“Some people turn sad awfully young,” he said. “No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.” –Mr. Jonas to Douglas in Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
I’m struck with a deep, profound sadness sometimes. There’s no discernible trigger, no circumstance. Nothing “happens.” It just is. A dark emptiness falls and casts its heavy shadow over every part my living. This sadness, it happens a lot to people like me. People existing with this insidious illness called depression. It saps the life and energy clean out of us, as sure as any other “real” disease. Simple things like getting out of bed or eating become overwhelming, monumental tasks. And a hazy fog settles over life, distorting the days or weeks or months with a thick veil.
And the light of a thousand candle-prayers can’t chase it away.
For nearly twenty years I’ve fought this darkness. See, people who’ve had one major depressive episode are increasingly more likely to relapse, making my odds of relapse about…100%. The funny thing is most people have no idea. I’ve gotten really good at pretending. At dutifully wearing a mask of happiness, because “nobody wants to see a sad face.”
And I’ve heard nearly every reason this illness is my fault. And usually those reasons come down to I’m not doing enough to be a good Christian. I’m not praying enough, I’m not reading the Bible enough, I have some sin I haven’t confessed—and if I just had more faith, I’d be healed. Because good Christians—real Christians—don’t get depressed.
I have high blood pressure too. Is that a result of lack of faith? If I prayed more or studied the Bible more, would my blood pressure return to normal? Do real Christians not have high blood pressure?
See how silly that all sounds? I can’t pray away depression any more than I can pray away high blood pressure. So why do I keep secret the pills that regulate the chemicals in my brain but not the ones that lower my blood pressure?
Because I still think it’s my fault. That there’s something in me that’s lacking and surely, someday, I’ll find that last piece of the puzzle and be well.
I think I found it.
See, Jesus, he never promised life wouldn’t hurt. He promised the opposite—“in this world you will have trouble.” And that means that disease and illness and sorrow and pain are a part of life. Bad things happen, sometimes for no apparent reason. People get sick. Worlds go dark. Life is messy and hard and ugly and nobody ever talks about that because it doesn’t fit with our idea of abundant life. But the upside of that promise of trouble is the guarantee that he has overcome the world, and that my strength and joy is found in him and his power. Ultimately, he wins. And Jesus is what makes life beautiful. He takes hold of the ugly and shakes it right out until his beauty shines in and through life.
It takes whole lifetimes.
So those days I wake up feeling fragile, and that homesick, heartsick longing for home creeps in, that yearning for a place I’ve never seen but know because he set it in my heart from the beginning; I can grab hold of the promise that this is not the end.
And when I struggle to believe what I know is true, when I’m wrecked and bruised and all I’ve got is a strangled, broken “Jesus…” I have to trust that it’s enough. And it is, even though it doesn’t always appear to be. Because I’m never anywhere the Lord doesn’t know about and isn’t right in the middle of with me.
And just maybe it’s him pressing in, drawing me closer.
© stephanie g pepper, 2013
for a thorough, serious yet amusing, spot-on blog post about depression, visit Allie at Hyperbole and a Half.