Depression. That cloud, though invisible, is dark and murky. The experience of feeling lost, alone, rejected, and falling into a pit that has no bottom. Sometimes a person never escapes, while others find temporary reprieve only to experience it again in the blink of an eye and many times, unexpectedly. Some can sense it drawing close to them a day or two in advance, but rarely find ways to avoid it. Managing depression can be daunting!
The smallest things can bring it down upon me, like a spoken word by a relative or even a news clip scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. Sometimes it’s just a flashback to a dreaded memory I’ve tried to bury in the back of my mind.
Hiding in the bedroom with the curtains closed, shutting out the light and hiding from humanity will never stop it from haunting me. Minutes turn to hours, hours turn to days, days turn to weeks as I try to recall when it first started affecting me. I’ve been through countless heart breaks, but none of them inflicted me as much as this shadow creature does.
I’ve marked my journey by counting how many good days I can have in between the nightmares that haunt me in broad daylight. Some nights it wakes me up and robs me of much needed sleep and it drags me down throughout the day.
Hours of crying uncontrollably while my family feels helpless to save me.
A dear friend experienced severe emotional and mental trauma for all of her life. Doctor visits, prescriptions, psychiatry, pastors, religion and caring loved ones could not free her from her turmoil. She felt her only escape was to leave this world. She found her way out, but left a path of devastation as loved ones and medical professionals try to make sense out of such a senseless tragedy.
Many Christians have tried to find their answers in the Bible only to heap more condemnation on those who suffer. They claim their faith wasn’t strong enough, the devil is blamed, and sometimes they shake their fists at God while adorning a casket with yellow gladiolas.
My personal journey with depression has been a long arduous road of discovery. A discovery of who I am, who I’m not, and the power God has given me to fight this battle.
Acknowledging that I suffer from depression was not so clear. It took me many years to realize that I suffer from this mental plague. I’ve never seen a doctor for it. We don’t have medical coverage for me to be able to do that. I wonder how many other people suffer and don’t have coverage to get help.
After being condemned by twisted scriptures for 15 years, I could not find peace in any verses or passages in those 66 books. Some stories resonated with me like Jonah running away and willingly taking the plunge into the deep turbulent sea and King Saul falling on his own sword while suffering from panic, fear, and jealousy. The sadness King David expressed over his unwise decision to lay with Bathsheba, murder her husband, and hold their dead son in his arms. The condemnation one feels over stupid decisions can be quite unbearable.
However, I wasn’t obligated to travel to a foreign country to preach, I am not a King fighting for my throne, nor a King tempted by overactive testosterone. My battle was over not reading the Bible enough, not living up to the expectations of mankind, not being accepted as spiritual enough to serve God in a ministry. The weight of condemnation those men must have felt, so heavy they wanted to die. I have felt heaviness. I have felt death in my heart. I have experienced darkness that would rejoice to see my life end.
Who would notice?
All those I was sure would never care if I died, weren’t the ones I needed to think about. As much love as I had in my heart for them, they did not have that love for me.
Admitting it was painful.
Dwelling on it was bringing death to my soul.
I noticed the cloud was always looming when I was weak. If I lacked good sleep, nutrition, or had too much on my plate then the darkness would strap itself on my back for quite a bumpy ride.
The cloud was most especially dark during one week a month. It wasn’t your average PMS gloominess. This was downright hateful darkness that plagued my mind and soul. During that week, all the losses of life seemed so overwhelming to me that I often wanted to crawl under my bed and cry myself to sleep. If I could have slept the whole week until it passed, well …that is what I would have wanted. I needed to escape it, or so I thought.
But there was no escape.
When I felt rejected, alone, hated…I somehow began to accept that I was rejected, alone, and hated. The mind does crazy things with thoughts like that. The mind starts to believe it. I began rejecting myself, hating myself, and choosing to be alone. I was sabotaging myself. I could feel my soul dying inside and my mind deteriorating.
I had to recognize it for what it was and prepare myself to face it head on. I had to learn to suit myself up for battle and charge at it with my sword and shield.
Once the cloud lifted, after the week was done, I began strengthening myself. I knew I couldn’t face the losses in my life while I was at my weakest. I started with better nutrition and more water. I began setting up healthy boundaries to protect myself from harm I knew would come from certain areas of life. I avoided triggers that would infect my mind.
I even had to avoid certain people. I stopped reading blogs that condemned people. I stopped reading politics. I stopped taking calls from anyone negative. I avoided any television shows that instill fear and violence.
I started watching comedy. I started taking essential vitamins, eating raw vegetables, and taking long walks at the beach. I started gardening.
I hugged my husband and children more.
I wore bright colored clothing, lit scented candles, and applied scented lotion and oil to my skin.
For some, my actions look selfish.
For me, my actions are to save my mind and soul.
Though, I couldn’t avoid all stressors, life just keeps happening and sometimes negative people still come at me full force.
I knew that my healing was something I needed to seek after, with the little strength I had. I couldn’t lay down and get beat by depression, waiting for God to work his magic for me.
I began studying about depression, health, and spirituality. For me, it was all connected somehow and I knew I needed to find my balance. I began sorting out each loss I had experienced. Each loss was examined, prayed over, and sorted through individually. Anything major in my life that took from me has been a loss. Loved ones who have died, those who have betrayed me, those who inflicted harm on me and my family. All of it is a loss.
Many years of toxic religious brainwashing had me convinced that everything was somehow my fault, a curse of some kind. No matter how much ‘right Christian living’ I pursued, it was never enough to set me free from the pain. No matter how much Bible I read, no matter how many scriptures I memorized, no matter how much I served God with my life, the dark cloud was always there to convince me of how awful I was.
Every time I searched the scriptures to find an answer to this darkness. Religious leaders would always point to the forbidden fruit that plagued mankind. Fault was always placed on the woman.
I’m a woman.
It had played out in my head that all our problems must be my fault, the woman’s fault, for so it was with Eve (or so they say). King David’s sin was translated into Bathsheba’s fault. Abraham’s quick pursuit of Hagar was interpreted as Sarah’s fault. The woman about to be stoned to death was her own fault.
Interesting how the blame is always shifted onto the women and done so by men.
And women have eaten that lie for thousands of years.
But the Spirit brings all things to remembrance. The Spirit reminds me of the garden, of how my true nature is not sin. My true nature has always been perfection. It’s the lie that robs me of the joy of my created purpose.
I was created to love.
But what about those days when I don’t feel loved? When the thoughts of rejection come back, when someone does less than loving things to me, says less than loving words to me, what then?
The answer is and has always been, to love.
I realized that someone’s lack of love for me did not mean I was less than worthy of love. It just meant that they have issues they need to deal with.
Giving love will never leave me empty. It’s not like giving away all my cookies and being left without cookies. When I give away love, I develop more love. It comes from within.
The more love I give, the more I have to give away.
Love isn’t something I need to look for elsewhere. It’s inside of me. It won’t be found ‘out there’.
To get love flowing, I just need to give love, even if it’s in cuddling a kitten, watering my garden, or snuggling with my children or spouse. Give love.
These are easy ways to start the flow of love, because they are the most likely to receive my love and love me in return.
When I spend time loving my garden, I really focus on the love I’m giving to the plants as I water them. I pay close attention to how pulling weeds is a loving action in order to protect the plants. I’m careful not to overwater them. I don’t want to turn my plants into victims of drowning. I also don’t want to be forgetful to water them and make them victims of neglect. I need to balance my love by giving my love elsewhere too.
I spend time brushing my cats and dog, keeping the cat box clean, making sure they have dental bones to help protect their teeth. I pet them and tell them how much I love them.
I spend time with my husband and children. I make their favorite foods, help them with homework and give them hugs.
But I could not find the strength to love my garden, my pets, and my family had I not first learned to love myself.
There is so much pressure to avoid being selfish that I ended up putting myself last and rendering myself helpless. I end up overworked and left feeling like a slave.
There is nothing wrong with loving myself. I’m not talking about giving in to selfishness where I toss everyone aside for my own desires. I’m talking about protecting myself and tending to my basic needs.
When I love myself and those around me, I am building up love and the strength to love others who are less than loving toward me. I’m not sure I’m cured of depression, only time will tell. However, I will keep working on building up love in myself by protecting myself and giving myself what I need to overcome.
Again, I’m not under the supervision of a doctor, but I’m doing everything I can to make life happy and joyful through educating myself about having good mental health, proper nutrition, taking herbal supplements, getting good rest, pursuing spiritual growth, giving love, and avoiding triggers that would steal my peace.
Depression doesn’t have to rule my life.