This blog was originally posted with a comic that you can find Here.

depression teaser

I didn’t post a comic last week. That in itself is nothing unusual, sometimes life just gets the better of me in terms of work or school or family life and I just can’t find the time. Last week was different. My pen was just too heavy. I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and work out an idea and draw it out. I have pretty bad seasonal depression and an anxiety disorder, and for whatever reason they decided to combine last week and I just couldn’t create. I was having trouble across the board, but the comic was really the only thing I had an option not to do. I don’t get to not be a dad, or not be a husband, or not be a pastor; those things are mandatory, so I decided to not be an artist last week.

If you have never struggled with depression, I hope this comic can give some insight into what it feels like. This was the best way I could think of describing the weight, the haze, the sheer inertia you need to overcome to do anything. It’s not even feeling sad; it’s more not feeling anything, or feeling deep and hollow. Feeling sad is often more desirable because at least you can feel something. Being depressed almost feels like you haven’t breathed in a month, and so you take a deep breath and it doesn’t do anything. You aren’t suffocating, because you’re breathing something, it just doesn’t feel or taste like air.

Periodically I see someone post a meme on facebook that says something along the lines of “Depressiona and Anxiety are not signs of weakness, they are signs that you have been strong for too long” or something. It’s nice I guess, but I don’t actually feel that it speaks to depression and anxiety, at least not from my own experience; I don’t get depressed or anxious because I’ve been strong. I get depression because there is less light in the winter than there is in the summer and I get anxiety because that squirrel is judging me! (that’s a joke. we can still joke about this, people). I’m sure there is stress related depression and anxiety that comes from working too hard or being the rock in a strenuous situation or relationship, but to me that has more to do with sheer emotional exhaustion which in my experience feels different from depression. My depression and anxiety isn’t that rational, though I wish it was! My anxiety is such that I was too anxious to go to band practice once, in a band of my best friends who knew me better than anyone who would have accepted me in whatever state I was in when I showed up. Not a gig, practice. I couldn’t face it. It keeps me in the house when I need to go out and sends me out when I should stay in. It doesn’t make any sense. That doesn’t mean my depression and anxiety is a sign of weakness anymore than getting a cold or the flu is a sign of weakness. I’m going to get sick at various stages of my life, and I’m going to go through bouts of depression.

I guess I decided to make this post to shed some light on depression. In my position at work people will often come and ask me what to do about someone who is depressed in their family. There are many things you can do to improve your quality of life and lessen your depression, but sometimes it’s just something you have. I take vitamin D to counteract my depression, running and exercise helps, getting lots of sleep at reasonable hours, prayer and meditation on scripture, etc. For the most part my depression didn’t need to be “fixed” it needed to be managed on my part through good choices and professional help, and it needed to be understood by the people around me. I think everyone who suffers from depression goes through a phase where they hate small talk because people ask “how are you” and want you to say “good” people aren’t generally prepared to hear the opposite. I want to encourage you to be real with your conversations. If someone is struggling, take it for what it is, offer your support and understanding. And know that if someone with depression is in your presence, they are there, they have shown up to life; know that that is something huge, something worthy of admiration. It may have been the most courageous act you’ve seen in a while.

My depression and anxiety is better this week. More under control, more manageable, but I thought I’d offer this explanation of why there was no comic last week, and hope that it spurs some discussion and eliminates some stigma.

My name is Jeff, I’m mentally ill, and I freakin’ rock!

I should say before I sign off that I am a deeply religious and spiritual person and I have a real and sincere relationship with my creator. I have always believed that depression was just something I was always going to have, and why not? right? lots of people have it, it helps me reduce stigma to be honest about it, and I have been able to incorporate it into my ministry. Recently however I received a promise from God about a work he has been doing in my life. My depression often manifests as guilt; guilt over things I’ve done, or didn’t do, thing’s I’ve confessed, things I’ve been forgiven for. I am trapped in a guilt cycle. It was revealed to me that this guilt is based on some misconceptions I have of God (or at least, some things I often forget about God) and that he would flip those on their head so that I would always remember who God really is. God promised to take my guilt and transform it into wonder and amazement at the redemptive nature of the cross. So in essence, he promised to take away my depression, or at least the way my depression tends to manifest itself. I don’t know when this will happen. In many ways I can see it starting to happen. In the mean time, I am not discouraged by my depression, but I rest encouraged in the promise that there will be healing of some kind, and I praise God for that. And if my depression remains for the rest of this life, I’m okay with that, because God is faithful.

Peace be with you this week.

 

**UPDATE** So, two years later, I can say God held to his promise. I no longer suffer from guilt related depression. I still have depression and anxiety, but it no longer manifests as guilt which is SO much more manageable. I have since gone on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds which also help manage it a lot. Overall I would say I am in a better more manageable place with my depression. I still use it in ministry and as a way to connect with youth and parents who suffer or live with someone who suffers from mental illness. I have been fortunate in that I don’t feel that I’ve ever had to really deal with the stigma of mental illness which helps me a lot to continue to speak against it as I’m not nervous or afraid of being judged that way. Anyway, I hope you can take some encouragement from this comic and from my story. We’re all in it together. Take care of yourself, and surround yourself with people who love and understand you. Take Heart.

-Jb