In the hole. That’s what I call it. That’s what it feels like. A dark hole with just you in it, but you can still see and hear life outside as it passes by. You don’t go to the hole. The hole comes to you. It sneaks up from behind and takes you over before you are quite sure what is happening. It is depression.
I have struggled on and off with depression over the past few decades and while my experience may be similar to yours, it might be totally different and that’s ok. I’m not an expert on the subject. I can only speak from the places my journey has taken me and the things I have learned along the way. And if you are reading this from your own hole, this is me, peeping in over the edge to say “Hi.”
The weird thing about depression is that sometimes the trigger is pretty obvious, and other times, it seems to show up on a sunny, blue sky day. Both big and small things can be an invitation to the hole. It can all feel very ambiguous and unpredictable until we understand the nature of the beast. The root of depression is loss.
The loss can be real or perceived. It doesn’t have to be a physical loss to feel like loss. That is the key. It is what we feel that matters. Or usually what we are trying to avoid feeling. Depression is a signal that there is a loss that needs dealing with. And how do we deal with loss? Grief.
Grief is the way God gave us to process the losses we experience in this life. And what I have come to learn is that we are all grieving something at all times. That doesn’t mean we are depressed or sad all the time. But we live in a fallen world that is in a constant state of dying. Whether it’s our baby starting Kindergarten or a relationship that has run its course, we are always losing something. We were created to process these losses as they come our way. Grief was meant to pass thru us as we give it space to do the healing work it was designed to do. It was never meant to be used like a giant wad of toilet paper to stop up the flow of nasty stuff so it can sit there, stinking up our lives. Grief is the process our Creator gave to help move us on to other things.
But not all of us move on. For different reasons, we don’t all do the work. And when that happens, we begin a slow process of poisoning ourselves. First, the darkness moves into our hearts and sets up camp. The longer it stays, the darker it gets. And sometimes the darkness feels so heavy, the enemy will tell us there is only one way out. I’ve been there. I understand that kind of darkness; it’s not true because he is a dirty, dirty LIAR. But even if your world never gets that dark, it is still a hazy reality void of any joy or hope or peace. Once darkness has become the status quo, we begin to believe the lie that there is no chance of relief or release. Then eventually, the darkness settles into our bones. Physical ailments and conditions with no solid medical foundation or explanation begin. Our body is trying to send us the message that we refused to accept from our emotions. Loss is powerful and it costs us greatly if ignored.
I’m learning now how to be better aware of the hole and the invitations I am sending. I look behind me on a regular basis to see if it’s creeping up on me. When I do find depression lurking around my back door, I make time to get alone and ask myself “what is the loss?” Usually the tears show up first, followed by the hurt in my heart giving voice to the pain. And then the grief can begin. The process of feeling the shock, anger, bartering, sadness and acceptance of this person or that thing. Some grief requires more work than others. I am currently grieving my daughter losing her two front teeth and my dad’s cancer diagnosis. Obviously one feels heavier than the other. But both are a loss and both require me to feel them at their own level.
Listen, this is no easy conversation and not the funnest place for the blank page to take me (yes, it IS a word b/c I said it’s a word so I’m gonna use it as if it’s a real word. Also, I’m going to hide this post from my senior English teacher). While it may not be fun, it is SO SO SO important that we talk about hard things. It is a huge part of loving ourselves well. Take care of you. Everybody benefits when you stop long enough to feel the feelings and do the work. I can’t promise you it will be easy; I can only promise you it will be worth it.