Short Story: though the darkest of hours are often inevitable, life is a gift and the Giver is good.
We need to talk.
We need to talk about depression and anxiety and mental illness. I, Katelyn Kristine, need to talk about my depression and anxiety and mental illness.
For the past year, I have been silently suffering. Depression became an unwanted constant companion in my life around Thanksgiving time, 2017. And to shoot straight, it took me until the sunny days of July were robbed by that ever-looming dark cloud to realize that depression isn’t always “seasonal”, and in my case, it definitely isn’t.
“I am suffering from depression and anxiety”.
Whenever I admit this to people, I usually receive blank, confused faces that communicate to me that I am being dramatic. “Are you sure… You are always smiling and full of energy… You love life… It will pass..”
The reality is it is true that I always try to smile, and people energize me. It is absolutely true that I LOVE living this life, and I believe depression won’t have a major role in this production forever. I believe anxiety won’t paralyze me every morning. But the fact is, it might. I might need the little white pill to feel somewhat normal for the rest of my life. This demon might be one I battle until I meet Jesus face-to-face. That doesn’t make me any less loving, joyful, or hopeful… it just makes those feelings challenging to conceive some days.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Depression doesn’t always look on the outside to be people wearing black, acting gothic, and being angry at everything that moves. It doesn’t always sound like screamo music or hysterical tears. It is not only found in those living in misfortune. Depression, like most other illnesses, doesn’t have a preference or a checklist. Depression found me during some of the best days of my life, and it still had the capacity of rewriting my script. It took control of me and affected almost every aspect of my life.
Here’s what depression is like for me…
When depression is heavy, it’s as if you are trying to run away but are chained to a wall. And those chains only get tighter and tighter. You try to yell, to reach out for help, but the walls of depression completely surround you and drown out your plea; convincing you that you are a burden. That you are weak. That no one will understand. That you are ungrateful for what you’ve been given. The fear of being unlovable forms into a lump in your throat that shuts you up. So, you try to escape the darkness by sleeping. But then the nightmares begin, and you realize that nowhere is safe. Darkness is everywhere. And these chains– you’ve been told that you have the power to break EVERY chain. You’ve been told that you are FREE INDEED, and that these walls can’t hold you in, and they don’t keep people out. You’ve been told that victory is yours. And though you believe all of that in the depth of your heart, your mind tells you otherwise. You start to think, if this is my life…being bound by these chains and isolated by these walls… is it even worth living? Does it make a difference that I’m here?
The toughest part of the day for me is the morning, when I wake up with little joy or motivation to do the things. The lack of sleep combined with being physically and mentally exhausted from trying to break through the darkness robs me of all energy, and makes it impossible for me to find even a single reason to smile. And sometimes, it is hard to get out of bed and put on someone else’s smile.
But I do. With God’s never-failing grace and a hope for tomorrow, I arise. And I face the day, putting a fought-for yet genuine smile on my face, straining to find the joy, to see the light, to press on towards the goal He has set before me. And once I get from beneath the weight of my comforter, I REJOICE in the life I get to live. I have depression, yes, but it doesn’t change who I truly am: a dreamer, a lover, a leader, a friend…. it’s possible. Depression is conquerable and manageable, but not independently. I have battled because of my hope within, my reliable counselor and doctors, and my friends, near and far, who have relentlessly battled against the darkness with me and for me. Friends who didn’t send me the hotline number or wait for me to reach out. Friends who showed up even from thousands of miles away.
It’s uncomfortable, but more than that feels so good to admit that I am living with depression, and it’s time I shoot straight. We need to talk.
After another devastating suicide in the college community, it’s time we change the conversation. We must do more than only encouraging those suffering to “reach out for help”. Sharing the numbers of hotlines is not enough. Telling those stuck in the darkness to “reach out” is not enough. Because trust me, they have tried. They are still trying. We are still trying. They are trying to reach out. If the darkness is all-consuming that the only path to freedom seen is calling it quits, they have tried more than they can explain. The hotline is insufficient if it is the only thing we offer. Hear me straight; the anonymous hotline is a valuable resource that is utilized and responsible for saving lives. However, we, as humans and friends and fellow darkness fighters, there is so much more we can do.
If you find yourself with me, with a hand on the darkness and with a grasp on the light and the truth, we need to be love.
We need to be love.
We need to be the ones to reach out and offer help. We need to reach out and call those bound by the chains. We need to show up for those who are fighting to make an appearance. We need to be aware of the signs, and relentlessly break the painfully incorrect stigmatization around mental illness. We need to ask those around us, “how are you?” and really ask, and really listen; listen with no other agenda but to listen to and receive the answer.
Sometimes, we all need help being reminded that life is a gift and the Giver is good.
If you are reading this and have suffered from depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness, this is for you:
You are not alone. It makes a difference to this universe when you show up. You are not defined by your diagnosis. You are more than those awful lies that get stuck on repeat in your mind. You are wanted. There is a beautiful, unique reason for you to be alive. You feel that heartbeat? That means there is a purpose waiting for you to discover and live into. Depression does not get the final word, my love. Depression does not get the final word.
And you are loved, so loved, more than you know. You are wanted and chosen, and you weren’t meant to fight this on your own. Use all of your hidden strength to pick up your phone and tell your friend that you need them. Invite them in to see the chains and help you break down the walls. You are good. You are good. You are so very good.
“….you are being invited out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.”