This week the world lost a comedic genuis in Robin Williams. My Facebook feed has been completely lit up with heartfelt sorrow over his death. But there are also some haters out there. Condemning him. And I wonder if they really know what they are talking about. Because if they did, I don’t think they’d be so flip.
Do you know depression? Because I do. Depression is my dirty little secret and the dark hole I often live inside. Depression has stolen an awful lot from me. It’s taken from my family. It’s caused them pain and worry. Depression is an ugly, ugly thing.
Do you know depression?
I was a young and idealistic mom-to-be when our first daughter was born. I had so many hopes and dreams for her. And also for me. I recognize now that so often, especially when we are young, we’re not overly realistic in our views of such things but yeah, that’s where I was right down to a birth plan which included a drug-free delivery. And I did well but after 85ish hours of non-stop contractions and transition and pushing, my life spun out of control. A week later, after an emergent c-section, massive blood loss and surgery to try save future childbearing options, I was discharged from the hospital with a baby I wasn’t even released to pick up by myself. I had a huge come to Jesus moment in the car on the way home: I.didn’t.have.a.clue.what.to.do.
I’d love to tell you than I prayed, the skies opened up and I just instinctively knew what to do. Sadly, no can do. That would be a lie.
But what did happen was that at some point I realized that I was up to my eyeballs in what could only be called post partum depression. And for some reason I felt the need to control it rather than ask for help. I flat out lied to my OB at my next visit. Lied. Because the perception we have of someone with depression is that they are less than. Broken. Goodness knows that’s how I felt.
Those days were so incredibly dark and yet joyful at the same time. I loved my daughter with all my heart while at the same time I just knew she’d be better off without me and my instabliity in her life. I took joy in each sweet smile she blessed us with even though there were days I couldn’t pick myself up off my bedroom floor while she played around me. I loved being a mom with every fiber of my being but I hated what it had done to me. I hallucinated. I thought the oven would destroy my child if I got too near. Or that I’d drop her out the window of our second floor apartment if I got too close. I couldn’t go anywhere for months. I was crippled.
And before you suggest the obvious, yes, I prayed. I prayed and prayed and prayed. And cried. And felt lost and alone. Because sometimes we pray and pain is healed instantly. And sometimes it isn’t. But does that mean God loves us any less?
No, it does not.
I believe there is a whole lot of talk about depression but not a whole lot of understanding. I’m still embarrassed by my depressive tendencies all these years later. Because they are still there, sadly. I’ve often felt free to talk about PPD because the assumption is that eventually you’ll wake up, after baby starts sleeping through the night or some such milestone and poof! You’ll be better. Hooray!
But for many of us, PPD is just the beginning. And then depression comes in waves over the course of a lifetime. Never predictible. And we try not to indulge it. We try everything we can to fill that black hole that threatenes to turn us inside out. Because depression isn’t just being sad. That’s such a trivial explanation. Depression is a soul sucking darkness that threatens to overtake you at any moment. It’s a battle. A war you feel like you’ll never win. And some days you’re just done trying. Done trying to keep on top of it. Done trying this and that to make it stop. Just done. And there are days, and I’d be lying if I said I never had one of these, where it just feels like the most self-LESS thing you can do is disappear from this world. Because our dark threatens to overtake and destroy those we love most. And in those dark moments of screaming loss, we all choose a different path. Sometimes there is a faint glimmer in the distance we can grasp. Just a small bit of hope. But sometimes, sometimes there is nothing. And suddenly a dark eternity in the now is all there is.
I think it’s important to remember that everyone around us is fighting a battle of some sort. And most of us try our best to hide our imperfect selves from the world. I well remember thinking that I must not be a “real Christian” because I suffered from depression, because I needed medication at one point, because I was broken. But the reality is that believers aren’t exempt from the things of this fallen world. In fact, Christ himself promised that we’d have trouble. We don’t get a free pass. It is going to happen and for some of us that trouble is depression.
So how do we as a body do anything at all? Care. Be a friend. Listen. Really listen. When you ask someone how they are and they tell you they are fine, look them in the eye and see what the real story is. If someone seems different, ask them if you can help. Even something as simple reaching out and asking how you can pray for someone can bless them. Sometimes we just need to know that people see us and they care.
This world is hard. But we were called to be a light in a dark world, right? Sometimes that light is very, very small. But even a single match lights up an entire room. Reach out. Be a friend. Goodness, just come alongside someone and be with them. They don’t need you to fix their problems. They know you can’t. But what they do need to know is that they matter. And are loved. And not judged.
Just be Jesus to them. And in those sacred moments your light will shine just exactly as He intended.