I gripped the steering wheel and took slow deep breaths. My son was in the back seat peppering me with questions, the twins babbling and whining for food and drink, as I felt the waves of depression creeping up in my chest, pushing against my eyelids, drawing down the skin on my cheeks. I’ve struggled with depression on and off for a while now, probably since my dad passed away when I was twelve.
Depression is always in the back of my mind. Like prey wary of the hunter, I’m always on alert.
Here I am, sizing up that old thorn in my flesh. Slow deep breaths, as I access my emotions, my body, my mind.
What am I capable of today?
What can I cut out?
How close am I to the edge?
Am I just tired or hungry or is this really it?
So many experience it so differently. For me, depression is a physical, mental, visceral reaction. A fluttering weakness in my breath. An eager wetness in my eyes. A heaviness in my limbs and soul. I have to will myself to push hard against the world just to participate in the simplest tasks. I have to battle against the hard pulling down, the extra gravity of weighted emotion.
I’ve had really rough patches. Two years where it almost completely took over. Now, I’m in a pretty good patch. It’s not every day. Just some days.
Most days, I’m sunshiney and energetic and sing silly songs with gusto and flare. I’m the jovial, loud laughing, loud talking, life loving Marie.
Then there are days like today. Where life is just thick. I’m wading through this extra stuff. It takes a lot of effort and careful calculation of my limitations.
Some days, luckily very few, are worse than today. No willing or battling can pull me out of the pit. The enemy is too strong, the swirling storm of depression too violent to fight off. In those moments, I can only wait for the storm to pass. Pray for God’s protection in the midst of depression’s downpour. Take my medication and my vitamins and see my counselor. Talk it out with my husband. Sleep, rest, do less.
Just try to be.
There is a certain grace I give myself because of my depression. A grace I wish all women extended themselves. Though some of us are more prone to depression or anxiety, I don’t think most of us guard our mental health as vigilantly as we should.
We are fragile. Every one of us. Everyone has a breaking point.
I never realized how fragile or susceptible I was until I began this battle. The thought of returning to the very darkest depths of depression keeps me from overextending, overreaching, overwhelming myself with expectations or external pressures.
Depression forces me to boil my life down to the simplest, most important elements.
When each day, the gift of a cheerful disposition is deeply felt, you realize how important the state of one’s heart really is. My kids don’t need me to be anyone other than a healthy, happy me. My husband doesn’t need me to do anything than be my healthiest, happiest self. If all we do in this life together is enjoy it, then that is enough.
Depression forces me to pray and ask for prayer though it cannot be prayed away. It forces me to trust in God’s provision and protection though I know it is not punishment for lack of trust or obedience. It forces me to turn to Him for the strength I do not have though I know He has not afflicted me with it to punish me or coerce my turning to Him.
He weeps with me in my pain and rejoices with me on my good days. He listens when I cry out in despair and comforts me in my sadness. Never have I understood the Psalmist so truly as in my struggles with depression.
I grip the steering wheel a little tighter and take another long slow breath. After taking stock of my body and mind and situation, I’ve determined to do what I so often have to do on days like this. Just move forward.