Depressed And Fighting For Life

[BY JENNIFER ASHLEY]

My friend Derek—he’s a firefighter outside of Boston I met a few months ago. He told me the other day that he’s been crying himself to sleep every night this week. Six nights straight, he said.

This is a guy who wishes he was in the special forces doing military recon, searching through caves for Osama Bin Ladin. He played rugby in college and kicks holes in the wall when he’s really mad. About a month ago, he got laid off. And within a week, he flipped his brand new truck and almost went off a bridge in Massachusetts, so I could understand.

But that’s not what’s keeping him up at night, he says. Not the truck, not the job. No, it’s his ex. She’s pregnant. He broke up with her three months ago, only to find out now that she’s three months pregnant. And marriage she says, marriage is the only option.

The phone line fell silent as I took it all in. “I’m not in love with her,” he tells me. “No way. This was not supposed to happen. I have plans,” he says, “and they don’t, by any means include a baby. Or marrying a girl I’m not in love with.” The conversation suspends itself in quiet. And then he sighs and says, “I just hope this isn’t one of those times when God is telling me that my plans aren’t His plans.”

“Crap,” I said. Sure sounds like it.

“I don’t know,” he says, “You met me at a weird time in my life. I’m not usually this …” He hesitated until I finally said it: broken.

Yeah, me neither. At least, that’s what I’d like to think.

Later I told him my latest news, a good word from my therapist. She said I’m still depressed, but not so bad that I have to go on meds. That was a big relief. This depression thing had been dragging on for five months now. But the last thing I wanted to be was one of those people who is permanently broken. It wanted to reassure myself and know, this is only temporary.

When I got off the phone with him, I start thinking more about brokenness. God does a lot of things to humble us. He makes sure we get caught in a tailspin we can’t pull ourselves out of. And he makes sure it’s physically painful.

Well, thank God.

My heart is wrenching, thinking of Derek, awake at night, crying for hours on end. But all I can feel is gratitude.

Thank God for emotions, how real and physical they are. How sad sadness can be. How shameful, even. Because that’s not only God humbling us, but it’s God redefining us. Reminding us who we are—we are always broken people who desperately need saving, who desperately need a Savior. Sometimes we’re just reminded in stronger, physical ways.

I can only say that after five months of depression.

Just when I thought I was fixed, I would break down again and have to reconsider my entire identity: I’m not perfect, I’m not better than that. I can’t handle this on my own. For someone with iron independence who saw herself as a girl who didn’t need anyone else to make it through, this was a painful revelation. My God, who am I? Am I this crying, snotty mess who can’t pull it together?

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and nothing had changed. I was more confused about marriage, about my purpose in life, about whether or not God even led me to where I am today than ever before. Nothing was certain and it was a gritty, lonely place.

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And ironically the person who helped bring me out of it was the same person I wanted to blame. My husband is a man of unwavering love and faith. He was the one who delivered the scary news: What you are going through is called depression and you will have to see a therapist. He was there to listen to my painfully embarrassing doubts about why we were even married. He stuck through it when I was completely, desperately lost.

And now, my appreciation, adoration, and undeniable love for him is more rooted and tangible than ever before. I hold on to that moment when I realized he was the best thing for me, just like I did when I first fell in love with him. But this time I realized how specifically he was created to help me in my weakness. The very person I doubted is the one who helped me the most.

And it’s just like that with God too: we doubt Him, His plan for us, His word, His commands. We doubt that father knows best until he breaks us, breaks the news to us: we are not in charge and this is a good thing.

And then pulls us out of that darkness in such a physical way that we can’t deny the fact it was something outside of ourselves that helped. It was God who breathed the strength and renewal into our spirit that day. And so we believe once again, this time stronger than before.

Derek hasn’t reached that point, but he’s on his way. He is in the fight of his life and God won’t let go.

I’m glad He doesn’t let us leave the ring without a scratch. In fact, we come out with pretty nasty scars, scars that have a great story behind them. They remind us God lifted us out of the muck and the mire and He will do it again.

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