I don’t remember the last time I woke up and welcomed the morning. Many days I struggle to get out of bed. Once I have risen, I don’t do anything elaborate. I do the bare minimum. I eat because I have to in order to take my medication. I get dressed because I have to go to work. I do not brush my hair. The idea of wearing make-up is laughable. I don’t even brush my teeth. I just don’t care. It is enough for me to make it out of the house in time to get to work in the morning. That, in itself, is a success.
I suffer from chronic depression. This means that I go through periods of major depression, but unlike other people, my depression never really leaves me. When I am not in a cycle of major depression, I am suffering from a less serious case of depression, which still makes day-to-day life a great effort.
One thing that has helped in managing this condition has been having a job that is rewarding and worthy of the time I devote to it. I work in local government under a leader in whom I believe. When I first started my job, I went through a major depression, which caused me to come in late for several weeks. As I was reluctant at that time to bring it up with my boss, I decided to go to Human Resources. Surely in this day, with all the information there is about depression, there should be no shame in revealing this part of myself to people. I felt confident that I was doing the right thing.
But the reality was that I was wrong. After several shootings around the country by disaffected youth who may or may not have suffered from depression, I was singled out. I became a “liability.” The staff person in HR with whom I shared this confidence somehow discovered a blog I had written under a screen name and found entries I had written during a particularly dark episode. The next thing I knew, I was in a silent, institutional reception room, waiting for my mandatory counseling session.
Because I was depressed, the women in HR, people with whom I neither worked directly nor knew on a personal basis, suggested I was capable of becoming a deadly assassin. They called me a “danger to myself and others.”
If accusations based on my depression were a difficult work place experience, it paled in comparison to the searing pain I had endured at church.
Two years previously, members of my very own church turned their back on me during a bout with depression, causing it to become one of the darkest periods of my life. Because of my illness, the church leadership removed me from leadership of my Bible study class, and when I sought assistance, the pastor, made references to my medicine “being off” and suggested that I was “mentally unstable.” His implication was that, if I had been a better Christian, I wouldn’t be depressed and I wouldn’t need antidepressants. The irony is I did not even begin taking anti-depressants until after this encounter.
You cannot control what people may say to you or about you. You can choose to accept or reject what they say. What matters much more for me is that I know myself and I know my depression. No one can tell me what my depression will make me do.
And most important of all, I know my relationship with God. The darker my depression the gets, the more I depend on God to carry me from one day to the next. Sometimes the pain is so heavy I need God just to get from one breath to the next. However, I feel almost at an advantage because my depression reminds me everyday of my weakness and this reminds me to depend on God for strength and to recognize that He is more powerful than any chemical remedies devised by man.
So the truth, is the stigma of depression is still out there. No matter how “aware” we find ourselves, people who know nothing of depression, will have their thoughts and opinions about you even before meeting you. You just have to understand who you are and how you function when you are in the clutches of depression. And it’s important to understand whose you are. That no matter how dark it gets, the Light is right next door. Hope is never too far away to find you.