Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Storm of Depression

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I pretty much grew up in the church. I prayed the prayer when I was 6 years old & became “born again”. Now it was my God given duty to tell the world of my joy so they could be saved too. Uh, yeah... By the time I was a teenager, this “joy” hadn't exactly kicked in yet. It was actually a great source of guilt for me. Surely I was doing something wrong because I hadn't felt a lick of joy the whole time.

I usually sat in the back of the church, didn't get into the happy clappy worship songs & didn't respond to altar calls. I would hang out after service because I enjoyed the quiet. I was noticeably dark & dour in those days (compared to everyone else). Well meaning ladies would come over to me every once in a while & put an arm around me. Sometimes they would just grab my hand & launch into a sobbing, passionate prayer in tongues without so much as a hello (Yes, I guess I shoulda bought a Honda. Thank you). Sometimes they would ask me how I was doing, if I wanted to talk, if I was getting enough sleep (or my favorites: Did I have a place to go? Was I doing drugs?).

I remember one gal asked me if I was involved in the occult (no) & if I knew Jesus (yes, I think). In fact, many people would ask me if I was saved. What do you say to something like that? It made me so angry. And when I get angry, I shut down. Many times they would just keep talking, asking their questions & somehow managing to answer themselves, creating an entirely new identity for me. I wanted someone to care (because that kind of stuff filled my potholes for a while), but only a few actually listened to me without putting words in my mouth. Yes, I prayed, I read my Bible, I listened to Christian music. I wasn't sleeping around, drinking or doing drugs. I worked with kids, got involved with youth & college group and routinely volunteered for local "mission" trips and other service opportunities. Good for me. 

I went to counseling, but nothing seemed to touch my depression. Eventually, people backed off & I was left to my own devices. I became one of “those” people who are just too broken to be fixed. I still went to church & stayed involved, but I eventually faded into the background. Clearly my issues were nobody's fault but my own. But had depression been my fault when I was 6 years old? Because that's when I remember it starting...

Anyway. I read something the other day that said most people describe depression as a heavy black cloud following you around. That's not my experience at all. If anything, that blackness is inside of me, filling me up like smoke that somehow turns to stone or something like it... all my limbs ache with the weight of movement. Every part of me is hard & heavy. My emotions feel trapped in a slightly frozen state- retaining the cold, but vulnerable & mushy. Some days I wake up & I just feel “off”. Everything annoys me. Sounds are much louder, much more shrill or penetrating. Light is much brighter & my eyes feel tired. Even if I've gotten a good night's sleep, I wake exhausted. Sometimes it feels like my body is buzzing... vibrating with some invisible electricity. I might feel full of energy inside but then zapped of strength if I actually try to exert any. Sometimes my mind feels foggy and instead of thinking in words, I can only conjure pictures & phrases that are vaguely similar to what I want to say.

I wish I had the means to articulate these things when I was younger, but I suppose only time & experience afford that ability... like a prize of sorts. Yay me. Another perk I've received with age is the gift of perspective. Because I've weathered the storms for this long, I can usually see when another assault is gathering off in the distance. I know what to look for... I know how the air feels... and I know I can take action to help soften the blow when it comes. Somehow, I know I'll survive.

O Lord, you have searched me & You know me. You know when I sit & when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar... Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your Presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there... Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.   Psalm 139:1-2, 7-8, 16 NIV


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