Why I’m Grateful For My Struggle With Depression

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“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” —Albert Camus

S_ClaireD

On the days when I feel empty and lost, when I can’t find a reason to put one foot in front of the other, or raise the colorless food that sits on the end of my fork to my mouth, I want to close my eyes to the world.

I have never wished for death. Somewhere inside me there always seems to exist a quiet flickering flame of hope. There is a love for life that comes from an unknown part of me, yet in dark times it is such a small bead of light, I can barely touch it. It is the flame I cling to in desperation when tears are falling and no amount of goodwill or kind words will make them stop.

I have struggled with depression since childhood and tried ever since to unravel its causes. The neglected child? The child caught in the middle of an ugly divorce? The abandoned child? Or simply the unlucky one with the unbalanced brain chemicals?

Whatever the reasons, which I suspect cannot be disentangled, it is my cross to bear. And for years the weight of that cross has caused me to live in fear, hide and push others away.

Until recently my depression was the wall I kept running from—the one I would bump up against time and time again, never doing anything differently and never seeming to find my way through. I would see the wall and run, as though it had the ability to swallow me whole.

But a few months ago a friend asked me this question: “Why do you keep bumping up against this same wall? What are you running from?”

I sat with the question for weeks as I endured day after listless day, willing the wall to appear and show me an answer, as if the answer could appear like graffiti.

But the wall is not a tangible object with all the answers.

It’s very uncomfortable for me to sit in my depression and accept its presence. I feel shame, and have this nasty tendency to compare my pain to others’, telling myself I have no right to feel the way I do, that I should just be happy with the blessed life I live.

The shame and comparison is the wall for me—the block that stops me from being able to be curious about my illness.

During my last bout of depression, which lasted a long, drawn-out six months, I made myself enter into that state of curiosity. As a writer I do this by emptying my thoughts onto the page, by asking questions and waiting for answers. I personified my depression. I gave it color, shape, voice and will. And I asked it about its purpose in my life. In effect, I was accessing my subconscious mind, because I had no idea the answers that came to me were available.

A huge revelation for me was the role I play in my depression. Though I fear and despise it, I also welcome it home like a long lost friend. My depression allows me to be introspective; to become quiet and still—something I seem to desperately need.

It also acts as a lighthouse beam, illuminating those things that aren’t working in my life, if I will only open my eyes and allow myself to follow that light.

But the biggest thing I have learned from my depression is compassion. No longer do I look at people whose faces are forlorn and judge them as “miserable” or “moody.” And when someone flares at me in anger for no apparent reason, I try to take a step back and consider what pain may have brought them to that place.

I’m learning that truth is rarely quite so bold as to paint itself across the walls of our lives. Rather, it waits for us to seek it, to remain curious and keep pressing forward.

As I brace myself for another possible descent into darkness, I hope to become a student of it, to break down the wall that sits between me and healing—and, above all, the truth about myself and why this happens.

And any opportunity to explore who I am, what my heart says, and what God is trying to teach me about the way I live my life, is a blessing; something I always hope to be grateful for.

______________

Image credit: D.C.Atty

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Claire De Boer
Hi, I’m Claire and though you may only see my words here once a month I’m part of the wonderful sisterhood of women who edit, upload and brainstorm behind the scenes of SheLoves. I was born and raised in England but pretty much see myself as a fully fledged Canadian. I spend just about all of my spare time blogging, editing and creating stories. I’ve also ventured into the world of teaching and mentor students in using writing as a tool for personal growth. My passion is to help others find the value and beauty in their stories and to find healing or self-awareness via journaling, memoir, or just "soul writing", as I like to call it. To learn more about my journey and the work I'm doing visit The Gift of Writing
Claire De Boer
Claire De Boer

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Claire De Boer
  • HBurns

    Your strength and your vulnerability are such a gift to me and others. Thanks for your bravery – I admire you greatly. xo

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you so much Helen! So much of that strength comes from God, Relate, and you + John 🙂

  • Anne-Marie

    Me too, with Helen. The ability to be curious in the midst. That is helpful to me today. We are in a different weary – with Justin very sick again – on his birthday in the middle of summer. One more thing healthy kids have that will be missed. I woke asking Jesus to be in this today, to be joy to us, even in the ‘abnormal’. But it is not easy. Grateful for your lovely presence.

    • cjdeboer

      Ah, Anne-Marie, I feel your weariness. May there be many moments of joy in this day for you and Justin. Strength to you Mama. xo

  • Saskia Wishart

    Thank you for being willing to talk about this Claire, and for writing about it. I think, like Anne-Marie said, the weary souls appreciate these words and there are so many kinds of weary soul. The ones battling the ongoing thing or the recurring thing, oh how heavy that burden. To be grateful for that thing, the one that keeps coming up, phew that is a hard fought battle I am sure. Peace to you.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you, Saskia – I ache for the weary souls who don’t know that there is in them “an invincible summer.” Sometimes it’s so hard to see. And I know you have seen so much of that weariness. Much love to you. xo

  • Claire, it always amazes me that God seems to show up brightest and biggest in the areas of our lives that are dark and small and seem to be “not enough.” Your writing here is a revelation of God’s strength in your weakness. May He help us all to be available in that way.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you Michelle. It’s very hard for me to find God in that place of darkness but I think that’s when He truly carries me.

  • Sandy Hay

    Amen to all of the above and the comments Claire 🙂

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks Sandy! Appreciate you reading. xo

  • Lynn D. Morrissey

    Claire, I too am a fellow sufferer from depression, also from childhood. At eleven, I wouldn’t have told you that. In the fifties, I doubt I’d even heard the word; but in retrospect, I can read the telltale signs. Isn’t it wonderful how in God’s sovereignty, He can use what is difficult and sad, and redeem it to become what is revelatory–even good, if it helps us to draw unto Him and to reveal things that we need to know about ourselves? And I can hear echoes of (perhaps) some Kay Adams’s journaling techniques in what you are writing. I, too, have studied with her. God bless you on your journey from the darkness of depression (and God too dwells with you in darkness) and into His warming, healing light.
    Lynn

    • cjdeboer

      Hi Lynn – thanks for your kind words. Yes, I’ve worked with Kay and I teach “Journal To The Self” – very helpful for those of us who suffer from depression. I pray the same for you — that your journey will lead to growth and healing. Thank you. xo

      • Lynn Morrissey

        Thank you so much for these gracious wishes. I’m so grateful. I wish I could say that depression is or will be a thing of the past. Im not sure. But with you, I rejoice that He gives us ways to cope and to help others. I know I would not be nearly as compassionate had I not experiences This. Yes, I, too, am a JTTS instructor. I have great respect for Kay and her work. May the Lord bless you, Claire, in your own journey and as you seek to help others.
        Lynn

  • It’s such a privilege to see how you walk out this journey, friend. I feel so proud of you + YOU are doing all the work … xo

    • cjdeboer

      Thanks for walking the road with me my friend (and for asking that question….!) xo

  • Megan Gahan

    Oh, to truth-tell as eloquently as you truth-tell! This is beautiful, my friend. And so important for those journeying with or alongside those with depression. You’ve helped me much more than you know, and I am ever grateful for your honesty and candor. Love you dearly. (p.s. That quote at the beginning is one of my favorites)

    • cjdeboer

      It’s a great quote isn’t it?! And I truly believe it — that invincible summer is in ALL of us. And it’s always my pleasure to walk alongside you my friend, and help you through ANYTHING. Love you xo

  • Roos Woller

    This really struck a cord with me,”I’m learning that truth is rarely quite so bold as to paint itself across the walls of our lives”. The older I get the less I feel I know, the ridged lines that I once held as truth has become dull and truth is more like a whisper in the wind these day where I have to become still and search for it or else I can so easily miss it and believe the noise of this world. Thanks that we can do life together.

    • cjdeboer

      “The ridged lines that I once held as truth have become dull, and truth is more like a whisper in the wind these days.” Um Rose – I think you need to write for us!
      P.S> I’m so thankful we do life together too. xoxoxox

  • Wow. This was beautiful. I can resonate with a lot of this too. I’ve spent a lot of my life running from things of my past. I’ve recently been learning this isn’t what God wants for me. He wants me to have enough confidence in my identify with Him, that I can face my past without trembling, but learning. Thank you for sharing your heart!

    • cjdeboer

      So true Breanne! Facing the past is hard but it’s the key to being able to live a whole hearted life in the present. I pray you are able to learn more and tremble less. xo

  • jennifer

    how can i tell people something that happened to me last week??????

  • pastordt

    This is beautifully and tenderly put, Claire. And shows a remarkable amount of self-understanding, which is the biggest task for each of us, I think. Well done.

    • cjdeboer

      Thank you so much, Diana – so grateful for your words. xo

  • “In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” —Albert Camus

    — This quote is EVERYTHING.

    “It also acts as a lighthouse beam, illuminating those things that aren’t working in my life, if I will only open my eyes and allow myself to follow that light.”

    — Wow. I love that. I need to learn to “follow that light”….

    I learn so much about my own life as you talk about depression. You are one of the most resilient women I know, Claire.

    Love you,
    T