I have been AWOL for a few weeks. For the three people, who I am sure one is my mother, that read this blog- I apologize for my respite. I have been in a funk. I think it might be mild depression but I have never been depressed before, so I am not sure. I know that I have felt listless, yet my heart races; confused, yet I have less on my plate than ever before. I am a counselor and I know it is good that I feel like this, it helps me understand and relate to my clients that much more. But here is the deal- I just don’t do depression. I don’t. It goes against everything I am made of. I was once told I am manic-happy. I think it was an insult but I took it as the opposite. I am happy, most days. My whole life I have loved the happier side of life. Once I met Jesus, then it really pushed me into a great space.
When someone is depressed, they ruminate. Rumination is when you think about things over and over and over. When you cannot stop yourself from thinking about it and it becomes habitual, that’s rumination. I like to ruminate, but not on things like my own feelings of lethargy. When I mull, it’s on things like revenge or an ending to a fabulous book. I get sad like everyone else, but I am a writer and when tears hit, I usually find a journal or a keyboard on which I can chicken-peck my way through my thoughts. But, depression is all about rumination. When one is depressed, you think only about yourself and your present crappy existence. Why is this like this for only me. Life is so unfair. When will I catch a break? When will the answer I need arrive? It is nothing but a big fat time of dwelling in our own mess.
Like any believer that is depressed, I have been praying that this fog would lift; that the anxiety would diminish. To boot, the worry that accompanies depression chokes the will to get up each day right our of your body. For me, the worst thing I can not do is not write. I have to tell my stories. I have to speak. When I am not, I die inside. So not wanting to get out of bed is dangerous territory for me.
While reading Steven King’s On Writing late last night, I realized that I may hold the trick to my very own therapy. It wasn’t so much of what King says as what he just leaves lying there in the pages. He wrote through alcoholism, the death of his mother and near poverty. He was always writing. Not because it was required extrinsically with a book deal or word-count deadline, but because it was intrinsic. He writes because that it is his superpower. The very thing about feeling depressed is that it takes away the thing you were meant to do.
This morning, I stumbled across a video about activism. The speaker gives his recipe for activism in the culture he wants to strengthen. I listened deeply to his message: The thing you are told is most wrong with you, is the source of your greatest power in activism. Like King’s superpower.
I sat in that for a bit.
If my greatest power is Christ and the biggest thing wrong with me is that I “talk too much”, then, is my ability to speak, write and ultimately self-heal built into those two things?
I have not written in almost a month. With that knowledge, I get a little bit sadder each day. Why can’t I type any words? Why can’t I think of anything to say? Why am I not recording my podcast? Why am I not talking too much? The very thing that is my greatest weapon is what feeling depressed has taken from me.
I have to be my own activist. So today I ruminated on what I have just told you. If the enemy’s weapon starts with removing your greatest power, be it painting, writing, singing, hiking, preaching, serving, teaching… then maybe that is exactly what you should be doing.
The Old Testament, which my alter-ego gangsta self-likes to refer to as the Big O.T., tells several stories about depressed people. The weeping of David, the heart-ache of Nehemiah, and don’t even go into Job without a box of tissues. But there is one line in the O.T. that sums up a response to those feelings of despair that trumps all others.
“…Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” Gen. 4:5-7. Translation? If you do better, you’ll feel better. That is the core of that Scripture.
If I do better, I will feel better.
So today, I am up early, though I wanted to pull the covers back over my head. I am sitting here, chicken-pecking out my innards for the three of you to read. I am hoping that this message will help someone else remember their greatest power and pick up the paint brush or the pen. I am working through the lethargy and chest weights to do better.
And you know what, I am feeling better already. Maybe it’s the word purge, I don’t know, but I honestly feel as though one layer of despair has been lifted. If this is the case, and God’s Word is actually right, then the next steps of my day, and every day, need to be pointed outward. Depression wants me to face inward. It wants me staring at all my troubles from a thousand different angles. God wants me to look out, around, and up towards the world around me, and He wants me to do something with what I see. He wants me to do better, so I can feel better.
So checklist for today:
Write – done.
Help someone else- On it.
Feel better- already on my way.