Society, culture and the church, maybe especially the church, have made it taboo for us to admit or talk about depression, in its various forms.
As always, silence is the monster that stands guard and prevents us from revealing the truth, and fear is the fodder that feeds the monster. It prevents us from shedding light on that truth, by sharing our struggles without shame, and bringing hope to those trapped and alone.
We fear that, if we expose what really happens in our minds—whether past or present—and share the spiritual battles we face, we will be judged, rejected and labeled. The fears are valid. Odds are some will do this to us.
For this reason I have spent many years silently fighting through bouts of depression, willing myself not to see that I struggled. I thought if I could pretend it wasn’t there, then it would go away. But it didn’t.
In my early years as a wife and mom, post-partum depression had a terrible impact on our family. The first few years I did my best to hide it completely from Tim. With time I allowed him small glimpses, but never fully opened up to him for the first seven years. It was a dark, lonely road.
Some of my children remember, vaguely, who I was then, and what life was like. Trapped in a mind that was unwell, I withdrew into myself. I tried to be a good mom, the best that I could be, and sometimes I did well for a time. But when ‘real life’ would take over, I became overwhelmed, and every little thing sent me into a temper, or caused me to withdraw in silent depression.
This cycle brings shame, defeat, and more depression. That is, until we find the root of it. My ‘depression’ is never true, clinical depression, but rather a spiritual depression. And, without fail, the root for me is a false belief about God. And that belief inevitably leads to a false belief about myself. I am created to reflect God, and if my perception of Him is off, my representation of Him will also be off. Most likely, if my perception of Him is not right, then I will lose trust and instinctively I turn to trusting myself more than God.
I am not unlike Jonah, running furiously in the wrong direction because I don’t like what God is telling me to do, knowing it will cost me. Or Elijah, camping out under a Juniper, running from death, all the while asking God to take his life so the enemy won’t kill him. Our thirst for control lands us in some dark places, just as it did the great prophets of old. Still, God uses us. He has a purpose.
As I think of it, I am very much like them. Except they didn’t hide their struggle like I do. Like our culture has trained us to do. They wore their anger and depression on their sleeves, not hiding the truth from God or man.
We would do ourselves huge favours to live more like them. No pretentiousness. If we would stop feeding the monster of silence through our fears, we would be more free.
And the wailing wall. I like that too. It is another thing we could use. Imagine us all, lined up at the wailing wall to mourn loudly. They even had professional wailers. I could do that, I think. Once I got past my pride and concern about image. I could stand at the wall and wail for others, all the while venting my own feelings.
How have we become so dignified that we must pretend? Why can’t we just be honest and say, much like King David, “Life is horrible. Everything is going wrong. My enemies are prospering… When, O God, will you come through for me?” And then, in true King David style, we could humble our hearts and say, “But you are my God, and I love you. I know you have my back and I have nothing to fear!”
Just imagining such freedom brings me joy. If I could speak my heart, without people flinching, that would make me feel safe. If I could look you in the eye and tell you, honestly, how I feel, with no fear of judgement or rejection, then my hear t would feel at home. So that is just what I will do. Except for the looking you in the eye part.
In the past little while this spiritual depression has begun again. As a result, I have become more introspective. Reflecting on the things of God and the things of my heart a bit more intently,because they are so intertwined, not only with each other, but with my core identity.
When things are not right with God, I feel lost. And then all is amiss. In Him I find the answer to my need, even while all else is not right. He is the breath I breathe and the life I pour it. He is my everything.
© Trudy Metzger 2012