Thursday, December 4, 2008

Depression, pt 1.

I'm talking about depression not in the economic sense but in the psychological one.

As someone who's struggled with depression for many, many years, it's always kind of scary when it creeps up on you.

Suddenly you realize that you aren't happy. It takes twice the energy to get out of bed, to do your work, and sometimes even to eat. Everything is draining. People go on happily around you, frequently not noticing your pain. You're all alone in suffering.

In that time of isolation the thought would frequently come to me: I don't deserve to be happy. That would be my brain's mechanism for keeping me depressed. Everything would be a sign that I wasn't good enough, attractive enough, smart enough. When it takes a ton of energy just to keep going physically, it takes even more energy --energy I don't seem to have-- to challenge that kind of thinking, and, besides, it seems wrong to say that I'm not fundamentally and absolutely evil and despicable.

Those are very dark moments. Happiness is but a fleeting memory, and it sometimes feels like a sin to smile (when you can even muster up the energy to smile).

It is in those moments that I have learned a lot about the Gospel and grace. Instead of seeing myself as lower than a worm, I reflect on God's immense love for all. There is nothing that I can do to earn that love. Nothing at all! I'm not good enough, attractive enough or smart enough to merit God's love, as God's already given me his love. God won't withdraw love because I say something stupid or have a bad hair day.

I also recall Christ's command for us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I know that I am called to love my neighbor, but I'm also called to love myself. I can't hate those whom God loves, right? Just as I am not allowed to sit in judgment over others, neither am I allowed to sit in my own judgment. Strangely, being humble means submitting to God's judgment in this case. Self-hatred is not piety.

I'm sure that I'll never 'get over' depression. Whenever I think I'm doing fine, it will be there for a brief moment to remind me that I'm not healed from it. It brings me to tears, but it is a pain that can be my cross not as divine punishment but as a blessing to others. Suffering from depression teaches me that many, many people suffer from isolation, abandonment, and mental illness. While I can't ever understand exactly what they're going through, I do know what incredible pain depression causes me in my own life. No one should have to suffer rejection because of their mental illness; it is horrible enough to be your own worst enemy and to hate yourself. My own pain teaches me sympathy and empathy, and it calls me to (with the help of God) share God's grace with others. God's grace is our rock, our safe port in the storm.

PS As you can probably guess, I have been dealing with a bout of depression recently. Things are going better now, but I ask your prayers for all those who are currently suffering from depression, especially those who do not know or believe the immense love God has for them.

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