Every morning after my husband leaves for work, I cry. Every. Single. Morning. Even on mornings when I am heading out the door for work at the same time as him, I cry. There are tears that fall on the drive to work. Lately, when I have felt the hot sting of tears on my face, cold from January’s winter wind, I have pictured a large bottle in heaven. Somewhere in the Psalms it says that God sees all my tears and collects them in a bottle. I envision what this bottle must look like. My earthly human mind pictures a very large bottle with a capacity well over one thousand gallons. I am certain it has to be at least that large to hold all the tears I have already cried in my time on earth. Since September of 2016, I have exponentially added liquid to the volume in my bottle. And since that day, every morning the tears have come.
This morning I was thinking about people in the Bible who suffered with depression. Elijah did after the amazing showing up of Baal on Mount Carmel. David dealt with depression after his sin with Bathsheba resulted in a son that did not survive. I’m sure there are others as well. God provided for these folks in tangible ways. For Elijah, God sent ravens to feed him and an angel to advise him to rest and eat and drink–to care for his basic physical needs. For David, God provided an entourage of servants who talked with him, brought food to him, and stayed by him through a very dark time. One thing I have learned about depression in the past nine months or so is that it is a very lonely affliction. As a person with very few real friends to begin with, an episode of depression that drags on and on results in days and weeks and months of loneliness. There really aren’t physical characteristics of depression. There is no hair loss from a powerful drug that is intended to kill the depression cells. (I realize there is no such thing as depression cells–it is mentioned to help make comparison) There is no wheelchair or cast or amputated limb that says, “I am suffering something that is affecting me physically.” In fact, most people believe depression to only be a mental and emotional issue. The truth, though, is that depression is a very physical ailment. It is difficult to explain, but my guess is anyone reading this who has suffered at the hands of depression knows exactly what I am talking about. Those who haven’t usually grow weary of the one who wilts under the pressing weight of a lengthy bout with this monster. They expect one to just move on with life…put behind you whatever is bugging you and look for the happy things in life.
It just is not that easy.
If you are shaking your head in disagreement with that statement, then you have never suffered real, dark, deep depression. Lucky you.
At the end of last year, Carrie Fisher passed away of a heart attack. A few days later, her mom, understandably crushed by the sadness of losing her daughter, also died. News anchors and talk show hosts speculated on whether it is possible to die of a broken heart. I believe that is absolutely a possibility. There have been countless times, as my tears fall and my arms ache to hug a grandson that is six hundred miles away, that I have felt certain that this broken heart would surely lead to death. In fact, I have wished for that very thing. Living with pain–both emotional and physical–every single day for months and years, drains one of the will to continue. It eats away at that will little by little. On more than one occasion in the past few months, I have awakened and said to my husband, “Today I want to just give into this disease. I am tired of fighting and losing. I just want to throw in the towel and let it win.” I haven’t done that, and the honest reason I haven’t isn’t because God sent an angel to minister to me or friends who aren’t afraid to deal with the hard stuff. Most of the friends I had are no longer in my life. I can’t actually give one reason why I have not quit. A part of it is my husband who has been called to a marriage that is very, very difficult. Again, if you’ve never been married to someone who suffers from disease, you cannot understand. Another part of why I struggle to hang on is my job. I love it and find it to be more therapeutic than I could have ever thought it to be. Another part of why I hang on are the kids I have who love me, and a grandson who, even though I don’t get to see him now, will someday get to spend time with me. My heart breaks when I think of him and look at his picture. Jealousy burns within me as I think of those who get to have their grandkids close. I am often ashamed at those emotions, yet they are real and they torment me every day.
I’ve said it before–depression is a monster. It is a beast that threatens to take all I have from me, including the very breath that keeps me alive.
The other day, someone at work returned a book. As I thumbed through its pages making sure it was in a condition to restock, I came across this quote:
“We must be willing to give up the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
I didn’t write down its author, but I wrote the words on a piece of scrap paper and slipped it into my pocket. As I re-read them this morning, the burning question is, how? How do I give up what I envisioned my life to be? How do I make peace with the fact that I am a grandma who doesn’t feel like a grandma because I don’t get to see the little boy who I love so very much? How do I accept what has to be and move on when everything in me screams not to? How do I keep friends when I suck at pretty much everything that has to do with life? How do I deal with the jealousy that rages so badly in me that I want to die. How do I reconcile the thought that everything God puts in my life is for a purpose when I hate so much of what he has put in my life–like my daughter moving six hundred miles away? How?
The six million dollar question, I guess, is how do I learn to believe that God really does love me despite the fact that he has allowed so much pain in my life? How?