When depression saunters back in unannounced (or when you ignore the red flags), it still comes bearing surprising gifts
I recently fell into a dark hole that I haven’t visited in a long time…years in fact.
It had actually been so long that I over-confidently began to believe that pothole had been filled, never to be tripped upon again. Until I did. And down I went.
This hole is deep, like lifetimes. I know it well, like an overstuffed closet I try to ignore. And within it there is a ‘Hall of Shame’, walls lined with framed evidence of all my failures and shortcomings. I slump in defeat upon arrival looking around at it all, taking it in. I am devoid of fighting power.
Depression. It’s a magnet for all bad feelings, limited thinking — for every vulnerability, insecurity and harsh thought you ever held for yourself.
It’s an indomitable force. The sight of it crushes me and swallows me up. I surrender. I’m tired…tired of resisting, tired of pretending it’s all OK and that I’ve got this handled.
And then I got mad at God and decided to tell him so. I needed someone to lash out at…and well, God’s always there, so he got an earful.
Yes, I did. I was in my car talking to myself and him like a crazy woman — and I was furious. It felt like nothing in life was working and I was tired of trying. Later, as I was confessing this car scenario to a friend, I kind of half-joked in saying, Well, if God can’t handle the heat, he needs to get another job!
I hope I’ve made you laugh.
I bet you’ve likely been at your wits end before too. Relating is one thing, knowing what to do with it all is another story. And let’s face it — there’s no clarity in the heat of the moment. There’s only the raw emotion of anger, fear, pain, sadness, grief, trauma, resentment and shame that bubbles to the surface. There’s certainly no room for silver linings and unicorns at that party.
When depression wrestles you to the ground, it’s hard to set yourself free from its clutches…and it usually means that something has got to give. Like a volcano that must erupt, sometimes we just have to get it out. The more fiercely we hold onto it and keep it under wraps, the more dramatic the release. And when it feels like you live in a bubble of holistic health and conscious living like me…it can feel like there isn’t a place for the ugly side of emotions — like temper tantrums — to emerge. So, there’s always the car (and God).
It wasn’t planned. It just happened. I let it rip.
I was worn down and frustrated.
I was tired of asking, taking the high road, thinking happy thoughts, believing in possibility, living as what I desired already was…blah, blah, blah.
My tools and resolve were depleted. So I threw it back at God with a ‘so, what do you have to say for yourself now’ attitude.
Btw, he can handle it.
When we’re up against the wall in any way, we realize pretty quickly that we all have a breaking point where enough is enough. Mine is pretty resilient (not necessarily a good thing), but I try not to get there. I try to pay attention and see the signs. I try to use my self-help tools. I try to heal old wounds. I try to clean up my side of the street. I do a lot of trying and even then…sometimes it can all feel like too much….probably (or most definitely) because there is something more to see.
This ’best self-ing’ can be exhausting.
But by the time I hit that raw nerve, I’m not seeing anything, but my seething anger and bitter resentment. And all the wounds and feeling-sorry-for-myself emotions come marching to join in. You would not want to be in the car with us!
You know, many of our wounds can be traced back to moments when we felt someone let us down, someone else did something to us, someone didn’t show up for us or we were left to fend for ourselves. And part of that equation may in fact be true, with varying characters and storylines, but that real ‘someone’ is US.
We attribute so much of our pain and our power to others. Since when can we control others? If we can agree on anything, it’s that — right?
I let myself down each time I made a decision for the wrong reasons, disregarded the cues my heart and body were sending me, tried to muscle my way to a different result, etc. — just plain didn’t listen.
We have to stop looking outside for answers that are within. The tools to shift are within. The resolve to reroute is within. The true life preserver is within. Go there.
Why didn’t someone tell me that decades ago?
Those moments of despair can feel enormous, dark, unending and very real — but I also know they are transitory. I trust that they will pass. I will make peace with God. And I will avail myself of something new, some piece of wisdom that I didn’t have the day before, some revelation I had been ignoring — because though I had to let it out, my real work was finding my way back to me (again).
Darn! If only blaming this on someone else could make it go away.
I know I ignored the signs. When I look back upon the days and weeks leading up to it…they were lining up, practically smacking me in the face. I was getting cranky. I felt more irritable with others. My glass was half-empty. I was working tons, playing little, dealing with a 2-week+ eye issue…just feeling stressed from many sides…and pretending I didn’t see it. I know, it seems so ridiculous (and obvious) even as I write it. But I just kept plugging along as I am so good at doing (watch out God, here I come). You can see where this pattern lands me.
The truth is that while it snuck up on me…I felt it coming.
The tools of life aren’t for preventing discomfort, they are for navigating it. Listen to the whisper from your soul as it descends. It comes bearing wisdom despite its thorny ribbon.
You know, life isn’t all about keeping it together — it’s about getting through it with our eyes, ears, hearts and souls open…which means bringing our vulnerability along for the ride, too.
But once on your knees…just tell the truth — to yourself — and allow that to surround you. The truth allows us to breathe into who we really are and what we truly desire.
And another thing — depression is deceptive. It tells us we are alone in our despair. While I definitely have a propensity to retreat during these times, I also did something differently this time around. I shared it.
And with each share, I was surrounded by a visceral group hug — a secret handshake of acknowledgement that said, me too. Frankly, I was surprised by how many other people had experienced similar things and more so by their willingness to admit it once I did. It was as if a permission slip to be ‘real’ had been granted.
We think that we need to show our strength and resolve to the world when in fact, we need to share our truth. We need to share what is real. Observe your words and your ‘outside’ face. Which mask are you wearing and why?
When asked How are you, days after my depression, I didn’t default to answering, fine. No, instead I told the truth (to myself and others), I just had a rough week and was dealing with depression.
I don’t have solutions to your every depressive feeling (or mine), but I want you to know this:
- It is fleeting
- You are bigger than it
- You are human
- It comes bearing gifts
- You are not alone
- You are being pointed in another direction
- Sometimes it’s necessary
- I see you
And another thing, I allowed myself the space to feel. I cried a thousand tears for an entire day. Though I felt exhausted when it was all over…I also felt rejuvenated in the quietest of ways. Those pent up tears and truths cleansed me. Afterwards there was clarity and gentleness. I didn’t have all the answers, but I renewed my vows to self, I hear you. I climbed out of the hole, dusted off and began to show up for my best self…and that is the truth of who I am.
Remember, we bond in our humanness and isolate in our despair.
As always, there is richness within this conversation (and connection) that we share in this community of Best Selfers. Where does this show up in your life?
When you feel yourself spiraling down, what’s your course of action? Please share the wisdom of your experience (the good, the bad and the ugly in all its glory) in the comments below. Remember, we’re in this together.