To me, depression is like a shadow. It’s always there, with the potential to darken my day; send a chill down my spine. Or, if you’ve never seen it, I highly encourage you to take 5 minutes and listen to this man describe depression as “a big black dog.”
For the past 5 years, my big black dog has been Persistent Depressive Disorder. I finally noticed it after a string of life-changing situations assaulted my life, and the days were just blank. I was void of feeling, motivation or drive, thinking, when was I happy last? Short with people, irritable, overwhelmed, prone to exploding in fits of rage – all the while completely numb.
Oh sure, sometimes I put on a good mask. I smile, laugh or joke. Depression doesn’t always look like Eeyore, moping and sad. Like the man said in the video, it just sort of colors – or threatens to cover – everything I experience.
Looking back, it’s a definite possibility that I’ve been plagued by this brute for more than 20 years.
Honestly, I had no idea. It was just my “normal.”
But for the last 5 years, I’ve been battling to feel again. I’ve been learning, getting help, trying different strategies and over time, finding some that work for me.
Sometimes nothing works.
Let’s be real: sometimes nothing works.
Sometimes winning looks like coping with something less life-destroying. Fitness. Food. Netflix.
Sometimes it looks like getting out of bed. Getting dressed. Sending a text.
Sometimes the brain chemistry is just jacked up and there’s nothing you can really do except weather the storm.
For some, continuing to breathe is what it looks like to win. Choosing to fight another day, and to resist the urge to escape the darkness permanently. For some, the darkest days feel like a drain on those you love. Some become convinced that their loved ones would be better off without the burden they bring with their big black dog of depression.
If that’s you today friend, read these words and hear my heart: you are worth the effort.
You are loved.
Fight. Wrestle that dog to the ground, cry out for help, and stand again.
This world needs you. Your loved ones need you.
The hole your absence would leave is worse that whatever burden you think you might be lifting.
Don’t you dare believe the lie that says this world is better off without you.
Keep fighting for your freedom.
I get it. It’s really easy, on the dark days, to want to just give in and lay down and let it be. So often, I’m weary of this fight too. I’ve tried all the things. I have medicine that helps me, and I don’t skip it. I keep my schedule as clear as I can, leaving “white space” in my life so that I don’t spiral. I get all the sleep.
On those days I just wonder: what will make the difference this time?
Let’s get real: today is day 5 of a depression cloud. The dog is currently running the show.
What was the trigger? This time, it was environmental. Coming home from an amazing (and exhausting) week of youth outreach, to return to the reality of life. Coming home to the middle of the wheat harvest – the busiest, most stressful time of the year in our family business. Coming home to life with three kids and a farmer husband who bent over backward so I could be away. Clutter. Dishes. Trash. Clothes. Heat. Stress. Kids.
A good, beautiful life.
A life that I love.
Yet, for the past 5 days, all I’ve been able to do is cope. This time, it was Netflix, with a side of junk food. Hours of mind-numbing media, drowning out the despair of the overwhelm. No motivation to stop, to try, to use my tools. I do what I absolutely have to, then shut down – return to my cave, and wait for a light in the darkness.
Today, writing this post is a form of freedom fighting.
My art is another outlet that’s quickly become a therapy for me; a punch I swing at the dark. Maybe tomorrow.
Music can make or break my day. I’ve got a playlist that reminds me who I am and what I must do. “Fight, Warrior,” I call it.
Whatever it is that refocuses your mind, shifts your perspective, breathes new life into you, do it. I even have a list written down, so when I can’t see in the dark, I have a record of what worked before so I can try again. Even knowing that sometimes nothing works and all I can do is cope – and that’s okay too.
Just get back up and get back in the ring. Keep fighting.
But mostly, it’s the people.
Depression lies to us and says we are better off alone. We isolate. “Everyone else has their own crap to deal with; mine is nothing compared to….” Lies like that convince us that “we’ve got this,” or “it doesn’t matter.”
It DOES matter, friend.
And you need people.
Yes, sometimes a jolt of perspective, an hour spent in service to another is enough to tame the black beast. But the moment I begin to minimize my pain, I begin to wound myself further. I have lived for years in the shadow of shame, hoping that if I just talked down to myself enough, called myself a name ugly enough, I would somehow magically be motivated to change.
It hasn’t worked. In any area of my life – ever.
It breaks me down.
I need people who will build me up.
I need truth tellers who will love me in the midst of the dark, and encourage me, and sometimes kick my butt a bit, to start getting out and trying again. We are created for community; created for relationship. It’s hardwired into us – even us introverts. We need each other.
We cannot win this fight alone.
Call a hotline. Text a friend. Go for a walk.
Just get out. Change it up. Try something new.
Just keep fighting.
And cling to hope.
What does winning against depression look like?
It looks like hope.
Mostly likely, I don’t know you. Maybe I know OF you, or our kids go to school together. Or maybe you’re across the world from my small, frontier town. I don’t know what gives you hope, and what works for you. You’re on your own journey, just like me. All I can do is share my experiences, what I’ve learned with you.
I can share where MY hope comes from: Jesus.
Before you click away or swipe to the next screen, let me just say this: Jesus is more than some dude in a book. He’s not a stoic, ancient teacher in a long robe that’s going to stand up and beat you over the head about the beer you had last night or your church attendance record. He’s not about a rigid set of rules for behavior adjustment. And he’s definitely not someone who sacrificed a whole lot just to come waggle his holy finger at you, or shame you for the “dirty rotten sinner” that you are.
I don’t know what you imagine when you hear the name Jesus. I know that he’s been a lot of those things to me over the years.
I didn’t know Him very well then.
Ask yourself: what if he’s actually none of those things? What if he is so much more?
More love, more freedom, more forgiveness than we could ever imagine?
That’s why he’s the HOPE bringer. The light in the darkness. Light of the world.
Because the REAL Jesus is all about love. He IS love. And not a puppy-dog love, or a rom-com weekend affair. Jesus is the skin-on, real life image of the same God who created me, crafted me, chose me.
He is the Son, a very piece of God Himself, sent here to walk in our dirt and breathe our air and eat food with outcasts. To teach us things about what works and what doesn’t, about sin and justice and realignment, yes – and also a lot about grace.
And he was treated in the most horrible way possible and still, as he bled out, spoke of mercy and forgiveness.
Because God loves us that much.
Jesus is so much more than anything we can wrap our minds around. And his love for us, for me, is unending and unconditional. Nothing can separate me. Nothing is wasted. I’m learning that he will take this dark, this big black dog that plagues me, and he will make something beautiful from these ashes. He is a good, good father who wants the best for me, even if I have to go through some hard stuff to get to it.
Most importantly, he is there – in the dark and the mud and the muck – every time. Even when I can’t FEEL him, and I can’t SEE him, I can trust he’s there and I’m not alone and hope is on the horizon. Because he promised he would never leave me. And he’s proved it to me time and time again in real, tangible ways.
Jesus is everything I am not. And he loves me anyway, right where I’m at, on the way to wherever we’re going.
He is faithful. The love of God never fails.
And that gives me hope.
Join the Journey
Reading words on a screen is all fine and good, but if it doesn’t make a difference, what’s the point?
I invite you to step into your own journey, and dare to ask yourself some hard questions that just might point you towards the road to freedom. Comment below, write them in a journal, pray and ponder.
But take that step, scary as it is, towards something more.
- What dark or difficulty do you face in your life that’s holding you back? Have you shared that with anyone? Why or why not?
- If you’re not comfortable with the idea of sharing, ask yourself why? Write about that too.
- How does it make you feel to know that sometimes you – or your loved one – can do all the “right things” and nothing works? Do you know why you respond that way? Is it helpful? Is it truth? Think about it.
- What are some ways you fight the dark? If you don’t have a list, make one.
- Who’s your safety net? Who are the people you know you can call for anything any time? Make a list. No one comes to mind? Think and pray about who you know that might fill that role. Even a mental health hotline. Don’t go it alone.
- What do you believe about Jesus? How do those assumptions or understandings shape how you might approach Him? Are you willing to come and see and learn more? Who can you talk to?