Winter doesn’t last forever. Thankfully, that’s not only true in our calendar or climatic seasons, but also to life seasons.
I usually live with depression of some description and to some degree or other from the first of October until mid-January. That’s the season of all the family birthdays and some anniversaries, not to mention the great hype of Thanksgiving and Christmas as family holidays. But this year was different. I got through the fall and the holidays fairly well, but I got hit hard in mid-January, just at the time I’m usually beginning to feel more myself.
It didn’t take much reflection to realize that I was very conscious of the 30-year anniversary of my separation from DH and the discovery he’s gay, but it took a little longer to realize that this anniversary reaction was compounded by the shadowy memories and continuing influences of other things that happened during the separation. My parents are dead, now, so it won’t shame them if I state that they were no help to me at all, and, in fact, abandoned me, even after they realized for themselves that DH is gay. They blamed me for the divorce. I was in college, a single mom, and they didn’t come see me in two and a half years (they lived only an hour away from me, and my dad was in my town weekly for work purposes). I needed them and they weren’t there. That, as it turned out, was the largest factor of my descent into depression.
I don’t advocate the sort of self-absorbed introspection that renders us victims or traps us in an emotional childishness or leaves us with a myopic perspective; still, there are some things that need to be recognized and dealt with. I believe that if we are still and wait, if we look carefully, these issues will become clear enough that we can recognize them — and be given the means to lay them to rest. I’ve used the term “exorcise” and that’s not inaccurate, either. The thing is, I believe, to be fully submitted to a discipleship in Christ, and not experimenting or immersed in any New Age or nonChristian framework; otherwise one might find oneself going into unhealthy spiritual and emotional places where one did not intend.
When I had realized that what was most deeply troubling me was the memory of my parents’ non-support — indeed, their abandonment — I was able to deal with it. There are techniques — you can find them in articles about mental health, or in talking with your own counsellor — but the one that turned the tide for me was pretending my Dad, especially, was sitting in the chair opposite me in the living room. I gave him pure-T, unreconstituted hell for several minutes, and by the time I got to, “You used to call me your Winesap because I was the apple of your eye. How in HELL could you just abandon your little girl like that?” the cork popped and the tears started flowing —
I don’t cry easily or often; it had been more than two years since my last good cry. Tears contain hormones, I’ve read, that influence or even control moods. Being unable to cry means that all those little bitty biochemical mood influences were trapped in my body and causing me to sink lower and lower and lower. I told one friend it’s like standing on the wrong bass pedal of an organ — all that loud, discordant noise is there and can’t be ignored, no matter what delightful little fugue one might be playing on the manuals. It’s an unpleasant weight around one’s soul.
Being able to cry was the wonder drug of the year. I followed up with a chat with a friend who does counseling and who knew my parents (that was important to me). “Laura, I just never would have thought that your Daddy would have treated you like that. I wish you could have told me – – ” See? I’m not crazy and I’m not hateful. Yes, I had a nervous breakdown. Yes, I was abandoned shamefully by my parents. Yes, I forgave them (again).
YES. I SURVIVED.
And I survived the extreme depression season. Crying worked it out of my body. I found energy and interest and joy again.
Please note: if you are trapped in severe depression so that you really can’t function, or are always sad, or can’t pull yourself out of it via ordinary means – sunshine, fresh air, exercise, a good venting cry or talk with a friend — do give some serious consideration to consulting your health care provider. Life’s too short to spend it trapped in a misery which might find relief through medical treatments.
Also — I NEVER thought of harming myself: life belongs to God, Period. If you do think of hurting yourself, then I beg you to get some medical assistance. Your life has value and meaning and importance, even when you are temporarily unable to see it. And, yes, it is temporary (even though sometimes it’s a long temporary) — the light of day always comes round at some point. There is a redemptive end to all this.