Write 31 days, day 7
Writing prompt: Hope
The gray clouds of depression first overshadowed my life several years ago. Though I could not give a precise date, I can tell you the circumstance that led to the realization that I needed some help. We were trying to sell our home and had some decisions to make. My wife asked what I wanted to do, and I just kept saying “I don’t know” and then I began to cry. She asked what was wrong, and I honestly could not tell her. She recognized something was amiss with me before I did. She asked if I was depressed, and I honestly wasn’t sure. I’m a psychologist, and I wasn’t sure. I knew I didn’t enjoy reading anymore. I felt numb. I had difficulty concentrating. But I wasn’t really sad, which is what people so commonly associate with depression. Believe it or not, sadness isn’t a requirement for depression.
In fact, what many people don’t realize is that depression can have nearly as many presentations as there are people who experience it. For some, sadness predominates and for others, a marked loss of interest. Some people sleep more and others sleep less. Some eat more and some eat less. Depression may include feelings of guilt, shame, punishment feelings, stomach aches, anxiety, headache, low energy, an unwillingness to get out of bed, a loss of interest in sex, not wanting to shower, feeling numb, or feeling disconnected just to name a few.
What does all of this have to do with today’s writing prompt, hope? Here’s the thing: depressed people may also feel hopeless and hopelessness is the greatest predictor of suicidal thinking. It seems that we can deal with sadness and we can deal with a loss of motivation, but when one truly perceive that there is no hope, what’s the point of going on? The horizon is all black and there is no sign of light. The future is all pain and there is no expectation of relief.
So often, well-meaning Christians desire to help. They say things like “well, have you prayed about it?” or “I’ll pray for you.” I have spoken with believers who view depression as a sign of sin because “Christians would never get depressed. They have too much to look forward to.” Any discussion of antidepressant medications is taboo because that is believed to be a sure sign of a lack of faith.
I have to ask, is the gospel that we are providing people truly a message of hope? If we fail to listen and hear someone’s deep pain, we are not. Not until we can sit with another person in his pain can we truly offer hope. Ezekiel 13:10 reads “Precisely because they have misled my people, saying ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace and because, when the people build a wall, they smear it with whitewash.” My friend Larry calls these people “wall whitewashers.” They tend to pretend everything is good and right when in truth, there is pain.
True compassion does not cover over another’s pain or pretend it does not exist. True compassion acknowledges the reality of the pain and hopelessness and sits with another in the midst of it.
What has been your experience with depression, either within yourself or with another? How have you made sense of it?