Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Darkless


I've never experienced depression.

I've been sad.
I've been down.
I've been moody, melodramatic and over-emotional.
I've even seen the sadness last for a season.

However, never would I have described it as depression.

Even in my darkest of hours, I've found humor, known joy, had hope.

I've never known what Ann Voskamp describes as "a room engulfed in flames" in which "you can't breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp."

I may have been depressed for a time, as a child. My father had died. I had no friends. During recess, I would walk alone in the corner of the schoolyard, dragging my feet, and singing sad songs to myself about my loneliness. I painted dark, abstract pieces of art, with wild splatters and blotches of color. I loved the stark minimalism of it - the way the bright colors stood out against the blackness of the background, like planets and nebulae against the blackness of space. My teachers, and mother, however, thought it was some sort of sub-conscious way of communicating the darkness within. They sent me to see a therapist... only, I didn't know that I was the patient. I thought we were going because my little brother had bad dreams.

If it was depression, it didn't last long.

I loved playing outside with my brothers and the neighbors, pretending to be super-heroes or secret agents. I loved art and drew all the time. I was happy enough - a bit lonely at times, but happy.

As an adult, I'm positive, optimistic, and oftentimes, downright peppy.

When I was sick a couple of years ago, in the hospital, fasting, hungry, hurting and lonely, I felt as close to depression as I've ever been. However, it was more like desperation met exhaustion, with a dash of self-pity.

You see, like anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders and OCD, depression is a mental illness, and by the grace of God, I don't have it. I've known many who have, and many who do. I can't fully understand it, but I empathize all the same.

Mental health has been in the news a lot lately. Most recently, the youngest son of Rick Warren, megachurch pastor out of Southern California, committed suicide after years of struggling with depression and suicidal tendencies, rocking the Christian community in the US.

This has put the topics of depression, anxiety, and suicide into the spotlight on Christian blogs, journals and other publications.

Almost as if they anticipated it, RELEVANT Magazine ran a cover story earlier this year on Suicidal Tendencies: the silent epidemic that's killing us. As I mentioned earlier, Ann Voskamp shared, in a very vulnerable post, about her own experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts. Popular recording artist and worship leader, Carlos Whittaker also opened up about his journey, having struggled with panic attacks and anxiety, which later developed into clinical depression, challenging the church to see mental illness as just that - an illness - just like any other, with specific treatments, medications, complications, and struggles. Beth Moore, conference speaker and best-selling author of women's Bible study materials, wrote a blog, in which she expressed deep sympathy for the Warren family, scolding the haters in the church who'd dare take this opportunity to slander him and his ministry, out of jealousy or criticism.

My purpose with this post is merely to help break the silence; to help remove the stigma of shame surrounding these struggles. If you struggle with depression or other mental illnesses, it's not because you lack faith. It's because you're sick. And guess what, Jesus said that he came for the sick, because they're the ones who need a doctor, and our God is a healer, the Great Physician. I may not understand what you're going through, but He does. He's a wounded healer.


If depression is like a shroud, covering  you in darkness, I have good news for you.


He is darkless.


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