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Hello Depression, My Old Friend…

 

Real and Raw

Welcome to this installment in the series REAL AND RAW – SOUL-STIRRING STORIES, a series focused on taking a candid look at the Faith and life’s struggles as we journey to heaven. Being Catholic doesn’t mean you won’t suffer–in fact, Jesus promises we’re likely to suffer even more for being His disciple. But Catholics often feel self-conscious about admitting to doubt, confusion, sorrow, or anger in their relationship with God. We want the world to be attracted to our beautiful faith, so we minimize the darkness and emphasize the light in our lives, usually at the expense of authenticity. Yet there’s value in sharing our journey in all its shades–in admitting there are gray and black days, too. We offer these stories to let our suffering readers know they’re not alone–we’re in the trenches with you and so is God, who loves us and has a divine purpose for pain, even if it’s hard to see or accept in the moment. Most importantly, we hope these stories give hope to readers…hope that there is help and that they will survive. And one day, they will make it out of the darkness and be stronger for it.


 

Hello depression, my old friend,
You’ve come to talk with me again…

It was a lazy Sunday morning. A perfect opportunity to indulge in scrolling through social media while lounging in bed. Nothing earth-shattering appeared. I continued past the silly friend posts, the recipes, the political satires…the day beckoned, but I lingered. Just a few minutes more.

“High-functioning depression is a slow-burn, invisible but powerful.” I stared at the words, almost unable to breathe. Led almost by something outside of myself, I clicked on the link. They were her words, but they were my thoughts. Tears began making their way down my cheeks. Not now, I thought. I’m not ready. But some things in life don’t wait. Reality roughly shoved the imposter aside. Denial’s reign was over.

The death of my mother five years ago. My oldest daughter moving several states away. A change in my husband’s employment. Reduced finances. Downsizing to a new home. Juggling homeschooling and going back to work after many years. Health issues. Marriage issues. Precancer. A challenging surgery with a difficult recovery. Each considered a major life event in the mental health field. I know because I lead a mental health support group once a week.  

I struggled to regain my composure, but the more I read, the more I felt myself slipping. I made some lame excuse for not going to Mass (totally not my usual m.o.), and my family left without me. The silence was deafening. I crawled back under the sheets and it all came back to me as if it were yesterday. The darkness, the fear, the numbness… desperately wanting to end the pain, the three days in the hospital, adjusting to medication, counseling. The temptation to lie there and let it all cover me again was too tempting. No, I fought. Not again. Anything but there.

Like a victim being held at gunpoint, self-preservation kicked in. My mind raced, despite feeling defenseless, for any and all escapes from this intrusive, unwanted companion. The recent words of a dear friend telling me I was strong rang in my ears as I shoved the intruder aside and mustered the courage to get up to face the day. The hours passed slowly but somehow, despite by my own feelings of internal paralysis, plans for my defense took shape. I decided to face it head-on. I made a date with Depression.

The next morning found me driving east in the dark. The first rays of light began to show as I headed to where I knew I could ground myself enough to face whatever lay ahead. I pulled into the almost vacant parking lot and walked out onto the cool sand just minutes before the first hint of sunlight began to show itself over the horizon. I took it all in – the crashing waves, the early morning cries of the seagulls, the colors emerging in vibrant patterns against the darkness of the night clouds. It was time. I turned to walk along the shoreline, ankle deep in the receding tide and reached out to grasp Depression’s hand. It was eerily familiar, yet different. A flood of thoughts, feelings, and emotions hit me. In the past, I would have screamed back through tears at this supposed “friend”. But this time, I felt I was to listen. Ok, I thought, then just what is it you have to say?

The “voice” was repulsive, yet equally alluring. As I listened, I felt as if I were touching the darkness of the depths of the ocean despite wading in ankle-deep water. Contradictions and “truths” revealed themselves one after another:

There are days I will make you feel nothing.  There are days I will make you feel everything.

There are days I will make you examine every minute detail of your life.  There are days I won’t let you care about even one detail of your life.

I will make you think someone else is responsible for your mental health and then rob you of the ability to take control of your life.

I will make you doubt everything about your faith, your family, your friends, and mostly yourself, until I am your only companion.

I will make you blind to the good in your life so that all you see is what you deem bad or wrong in your life.

The “voice” went silent, as if it was holding its breath, waiting for my usual response- panic, despair, tears. I sat down, buried my toes in the sand, and took out my phone to journal my thoughts. As I looked out over the waves, I knew I had a decision to make. Listen to this persistent “friend” or reach for the tools I had gained over the years in counseling and cognitive behavioral training? With a deep breath, I opened the notes section and addressed my “friend”.

You are a liar. I will acknowledge whatever you make me feel, but I will let the feelings rise and fall. And most importantly, I will learn from them.

You are a tempter and a thief. I will not obsess over or be apathetic about the details of my life, but seek peace in the events of each day knowing “it could always be worse” and that the details are worth seeing.

You are a blamer. I refuse to make someone else responsible for my mental health, as that is too big to ask of anyone. I have the ability take full responsibility for my mental wellbeing and happiness, no matter what I am feeling.  

You are possessive and a doubter. I acknowledge your presence in my life, but I will not be yours. I will not doubt my faith, my family, my friends, or myself; I will learn what it means to trust.

You are all smoke and mirrors. I will see past the “blindness” to embrace both the good as well as the crosses in my life and see them for what they are- all opportunities to encounter the divine in my life.

Today, I choose life. I promise to work on what I do not like in myself and to be merciful to what I find displeasing in others. I will take time to do one thing each day for myself and to show up where I am called to be. I will “Stay and find out what I was made for.” Because God is bigger than you will ever be.

The late morning sun’s warmth fell over me as I stood up and tucked my phone into my back pocket. I held out my hand and grasped the timid hand slowly held out by my old friend. Walk with me, I whispered. I may not visit you as often anymore, even though you will want my friendship. I am learning to live without you…

I turned toward where I had parked in the early morning light. Depression’s hand slipped out of mine without a word. “Goodbye, Depression, my old friend…”


REFLECT

Let’s dig deeper. Did this story resonate with you? If so, please continue on below and consider starting a journal to jot down your answers. PRINT several copies of these questions to start your own journal based on different posts. 

  1. What was my spiritual life like before the experience of depression?
  2. How did the experience negatively impact my relationship with God?
  3. How did the experience negatively impact my relationships with my spouse, my children, my coworkers, my relatives, my friends?
  4. Was there anything that helped to alleviate the suffering I was going through? (e.g., counsel from others, professional help, medication/supplements, devotions, lifestyle changes)
  5. How did this experience positively impact my relationships, either during or afterward?
  6. How did this experience positively impact my spiritual life, either during or afterward?
  7. If I could go back and change how I responded to this experience, what would I do differently?
  8. What would I say to someone else in this situation to give her hope?

RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

A FRIEND ASKS – FREE APP (Jason Foundation) – helps provide information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be in danger of committing suicide.

Hello, Depression, My Old Friend

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