I see you. You hold down a stable job. You’re well-dressed. You were at work today, in new shoes and your favourite dress. You were wearing cute animal ear studs! You were almost late today – but made it with five minutes to spare. You put your things down at your table, and your colleague wished you a good morning. You smiled politely.
How could you be depressed?
But here’s what they don’t know.
You woke up half an hour before your alarm today, with your palms cold. That was because your legs were tingling, again, for reasons you didn’t understand. The first time it happened, you wondered if you would end up paralysed in the end. You’ve grown used to it when it happens now, but that doesn’t make things easier.
You tossed around in bed, wondering aloud, should I go to work today? You weren’t sure if you felt well enough, but you already took sick leave last week because you were too dazed to function. You slept seven hours last night – sufficient to feel well-rested, except you’re not.
Your eyes hurt; you don’t know why.
Every day at work you’re torn between struggling to cope, and wanting desperately to prove you’re just as capable; you shouldn’t be treated like a defective, bruised strawberry.
You were almost late because you took such a long time to get ready. As you stepped into the shower, your stomach was in knots. You had to wait for the stitch to go away – again. The hot shower eased your nerves, only briefly.
You dragged your feet to the bus stop. With each step, you contemplated turning back home. No, that is not an option – nobody takes MC on such late notice, you chide yourself.
Depression is not a kind master.
At lunch, you sat with your work BFF and burst into peals of laughter as you good-naturedly teased each other’s quirks. For a while, the clouds of depression faded; you were thankful for the respite, but it made you wonder if you made the brief episode of levity up. The voices of scorn from those around you thunder in your head –
“It’s all in your head!”
“Aiyah – of course, you keep thinking about sad things. Stop overthinking lah.”
You were able to work, even if it was a struggle. You talked and laughed, you even ate lunch – depressed people don’t have the energy for these, do they?
Once you got back to your desk, you wonder how you made it to work at all. You looked at your desk – this was due yesterday. I’m only half done. That report is due tomorrow. I haven’t started! I got it two weeks ago. How am I going to make it? I don’t know.
You stared at your computer screen, pining for home. Guilt overwhelmed you as you felt so unproductive.
Be thankful for the good days, and compassionate on yourself on the bad ones.
You sat at your desk, trying to complete your overdue reports, but you were really checking how long more to go before you can crawl back home to the comfort of your bed – away from these people and their hurtful words. Their side-eye glances. Their looks of condescension that cast pitying glances in your direction.
Every day at work you’re torn between struggling to cope, and wanting desperately to prove you’re just as capable; you shouldn’t be treated like a defective, bruised strawberry. But your brain feels fogged over; you barely register what people are saying to you.
I see you, and I believe you – because I was once like you. Your experience was once mine, too. I can’t explain why people get depressed; I can only validate that they do.
If you’re a Christian, this is not the result of being a “bad Christian”; nor is it “just a lack of faith”. It’s a mental health condition – just as the Fall brought forth physical illness, likewise mental illness is the result of that, too (Deuteronomy 29:16-28, Romans 1:18).
Nonetheless, through your circumstances, God works them for good – to allow you to grow in Christlikeness (Romans 8:28) – and He continues to love you in the midst of them (Romans 8:38-39).
Hang in there – it takes a while before the darkness lifts. You may have questions on whether medication is necessary at all; different pastors seem to have different opinions. Or you may be annoyed that the meds hurt before they help – assuming they ever will.
In the midst of this, know that while you didn’t choose to have this area of struggle, you can choose how you react to it.
Be thankful for the good days, and compassionate on yourself on the bad ones. There will be naysayers, who doubt the authenticity of your depression – which is why it’s important to have people to walk this road with you. They may be few, but they are crucial – and treasured.
I write as someone who is still a work-in-progress, but has not had a grey day in a long time, only by grace. For Jesus has come:
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
The oil of joy instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)
Love and blessings,