Depression is not the same as sadness.
Being sad is doing something – feeling something. When you are sad you express yourself through action.
Being depressed is an absence of feeling. It is numbness.
Depression is like an emotional dam.
There is pain – a lot of physical and mental pain sometimes. But a lot of times being depressed feels comfortable. It slowly creeps in and starts to build a wall between you and your reactions to what is going on around you.
It makes you complacent, compliant, and predictable.
I’ve suffered through two distinct kinds of depression in my life. The first kind was debilitating and painful. I couldn’t bear to get out of bed most days. It hurt to think and I just wanted to rot away.
That episode of my life was caused by a lot of things, and it caused a lot of things. All that was compounded into my mental state.
I’ve only ever been through that once.
The second kind of depression I’ve experienced is much more subtle. Some have called it cyclical – although mine is unpredictable as to when it will appear.
I’ve experienced this numbness, this emotional dam in short spurts over the years. It is usually brought on by stress or dealing with things from my past.
I believe that God has allowed these times to remain in my life in order to help me keep a clear picture on what is important.
And - I think I’ve been in one of those funks all summer long.
It is hard to pinpoint the moment when I entered the fog. As I said before, it slowly creeps up on you. There were even points during the last few months when I asked myself if I could be in trouble – but it was always pushed out of my mind.
I probably seemed perfectly normal from the outside. I’ve learned to hide it well – over the years I have taught myself to respond appropriately in social situations so as not to cause discomfort.
Two of the biggest enablers of depression are routine and responsibility. As long as the boat isn’t rocked too much, you can go about your business in relative peace. Well, relative robotic-ness.
Life can become a routine. Pray here, play here, smile here, don’t forget to make small talk.
But God didn’t want to leave me in my lack of sensation and faith.
When the levee breaks
God wasn’t going to allow me to stay in my routine, in my depression, and go through life just doing the motions.
Two major things happened in my life this past month that woke me from my zombification – that broke the dam of emotion and feeling welled up in my heart.
The first was the news that we would be moving to Korea. The second was a life-threatening incident that happened to my one and only sister (who happens to be my best friend).
Both of these things caused me to suddenly and violently cry out to God for help. It broke the spell that had settled onto me.
Suddenly – everything was different.
It was like I had never lived before! I don’t want to sound crazy – but it was as if before my ears were filled with dull buzzing and everything was filmed in grainy black and white.
I could feel again. I could worship Christ again.
Crying felt good – and so did laughing. It was no longer forced – it was real. And it was a release. I cried at every TV show I watched, not out of sadness but out of the beauty of being able to cry for real.
I realized how profound the simplest things were – like laughing with my children and noticing the breeze rustling the leaves.
I also saw how very silly and mundane most of what I had been worried about was. God spoke to me about my reliance on physical things for satisfaction. It was also clear how stress had robbed me of most of my time.
Today – as I drove to get some fresh produce and a few household items that we need with the last bit of our money it was as if I had never been out of the house before.
The simple act of running my fingers through my hair caused shivers. I am awake, and alive! Life is so short and yet we squander most of it worrying about petty things.
God has been speaking to me through this about what really matters as we spend our time on earth in these temporary tents.
I want to write more about my experience with what God is teaching me through this, but I fear this is getting long. I will have to make several posts to share all that I want to say.
Have you ever suffered from depression? What caused you to come out of it? Did God teach you anything through that experience?