Hello! Welcome to our series on depression and anxiety. Thanks to everyone who empathized with us during this series: this post is for you.
One of the grossest things about depression is that having it makes me feel like a terrible person. Depression has all kinds of tricks for making me feel awful.
First of all, I just feel terrible all the time. It’s easy to confuse feeling terrible with being terrible. How could a normal person possibly feel this bad over NOTHING?
I feel even worse when I start doubting that I have depression at all. What if I am just making all of this mental health stuff up? What if I am just lazy and selfish and hateful? Mary wrote about this a couple of weeks ago: depression and anxiety lie, and it makes fighting them even harder.
Sometimes well-meaning people join depression’s team by telling me that I don’t have an actual problem, or that I could easily fix it by praying more or doing yoga or eating right. That only makes me feel worse.
A lot of times, there isn’t a good reason for me to be depressed. When I was first diagnosed, I felt kind of guilty. I come from a good family. I had a nice childhood. My life hasn’t had too many traumatic events. My life is usually really good, and it seems ungrateful of me to be depressed. But I’ve since learned that mental illness doesn’t always make sense.
There is also an idea that good Christians just don’t struggle with depression. That idea is thankfully going away as more Christians talk about their experiences, but depression can use it to make me feel worse.
When I’m depressed it’s almost impossible to get things done, even easy tasks that I used to like to do. It’s easy to feel guilty about that and to feel like an incompetent and terrible person.
Take all of those things together, and it is easy as pie for depression to make me feel like a garbage pile.
But I am NOT a garbage pile. Here’s how I know.
Soon after I started dating Andy, I got really depressed. You can imagine how fun that was. I cried on almost all of our dates. One thing I would do while crying is ask him what on earth he was doing with someone who was a terrible wreck like me. And he would always tell me, “Anna, you’re amazing! I am so lucky that I get to spend time with you.” That would of course make me cry harder. But he really helped me to understand that I am not my depression. The depression sucks, but I don’t. I do my best to fight it. I am not on its team. And I can still be awesome even if I have to spend a lot of time fighting it.
And actually, the fact that I have to spend so much time fighting depression and still manage to get anything done is incredible. If life is running a race, depression or anxiety is running a race with heavy chains around your ankles and a bag over your head. If we’re getting anywhere, that is awesome. Gold medals all around!
One of the best things about writing this series for me has been hearing from people who have depression--and I had no idea. These are people I love and respect. They are friendly and helpful and funny and brave. They are awesome. And they struggle with the same thing I do. If they can be awesome and struggle with depression, then that means that I can too.
I hate that Mary and I both struggle with depression, and if I could cure her instantly I would. But she helps me to see my depression from the outside. When she is struggling, it is so easy for me to see that she is struggling but she is still awesome and so worthy of love. She could have depression every day for the rest of her life (may it never be! but for the sake of argument) and I would never stop loving her. She would always be my sister, and she would always be the best. And that helps me to remember that depression doesn’t define me. It’s an awful thing, and it can take over my life, and I hate it. But it’s not me.
I know it’s not me because depression is not awesome, but I am.