As the death of Robin Williams moved from breaking news to yesterday’s news to no longer news, I cannot help but focus on the reality of depression and how it plagues so many of us.
We see a funny, animated, energetic, successful man on the screen. But behind closed doors, there is addiction, depression, and despair.
There are many of us appear to be happy, upbeat, joyful, and excited about the littlest things in life. We may be clever, silly, and natural entertainers. Our highs touch the sky, but our lows sink us beneath normal. This is exactly how I felt in the fall of 1995 when I started college. This was before I knew much about anxiety and depression and that I struggled with it.
I felt like my mind was racing so fast that my body could not keep up with it. Recently I was watching Episode #4 of Disappeared in which an 18 year old boy who has struggled with anxiety and depression in the past leaves his home in a small Illinois town. Searchers find a note he handwritten in a state park in Wisconsin that says, “My head is too big for my body. Finally I will get some sleep.”
This is exactly how I felt. I did not want to commit suicide…I never got to that point…but escape the crazy consuming racing thoughts…I wished it for it every day. There were days I thought it would be easier to transfer to another college, move to another state, quit school and move back home, or just sleep–but I knew my thoughts would continue and maybe intensify.
I felt like an entertainer. I could be upbeat, funny, and energetic in large groups of people. I could always be found chatting with someone in the lobby or studying with someone in the study basement. But behind closed doors I was an emotional mess and I had no idea how to express this. I even wrote this poem in November of 1995:
My name is the Entertainer
I make people laugh with my jokes
Until they shove me away
If only they knew I was crying inside
My name is the Entertainer
And I am a walking liar.
I didn’t know what to do. Every day got harder. The thoughts did not go away but got faster and fiercer. I became more lonely every single day. I was losing friends. I did not blame people for not inviting me to things or wanting to get to know me better because I didn’t really like myself either.
That is the problem with those of us prone to anxiety and depression. We can be hard to deal with. We can be a challenge to live with. We are way too sensitive and you have to walk on egg shells around us. You can raise your hand during “the prayer request time” in Bible Study and tell about your friend struggling with cancer, but we can’t share about our dark depression that is paralyzing our own life.
I remember walking into a counseling session nervous, scared out of my mind and believing at that time counseling was only for “the crazies.” After my counselor told me I tested high for anxiety his next words were, “This is treatable.”
There is help, my friends. There’s medication, support groups, exercise, dietary changes, job changes, counseling and more. All these things helped me at one time or another.
But ultimately and most importantly there is God. I believe he did not intend for us to live this way trapped in our racing thoughts. I know our world is constantly saying, “this is who I am and I need to accept who I am.” People will try to pump you with self esteem messages that if you only love yourself a little more you wouldn’t be so depressed. There might be a place for this in certain circumstances.
If we were born any which way, we were born sinful. Sin entangles us and triggers our mind to succumb to anxiety. Sometimes we feel too weak to fight it. God is fighting for us.
I healed because I came to a place where I realized all I had was my faith in Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:7) It was a feeble shaky faith. I didn’t have to try love myself more and change myself into a healthy person because Christ already loved me with his ultimate sacrifice on the cross (Galatians 2:20) and changed me into a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I began crying out to the Lord asking for a way out of this. I didn’t have many people to talk to and those I did talk to I had exhausted the relationship. The Lord never grew tired of listening to my laments. He answered my prayers. Not overnight. Slowly the thoughts died down, I found solid friendships, I could focus again, I could sleep again, and I found practical ways to live with my anxious prone brain.
I had setbacks. I still struggle. My moods are sometimes unpredictable and up and down. But I will forever carry with me “a hope.” (1 Peter 1:3).
My friends it’s so much more than loving yourself and loving others. It goes beyond following Jesus’ teachings and trying to be like Him. It is knowing Him. It is abiding with Him. It is trusting Him. That my friends is where it needs to begin for us walking in depression.