I have depression. I’m telling You, on the internet, not because You need to know but because I need to say it.
Lord, I have atypical depression which, despite its name, is the most common form of depression. Like all forms of clinical depression, it’s characterized by overwhelming low mood and low self-esteem. Or to put that another way, it rips out my heart and replaces it with this writhing deadness. It claws its way up my neck, choking and mocking me, taunting me that life and love are impossibilities for this miserable fraud. It makes me hate me.
Atypical depression differs from other forms of depression in that you experience increased appetite and increased desire to sleep. They’re known by the awesome name, “reverse-vegetative” symptoms. On the plus side, atypical depression will often lift temporarily in reaction to good things. So yay for that!
It’s also associated with intense inter-personal rejection sensitivity… which is about as fun as it sounds. And oh boy Lord, am I sensitive.
It’s not so much that I think people dislike me, just that I take every tiny bit of criticism, every negative inflection, and turn it against myself. My mind is an extremely skilled ninja-critic. I can find something wrong with everything and then use that to denigrate myself.
Perhaps even more, I am often blind to my good qualities. I expect so much of myself and am inevitably disappointed when it turns out, lo and behold, that I am human.
Sometimes I can hear the things I say to myself and Father, I am cruel – International Court of Justice cruel – to myself.
I don’t deserve that so why do I do it to myself, Lord?
I’ve had major depressive episodes, as they’re called, since I was about 12 (or possibly earlier) and started antidepressants when I was 15. As You know, I haven’t been able to come off my medication successfully.
All this means that I have spent so much of my life feeling worthless and ashamed, and so much time crying. It means I don’t really remember a time when I wasn’t dealing with depression, or its fall-out, in some shape or form.
It’s usually triggered by changes in my life. In the last two years, I’ve had a crisis of faith, quit university, traveled overseas alone, left my church, become Catholic, started my first full-time job, moved out of home, and then quit that job to go back to study. Suffice to say, these years have often been hellish.
Why is that, Lord?
I have no idea why You made this way, God. I don’t know why my body sucks at making the happy-chemicals it’s supposed to. I don’t know why my temperament is textbook melancholic at times. I don’t why I have keep fighting this, beating down the same old demons when they are as strong and wicked as ever.
It’s like drowning out in the open seas. If you can’t swim, drowning is an awfully quick process – but I can swim. And so I’m treading water, my legs doing the egg-beater, back and forth, round and round, and it’s so much energy just to keep alive.
Yes, I’m stronger than I was, Lord. I try to be glad of that. But I’m also more wearied. My soul is aching from all the just-coping and just-getting-by. And most of all, I am tired of this fear and negativity.
So I need to own it. I need to say it to You and to myself and whoever else wants to listen: I have depression.
I did not cause it.
I do not want it.
But by God, I will not let it win.
I will get the help I need. I will make space for healing and be patient with myself. I will go to Mass where I am strengthened, not discouraged. I will learn to eat better, sleep better, paint my nails, do my hair, and just be silly sometimes. I will go to confession more and I will learn to forgive myself as Jesus forgives me.
And I will begin to believe again how deeply I am loved and how much I am cherished. For I am loved with an everlasting love (Je 31:3): a love which casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18), endures all things (1 Co 13:7), surpasses all creation (Ro 8:39), and lies at the very heart of Deity (1 Jn 4:8).
For God is love and He loves me.
I know it won’t be easy but I know you will be there, with me and for me, every step of the way. And I have such Hope.
Because Father, I may have depression.
But I also have You.