Life felt heavy.
I wasn’t sad or defeated. I was able to get out of bed every morning and remained (mostly) functional for a majority of each day. I could still write, could still care for my children, could still see the good around me. I was not experiencing any of the hallmark symptoms of traditional depression.
Clearly, though, there was SOMEthing wrong. Because every thought, every action, every decision required more energy than I felt I possessed. The simplest of tasks left me devoid of energy. I could sense that my daily existence was objectively manageable, maybe even beautiful, but from inside the prison of my encumbered mind, living—let alone thriving—seemed an impossible task. The panic and fogginess permeating my days were insurmountable obstacles to a life of enjoyment and ease.
This tortured existence was my reality for several months of this past year. I don’t know how I endured that time, am still astonished that a human soul can withstand such sustained brutality for days and weeks and months on end.
But I did survive. And gradually, through the spring and into this summer, the burden began to lighten. Joy returned, bringing mental clarity, renewed energy, reawakened hope, and a rekindled enthusiasm for a world that I was once again viewing through unencumbered eyes. Many factors (not the least of which was antidepressant medication) came together to loosen the ties that held me captive for so long. As the shackles relinquished their iron grasp, I started to feel something new, something I could only describe as ease.
Ease is not a feeling I am accustomed to feeling. Stress, anxiety, overwhelm, effort—these are familiar feelings. But ease? For me, with my particular genetic and chemical makeup, the sensation of ease has been noticeably absent from my emotional lexicon. Now, I found myself relishing this totally foreign but utterly magnificent sensation. I was in awe of my own reality, in which tasks that had been literally impossible just weeks earlier were checked off my daily list without a second thought. I could think, could feel, could laugh and dance and sing, could glide through each day with a smile on my face and a bounce to my step.
But as one easy (well, easier) day morphed into two and three and eventually a string of more easy days than hard ones, I started to feel apprehensively skeptical about the goodness of my experience. Was this new sensation of un-encumbrance actually a symptom of some new problem?
The truth is that my depression had grown . . . comfortable. Familiar. My pain was ill-fitting, but over time I had settled into that improper apparel. I was scared to be shedding the discomfort that had terrorized me, because it was the only reality I had known for far too long. Stepping into the more appropriate outfitting of mental health and spiritual wholeness would require some shape-shifting if it was to become my permanent attire. And I wasn’t sure I was equipped for necessary alterations ahead.
I have compassion for my own hesitance as I rose from my depressive season. That dark period was accompanied by numerous blessings, and I sensed that an emergence from the darkened pit would require me to leave behind the positive byproducts of my anguish. Those pain-riddled months brought with them a new way of looking at the world and a profound closeness to the Lord that I had never experienced when life wasn’t so dark. I feared that parting ways with the darkness would also mean saying goodbye to my mandatory dependence on God to carry me through my days. I worried that a less cumbersome road might lure me away from casting my occasional encumbrances onto God.
And truthfully? There was a part of me that felt as though my suffering was somehow holier than my flourishing. That entering into an easier season meant abandoning sanctifying work the Lord had worked in me when I was at my lowest. That to reject my depression would be to shortchange my spiritual and emotional growth.
Thankfully, God has been using His own Word to speak sense and truth into my spirit. Throughout this past month He keeps bringing to mind passages that attest to His desire for my personal flourishing. He has been teaching me that His abundant gifts are not something to be resisted or feared. Yes, my dark moments were accompanied by hidden blessings, but God’s riches are not reliant upon my own suffering for their existence. The Lord can bless me in hard times and in easier ones. And in this season, an easier time might itself be the blessing He has for me.
Psalm 23 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, and I have enjoyed basking in the new meanings I am discovering in this Psalm through the words of The Passion translation. I love imagining my Savior, My Shepherd, leading me to a peaceful oasis away from the harsh desolation that was my habitat for so long. I can see how He is restoring and revitalizing me, using a season of levity to smooth out the hardened edges that were chiseled by depression.
Part of me is anxiously expecting the other shoe to drop. My frail human mind assumes God is just waiting for the perfect opportunity to present a new assortment of sufferings that must inevitably accompany the blessings. I can’t know what is to come, and perhaps my fears will be validated. For now, I will choose to lean into God’s abundance, embracing the ease and celebrating the goodness that it brings. I learned to rely fully on Him in the hard times; I will do it in the easier ones as well.