Everything in Life is a Lesson. Sometimes those lessons are avoidable, and sometimes they're inevitable. Sometimes you can see the benefit immediately, and sometimes the reason escapes us, even if we're looking for it. While Depression is not a lesson I would wish upon anyone, (and if I could wipe it out completely, I would,) it has grown me as a person.
Often I wonder how much farther I would have traveled in life without the bricks in my head weighing me down. Who would I be today without the burdens? But I have come to believe that I would not have traveled much farther at all; not have accomplished anything greater, though I may have accomplished more things. Why? Because I've learned the lessons the hard way. Personal experience, when we allow it to become a mentor, is the greatest teacher of all, because that is when we pay attention, and truly connect with the truth.
While there are good days and bad days, and a lot of in-between days, these are 10 of the things Depression has taught me:
- Ask for Help - Even healthy people shouldn't go through life alone. Why should you and I? I've been blessed with people who care about me, but working up the courage (and energy) to admit that I couldn't do it by myself was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but one of the most necessary. Things will go on how they always have unless something changes, and I'm convinced that the significant, momentous change it takes to heal is not something I was capable of myself.
- I'm Weaker than I'll admit, but Stronger than I know - It takes a strong person to live life broken. It takes a stronger person to admit it and get help. After a while, it is too hard to keep picking up the pieces of a broken mind and heart. I don't know why I thought I still could, or why I insisted on doing it alone, but looking back, I'm shocked I was still able to.
- My Feelings don't Define Me - A friend brought this to my attention, and while I wasn't able to do anything with it at the time, it resonated in my mind. When depressed, I feel like I'm weak, lazy, irrational, impracticable, unmotivated, frustrated, broken, immobile, stuck, etc. All emotions are valid emotions, but they don't define my me. "Stuck and broken" may describe my current life, but doesn't define me as a person.
- There is Always Hope - Always. No matter how it feels. I don't say this because I had an amazing breakthrough and am living the dream and have no more problems. I say this because there is a future, and the future is inevitable. This fact used to scare me. Now it comforts me.
- Priorities - Even on my worst days, not all of me was lost; my mind was numb, but I could still think. And when little or no energy is left to utilize, you quickly find out what makes you move. And then on the better days (when you've finished picking up the pieces) you know where to start. I know I have to be careful with how many projects I take on, and just as careful with the nutrition I put into my body. While I may not be wholly functioning some days, I at least start with what I need to.
- God is not a Taskmaster - God likens His relationship to the Believers both as a parent, and as a marriage. A good parent loves their children no matter what, and are there to care for them when they're sick. A good marriage isn't a contract, but a relationship, "til death do us part." And the Bible doesn't demand deeds, but requests one's heart, and that leads to compliance to His guidelines. I've fallen deeply in love with my Savior, not because I can feel deeply, or perform well, but because He is a good "Father," and a good "Husband."
- Compassion - It is frustrating to not be able to do the things I know I should do, and to not be able to "snap out of it." From the outside, there's no apparent reason for me to be depressed. It has given me a fresh set of eyes to see the pain of others, and truly be compassionate. This doesn't excuse one's behavior, it simply validates the feeling. After all, everyone just wants to be understood, right?
- Some Things Really Don't Matter - looking back over all the things I wanted to do, but didn't, I see that some things really should have been done... and some things really didn't matter. The world did not end, I didn't die, people didn't get mad, and most people didn't even know. After gaining weight, my skin breaking out, and letting extra-curricular things slide, I was a bit shocked to find out that people still liked me.
- I Found Out Who Cares - Some friends are needy. Some people just want you for what you're able to do for them. Some people want a good show. When you're not able to provide those things, you find out who your real friends are. But be careful: Don't push people away and then expect them to keep knocking on your door. Be open and honest to whatever extent you can. Otherwise, they may not know or understand what is going on, and why you don't feel like spending much time with them.
- Health is the Most Important Investment - Without my health, what do I have? Sure, I can muddle through for quite a while - it is possible - but exhausting one's resources actually makes things worse in the long-run. Self-investment is so very hard for a person who struggles just to brush their teeth or shower, but it can start with asking for help from someone you trust. It can start with adding in one vegetable a day, or turning off your devices an hour before bed. It doesn't fix everything, but it is a start. Because how can you invest in anything or anyone else if your primary investment (yourself) is depleted?
Know someone who struggles with Depression, but not sure how to relate? Read my recent post A Little Bit of Light for some insight.