how the Bible is a collection of people sharing how they have or haven't encountered God made me want to testify the truth of my life right now. I felt compelled to share more about what depression is like for me, what trying to find God and faith in the midst of the pain is like. For years now I've hoped that somehow my experiences, my story, my testimony could somehow help someone else. They can't do that if I keep everything to myself and hide behind a mask of "I'm fine," so for now this blog feels like a safe way to experiment with sharing.