Depression. I hate it. I can’t think of many things in this life that are worse. Oh, how different I would be if I were never introduced to this dark shadow which swallows everything it pleases.
Maybe I should back up a bit. . . .
For those of you who visit the blog regularly, I am sure you have noticed. . . I have been somewhat AWOL from the blog. I am going to try to explain.
When I first went through depression in 2010, it was such a foreign thing. It hit me out of nowhere, and was relentless in its ability to create fear, panic, and destabilization of every thought and move I made. However, 2010 was the first time I was confronted with it. Being the first time, I was less ashamed (at least, this is how I am interpreting things right now). I kept all of you (and everyone I knew) up to date on its effects. I blogged about it daily. The shame was not present to the degree it is now because (again) this was my first time to experience it. Therefore, I was not admitting to anyone that I was a depressed person whom you had to shy away from, but that I had had this strange, foreign, campaign in the darkness that was so unlike me.
Well, here I am four years later, coming out of a second serious round of depression. And as transparent and so many of you may think I am, I have been too ashamed to admit it . . . to anyone.
There are so many circumstances that have contributed to this round that it is easy for me to find the triggers. My dad died in November. I have taken full-time care of my mother, and have been confronted with serious issues involving my family and work.
It was so great when I recovered from the first round of depression. I had gone through the darkest time I could possibly imagine, and yet, came out on the other side. I could now empathize and preach to the depressed souls with more understanding. I did not want another helping of this stuff. I did not want any more understanding. I just wanted to move on and grow from the injuries.
But this is not the Lord’s plan. I have once again walked in this darkness for the past few months. This bout has become more chronic than my previous experience.
Fear, hopelessness, deep sadness, and shame are the four qualifiers that define it best. I have told the Lord so many times that this is much more than I can handle. I have made the arguments that David made: “This does not benefit your glory. I need restoration.”
I have tried so many remedies. I have a new one every hour. Focusing on this passage of Scripture, remembering that this is not who I am, escaping into this movie or television show, or just praying without ceasing. All of this work for a time, but somehow the black hole of depression is able to suck away the limited hope that these give.
Give me back hope and all returns. If I have hope, the fear is gone, sadness had no vitality, and shame is unnecessary.
But for a couple of months now, I am sure that people can see my hopelessness.
I have not quit believing but the fear of such an outcome is consuming. Remember last time? Remember I had that short time as an atheist? That was the worst. Even describing it is too much of a nightmare for me to recount. Emotions overwhelm reason and give way to irrational thoughts that are beyond our control.
Here I am writing about it. What a release this is. I needed to do this. I need to show you my weakness that God is revealing to me. Why? If I did not, then I would be living a lie. I would be writing, teaching, and preaching without letting you see the open wounds on my chest.
The wounds are closing now. For the most part, I just have to get back to life and quit being so self-absorbed. Who cares if people think I am crazy? Who cares if others see me as weak in faith? What if I can’t take care of my mother any longer? What if so much that is on my shoulders falls off and breaks? It is not about me. It is about Him.
Why does the Lord teach us things so slowly? Why can’t we just learn, hurt, mourn, and then move on? Why can’t our brokenness be put back together for good? I don’t know. But I am comforted in the fact that God has not promised us the absence of suffering and depression. In fact, he has told us the opposite. We morn in a fallen, broken world. We experience that brokeness in our bodies and souls.
Today I gather together my faith and I stand before the Lord the same as before. He is my only hope.
There are so many of you who have these same wounds. You get around others and you cover them up as quickly as possible. Yet, the pain that accompanies them does not subside behind your disguise. I am deeply saddened, because I know about your injury and I can’t close it. But, most importantly, I don’t know how long the Lord will tarry in finishing his surgical procedure on your soul.
I pray that we all persevere. For I do know that the sufferings of this present world (and they are tremendous) are not to be compared to the glory that is coming. Let us all—even just for a second—rest deeply in this reality.
C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.
Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]