Continuing our series on a hard topic. Today’s story of a life lived with depression is extra-dear to my heart. It’s my friend Delaine’s story, told in her own words (and you’ll see that she’s got a beautiful way with them). Dela and I have been friends for a few years, and she’d shared some hard stuff with me, but I never knew the extent of it.
Her story is heartbreaking yet hopeful, and I continue to pray for complete healing in her heart, mind, and soul.
I’ve been working for a few months on an e-book about our lives in the midst of Gabe’s anxiety, panic, and depression. I’m reading back through old journals and understanding for the first time that I had no real capacity to feel true empathy for Gabe. I had bright, shining moments every now and again, sure, but much of the time, I was so angry and bitter and frustrated and hurt, wondering why on earth he wouldn’t TRY TO GET BETTER.
Dela’s story illuminates so much of Gabe’s pain and suffering for me. She put words to feelings he could not. And, for that, I’m forever grateful to her. I know her words will be a gift to so many people who feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of trying to explain their pain in a way others will understand.
Dela’s husband, Jon, is a beautiful human being and a better spouse than I will ever be, but he’s not a martyr. He loves Dela with all his heart, and he would choose her all over again. She is a gorgeous treasure with a million things to offer this world, and I hope she knows that deep inside her soul today.
(Photo credit: Marla Taviano + her photogenic subjects.)
Depression… I feel like I can write for an entire day on this subject or equally sit in front of my laptop for an entire day, fingers hovering over the keys and type nothing at all because Depression has been paralyzing.
Everyone experiences it differently, so I hear. Mine begins like a worm or a leech. I can feel it attaching to me like parasite on my upper back. It’s hard to reach and I struggle to identify what’s latching onto me. All I know is Deep Darkness of sadness, negativity, inactivity are burrowing into my day, into my soul.
So I take a few St. John’s Worts. I walk in the sun. I have dinner dates with my husband and girlfriends. I refrain from alcohol. I watch comedies, and I start to pray a lot more. Still, Deep Darkness slowly (over two weeks or so) makes its way in and begins to grow. I am now carrying around this foreign, but familiar, entity, and by this time, only the people who live with me know it’s back.
At this stage, I begin to brace myself. I tell myself it will not be as bad this time, that I don’t have to fall completely victim to it, that I can resist. But the worm grows and fills my chest. Sadness turns into despair anyway. Negativity turns into hatred anyway. Inactivity turns into a violent demand to be completely alone (which is bad when you have three small children).
I watch as my husband and kids try to hold on to me while simultaneously being repelled by the invisible force of Deep Darkness. (I believe it is only the miracle of the shared faith we have in the Power of Jesus that our family hasn’t been torn apart by that shredding force of Deep Darkness.)
When I am forced to or concede to go to church, I study people’s faces, trying to detect if they see past my smile, hear past my giggles, and can, too, feel the repellent, the Darkness.
Every now and then, someone will discover me, and will say, “Are you really alright? How can I pray for you?” And I share fast and light. “I’m going through a bout of depression right now and it sucks.”
Sometimes I say this through tears if I’m speaking to a friend. Other times, I say it with a homicidal steel-ness. Because Leave. Me. Alone.
At the peak of Deep Darkness, when the worm seems to be wrapped around my sternum and lungs like a Caduceus, I start to enter the Land of Nevers. “I’ll never want sex again. I’ll never be effective in India with this darkness–no team will ever want me. I’ll never be of value to my in-laws–they were right to not want me. I’ll never be what Jon deserves–or the kids, for that matter. I should just not be here. I wish I were not here. And then this burden, this pain that I keep inflicting on my husband, this crazy mind and dark heart that I’ve tricked him into loving and wanting, he’ll be free of it. I’m not the best I can be for him. I shouldn’t be here. He’ll thank me later.”
At night, I dream of jumping off bridges.
In the day, I imagine what impact from my roof would feel like.
With my luck, I’d only break a few bones, wind up in the hospital and everything gets worse. Or maybe what I grew up learning about God is true… maybe if I take my own life, I go to Hell automatically. I hate to admit this, but it’s true: the fear of eternal damnation, as superstitious as it may sound, has kept me from doing many things during the peak of Deep Darkness.
The worst part of it is knowing that my kids, MY children, are growing up with me as a mother.
I fasten my grip with white knuckles to what I can, usually my family and my God. I go back and forth seeking God just to arrive at His feet and blame Him for my disease. I blame Him for allowing me to be susceptible, the perfect host to my worm.
Over several more weeks, I, with relief and skepticism, begin to feel the worm shrink. The Deep Darkness begins to lose opacity and I start to enjoy being alive again. It’s not like a wind blows and the dark clouds are whipped away–it’s more like I’m just a bit less sad, less negative, less isolated. I notice that, when I’m coming out of it, I start to talk about it, sharing with others becomes easier.
But I still have apprehension, because I don’t know fully why it’s lifting and getting better NOW in the first place. Did prayers work? Did my brain chemistry re-balance? WAS IS THE ST. JOHNS WORTS???
When it is truly all over, Jon and I usually debrief over a dinner date. We share the high and lows of the experience. We reunite. We worship. We praise God for victory. We encourage one another.
No matter how long my worm stays (whether 6 weeks or 52) I am a bit changed by the experience.
I am changed by knowing I have ALWAYS made it out and each time, it’s gotten shorter, but not easier.