There are certain things in life that are very difficult, dare I say impossible, to comprehend unless you have experienced them for yourself. There are those things I have not experienced that I can still say that about with confidence, and there are those things I can say that about with certainty because of my experience. I would only dare to speak though, to those things I have experienced.
I'm writing this blog laying in bed, in the middle of the night on my cell phone because I am too restless to sleep. It's been a long, difficult and challenging day, even though from the outside looking in that might not seem at all obvious. When I woke up this morning I could almost SEE the cloud of depression as it blew in from origins unknown. It's as though it was waiting for me to wake.
I would venture to say it came in with a dessert wind as these last few weeks have felt very much like a spiritual desert-- dry, difficult-- the Lord has seemed mostly silent, despite my persistent efforts to be faithfully in the Word and prayer every morning. It's like I've lost my spiritual signal in the desert, and no communication is coming through.
Both the desert and depression are difficult, together they can be completely overwhelming, but if you've never experienced them, apart or together, they can be almost impossible to comprehend.
My worst experience with the depression and desert pairing happened about five years ago, and to a certain degree they lasted for nearly three years. It was probably the most gut wrenching experience of my life, and it was primarily misunderstood or even completely unnoticed by the people around me. That's the thing about deserts and depression, they can be well masked-- smiling on the outside while falling apart on the inside, functioning in life while feeling like your spirit might die.
I remember a lot of nights during that two year stretch, slipping away to be alone and just trying so hard to pour my heart out before God, begging Him even at times to just take me home into his presence, begging not to wake up the next day. But the sun kept rising, and I kept having to get up with it, to be the wife, the mom, the daughter, the employee... I functioned in my life because I had to. For me I was never suicidal, but I could picture myself cutting myself to release the strain. I never did it, but I could see it in my mind's eye.
I did hurt myself with food, however. I'm not a drinker or a drug user, but I can absolutely understand the compulsion, and I ate with the same fervent compulsion as the alcoholic drinks or the drug addict uses. But nobody ever calls out the fat girl for gaining back weight.
It's really hard to reach out and talk to other people about deserts and depression, because if they don't understand it, their well-intentioned advice usually only makes matters worse. "You shouldn't feel that way," they'll say, or "you just need to think positive," they'll admonish. And suddenly you start to wonder if the desert and depression is really your own fault. Even people who have had the desert or depression experience can be limited in how helpful they can be because there is no simple solution-- and the temptation to assume what helped them will automatically be successful for others can be problematic. This scenario makes me think of Job and his overly confident friends.
Depression and desert seasons are like dirty little secrets in the church. Christians aren't "supposed" to have these kinds of struggles. The joy of the Lord is supposed to be or strength, and it's impossible to fathom the existence of a desert or depression in its presence... and yet.
I'm not writing this blog because I feel like I have answers, I guess rather my intention is to just be real and say, "I love Jesus with all my heart, and yet sometimes I find myself in a very painful dark place." Battling depression or feeling distant from God does not negate my love for Him, nor does it even diminish my faith. I guess really in some ways it proves my faith when I'm able to hold on, if only by a strand, even in the midst of being completely overwhelmed.
I do feel so unsettled, and like I'm in a battle against the dark cloud that wants to consume me. It's not to the degree it was five years ago, but it's enough that I remember the pain from before. So I try to push back, first and foremost with prayer-- my own as well as the prayers of faithful friends. That may be the biggest difference between this time and five years ago-- then I felt far more alone. The cloud before succeeded in isolating me, even though it's trying this time I have learned to recognize the danger of withdrawal. So I reach out, I talk about it, I try to stay as open and honest as I can, though carefully so. Even people who know me and love me, maybe even BECAUSE they know me and love me, can be tempted to say things like "don't feel that way." Or they might try to assign fault to my temperament instead of being able to understand that this is really as much an outward battle as an inward one.
The cloud is thick, it tries to rush in and cover me, isolating, but also it makes me very raw, that makes reaching out to others harder because on top of being challenged and tired it makes me highly sensitive and prone to hurt. That's just a hard place to be.
I guess my hope is for a fresh wind, a refreshing wind from the Holy Spirit, to blow coolly in and push back the cloud of depression and whisper away the dry desert season. It's really the only answer that brings hope... not that the depression and desert won't happen, but that they can be battled back, not even so much by me, but for me by the living, loving God, who even when He seems distant and silent is still there, still for me, still letting nothing separate me from The reality of His love, even when I am lost to the sense if it.
I know this blog will probably be lost on most people, but if it's read by just one person who needs to hear it, then the self-exposure is worth it. Just know, it's not just you, you are NOT the only one... Hang on to whatever strands you can fit as long as you can... You may not see it now, but God is still there, still working, and He will break through and draw you out of the cloud. Don't give up. God is still good.
Apologies for what I am certain is innumerable typos and grammatical errors, typing on my phone is convenient, not necessarily conducive to great writing. I hope the message got through here anyway.