When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
He looks at me this morning in his office, “I’m sorry I don’t know what this is like for you.” We are holding hands and my face is wet with sob. I want to run away and crumple on the floor and disappear. All at once. I ask him to forgive me for being so difficult, beg him to pray over me. I need prayer and God seems far from my grasp.
It’s been weeks of pain now and I am exhausted. Strep throat in the ER twice in one weekend requires steroids and heavy painkillers and my brain hasn’t been the same since. I feel a drowning, a slipping, as my very own thoughts can’t catch a foothold. And it is worse now because I have grown accustomed to healthy and I am angry that something as simple as Strep Throat takes this much from me. I am angry that my world is so fragile, that so many things have to go right for me to just keep my head above the water.
What I know, however, is that this drowning is a feeling, but it is not my reality. Water floods me at family parties, I choke, tear, tell myself to breathe, and remind myself that the rising waters are not real. My darling niece wearing a new princess dress at her 4th birthday party: that’s real. Pushing past drowning waters as I put the boy’s clean clothes in their dressers and kiss them goodnight: that is real. Toasting my little brother and his beautiful bride at their engagement party: real. These memories, people, loves of my life will outlive this torture of today. I will feel whole again.
I used to climb into bed when I was this depressed and hate myself all the while I was missing those eternal moments, the moments I will carry with me to heaven. But now I know I can walk through water, I can push through tidal. I can even put my makeup on, blow-dry my hair, and balance in heels through the ebb and flow of invisible waves.
It’s not without floods of tears. It’s not without faltering. But it is progress.
Julie Fast wrote a book, Get it done while you’re depressed. I was so relieved to see someone else packaged these truths into black and white. Her beautiful book made me realize that I am not the only one in the world trying to walk on water, trying to walk upright while my lungs fill with the drown.
Julie asserts that We can push through a feeling, whether it’s depression or anger or jealousy or broken-hearted grief. Feelings are not our reality! Our reality is a set of light houses we have erected. When the storm is at its height and the boat feels as if it will surrender to the waves, we seek out those light houses, we chart the stars, we follow the moon back to shore.
When I feel myself capsizing, I first look to the unalienable truths of my life:
1. God is always with me, whether I can feel Him or not. If I cannot feel Him, I will go to the people and places where He abides. I will turn on praise music and flood my ears and heart with words of thanksgiving. I will search deeper, knock harder, kneel longer.
2. My husband loves me, and he is on my side. I can go to him and he will help me navigate. I can confide in him my suspicions, my paranoias, and he will help me see where my illness is clouding my ability to see clearly.
3. My doctors are my first line of defense. I make an appointment, ask for immediate help if necessary. No one–not even Jack–can love me enough to address this ocean of insanity anymore than they could cure cancer. Love is not enough; this girl needs professional guidance.
4. Benadryl is my best friend. When I am climbing into a mania, when I am falling into a hole, benadryl takes the edge off. It helps me sleep, it helps me not scream at my family. Hey, I’m being truthful here.
5. Maintaining my gluten free, low-sugar, diet and taking supplements becomes more of a challenge, but is even more important.
6. When every fiber of my being wants to curl into a ball and disappear, getting some light is always what I need. In Seattle, this can prove difficult (as it rains from October to June), but it’s not impossible. Even working next to a sunny window helps.
7. Reaching out to others–even if all that entails is a simple, one-line text–always lifts my spirits. It is harder to believe the negative tapes playing in my head when I know I am contributing, encouraging, and giving to others.
If you live with depression, run to your computer and order Julie’s book. We can persist, friends. We can march through night until the dawning. As Terri Cheney says, “The cruelest curse of this disease is also its most sacred promise: You will not feel this way forever.”