The cursor won’t stop blinking. Even when I don’t look at it, I know it’s there. Mocking me for the empty page in front of me. I know every page starts empty, but I feel the mockery nonetheless. The lack of words proves the whispers in my ear – You have NOTHING to offer.
I don’t often struggle with writer’s block. Unless I am depressed. Then, even crafting one sentence is almost physically painful.And a full coherent essay means hours of work. For example, the 100 words or so above took me about three hours. But I don’t want to hide behind my sorrows any longer.
I struggle with cyclical depression. Twice a year, usually in March and November, things get difficult for me. At first, I can shoulder the burden. I feel tired most of the day. I go to sleep earlier. I play with the kids less. But I cope.
Until things stop working.
It is as if I fall into a deep pool of heavy water. Water that weighs more than I do, and holds me down. The more I struggle, the more entangled I become. Eventually, it takes all my effort to rise up above the surface for a breath. I have strength for one desperate gasp before I am pulled back under the ugly blinding mess of my depression.
I don’t hide it well
I do my best to cover up the pain I don’t understand and can’t explain. I put my best fake smile on and try to emulate the Chris people are accustomed to interacting with.
It never works.
Anyone who knows me even a little sees that something is wrong. They mention that I seem a little off and wait to see if I will engage them. I usually hide behind a lie, saying I am tired or having a tough day.
The ones who care even more press me. They want to know how to help. But I have no answers. How do you help a person drowning in water that outweighs them? If I knew, I would already be out of the pit already.
When prayers seem lame
At the end of the conversation, everyone offers to pray for me. Even those who won’t normally pray, because they know my faith matters to me. For some reason, it always seems apologetic, even sad. “Wish I could do something. Guess I will just pray.”
I want to correct them for that simple word, “just.” I want to tell them it’s never “just praying.” Connecting with the Creator of the idea of jumping and neurons and tomatoes – the most imaginative Being in the entire universe – should never be “just” anything.
But when I am being overcome by unnaturally weighty water, I connect with the just. I am just praying too. And most of the time, it just seems lame.
I know God is moving. I know He is good, every day, all the time. Some days, it’s harder to see. Especially when you are gasping for breath and blinded by sorrows. That’s where the guilt comes in.
Here Come the Voices
I have friends who struggle with depression like this, and I never judge them when they are down and out. Yet when the darkness comes upon me, condemnation is a screaming horde.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Look at your life – why in the world are you sad? Has God not blessed you enough? You have serious issues, Chris! You have no right to lead anyone – your family, your readers, nobody. Are you seriously trying to get a book published about a successful life? You suck.
If I am not careful, these accusations can quickly escalate (though it’s been many years since I’ve entertained them):
Nobody cares. Why even bother moving forward in life? Your family would be happier without you. Just end it.
The cacophony of lies streaming at me become hard to manage. These thoughts refuse to listen to me. They won’t line up one by one, so I can deal with them all in due course. I am not very good at pushing through. I spend a lot of time cursing the dark. But one thought keeps me from wandering too far.
I wish this verse would melt the water and free me from the grip of depression. But it doesn’t. It gives me something to cling to. It keeps me from moving so deep under the muck that I cannot come back up.
In time, I am able to conquer this depression. I don’t know how it happens really. Sometimes, I use anti-depressants and I recover. Other times, the meds do nothing. And sometimes I do just fine after a brief bout with this cyclical depression with no medication at all. There is no rhyme or reason to its end.
A Warrior Arises from the Water
I am trying to view these bouts with depression differently now. Not as a proof of failure, but as a history of battles won. I am learning to see myself as a warrior, a veteran of many battles. I have scars. I limp.
I see the world through different eyes. But I have fought my enemy many times, and each time I have been victorious. So it is with each of us who are fighting depression.