Note: I’m not writing this because a famous actor died, although that has forced some important conversations into the limelight. I’m not writing this to garner any sympathy because we all have our own diseases and struggles. I’m writing this for me, to try and give me a small step toward healing.
I don’t remember when I first encountered the Betrayer. I know it was a long time ago, and I think I had encounters with him as far back as high school. He’s the worst kind of companion. He doesn’t tell me when he’s going to show up, suddenly appearing at my door in the middle of a good day or a bad one. Other times he drops in when I’m on vacation, or with a friend, or at work. Or really, anytime and any place.
The Betrayer has two modus operandi with me. Like a boxer, perhaps, The Betrayer swings hard from the right with his fist – Anxiety. Anxiety comes in rapid-fire jabs. Sometimes I can’t even catch a quick breath in between them. Then The Betrayer follows with his intended knock-out left fist, Depression. It’s staggering. Time slows to a crawl, and the dull and growing pain of the blow sets in for a long, long visit.
I’ve painted around the edges on this subject at times, even using the “d” word once or twice in writings online. But I’ve realized over the past week that there are some things here I need to voice, I need to name, I need to post for my own good.
This week has been hell, but not because a famous actor who struggled with depression committed suicide. It’s definitely sad and it sucks, but that’s not why this week has been hell.
The week started out incredibly well. But the Betrayer showed up in a cup of coffee. It was evening, I was with friends, and I was offered a coffee with dessert. Due to the Betrayer’s existence, counselors have recommended that I avoid caffeine in the evenings. But that’s okay, it’s decaf. No big deal, right? Except.
The Betrayer’s jabs of Anxiety set in. “You know what, it’s probably caffeinated? You know that there is some caffeine in all coffee anyway. You’ll probably be awake all night because of the caffeine.”
That’s how it started. A damned cup of decaf coffee. And the Betrayer has been at it all week since.
But because depression is a thing, because it is real, it rolls down upon me like the fog settles over San Francisco and stays for as long as it wants. Sometimes it’s mild. Sometimes (usually in the winter) it’s a lot worse. This week has been worse than most I can remember.
I’ve read a lot of good things this week as so many who are coping and battling with it daily have shared their wounds openly. We’re moving the conversation a little bit this week, and that’s incredible. But I need to put this out there, in my words, and shine some light on where I’ve been.
Every time you negate or belittle the truth of depression, you’re piling on somebody. Debating mental illness and suicide with somebody who suffers with the disease is callous and cruel. Stop it.
Mental illness isn’t something I’m going to debate. I don’t have the energy to debate whether the Betrayer is real. He is. He lives in my brain. I know it. Professionals know it. I don’t care if you do or not.
Every time someone tells me that the Betrayer can be defeated if I just have a little more faith, a little more joy in Jesus, I wonder if they’ve read the entirety of the Psalms.
Because I’ve been there. I’ve been curled up in a ball on the floor crying for no reason. I’ve spent days moving through the motions while my mind screams how awful I am, how worthless, how everything will surely fall apart.
That’s the reality of the Betrayer. I’m trying to learn how to anticipate his arrival, but he still finds new ways to appear. And his stays are unexpected and as long as he wants them to be.
So, yeah. I have depression. Somedays it’s horrible, nearly debilitating. Some days it isn’t.
But it’s real. Some days my brain hates me and tries to destroy me. That’s the disease, the illness, the battle I face.
Nish Weiseth sums it up best. Nish is an incredible woman who shared her own suicide story this week. Her words are beautiful and broken, truthful and profound. You should read her post in its entirety.
God does heal, absolutely He does. But sometimes, healing happens through good doctors, counselors, practitioners, and yes, medicine. God’s grace can look like a sliver of light on the bathroom floor, but it can also look like a life-changing counseling session or the right combination of drugs to regulate your brain chemistry.
Prayer and a deepening faith have helped many along the road to depression. But it doesn’t always work out that way. It didn’t for me. And you know what? That’s okay. It doesn’t make us any less of a Christian believer. It doesn’t diminish our value in the eyes of God if we find His grace in our name printed on a pill bottle.
And finally, as Christians, we should never be pointing our fingers at the hurting and calling them selfish.
Rather, we should be looking at them with our eyes wide open and saying, “I’m here. You’re not alone. Let’s get help, together.”