“I’m just really sad for no reason but I’m not depressed.”

hi. long time no heart-to-heart.

it has taken a great deal of effort for me to actually write this, so forgive me if I struggle to get to the point.

I’ll start, I guess, by explaining the tension I’m feeling.¬† I feel that good stories are about redemption in some form. admittedly I’m biased, because my obsession with the arts is tied to my view that good art glorifies our Creator; I think through art we are able to relate to God, and that being creative is a way to bear his image. my main art form of choice is story-telling.

when I engage with a story – whether in reading, writing, or listening – I yearn for the redemption. for the closure, the restoration, the happy ending or sad ending or poignant ending (big fan of tragedies here). but always that resolution- why was the struggle worth it? what was the point? where was the win, or meaningful loss?

and we all tell stories with our lives, don’t we? so why shouldn’t I ask the same questions of reality?

my life includes micro-stories where redemption and closure are already visible. I see how my struggle / reluctance to learn to read was brought full circle in that I am now a published author. I see that the obstacles to my moving out when I was originally trying are the ones that put me in line for the best possible apartment, flatmates, job, etc. it can be easy to spot these micro-resolutions, and easy to assume that life is made up of them.

over the years, I’ve tried to be honest with the world about about struggling with depression, but I’m finding that it’s harder and harder to be honest with myself.

in the past few years, I’ve battled the darkness, I’ve won some battles, I’ve learned to fight more effectively. which is why, I think, defeat feels harder to admit? does everyone that takes two steps forward sometimes take one back? they must, right? I’m not some anomaly for feeling that I’m losing ground I once won?

the thing is, I’ve been actually practicing self-care. I’ve been blocking off nights to be home, to write. I’ve been¬†really saying “no” for the first time in my life, holding to boundaries, spending time in prayer. I’ve been going to bed early (so early, guys). I’ve been doing it all right.

but this dreadfully familiar sadness prevails. that’s what I’ve been calling it when people ask- “sadness”, though if I’m honest I’ve been here before, and I know it has a name. I’ve been getting away with not naming it by telling myself it’s a fluke, but there’s no practical reason that I sometimes come home at night, crawl under my covers, stare at the ceiling, and cry until I fall asleep. some nights my thoughts go much darker than others, down a long, shadowy path that has death somewhere as the answer. sometimes I can catch them in time to fight back, pray, and go to sleep, and wake up before they do. it’s been almost a month of this, of almost every sad or happy thought finding a way to spiral downward into despair.

but still, when people ask how I am, I keep telling them I’m doing really well! like, with exclamation points!

why? why can’t I just tell them what I know is true, that my head’s still broken? that some things have gotten better, but not everything.

there’s a weird tension in Christianity called “the already and the not-yet”, and I think it applies to my story with depression, at least for now. I am redeemed. my broken, imperfect head and heart have been rescued from this decaying world for a better one- but for now I still have to live here, and feel these things, and try to get out of bed in the mornings, and try, try, to remember that God can be glorified in my pain and that that makes it all worth it.

in June of last year I wrote this note in my phone: “I think I’m supposed to write about depression & mental illness. I think broken hearts and minds are a part of my story for a reason.” that was the week I wrote my story about the siren, which I personally think might be the best thing I’ve ever written.

in the spirit of difficult honesty, I’m crying while I write this, wondering why this hasn’t been enough. I feel as though I’ve learned so much, grown so much, relinquished so much. I don’t have to still be depressed to empathize with those who are, do I? I don’t have to still be depressed to write about it, do I? couldn’t I just remember? why does it have to be a present struggle?

maybe it doesn’t. maybe tomorrow it’ll be gone. maybe this season of my life that has felt so long (a decade, I think? a decade is a long time, even if I’m still young) will come soon to its close and I’ll look back on it one day as the foundational time that I learned my own heart and God’s. I don’t curse him for the depression; I know he walks beside me in the midst of it, and I know that he is a good father. he may rid me of it, or he may not, and either way I will praise him.

I’m digressing, though.

I started writing this because for some reason I’ve been incredibly reluctant to admit to anyone that I’m depressed.

my friend Joy asked me how I was this weekend and I cheerfully said I was doing “pretty well!” and she said, “right, that’s great, but are you lying?” and I realized I was. to her and myself and apparently everyone else who’s asked recently. I told her that it felt like I was admitting defeat to say I was depressed, when I’d made such strides and had been doing well for a while, and that I didn’t want to “go back” to being depressed.

her response was so kind and truthful, and I am so grateful for it. (to paraphrase) she said, “if we feel like we’re letting ourselves down and failing, that’s saying that the victory was ours to begin with, when really it was the work of Jesus and not our own efforts. we can’t ‘go back’,” she said, “because our old self is dead, we are new in Christ, and whatever happens next, we’re moving forward- even if that new season comes with depression. it will also be a new season of knowing God in a new way.”

so to close, without any resolution save the hope of some to come, I’ll just admit to being depressed, repent for thinking that people don’t care enough to know, and ask for your prayers. I’m tired of being depressed. I’m tired of not being able to believe the voice of my own thoughts. fighting them is exhausting. even when I look at the ways God has redeemed pieces of my pain in the past, it’s still hard to feel like it will be worth it at moments.

I could write pages on the tension of being content in all things and in bearing my suffering well, while also not giving in to the darkness and accepting it without a fight. but for tonight, I’ll sign off, because this post is long enough, and I’ll ask you to pray as I do that I’d know God’s voice better than my enemy’s, so that when they’re both speaking to me, I’ll know who to listen to. right now I don’t have closure, but I have a God who will redeem every broken thing in the end.

 

soli Deo gloria

~Lydia