I was floating amongst laughing children while the sun glistened off of the rippling waves of chlorinated bliss. Shrieks and shrills fell like raindrops around me as I bobbed up and down with the movement of the water.
The pool cooled my hot skin and for the moment, I felt weightless, even with an eight-month pregnancy belly.
On that distant July afternoon, I remember observing a little girl who couldn’t swim because she had a broken arm. A man and woman, whom I assume were her parents, were especially attentive and tender-hearted towards the little girl. Having a broken arm and sitting on the sidelines doesn’t make for a fun afternoon when you’re eight.
The oddest thought entered my mind as I watched them—”I wish I had a broken arm.”
I still remember the thought clearly and the feelings it elicited—strangeness and confusion mixed with comfort.
I was a grown woman about to have her first child, wishing I was an eight-year-old with a broken arm.
What an absolute mess I was…
An onslaught of new thoughts and feelings paraded into my mind on the heels of the first;
“What kind of mother will I even make?”
“What is wrong with me?”
“Who has thoughts like this?”
What I didn’t understand nearly 17 years ago on that bright and warm July afternoon, was that I was only a human…
Going through a season of depression.
This is what depression looks like
Depression doesn’t look the way we think it should.
It’s a chameleon—a shapeshifter—and kind enough to not discriminate. Depression doesn’t respect boundaries or seasons in one’s life.
People observing the pregnant lady that July afternoon would never have known the battle she fought inside.
Simply because I didn’t talk about it.
I quite honestly didn’t know how. I also didn’t know what was wrong with me so I wasn’t even sure how to begin the conversation.
I knew how I “should” feel. I definitely knew that.
I knew quite well that I “should” be happy, excited and thinking of how wonderful it would be to have a baby. Not be wishing I could have a broken arm and have people caring for me the way those parents tenderly cared for their girl. And believe me, this wasn’t even the weirdest of my thoughts, just one I remember well.
When I was severely anxious and depressed I never got casseroles and cards. I never had people crowding around me to help do my laundry or pick up my kids. So naturally, I yearned for these things without even realizing it.
And let me just say, in defense of all of my friends and family, most of them didn’t even know what I was going through.
So, I suppose the person at fault is me.
I spent time being mad at her—that 24-year-old version of myself. For quite a while after doing the hard work of healing I felt little else but anger for how long I suffered in silence.
I’ve now realized that wasting any more time being angry over what is gone is just as bad as the years withered by depression.
I’ve spent enough time wrestling with regret.
I wouldn’t beat up my child for not knowing how to handle his emotions. So, I refuse to beat my 24 year-old-self up for this.
She didn’t know any better.
So, I ask, what to do with all of this now? Well…talk about it and help where I can.
Do you bring them a casserole?
I wonder if I had opened up sooner and actually talked about what I was going through, what would’ve happened?
What exactly do you do for someone going through what I went through?
I can honestly say that even as someone who has dealt with this, I often don’t know how to respond to a friend that opens up to me.
I suppose this is where the ten-point bullet list should be inserted. Sure those types of posts can be helpful—I’ve even done a few and I’m sure, will do some in the future—they’re appropriate in certain circumstances, for sure.
However, there are times a neatly thought out list doesn’t solve every problem in a thousand words or less.
This is one such time.
If I were to give any amount of advice as to how to help a friend or family member suffering from depression, I would say, listen.
Ask to genuinely hear what they are feeling and thinking and then listen.
And then I would suggest speaking the truth. The truth about who they are, whose they are and the fact that the bizarre thoughts rolling around in their head are just that:
Nothing more. Nothing less. Thoughts only have power when we give them power.
Remind them often of these truths, gently but firmly. They need to physically hear it entering their ears.
Don’t tell them why they shouldn’t be depressed
But when you do speak the truth don’t give them a list of why they shouldn’t be depressed.
When someone lists the reasons why you shouldn’t be depressed you’re left feeling guilty.
This isn’t the fault of the person reciting the list—this is simply how it is.
When we’re told that something IS a certain way and yet we don’t feel it, guilt is a natural response. When feelings and truth don’t line up, we ultimately know something is wrong, however, we are left feeling utterly incapable of doing anything about it.
So, rather than trying to talk someone out of feeling depressed, walk with them through it.
As hard as it may be, because in the end, we are all little “fixers,” we can’t talk someone out of this. Perhaps simply being present with them in this time of struggle may be the first step in them coming out of it.
When we find ourselves in an awful place it is always most comforting to have someone there with us—speaking the truth, listening, and holding our hand.
And I don’t know… maybe bringing a casserole.
Isn’t this what it means to be human and Christian?
Jesus didn’t ask the father to remove us from this world, he asked for him to keep us from evil. John 17:15
He knew we would have to walk some pretty hideous, unpaved roads, and rather than removing us from them—He straps on his shoes and chooses to walk with us on them.
How about we do the same for one another?
If you or someone you love are/is experiencing depression, please reach out—speak up, and ask for help. This doesn’t make you weak—even Jesus asked for help.
(Matthew 26:36-38 and many other places…)
As always, friend, thank you for stopping by,