Until just a couple of years ago I knew very little about depression or mental illness overall. I realized there’s an unfortunate stigma attached to it and that most people might choose to have diabetes, heart disease, or a chronic back condition- anything- over confronting mental illness.
I’m a middle-aged professional and active woman. I have a wide range of friends and a loving, stable family. My life was cruising along normally and then suddenly I felt “different.” As my husband and I walked into our church one Sunday morning I felt a grey cloud follow me in. The cloud lingered throughout the afternoon. I noticed it, but went on as usual. The next day the cloud greeted me when I awoke. Little did I know that the cloud would become my constant companion, growing in intensity in every dimension and affecting what I did, how I perceived myself, and impacting the goals I had set.
The cloud slowly became a storm that robbed me of my normally optimistic perspectives. Fatigue set in and I found myself sluggish, moving less often, and consequently, I gained weight. The daily exercise routine was more than I could fathom. Whereas once exercise was an anticipated release, it became yet another overwhelming “have to.” Even my regular, fast paced walk in the office or to my car in the parking lot grew substantially slower. I reasoned, “You’re getting older,” yet I knew it was more than aging.
I assumed my close friends noticed a difference in me. I mean, I grew quiet and my smile disappeared. Even still, no one asked, “How are you?” Did they truly not notice a change? Did they think it would be invasive to ask or place them in a vulnerable role? Beyond my husband, who was patient and accepting, I felt all alone and lonely in this new experience. I lost hope for the future. Believe me, that’s a sad place to exist and I often wondered at that point how I would survive another 25- plus years, as the future looked dismal and burdensome; something to be endured rather than received and enjoyed.
Interestingly, my path intersected simultaneously with two individuals I’d not met before. Both are Believers and both were genuinely caring about my state of being. Though neither one is a therapist or a social worker, they asked pertinent questions, extended amazing grace, and provided solace and unending encouragement. Both made themselves available to me. They each walked with me, sharing the love of Christ in a manner I’d not experienced before. They were like an oasis in the desert and oh, so timely for this thirsty soul!
Slowly, over a period of time, I began to see the drudgery of life begin to lift. I began to notice flickers of joy, reservoirs of hope, and a slightly quickened pace returned. One year ago I suddenly said out loud to myself, “You’ve emerged. You made it!” Even so, a fear came over me as I realized the depression could return. I reminded myself again and again that while this may be true, I need to only consider what I confront today and embrace what is given to me. And I have.
Now, thirteen months later I have gotten only stronger and stronger and can see important lessons I learned from the saga. Quite honestly, I can’t say I’m thankful for the depression, but I can recognize valuable lessons learned and priceless insights provided from the experience. For those, I give thanks.
I now have an increased sense of when I interact with another person who is battling depression. I can fully empathize and make myself available to them as needed. I didn’t choose depression or cause it to happen. It just seems that the middle-aged season was ideal for it to occur and that’s that. The treasured comrades who loved me through the cloud will forever be my heroes. They each taught me countless ways to “love as Jesus loves.” My goal is to serve others who struggle in like manner.
Since the depression lifted I began to see a Christian counselor. She has pointed me to Scripture, has helped affirm my value, and has listened attentively to my fears. This experience has been new, but comforting and beneficial. To touch base periodically with her and to know I am mentally healthy is a worthwhile use of time. My future looks bright and I give endless thanks for those who have seen me through this.