So there we were, my two littlest girls and I, creating another batch of playdoh cookies. The girls were happily mashing discs of colorless playdoh together to make “oreos” while blissfully singing another round of Baby Shark, Space Unicorn. and Spaghetti Cat; I sat across from them. Sobbing.
I am not talking about a loud boo-hooing, ugly cry. This was an ominous, reckless torrent of silent tears. They continually brimmed, poured over my eyelids, ran down my face, collected under my chin and pooled onto the plastic craft table. Brimmed and poured. Brimmed and poured. I had to use a kitchen towel to sop it all up. This was for about the fifth day in a row.
Crying while playing playdoh just means that I am a high-functioning malcontent.
–Or–maybe it signifies the return of my malady.
Is there a healthy way to battle depression?
How do I get through this tunnel? It seems so so long. I don’t know. But when I am in it, I am sick. Truly ill, and recognizing that makes me feel a little more free. I know I have done everything in my power not to feel this way, for it not to be true, to reason my way out of it, to ensure I have the right nutrition and chemical balance.
But it just is.
Do you see how everything starts with the word “I”? I this, I that. What a shamefully selfish place to be. I am so self-involved. Jarrod Jones wrote about this in his Ten Ways to Support Someone with Mental Illness. This is an inherently selfish disease, but what disease is not? You can break your pinkie toe, and the pain will take over everything in your day, become all you can think about.
Depression is much the same way. I can’t think about anything else, I just want it to stop. And so I have to wait. I must wait well.
I wake up in the morning and think–am I going to be better today?
Let me get my coffee and hopefully this fog will vanish.
It’s still here.
Is this real?–Is this in my head?–Am I making a choice?
I have found some freedom in resignation, akin to moving on in the stages of grief. I don’t like this about myself, and I scratch to get away from it all. But it festers like a nasty emotional infection. I can’t undo any of this with all the positive thinking in the world. So I wait. I am not going to try to hash it out anymore. I am going to just settle. Just be.
I do everything I can to wait with my dignity and grace intact:
I talk less. I do less. Plenty of good comes from doing and saying less. I take comfort in that. I relish the quiet time with my husband. There’s nothing more to discuss about all this. If I can’t change myself, he certainly can’t change me. So we sit quietly. He sits next to me shoulder to shoulder. Holds my hand. We enjoy a quiet cup of coffee. A funny episode of TV.
I fall asleep earlier. The storm in my head makes me tired. I crave silence and wear earplugs to block everything out.
Am I being mean to my family?
They deserve an upbeat mother who throws parties and is a cheerleader.
They are getting quiet-me.
I am still functioning. Doing laundry, making all meals, making sure they are all bathed and fed. I make lunches and make sure everyone gets hugs and kisses even if I feel like an empty ghost. I get up and take the little ones for an outing. That’s worth something. They have quiet-me to take them around.
That has to be better than couch-me.
I still attend my bible study groups. I still host my brown bag lunch group. Even though I feel utterly disconnected, I go through the motions, and the motions matter. I won’t stop trying. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. That is what I am doing for my family. They have to know that I am doing everything I can.
I say “I love you” to everyone.
That’s everything I can do, regardless of how I feel.
What will people think?
There are recognizable triggers for my crashes but I don’t need to unpack them here.
My mindchaos makes no sense to people who see my happy marriage, five healthy children, an “adventurous” life, my health, and the myriad of other blessings I enjoy daily. People in my closest circles, with whom I have privately shared my struggle, have literally recoiled before me. It’s bewildering when someone reacts to me that way.
I have begged my family not to share my situation with anyone…because I don’t want to be labeled “a negative person” and then written off entirely. I don’t want my cyclical melancholy weirdness to interfere in friendships or cause someone to feel rejected. So, in a rather desperate bid to be understood, I’ve started selectively telling my friends about my struggle with this.
But what if they don’t believe in depression?
Transparency is risky.
The most crushing reality of all this mess is how I feel untied from my husband. I see the look of helplessness on his face and another layer of guilt grows. I can see how my hurting hurts him. I best get myself together, and quickly before the tide turns, and *he* just can’t anymore.
This scripture I’ve read 100 times before, but it came freshly alive in the midst of all the quiet and fear and darkness. It was sheer light breaking through.
- Am I broken?
Yes. A thousand times yes.
- Am I contrite?
I wake up and empty out my pockets to God every day.
I know the twofold root of my mess:
1. A messed up (sinful/selfish) heart.
2. Not being exempt from the disappointments and maladies of our broken world.
Still, brokenness overcomes me and whittles me down to the bone.
But all this: the feelings, the anguish, the spirit of confusion, the quietness…
NONE OF IT IS DESPISED by God.
What breath that is for me when I feel like I can’t find air.
I’ll continually pursue healing, and
- like this.
God is here–He is near to the brokenhearted, saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps. 34:18)
He won’t recoil.