Friday, April 10, 2015

The Depression Catalyst

    Depression, for me, is primarily a de-motivator. Why write, why read, why research, why arise each morning, when the world is suffocating in sorrow? Let's go cry into a fluffy cat, for, like, eternity.
    Yet, paradoxically, depression has catalyzed more changes in my life than almost anything else.

    See, where I grew up it wasn't uncommon to hear or read a pastor saying that depression was a sin, the result of selfishness or jealousy. After all, if the fruit of the Spirit was joy, and I had no joy, I was clearly having problems in my relationship with God.
    And since I assumed the pastor spoke for God, I accepted their teachings. When I was down and compulsively following the Rules, surely my problem was guilt for all my sins. When I wanted to die, I was just ungrateful and selfish.
    "I hate myself," I spat out.
    "No you don't. God says that's impossible: Ephesians 5:29," was the response.
    "You'd be glad you felt bad if you truly hated yourself," said the preacher from the pulpit, and he made sense, so I kept quiet.
    How terrible I must be, unable to rely on God enough. Deceived enough to think that I hated myself, when the problem was selfishness to begin with.

    Throughout college, my beliefs evolved to the point where I would have claimed I wasn't judging anyone who took antidepressants. But doubt still tingled the corner of my brain; in a sense, you could say I didn't quite trust their stories. And I couldn't quite believe that I myself, a girl who desperately wanted to please God, might need them.
    I couldn't quite believe my depression wasn't the result of my sin. After all, my suicidal tendencies were sinful and selfish, right?
    They told me truth would set me free. But if the truth was that depression was selfish, the truth was a prison. If depression was selfish, I was so sinful, so broken and rotten, I couldn't even know that I didn't hate myself. I wanted to repent of my selfishness; I prayed over and over for forgiveness and decided to "choose joy" - while praying for the strength of the Lord to help me be joyous, of course.
    Nothing took away the depression. No, this "truth" kept me in my chains.
    And then when I confessed my depression, well-intentioned people encouraged me to read my Bible more. They encouraged me not to focus on myself, but to focus on God.
    They didn't know that I couldn't do more. I couldn't be more.
    I was so lacking in joy and pretty much everything else by that point, I thought maybe I wasn't even a Christian. Which meant I was going to hell - not exactly a soothing thought.

    So when, after months of misery and desperation last year, I finally arrived in a pharmacy with a doctor's note for Cymbalta, I was really on my last hope. I wasn't even sure why I'd made it through the last month, or if I'd make it through the next.
   And - surprise - the medication helped.
   Turns out, everything I'd been taught about psychiatric drugs was wrong.  Therapy was usually ascribed to be the cure; antidepressants made it possible to remove the overwhelming misery so that I could heal. Like painkillers for my tortured mind.
    Like painkillers, they might not work for everyone (side-eyes to Tylenol). But that doesn't mean they're part of a pharmaceutical scheme, or a device of a lost, secular society who thinks science is the answer to all our problems.
    But if I had been taught something so wrong, what else could be wrong? To be fair, my beliefs had been gradually changing throughout college, but I'd resisted some of the larger ones.
    And so I began obsessively exploring faith. God, Jesus, religion, tradition. I began listening to the voices of those I'd held at arms length - the voices of the mentally ill, the ostracized, the marginalized. The dangerous LGBTQ+ voices, both Christian and not. The atheists, agnostics, Muslims and evangelicals. Those more progressive and more conservative than I.
    And, realizing I'd never quite trusted people who said depression wasn't their fault before, I began trusting their crazy, contradictory, beautiful stories.
    Depression had catalyzed some sort of breakdown inside - not just mentally, but spiritually.
    Depression taught me to listen. To give others the benefit of the doubt, to trust that they know themselves and their experiences better than I do. To repent of my arrogance, even.
    I'm not saying I endorse every viewpoint I listen to, for that would be impossible, but I value the chance to listen.
    Because, to be honest, I haven't found God's voice again in daily Bible readings. But I have heard Him whispering through others - through our myriad stories and intricate personalities, our contradictory opinions and desire for good, our smiles and tears and whimpers and dreams.
    Depression stole a lot from me, and I don't believe I'll ever be grateful for it. But depression also gave me a chance to listen for the first time.

    So, readers, thanks for listening. <3


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