It’s six-thirty in the morning and already the words are flowing out of me onto my screen. I’m here, fire and excitement igniting in my soul.
I’m showing up in my life.
But I remember when I didn’t show up.
I remember the weeks and months when the fog would set in and a walk from my bed to the couch felt like I ran a 10K.
I remember my kids fending for themselves and mac and cheese was all I could bring myself to cook. And I’m not talking about the homemade extra cheesy Pinterest kind either. It was straight from the box.
You don’t plan to fall off into a dark hole. You just do.
You’ve tried to “just snap out of it” as so many people have suggested, but the only snap is your bra coming off and you going back to bed.
You don’t want to feel this way and you’re ashamed that you live in the darkness. I mean, you should be happy. You’ve got a good life, good family, and you’re healthy. Give me the laundry list of all the reasons why I should be happy and I’ll still be sad, I’ll still feel hopeless.
Guess what, that’s ok.
I’m going to repeat that again, so it can sink in. THAT’S OK. We’ve somehow written this narrative that we’re supposed to be full of joy unspeakable all the freaking time and if we’re not, we’re probably a terrible person. We think God is punishing us for having emotions. Or that we’re in the middle of some “spiritual test” or something. Well, I call BS on all of it.
Let’s just call it what it is. Your thoughts have wandered up to a messy and cluttered room in your mind. It’s dark inside, but you can see crap is everywhere. It looks like that chair is missing a leg.
Why is this room such a mess??
You take a couple of steps inside to see if you can find the light switch or lamp or something. Instead, while you’re fumbling around, the door clicks behind you. Startled you trip and fall. Panic sets in and you lose your bearings.
Which way is the door? What’s in this room? How do I get out? Where is the light? I knew I never should’ve come here! Is this how I have to live the rest of my life??
After a few days, weeks or months, exhausted from all the crying and screaming you bump into a wall and realize it’s the door. You turn the knob and open it and the light floods your body. You’re back. Thank God, you’re back. You quickly close the door behind you and swear to never return there again. But what you don’t realize is that you’ve got 100’s of more rooms like that in your mind.
There’s nothing wrong with you for having these rooms inside of you. They’re simply a wounded part of you or a lie that you believe is true. It’s an area that you’re unaware of or terrified to face. It doesn’t say anything about your character or value. It simply means you’re human. We’ve all got those rooms. We’re all dealing with our own unseen crap.
So, the next time you find yourself stumbling into the darkness of depression or anxiety, here are three things you can do to help you find your way back to the light a little bit faster.
Three things to help you through depression and
Remember, this isn’t bad and it isn’t permanent. There is nothing wrong with you. You’re not broken or a terrible person, and it will not always be like this. There isn’t a timeline out, but like every storm, it will pass.
Things to repeat to yourself: There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s not always going to be like this. I’ll find my way back.
2. Accept where you are.
Panic and fighting it only makes it worse. Resistance creates more tension within yourself and it will only take longer for you to resurface. Stop mentally beating yourself up about it. Take a deep breath, relax, and let yourself sink into it. You’re safe, I promise.
Things to say to yourself: I am in the dark and that’s ok. I accept the way I feel. I’m going to be ok. My kids are going to be ok. I’ll find my way back
This part isn’t easy, especially if there’s already an unspoken rule in your family on how to act when you disappear. If you’ve never openly talked about it with acceptance, then your family is just as panicky as you are. But, it is vital to bring your family into your narrative. Don’t push them away, but don’t ask them to save you either. Simply let your spouse and your children know how you feel. Literally, say it out loud. Let them know that even though you’re not ok right now if they can give you some time to navigate through it, you will be. Ask for their patience and love and space. Let them know it has nothing to do with them. At first, your family might not get it and may even get frustrated, but give them some time and space and love, too. When they see you working through it and emerging on the other side, they’ll be more patient the next time.
Things you can tell your family: Hey, I feel x right now. I hate that I feel this way, but I’m not able to just snap out of it, so if you could give me some time to work my way through it, I would really appreciate it. It’s not your fault that I feel like this and I’m not asking you to fix it. I just need some time.
The first time I accepted my darkness and stopped resisting it, I sank under for a month.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Every day I repeated all three above steps to myself and Matt. Over and over I forgave me for burying myself under the covers and sleeping my days away. Then, one day, I actually felt myself emerge to the surface. I was back. It was such a surreal moment. Excitement flooded my soul and for the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid of the dark.
After a while it was only two or three weeks, then several days, then a day or two. You get the point. Each time I went into the darkness, I found my way back quicker.
About a year of practicing this, something shifted. I was in the middle of one of my dark days (probably on day two or three) when I felt it. The best way I could describe it to Matt was, “This time is different. I feel the darkness, I know it’s there, but it’s not inside of me. It’s outside, knocking on my door.” For the first time ever, my depression didn’t feel like a part of me. I had found the light switch in too many rooms and now I could decide whether I was going to let it in or not.
I don’t ever sink into that kind of depression anymore. I have bad days still, but there’s no longer that chronic sadness of fear fueling me.
When I feel the darkness knock at my door, I immediately investigate the trigger or lie I’m telling myself that invited him over. Then, I do a mental shift, talk it out, take some time out for myself, whatever I need to do to combat it. Within minutes or hours, I’ll stable back out.
It’s a journey. A process. It took lots of therapy, but I got here.
And so can you. You’ve got this. You’re stronger than you know.
Remember, I’m here cheering you on.
PS. Do you know someone who struggles with depression or anxiety? Will you take a second to share this with them and remind them that you’re here cheering them on?