“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
- Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Depression is a funny thing. Sometimes it disappears for months at a time, and I think (naively) that at last it is finally gone for good. Eventually, though, it once again rears its ugly head, and I’m forced to contemplate living an entire lifetime divided into periods of joy and periods of despair. My obsessive-compulsive disorder has significantly worsened these past few weeks, and it’s taken its toll on my body, mind, and spirit. Of course, the ridiculously long-lasting winter we’ve been experiencing certainly doesn’t help anything. Needless to say, I’m once again battling the depression I had hoped would never again return.
If you know anything about depression, you know that even the smallest of tasks seem too difficult to tackle..things like completing homework assignments on time and lasting through 2-hour lacrosse practices; even doing a load of laundry or getting up out of bed to face another day can seem impossible.
Colors are dulled. Sounds are muffled. Laughter is hollow. Smiles are rare.
And yet, I choose life.
During my high school years, when my depression was so chronic and severe that it landed me in the hospital on multiple occasions, the verses from Deuteronomy (see above) were what I clung to. (It’s funny…I actually only knew verse 19, and it wasn’t quite recently that I read verse 20 and realized that by choosing God, I was choosing life!) Each thing I did then, and each thing I do now, was (is) a choice. I can choose to ignore my alarm clock and sleep through my classes, or I can choose to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and attend them. I can choose not to go to lacrosse practice, or I can choose to ignore the exhaustion and push myself to give my team the best I have to offer. I can choose not to do any of my homework, or I can choose to set small goals, completing my assignments (or, as it were, portions of assignments) one at a time.
I told a friend tonight that I was pretty much out of clothes because they were all in the hamper, but I couldn’t seem to muster up the effort it would take to walk the clothes down to the basement where the laundry room is. She encouraged me to make doing my laundry my goal for the night. Guess what? My laundry is now in the dryer. Even better, I did a little bit more work on an assignment that I’ve had trouble getting focused on, and I feel more confident that I can complete it within the week. I’m even listening to Celine Dion’s Las Vegas show as I’m writing this to improve my mood. (If you know me, you know how much I love Celine. For me, not listening to Celine is a big indicator that all is not well. And you can laugh at this…I give you permission! :P) I also went on a walk, which was super refreshing! It was chilly and there was snow on the ground, but the fact that it was slushy gave me hope that warm weather is just around the corner! I even saw some geese…they’re returning to the area in anticipation of Spring! I listened to the service from my home church this morning, and I read a little bit of a great book by Francine Rivers called Redeeming Love. I even cleaned my room!
Beating depression is about choosing life. (If you’re reading this and you’re dealing with depression, don’t think I’m discounting the pain – emotional and physical – that you’re experiencing. Don’t think I don’t understand the level of exhaustion you feel. Don’t think I can’t empathize with you, because I can and I do. I’ve been there. I am there. I know how you feel, and I still say it’s a choice.) Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use antidepressants. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask for help or seek out counseling. I have done (am doing) those things. But when it comes down to it, the people that beat the depression are the ones who decide that life is worth living. The ones who choose to live are the ones that make it. If you don’t want to get better, you won’t.
God is a major part of my life, as I’m sure you well know. Without Him, I wouldn’t have survived my first bout of serious depression. Without Him, I won’t survive this one. The Lord is my life. When we overcome tough challenges, it’s easy to be proud of our accomplishments and to attribute our success to our own inner strength and determination. I’m certainly guilty of doing that. But every time I’m tempted to do it again, I’m reminded that God is the one who has given me strength and determination. God is the one who has put people in my life that have encouraged me and helped me in my struggle. God has provided for me. God has blessed me. God has loved me. God has never left me. God has been a constant in my life since before I was born. If I’m going to survive life on this earth – with all its hurts, trials, injustices, pain, and evils – I’m going to have to rely on God to keep me sane, to give me courage to keep going in the face of depression, to overcome obstacles, to beat temptation, to look for good when evil is staring me right in the face.
Ironically, I was asked just last week by a youth pastor at my church to speak about my struggle with depression and how God has helped me through it to the students at my home church this summer. This request comes at an odd time, since I never would have chosen to share about my struggle with depression and how I overcame it before I actually overcame it! But I’m certainly not about to deny God a chance to work through me just because I’m not ready. I trust that God will give me the courage I need and the words to speak when the time comes. Please be praying for me, friends. This is an opportunity I’ve waited for and one that I am excited about, but I’m nervous and scared at the same time. I’m not the greatest public speaker, and it’s even harder to share about something so personal.
If you take nothing else from this post, remember this: Choose God. Choose life. Choose to do it (whatever it may be) even when you don’t think you can. God can and will sustain you. Lean on Him. Trust in Him. Ask for help. Never give up.
Also, enjoy this music video of Celine Dion singing I’m Alive!!
P.S. I think I’ve already posted about these verses in Deuteronomy before. If I have, forgive me. They’re just so good!