I’ve written quite a bit here about my experiences with depression. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for a long time now. And yet, some days it can still catch me off guard and knock me down before I know what’s happened. I’ve had a few of those days lately. It’s hard to explain to people who’ve never been depressed. If they notice that I seem down or if I tell them I’m sad, the first thing they ask is, “What happened?” And in most cases, that would be a reasonable question to ask. But in this case, in my case, there really is no reason. Or rather, the reason I’m depressed is that I have depression.
It doesn’t matter how well things are going in my life, how many reasons I have to be happy, or even that I was very happy just a day or two ago. Depression doesn’t care. It just shows up, throws a shroud over everything and you can’t explain why. That’s how this disease works sometimes. And so last week, the day after I got hired for an exciting writing assignment, and had just had fun hanging out with my friends, and had a great day as a chaplain that made me feel I’d helped some people, and was looking forward to an evening out with the love of my life and his two sweet kids, I woke up feeling inexplicably terrible.
Throughout the day, I’d find myself crying, unable to say why and unable to stop. I felt scattered and forgetful; focusing on one thing for any length of time was impossible. A grouchy text message from a friend (who was also having a bad day) sent me into a downward spiral of shame and self-pity. She thinks I’m terrible at my job. She’ll never forgive me. I’ve lost the best friend I had at work. No one wants to be my friend. And a Facebook comment from someone I’ve never met led me to question my abilities as a chaplain and a writer, even my worthiness as a person. In light of that one comment, the writing assignment about which I’d been so excited and proud suddenly seemed like a mistake, an act of hubris for which I should be ashamed. I wanted to hide, to run away, to escape my life and become nothing, because surely that’s what I deserved.
This is what a recurrence of depression looks like for me. If not for antidepressants, a good counselor, the grace of God, and the people who love me, I fear this is what every day would look like. But this time at least, it was just one day. That night I called my boyfriend, who listened and empathized and let me cry and made me laugh. I journaled and I prayed. I walked my dog and didn’t eat all the junk food I was craving. I got a good night’s sleep and the next day, things didn’t look so hopeless.
For now, the darkness has lifted, and I’m grateful. I know it will be back, probably again with no warning and no good reason. But I also know I can survive it. There were moments when I didn’t want to survive it. I haven’t had one of those in a couple of years. Lately I have a lot fewer days like this, and a lot more days when I’m knocked off my feet by joy, when I laugh until my sides ache, when I can’t find words to express how grateful I am for all the good things in my life now and the good things I hope for in the future. The reality of those days is strong and true enough to pull me through the bad days. That’s what grace looks like for me right now.