“Just keep looking at the green dot. Focus on it. You need to look at the green dot.” It was a Saturday afternoon, and I was lying in bed thinking these thoughts over and over as I put all my energy into focusing on a particular lime green polka dot on my sheets. I spent hours staring at that dot on that day, paralyzed with fear that if I didn’t concentrate on it fully I would just disappear and cease to exist.
This is what depression can look like for some people; it’s what it looked like for me that day. At the time, I wasn’t having any thoughts of ending my life, but I felt so worn out and incapacitated by my depression that my thoughts told me I might just vaporize into nothing if I didn’t focus on that polka dot right then. Looking back it seems so crazy to me, but in the moment, it was very real and very awful. I remember so vividly needing to anchor onto something that afternoon to remind myself that I was still alive. Luckily, there was a polka dot to provide me with an anchor that day. Not everyone fighting depression is lucky enough to have an anchor like that handy (no matter how silly and insignificant it may seem). I know we’ve all heard too many stories of people ending their lives to escape the excruciating and debilitating clutches of depression.
From knowing me, you might never guess that I would be someone who could be completely crippled by depression. When I was going through the particular episode I’m describing most people in my life had no idea what I was battling. You see, I’ve given myself the label of functioning depressive. Though the several episodes of major depressive disorder that I’ve endured during my adult life, it’s been that way. I can get up, go to work, get the things done that I need to get done, you know, be fairly productive as a contributing member of society. However, as soon as I’m alone, I fall apart. The tears come, the hopelessness sets in, and I feel like I’m being swallowed by something I can’t fix. My close co-workers often had no idea I was right smack in the middle of a significant depression, but anyone who was in my home and very inner circle would see it. I didn’t want to share what I was through, afraid that I’d be judged or that people would think of me differently. I wanted them to see the façade of the successful productive me. I mean, who wants to see or know that someone is falling apart?!? Turns out, a lot of people would. And a lot of people are willing to help those they are close to.
In depression, I got stuck inside my own head hearing lies over and over. It was the enemy trying to wear me down. I know that now, but at the time I just thought it was me. It was the way I was, and it was the way I was always going to be. I didn’t believe people around me wanted to help me or know my story. I didn’t think the world was a better place with me in it. I didn’t think I’d ever get to do something really significant with my life. I didn’t feel loved anymore. I didn’t feel worthy of love. Honestly, I didn’t really feel. The worst part was I also didn’t really care.
The people closest to me tried to help me. They really did, but because I didn’t really feel or care about much, I didn’t want their help. I pushed them away. I got frustrated by their doing and saying things that just made me feel more in despair. I got so sick and tired of hearing all those trite things like “It’ll get better,” “one day you’ll look back and see how strong you really were,” “you know this won’t last forever,” “you’ve been through this before, and you’ll get through this time,” and “you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” I didn’t believe one word of that. Why should I have believed it at that time? All those thoughts in my head told me otherwise. The worst was when someone would try to tell me they could relate to me and my situation because of some prior experience in which they were so sad about something that happened. Why didn’t they get it?!? I wasn’t sad. I was nothing. Void. Empty. Sadness would have been something, and that was not where I was.
Looking back, it was something that I was getting annoyed and frustrated. That was something! And that something was probably what kept me going. Well, that and the soft whispers that God injected into my thoughts from time to time. I didn’t realize it then, but He was trying to get my attention, and He was speaking to me regularly. I wasn’t walking with Him at the time so I had no idea how He was about to turn the course of my life. Because I had become a Christian so many years before (but then slowly wandered away as a young adult), the Holy Spirit had a presence in my life whether I realized it or liked it.
God used my depression to pull me back to Him. He knew I needed to hit my rock bottom to surrender my control of my life over to Him. I’m not going to say it was easy. I’m not going to say it was quick. But I will say it was definitely God. At some point, I knew I needed Him, and in expressing that, He was able to start my healing process. I began to open up to people around me about what I was going through. Those people around me were amazing; I’d get little texts just to check in on my or send me a smiling emoji which brightened my day immensely. I got back into His Word. I started praying. I went to church and actually looked forward to it. All of these things were hard at first, really hard, but little by little they got easier.
Now Jesus is my anchor. He’s where I can put all my focus and energy into when I’m having a bad day. Or a good day. Or just a day. He’s there, no matter what, ready to give me big huge emotional hug and remind me that He’s working things out for good and His glory. I know that maybe I’ve glossed over the messy parts of my story but know that they were there. If you think staring at a lime green polka dot sounds crazy, you would not believe some of the other things I experienced and I did. Those things are for another time.
Here’s the thing. Mental illness affects so many people out there, particularly in our age group. We’re trying to find our way in the world, fit in, and know what we want out of life. It can get so overwhelming, and it’s okay to not be okay. I tell myself that regularly. I got through that last major depression and am doing well, but I have no idea if it will hit again in the future. What I do know is that now I have an amazing community to stand by me , encourage me, and lift me up when I need it (and hold me accountable even when I don’t feel like I need it). Even better, I have immeasurably more hope in knowing Jesus loves me no matter what and He is working all things out for good! If you’re struggling, reach out to Jesus and reach out to your community. We’re all on this journey through being young professionals together even if it doesn’t always feel that way.