If there was ever a week to write about depression, this seems to be it.
With the genocide that's taking place elsewhere in the world, I'm both dumbfounded at the publicity one celebrity's crisis can cause, yet grateful for the moment being taken to address the seriousness of mental illness. Horrific things happen. Everywhere. We are a broken world.
We are all living in a turbulent space where we can watch silly cat videos on YouTube one second and directly follow them up with reading an article about the beheading of Christians an ocean away. Then we click our iPhone off and stir our spaghetti and send our kids to time-out and distract ourselves with the only constants we can depend on like laundry and dirty dishes, and the world continues to spin. Messed up, right? This is the broken world we live in, and we're all doing our best to survive.
I don't have anything to say about Robin Williams. I didn't know him any better than most of you, and while I'm incredibly indebted to him to have experienced narratives through his lens as an actor, I truly knew nothing of him as a person, let alone a fellow broken human being. This is to say, I want to tell you about my depression, and I don't want to mislead you in anyway that I have an inkling as to what he felt or experienced in any way, shape, or form.
That's one of the mysteries of depression - there are enough commonalities with the diagnosis that we can draw a line in the sand and say "You need help, and You don't" (by the way, FALSE, we all need help) but it runs a wide spectrum of actual experience, and therefore confusion tends to build with each and every story that's expressed.
I can remember the day when I woke up and took my first Zoloft. I remember thinking "Today, I'm a person who has to be medicated to function normally." It felt awful. There was nothing courageous or hopeful about it for me in the moment. I felt weak, dumb, inadequate, and questioned the God I kept placing my faith in. Where was He? Why didn't I feel better? How could this be His best for me?
I felt very alone. I had never known anyone who was depressed before, let alone someone who needed to be medicated for it. In fact, it would be years before I would find out that I actually did know people around me at the time who had gone through similar experiences, but at this point in my life it was quite taboo to talk about such things, so I became as secretive as they had in my going to therapy and seeking help. So, I created my own silo to heal in, and rarely let anyone in.
I didn't know how to feel, why to feel, or what to change in order to feel differently. I could list reasons for days of everything I had to live for, be grateful for, to praise God for; yet the cloud would not lift. I could smile at parties, put on a decent facade, and only hours later be fighting demons in the night that held my joy hostage.
The bottom line was, I didn't know what to do. There were times when suicide seemed rational. Times when building a time machine and going to live in a new universe seemed more plausible than ever finding actual healing. Times when I wished God hadn't burdened those around me with my existence. Times I have every reason to feel shame for, yet by the grace of God can only look back on with gratitude and heartache.
Depression, for me, was a perfect storm which I survived, not unscathed. It was biological, circumstantial, hormonal, environmental, spiritual, and psychological. It's root was multi-faceted, and therefore, my treatment became mulit-sourced. Every part of my life was affected by my depression, therefore, every part of my life had to be marked by change as I changed.
Little by little, the cloud dissipated, and I live a life free from the grip of depression today. Let it not go unnoticed that for years, I thought this was impossible. I thought this kind of freedom was reserved for those luckier than I - those who were privileged with extreme optimism, deeper faith, or extraordinary support. Yet, here I am, a survivor and ever grateful.
We can't live in silos any longer. I'm joining the conversation of depression with this post because I want to continue the exposure, and extinguish the stigma. The shame that's attached to depression is rooted in an insecurity that we all have: the thought that I can't handle this. That's right. YOU CAN'T. We were not meant to handle life alone. We were not made to hide from help. We were not created to shut out sources of healing. And, as grisly or uncomfortable as this life gets, the only way to break down these silos is to share our broken hearts and stories of healing.
Christ alone has the power to bring recovery - but, He most often is gracious to include us in the process. My recovery included dozens of people, books, therapists, science, medication, encouraging words, loving acts of service, prayer, and the list goes on an on. Christ utilizes time, resources, and relationships. He didn't create us to find power within ourselves, He made us to relate to one another in our weaknesses, finding Him through the process.
Guys - I'm becoming a THERAPIST. I'm joining the professional industry of mental health workers out there, and I'M A BROKEN PERSON. I hope this sinks in for you. I'm not "fixed and ready to fix others". I'm actively seeking help from multiple sources on a consistent basis, and I am honored to join in the process of someone else on their journey of reaching out for help.
A decade ago, I was embarrassed to admit I needed help. I was ashamed I saw a therapist. And now I'm becoming one. Don't worry, I'm not trying to recruit you. Not all of us were called to a mental health as a vocation; but ALL of us have a story, a voice, a time and place we can reach across silos and expose brokenness for what it really is: LIFE.
This life is ugly, filled with doubt and horror, but we are not alone, and we are not without hope. The stories that bring us together are often the hardest ones to tell. Encourage bravery, seek help, and take confidence that our story is not yet finished.