Everything is Fine.
Hey again, friends.
I’m going to lay some things out for you today. It may be more information than you need or want. But you can read or not…it’s just something I’ve got to get out.
I haven’t had anything worth sharing with you in weeks.
No, that’s not true. There has been an overflow of material I could have written on. Personal events. Political events. Professional events. Community events. Life is certainly never dull, and it provides endless situations to offer commentary on. I’ve had so many things run through my mind. So many things I’ve cried over. So many people I’ve wanted to argue with. So many essays written and unpublished. But ultimately, my feelings and words were nothing new; they were a harmonious voice in a choir of stress and anxiety, frustration and anger that exists in the world. My voice would have just added to the chaos, to the low roar that was already filling the world. Something I repeat to myself all of the time: Just because you can does not mean you should. I could have said a lot…it doesn’t mean I should have. So I didn’t. And I’m happy with that choice.
Several weeks later and nearing the end of February, the world isn’t actually any quieter. In fact, things get louder and more complicated every day. But I’m reaching the point where everything is under too much pressure and my own silence is becoming deafening. I’ve been uncovering a cycle in myself over the past year — a cycle that is hard, embarrassing, sometimes ugly. Some recent realizations have struck me enough that it pushed me to share with you; I’m certain someone else will connect with this, too.
When the world is full of chaos, I don’t like to face it. I don’t like to talk about things outside my small circle; in fact, I won’t leave my house if I don’t have to. I generally have to leave my house for one thing or another each day. But if I’m feeling overwhelmed, my eyes will stay forward and my interactions will be brief; or if I’m headed to work, my engagement will be on auto-pilot and work will be all I’m thinking about.
If I’m honest, I’ve often thought that this characteristic leaves me more suited for life in the big city rather than the small town. My small-town neighbors probably think I’m pretty rude when I’m on auto-pilot. Part of me wants to apologize, and part of me wants you to read on to further understand.
Another side effect of hard times in the world for me is I’m basically a jerk to anyone I love. Those who love me just want to know what’s going on…because they care. They want to talk to me…because they value me. They reach out…and I pull back. Trust me — I recognize this. And it’s not awesome. But it’s honest.
Friends, this is depression.
After all of those feelings kick in, and all of the above actions follow, I become pretty well convinced that everyone hates me for it. People talk about it as soon as I walk away. There are private message threads devoted to how terrible I am. And if I could just change all of these things about myself, everything would be so much better.
Friends, this is anxiety.
All of this then feeds the desire to not connect with anyone outside my house. And those sweet people who are inside my house get the worst side of me at every turn.
Friends, this is a cycle.
Looking deeper into past experiences, this is a cycle I have been moving through for a lot of years. And I’m going to give you some of the excuses that I have repeated to myself for most of those years, continue to repeat to myself, and that you may have told yourself as well:
This is normal.
Everything is fine.
I just need to get through it.
Keep smiling, keep going.
Everyone’s counting on you to keep it together. Don’t let them down.
If you don’t get this done, no one else is going to help you.
Other people have such bigger struggles than you. Get over it.
Oh, those excuses make me want to weep as I read them.
I wish I didn’t still believe most of them most days.
Let me tell you the thing that plays most loudly in my head:
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. Philippians 4:6-7
Y’all I have STRUGGLED with this subject. If I really trust God, then how dare I worry about things, or be upset with my situation. Right?
Well, I can’t argue with God.
Let’s revise that…God is big enough to handle my wrestling.
God is so gracious with our struggles. Sometimes, however, God’s people are not so gracious with our struggles. Not because they’re trying to be unkind…I truly believe they have the best of intentions when they try to impart wisdom into each situation. But sometimes they’re so busy trying to tell you why you shouldn’t be struggling that they’re not really listening to what you’re struggling with.
((Disclaimer: Do NOT come for me in the comments re: this. I love a lot of people who love Jesus. If you’re one of those people and you are offended by the above, then you probably do this. Just saying. Seek first to understand, folks.)
I think of the story of Lazarus in the book of John. Jesus loved Lazarus and his family, and Lazarus had died and was buried. We see in the story that Jesus KNOWS what’s happening. He knew Lazarus was going to die, and He knew the ordeal would end with Lazarus being raised from the dead. HOWEVER. In John 11:35, we see: “Jesus wept.” He empathized. He understood. This certainly doesn’t mean He never shared His truth and hope with them; but He took time to share in the grief with His friends. What an example to us.
So many people who struggle with depression are so ashamed of it. I have been so ashamed of it. I dealt with it silently for a long time. And then, as it seems to be the catalyst for just about everything the past year, COVID happened, and I was ripped away from my work and isolated from people I love. And it broke me. I was not equipped to cope with that. My husband wasn’t equipped to deal with me. My daughter shouldn’t have been expected to care for her mama. I was too ashamed to tell anyone I was struggling. And I didn’t know how to crawl out.
There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for struggles with mental health. Some people do well with talking to a counselor. Some people find their way through prayer. Some people choose medications. Some work with a professional to develop coping mechanisms. And some use a combination of the above. But the common thread is finding your way through is to reach out and connect with someone else in some way. For me, I had to be willing to go to the doctor’s office in the middle of a pandemic to talk to my trusted health professional. She listened. She didn’t judge me. She understood. She helped me find a solution. I am so thankful. Not everyone has a good experience walking through this cycle. Some people are shamed, or not believed, by their doctors. Some people have partners that just can’t (or won’t) understand. Some turn to destructive ways to cope and don’t find their way out on the other side.
I’m thankful I was able to recognize that the reason I hadn’t taken the time to write to all of you is that I was overwhelmed by the world. That realization helped me create my map to move through this part of the cycle. And it helped me find the words to share this struggle with you now.
Before I wrap this up, I do want to circle back to the fact that God is so gracious with my wrestling and share a Grandma Bushaw story with you (because it seems I have one of those for every subject of my life). Probably 20 years ago now, I remember my grandma Bushaw having a conversation with someone at our church debating the reality of depression. And this strong woman, who I love so fiercely, told this person that God’s peace is undeniable and sure, but there’s no way we can discredit an actual illness that is affecting a person’s brain. I remember hearing that exchange, knowing absolutely nothing about mental health, and being so in awe of my grandma. I think about this story often to get my negative self-talk back in line. Yes, God’s peace is undeniable and sure. My struggles don’t make that any less true. I just need extra help digging through the muck of the world some days.
Sending love --
2/22/2021 10:11:44 am
Thanks for sharing...depression is a real thing!!! We need to be open about it ...just like any other health issue!!!
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My name is Miranda and I'm a mom, spouse, dance teacher, and entrepreneur. I’m going to share my life with you. The good, the bad, the weird. I hope to inspire you, encourage you, make you laugh. I’ll be honest. And I can’t wait to learn more about you through it all.