181. My Battle with Depression

I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.

~ Abraham Lincoln

I don’t often write about depression. It’s not a pleasant subject, and I make an effort to be optimistic. Quoth Louisa May Alcott, a ridiculously cheerful person: “I can only say that it is a part of my religion to look well after the cheerfulnesses of life, and let the dismals shift for themselves.”

Besides, depression is kind of embarrassing. It’s easier not to talk about it.

I’ve struggled throughout my life with periods of anxiety and hopelessness—I once wrote a post about the worst of them—but depression isn’t usually a severe problem.

Recently, however, it has been more of a struggle. More than once in past weeks depression has impaired my ability to function… and today is one such occasion. Earlier today—not today today, but the day I wrote this post—I made some last-minute arrangements and came home early from work.

I just couldn’t do it.

There was no way on God’s green earth I could spend eight hours in a group home administering medications, washing dishes, changing soiled undergarments or doing whatever the heck else needed to be done. It was hard to do anything except keep breathing.

Thank God, I’m feeling much recovered—well enough, at least, to write a blog post. (Tea, rest and Brawl in the Family are fine cures for depression.) This is a post I’ve wanted to write for some time: not as a complaint or a plea for attention, but an honest acknowledgment of a personal struggle.

Dash it all, personal posts are the hardest to write… except for top ten lists and book reviews. But I digress.

I’m thankful not to have any troubles worse than depression, and extremely grateful for the loving support of friends and family.

Several people in my family suffer from depression. My old man, for example, has battled it throughout his life. Do you know what else?

My old man is awesome.

I will consider mine a life well spent if I grow up to be just like him. My old man is consistently cheerful, funny and kind. People are always surprised when they learn he suffers from intermittent depression and chronic physical pain. He gives me hope that I too can live a cheerful, useful life despite my own struggles with depression.

I wonder sometimes why God allows me to experience anxiety, fatigue and hopelessness. Wouldn’t I be a good deal more effective doing good things if I were not occasionally burdened with debilitating depression? I mean, really, God?

In the end, I always come back to the passage in the New Testament in which the Apostle Paul suffers a paralyzing problem of his own:

I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Depression might be a thorn in my flesh. It’s certainly a nuisance. Nevertheless, God’s answer to me has been the same as his answer to Paul. The grace of God is sufficient. That, as they say, is that.

God may not have spared me depression today, but he enabled me to pull some strings to come home early from work. He didn’t give me the strength for which I asked. Instead, he gave me tea and rest and funny webcomics.

I continue doing what I can to prevent depression: eating fruits and vegetables, drinking too much tea, working out (often while listening to music from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which is either really stupid or really awesome), watching cheerful cartoons, trying to get enough sleep and asking God for his help.

I have good days. I have bad days.

Through every kind of day, God’s grace is sufficient. Always.

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