I have a secret. Lately, I’ve been thinking that it is time to come clean, instead of trying to hide my weakness from the world. I am a closet depressive.
I have struggled with feelings of depression since I was a child. When I was twelve years old, I began to think about taking my own life. At eighteen, I attempted to, and ended up being hospitalized for a couple of months, until it was determined that I was no longer an immediate threat to myself.
A year later, God blessed me with my first child, and despite the fact that the suicidal thoughts would still ebb and flow in my mind from time to time, I now had someone else to live for. The guilt that I felt at the thought of abandoning her outweighed any despair that I might have felt.
Eventually, I found Jesus. That added a whole new dimension to my life – someone besides me to depend on, to cry out to. I began to go through a period where I was experiencing anxiety attacks every day on my commute to and from work. As a single parent, not going to work was not an option, so I found different ways to cope and get through it each day. Often, the only thing I could do was tell myself over and over in my head, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I would like to say that God completely healed me of my depression at this point. Instead, it has been more of a thorn in my side, something of which to say “His grace is sufficient for me; His strength is made perfect in my weakness.” He has certainly healed other issues, but fourteen years later, He is still working on me all of the time, showing me issues that I have been blind to my whole life, explaining to me why I am the way that I am, why I’ve struggled with the things that I’ve struggled with, and what needs to change. So, I have hope that He will remove it one day.
The past three winters, though, have been really rough for me. I’ve been letting the cares of this world weigh me down far more than I should and circumstances have escalated those cares to an often unbearable level. There are many days that I did not want to get out of bed. I didn’t have much choice, though, as there is a new set of little ones, pulling at me with entreaties of “I’m hungry; I’m thirsty; can I watch a show on Netflix?” I can’t deal with the idea of not being there for them, the way that no one was there for me when I was little. So, I push through it, and face my responsibilities once again. Truthfully, though, there was many a morning that I opened my eyes, only to say, “Jesus, I’m ready to go home. I’m not going to do the dirty work myself, but any time that you’re ready to take me . . .” The spring has come, though, and brought somewhat of a reprieve from that.
The reason that I felt it was necessary to share this was not for pity, for we all have some cross to bear in our lives, but because I realize that this is part of my testimony, one that I have deprived others of. From time to time, I have heard people share stories of depression or anxiety that they are experiencing and tried to reach out, to let them know that I understand. The thing is, I keep getting rebuffed, and basically told that I don’t “get it”. It amazes me when that happens, and I initially get angry. I want to say “Have you ever felt such despair that you have actually tried to take your own life? Because I have!”
What God has shown me, though, is that on the outside, I probably don’t look like I am going through pain to that extent. I am almost like the stepfather that I grew up with, who has an alcohol problem that has ruined every important relationship in his life. He still managed to get up and go to work every day – to two full-time jobs – saving lives as a firefighter and a paramedic, no less. He probably looked pretty normal to the people he interacted with each day, at least, the ones that he didn’t live with. You wouldn’t picture him as the guy whose thirteen-year-old daughter had to help her mother drag him upstairs, passed out drunk, as the guests were beginning to arrive for her birthday party.
I am a functioning depressive. As long as I get out of bed each day and try to fit in with everyone else by putting on an act of being “normal”, no one will ever know any different. They may notice that I have the “winter blahs” but I will never be able to bless someone else who is struggling, to offer a listening ear that they know understands and will not be judging them. I have no one to blame for that except myself, because I have been too proud to admit the truth. That’s why I am coming clean, so God can finally use me and my struggles for His glory.