What If Your Depression Is Trying To Speak To You?
As a culture, we don’t know how to be still. We tend to obey our inner urgency. We keep producing when we ought to let it be. As a woman, I would rather make things happen than set down the weight of it all. As parents, we teach, lead and worry over our kids rather than hit our knees. As workers, we respond to our desire for more money by letting it dictate our schedules. And we are the most heavily medicated culture in the world. We’re medicated for listlessness, overwhelm, fatigue and insomnia, distraction, despair. I thank God regularly for the impact of medication in my own life, but I also wonder whether I am willing to listen when my body calls out to me. (In fact, just this past week I was thankful for it. At 7 a.m. the Monday morning following the Panthers’ heartbreaker, a good friend texted and gently suggested I may want to consider upping my dosage for 10 or so days).
Kara Tippets, a beloved woman of Jesus who went home last year after a long battle with cancer, knew what it was to pursue perfection in everything. She wrote a couple of books, and her last one, The Hardest Peace, is a genuine gift to all those whose stories are not working out. She speaks about her struggle with adrenaline and drivenness, which gave way ultimately to surrender and acceptance that God is good in the midst of hard times. She wrote that after the producing, the performing and the pushing, when adrenaline is done with us, it throws us to the ground.
I wonder if you might know what that feels like? There is a physically depressed state that our bodies go into. In my office, I call it “raising the white flag.” It happens after a sustained season of fight and flight. It feels like exhaustion, sadness or apathy. It is your body telling you that you need to retreat. For many of us, our bodies have to scream before we will listen. We don’t feel we can afford to surrender, and we don’t even know what is happening. We only know that making it from one end of the day to the other is an awful task. When our bodies call to us, it is a broken, feeble gift. Will you listen and accept? Will you seek out from others and provide care for yourself?
Is there somewhere you need to raise the white flag? A place, a person, a desire you have gripped so hard that you have no strength left? A fight that is no longer what you are called to? Are you lifting emotional weight that you are just numb to? Have you been a parent of people all your life, trying to succeed under impossible responsibility? Is there a place you’re clamoring for authority when you do not have it? Depression could be a signpost to any of these realities.
There comes a time when you need to lay down a thing just because it is too heavy. Perhaps it is what your body and soul desperately need you to do. This will be so hard to do, almost impossible to do alone. It takes incredible amounts of courage inside a depression to hope for anything. It takes profound vulnerability to tell people you can no longer carry the weight. Let it be. Listen. Ask. Receive help. Pray for the rest that only comes when one is a child in the presence of a deeply good Parent.
And slowly, the light will return.
Meredith joined The Barnabas Center staff in January 2009, upon completing her Masters in Counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and her Bachelors in Religion and Psychology from Furman University. She counsels, leads women’s groups and teaches a seminar called “Hope in the Darkness” for those walking with individuals suffering from depression or bipolar disorder. Meredith, her husband Jon, and daughter Charlotte live in Fort Mill, SC.