About a week ago, an acquaintance was asked how she planned to spend her evening. She replied, “Oh, I’ll go home,” and added in an undertone, “I’ll probably curl up and cry my eyes out.”
I assumed my acquaintance—I’ll call her Socrates—was being sarcastic, yet her tone was very matter-of-fact. “Will you really?” I inquired.
This was not a polite question. All the same, it led to a frank conversation about depression and the ways we try to deal with it. Socrates apparently cries a lot. I would never have guessed. She’s considerate, friendly, and helpful; she never seems depressed. As she talked about her struggles, I felt a sobering sadness.
I can’t pretend to understand her perfectly after one brief conversation, but I’m certain of at least one thing: Socrates is a very brave person. She fights her private battle with a courage that fooled me into thinking she was quite happy. She smiles, storing up her tears.
Socrates reminded me that depression is a common struggle. Most of us have hidden problems of some kind, whether depression, self-loathing, addiction, self-destructive impulses, broken relationships, or other issues. We all try to cope in different ways. Socrates cries. I write, drink too much coffee, and spend hours or days being antisocial and unproductive.
I don’t like depression, but what I really hate is not knowing how to deal with it.
My depression comes and goes. When I’m not depressed, it seems like a mere nuisance. In fact, in these brighter times, I feel slightly guilty talking or writing about it. I feel like I’m exaggerating a small problem.
Then depression creeps over me, darkening my life slowly and imperceptibly. (The process is so gradual that I sometimes feel depressed for days before realizing it.) Depression robs me of the ability to enjoy and appreciate good things. It sucks the hope and meaning out of life, leaving the universe a dismal, empty place.
Fortunately, my bouts with depression are neither frequent nor injurious, and seldom last more than a week or two—thank God! In the end, no matter how dark my depression, God carries me through it.
All the same, I wish I were better at coping. I want to be more self-aware in recognizing the symptoms of depression. I remind myself that what I do matters more than what I feel. I try not to blame myself, but to recognize depression as a sickness. Like Socrates, I smile and keep my struggles to myself.
As I look back on the battles I never won, I can’t shake a sense of regret. I feel guilty for being unproductive and unsociable. I rue time wasted, opportunities lost, and blessings unappreciated.
Depression really sucks.
Why am I writing all this? I have two reasons.
First, I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t win these battles. There are many people like me and Socrates. I want the readers fighting their own private battles to know they’re not alone.
Second, I have more to say. This is the darker half of a two-part discussion. I’ll end these reflections on a brighter note next time. Come back on Friday for the conclusion!