“Chronic depression sucks you dry.”
I’d been asked if I could sum up what living with Early Onset Dysthymic Disorder for over 30 years felt like, in one sentence.
My response was not an exaggeration. Was not the result of having a bad day. This was the clearest way I could sum it up for my friend.
How do you make the abstract real? How do you encapsulate the invisible for someone who won’t know unless they experience it?
In various ways, in various intensities, it has the feeling of being drained of all that’s healthy, buoyant, and productive on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels.
And in so many ways, it’s easy to feel alone.
There’s so many things no one sees.
On the surface of things, it seems like you’re just resting more. Needs maybe a quick spiritual meme sent via Messenger. Is taking some family time. Isn’t home to answer the phone calls just now. Everyone deserves a break.
But the surface is always just that. The surface.
And it’s not anyone’s fault that they can’t see more. The things that no one sees.
That you can’t find your writing groove this time, no matter how much the writing is like breathing, because your brain has decided it can’t sort meaning from words that dance on the edges of the brain fog that has persisted for three whole months without hardly a break.
That sleep has been so elusive for so long that it takes all day to wake up, that when you do your brain would struggle to emerge from the safety of the cocoon of blankets and try to convince you that life is better in shadows, in drawn shades, in closed doors. Where life won’t make demands, expect you to deal, or push your ability past two plus two equals exhaustion.
That because nothing connects, makes sense, seems doable, or feels like it belongs where it is in your day, the slightest things make you crumble, overreact, thwart your senses, or halt you in your tracks and bring floods of tears, panic, and despair that you know don’t make sense but cannot be stemmed even if you wanted to.
And after all of that, week after week, you’re tapped out. Nothing in those reserves that most people take for granted.
It’s the chronic part of this breed of depression that sucks you dry.
And it’s in this dried up and desperate place the other day that He suddenly highlights words for me, as He so often does in the middle of my need.
And I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s done it too many times to count. Use His holy Word as holy correspondence, speaking right into my darkest moments with uncanny precision and insight and love.
But still I gasped at the portion of scripture, dished out in His goodness and faithfulness like a rare feast for this starving dysthymic soul, and immediately felt His Spirit, the Comforter, settle within heart-range.
I had faced one of my worst summers on record when it came to my mental health, although these days, I know all the tools and ways to navigate them without as much damage as years past. But this doesn’t remove the sting of being sucked dry. Now it’s being sucked dry from constantly applying every coping mechanism I can muster, the only difference. And so I still found myself asking Him all the hard questions.
The desperate questions. The ones that no one sees. Or admits to.
Showing Him all the ways I was still left reeling, left with nothing by days end, like some kind of mental illness show-and-tell.
Lord, do you see? I have nothing left to write with. And if I did, I wouldn’t be able to make sense of it. And see here? I couldn’t even answer emails. And the anxiety kept me in bed. And notice this one? This was me going into self-preservation mode when my family really needed me….
And then I opened His Word, in my heart wondering if He would even honor the words and cries of someone who knew better than to doubt, than to question, than to despair. Who had a list as long as the universe of all the dried up, awful, desperate things she just couldn’t deal with one more second.
And He showed me He wasn’t afraid of my lists, my worries, my dried up places that smacked of failure. But that if I was going to list it all off to Him, He was going to lean in to remind me of something that would work its way into all those dried up and desperate places in me, and release me from the assumption that I had to do it all, or produce, or perform or grieve that I could not keep up with life the way I thought I needed to.
Habakkuk 3:17 opens my heart wide and I weep with relief as I read.
I wonder, do you see it?
Bear with me here, but this verse at first felt like a metaphorical description of what my depression does to me.
Leaves me useless, like the list Habakkuk is making for God as he prays his prophet’s prayer.
And then came the overwhelming relief that He understands the dried up. The places where everything has been sucked dry.
He understands the grief over the loss of productivity, over what matters, or what we think matters.
He shows me that when we think all that matters is missing, He remains as what is necessary.He shows me that when we think all that matters is missing, He remains as what is necessary. Click To Tweet
Later I write in the page in my Bible, “This reads the way my depression feels. Dried up and desperate and all the good things missing.”
All the things no one sees.
Except One who sees everything.
I underline the words of hope that follow Habakkuk’s description of dark days, twice. Turns out ol’ Hab wasn’t afraid to ask God hard questions out of a sincere need either. But he also signed off with the best declaration of hope.
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:19
Lord, remind me that You alone can do these things in me, even while I am broken and weary. You are not shackled by my weakness but all the more present in it, faithful to be what I need.
And I write these things beneath them immediately, “Regardless of how I am not even remotely life-productive, He is my joy, rescue, and strength at all times.”
And this …. “He is not afraid of our claims, our cries, our challenges, our questions, doubts, honesty. He welcomes the opportunity to reveal Himself in the dried up and desperate places. And we won’t be the same.”
All the things He alone can see. Can answer. Can supply.
And we can’t help but be changed, even if our situation doesn’t.
And isn’t one much more important than the latter anyway?
My dysthymic soul might feel weary and sucked dry.
But He reminds me that He is never troubled by my questions and cries, but that He has always been ready to be my soul-ution.
My reason to be joy-filled. My rescue. The One who can help me navigate the high terrain. My strength.
The One who sees and answers.
And assures us that no matter what, we are not alone, even in the dried up and desperate places.