Saturday, May 11, 2019

My Hurting Heart Doesn't Want That

Depression is an illness that there is no intervention for. How does one intervene in unexpressed pain? What ultimatums do you give a broken heart?

As someone who has long struggled with depression, I don't have any answers for how to make things better, but I do know of things that have never helped me. People offer suggestions and advice out of love and concern, but most of what they suggest and advise means nothing to a person in the middle of their darkness. And depression is its own galaxy of very little light, filled with fear, doubt, hopelessness, despair, and self-loathing. All those things rotate in the tortured mind of the depressed.  Every now and then, a little bit of light gets in and allows the person to get through to another moment alive. But that light never stays on. That's the cycle: me and it, suiting up against each other, fighting it out, retreating, and then doing the whole thing all over again.

I've had well-meaning people tell me what they think will help me. I love that they care but I hate their advice. To quote one of my favorite writers, "You got to go there to know there." No one else can navigate the dark places my mind has taken me. Often the advice I get is only frustrating.

"Exercise" is what a lot of people will tell a depressed person. "Get up and get out in some fresh air and take a walk." I am sure that that works for some people, but not for me. When I am in the worst of my depression, I can't even move to wipe tears from my face. I have sat immobile on the couch or the floor because I didn't have the energy or will to move. I have sometimes just kept still because of a feeling that I would shatter from grief if I moved. I have lain in bed unable to even push the covers off when I got too warm. So exercise only works for me before the deepest of the darkness settles in.

Another suggestion is to "count your blessings". This is one that really hurts. My faith means so much to me that it's the thing I wrestle most with when I am feeling at my lowest. I pray long conversations with God at this point, but it's very hard to count blessings while you are in a fight for your life. I am always thankful to God because I have never been forsaken, but that doesn't help the pain when I am drowning in it.

I've also been told to just "buck up" -  as if I'm an animal who only needs to remember how to move correctly! And what the hell does it even mean to "buck up"? Whatever it means, I wish getting from under the grip of depression was so easy as just doing something other than being depressed. Maybe the next time I'm taking care of a household bill, instead of sending in a payment, I can just command the bill to "be paid!"

There was a period in my life when I almost couldn't deal with attending church because I would just weep through the entire service. One time a woman sitting beside me in the pew hugged me and whispered that I should just "pray that sadness away". I didn't go back to church for a month. My tears in the church weren't from the sadness, they were from feeling so completely grateful. No matter how low I have ever been, I have never felt abandoned by God. I've felt mad at Him but I've never felt separated from Him. I never forget Romans 8:38-39.

So what am I trying to say? I'm not trying to speak for everyone who suffers from depression. I can only speak for myself because I only know what my hurting heart doesn't want. First of all, you can't 'fix' me with advice. My doctors are trying different types of medicines. I don't even know if I can be fixed. I'm just trying to survive and your words - as nice as they sound - don't help. What helps is knowing that you love me. Please know that I am more than my depression. Know that my depression comes and goes, ebbs and flows. Try to love me when I'm in the middle of the darkness as much - or maybe more - as you love me any other time.

Sometimes, the best thing that a friend or other loved one can do for me is to just let me know that you are there but give me space. I'm familiar with all the voices in my head and I know how to cry them, pray them, and battle them away. I just need to know that you're still going to love me when I come out of the fight.