The day after Christmas I posted on Facebook about being bedridden with depression. Now this wasn’t the first time I was in that spot and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last time either. But that December 26th, 2016 was going to be different because it was the first time I went public with my depression.
People closest to me know I struggled and that I was medicated but it was something I always kept quiet. I was convinced that if anyone else knew my struggle I would be treated differently, that I would lose status in their eyes, that I would be labeled as weak (all things that a man doesn’t want to risk).
But lying in bed on the 26th I decided, “I hate this feeling and I suffer secretly hoping for change but doing nothing about it.” So I told the world my secret and as I hit the send button on my phone something happened… I exhaled and felt this freedom wash over me that I hadn’t felt since I was diagnosed almost 10 years earlier.
For 10 years, I rode the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster that was my life. In the highest of moments, friends and family would tell me how outgoing and fun I was and how I was a joy to be around. I love being in crowds, I could be the life of the party, I could command a crowd and I was on top of the world. But in my lows I would hide from the world, I would put on a strong face in public only to drive home crying for no reason at all. I would avoid answering the phone, I wouldn’t return texts. I simply wouldn’t show up to plans and appointments because I knew I was weak and broken and I couldn’t allow you to know I was weak.
I know I wasn’t faking as well as I thought I was. I know I was hurting and others saw it. But I still thought my weakness was going to be my undoing – so I did everything I could to keep up a strong front. All I was doing was burying the truth under a crap-load of lies. I was pushing the people who cared about me most further away, not because of my depression but because of my ego.
Depression would knock me down but ego kept me down.
December 26th I hit send and walked away from my phone not thinking twice. I wasn’t concerned how others would receive my post, I was simply trying to get my feelings off my chest. And then it started… first it was a text and then another and another, then the Facebook messages, and phone calls and emails. One person after another said something along the lines of, “I am praying for you and thank you for sharing your struggle – I too struggle secretly.”
It was pretty amazing the support and response I received in minutes that continued to pour in over the next few weeks. My depression and struggle became a tool that connected me deeply to countless others that struggled silently. This 10-year-old secret went from being my biggest fear that I did a horrible job hiding to becoming a source of strength, courage and vulnerability. My public declaration has allowed me to pray for others and ask for prayer, to encourage others to seek help as well as accept help. It has allowed me to look people in the eye and speak about mental health publicly and not be ashamed or worried.
The whole situation reminds me of Paul in 2nd Corinthians 12:8-10 – not that I had great visions or that God had purposely struck me with depression (but depending if you believe in Free Will or Predestination then we could argue that another time), but I found strength in my time of weakness through Paul’s words.
2nd Corinthians 12:8-10, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
In my depression I can try to hide it and fail, fight it and lose or accept it and allow God to use it to teach me and in turn to use me to share God’s strength in my weakness.
Because the truth is if I believe God created me (Genesis 1:27), God designed and wired me (Psalm 139:13-16) and he purposed me (Ephesians 2:10) then I must accept the idea that in my weakness he can still use me – not because of who I am, but because of who He is. Now I can’t say I boast about my depression, but I can say I am excited that God can use it for good.
December 26th 2016 was a day that changed my life because it was the day I that in my depression could own me and keep me secluded or I could admit my weakness and embrace the fact that even in my weakness God had a plan.