Sometimes I reflect here on depression. It’s part of my story, a bit like a virus that remains dormant most of the time but every so often comes out to play. As I live, I learn more about how this thing called depression works. I discover how I can live from a place in Christ and his Word where depression, though still real in its ability to tangle my heart and mind and body, no longer gets to dictate my experience of reality. And so I write about it. Because I have been given grace to live this one out loud and because others tell me that my honesty has helped them too.
I was sparkling that day. Me at my best. Articulate, laughing lots, revelling in the quick repartee. And a rare confidence that I knew – and they knew – that I was doing a really good job. I was, I think, fully in the moment.
And yet I was also in the midst of a depression.
Funny, really, how the two do not contradict. How, though I might have felt fine even for as many as six days in a row, the depression would still be there. How, even in moments of blessed ordinariness where heart was not like lead weight in my chest, still there was this vulnerability to tears. A vulnerability to being overwhelmed by an emotion which burst up through me, clawed at my throat, pricked at my eyes, and flooded out in annoying tears and a voice that wouldn’t sound.
At times like those, I am learning to recognise that in the midst of a depression emotion manifests a little in the same way as hiccups. I know. You’re wondering why hiccups of all similes? But hiccups aren’t expected when they come and they don’t bear any relation to one’s emotional state. They just happen. And though it can be faintly embarrassing, there’s not much you can do about them.
Tears in a depression are like hiccups. They come unexpectedly and they don’t necessarily mean I’m feeling sad in that moment. Frankly, at those times what I do feel is embarrassment at this overwhelming I cannot control. For they hinder my attempt to explain in words and logical sentences what is going on in my heart and mind.
You see, the high-functioning part of me wants to explain to the other so that we can all move on. The high-functioning part of me is not prepared to give the depression the time of the day if it can help it. And it wants the other to understand too. To know that the depression is neither here nor there. That it’s floating around my heart for a reason. That even this is not outside the Master’s care. That somehow it is permitted as the side effect of a much deeper working of the wild grace pursued for many years.
Yet in the midst of my sparkling, of me at my best, if I seek to speak of my heart in a depression the tears choke my voice, the emotion engulfs me with the same unpredictability as a hiccuping fit, and I am unable to explain to them anything at all.
Not sad. Just irritating.