I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety my entire life.
As I’ve grown up, and gotten healthier (emotionally, physically, spiritually), I’ve had fewer and fewer seasons of depression. Even when the seasons come, they tend to last weeks, rather than months or years. But recently I dipped into one of my familiar seasons once again and caught myself thinking what I always think:
Here we go again.
I tend to think of depression like this: like getting caught in a riptide—the best thing to do is just let your body go limp and wait for the wave to spit you out when it’s finished. Fighting for the surface of the water would be pointless and impossible. You don’t know which way is up.
This is the worst part about depression, if you ask me.
It’s not that it makes your brain cloudy, or steals your interest in all of your favorite things. I mean, it sucks that it makes you gain weight and takes away all your energy and forces you into bed at weird times of the day to take naps.
But the worst part about depression is the “here we go again” feeling. It’s the part I never recognize as awful while I’m in it, but when I’m on the other side, I’m all like, “What the hell was that? And why on earth did I feel so powerless to stop it?
I was talking to a friend about my depression this most recent time around, and she asked me a question I found to be helpful. She asked:
What if you don’t have to do this forever?
If she were to ask me that when I was in a season of depression, it probably wouldn’t have felt as helpful as it did. There’s nothing more insulting than being caught in a riptide and having someone yell to you, from the shoreline, “swim!” But her timing was good. The “ride” was over and I was laying on the shore, coughing up water and praying I never had to go through that again.
I was vulnerable enough to take any advice I could get.
So I let myself think about her question, and what I realized was this: I had always assumed my battle with depression would be lifelong.
I figured it was a part of me.
It was part of how I was made, how I was built.
Of course, there is all kinds of research that would back me up in that claim. Brain chemistry plays a role in depression and some personalities are more prone to it than others. But what struck me in that moment was that my belief that depression was just “a part of me” was leading me to deal with depression in a really specific way.
Actually, it was leading me to not deal with it.
Why would you deal with a problem you can’t fix?
My idea about depression was leaving me at the mercy of depression, allowing it to come and take over my life whenever it saw fit.
So I decided to get pissed.
After all, this is the thing I can’t do when I’m depressed. I can’t get angry or up in arms about anything. Maybe if I stayed mad at depression—mad that it had stolen so many years from me, mad that it had tricked me into thinking I couldn’t be different—maybe then I had a shot at getting rid of it.
Maybe then I would find healing was possible—like the man who reached his crippled hand out to Jesus (“Do you want to be well?”)
Maybe then I would reach out, myself.
I don’t expect that it’s going to be get better overnight.
Nothing ever does. Life isn’t perfect, and every good thing takes work. I’ll probably get depressed again. But I’m choosing to believe depression isn’t part of me, it’s not attached to me, it’s not an unsolvable problem that I’ll deal with for the rest of my life. I’m choosing to believe there is hope.
If for no other reason than it helps me to feel like myself.