It’s was a hard Monday.
The crazy thing about having a mood disorder is that sometimes your mood swings out of nowhere. Some days you wake up, and the weight, suffocation, pain, and exhaustion of depression is already on you like a wet blanket at the bottom of a swimming pool. There is no reason for it, nothing triggered it, nothing happened to make you sad. Some days you just wake up depressed and lonely. It’s a severe reminder that bipolar is the condition I live with, even if these days it’s mostly under control. Most days, I can function. Other days, I think about cutting to ease the internal pain. On the bad days, I fight with myself to stop thinking about suicide.
I take my medication every day. It’s part of my morning routine. Occasionally, I miss a dose just like some days you forget deodorant. I know the repercussions for those days. I might swing more manic or more depressed because of it, but it’s still manageable. Those days are difficult and can really suck, but I can usually function.
Days like Monday though, they are a whole other beast. Days like Monday claw at my skin and bones, leaving me laying on the floor in a hoodie and pajama pants, head covered, eyes closed, wanting to sleep and never wake up. Depression like that leaves me with hours of nothing, trapped in my own head and the ropes of sorrow and despair tightening around my wrists, looping into a noose around my neck. On days like this, my medication isn’t enough.
Neither is Jesus.
I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say. I’m supposed to talk about how Jesus is there for me in my darkest times, how he brings me hope and peace, how I can survive this depression because of him. But today, if I was to say that I would be lying.
Depression makes me lonely, and Jesus isn’t in the room when I can’t get up off the floor. There is some sort of cognitive assent that he is everywhere, but the theology of an omnipresent divinity doesn’t make me not want to cut my flesh to feel something better than emotional pain. The words of Christ about his sending of the Spirit so that his peace would be with us does nothing for me when I’m too sad to move. The memories of times with God’s presence, of leading congregations in the worship of Jesus, of illuminating the scriptures to people, these memories do nothing to comfort me. In the utter, bleak smothering of weight, sadness, pain, and lifelessness what can I do to find comfort?
Is it Really Up to Me?
I’m tired of the assumptions that I can fix myself, that I can find my own comfort, that I am capable of surviving days like my hard Monday. Do you have any idea how much pressure that puts on the one in their suffering? It’s hard enough to get out of bed, to get a glass of water, to interact with my family, and you expect me to find comfort, something that is utterly devoid of my current experience? The only comfort I can think to find is a bottle of strong booze, a blade on my skin, or forcing myself to stay asleep hoping it might just be over. In these moments, I am incapable of comforting myself.
I need you.
Hear this very carefully: you are not the missing piece to my happiness. I don’t expect you to magically snap me out of my depression and set me back into real life. I don’t expect you to know what to say or what to do. I don’t expect you to even want to be around me when I am in the middle of these hard days.
But I need you.
I need to be loved, not fixed. I need to have people around that won’t shame me, that won’t tell me to get over it. I need to know that I am not alone, that people will actually come to me, not just expect me to be capable enough to come to them. I need the presence of other people, helping me stay out of the endless night of my head and hurting heart. I need to be hugged, touched, to have a pillow and blanket brought to me. Human touch is so much better than cutting my skin to try to atone for my pain. My wife needs you to be here, because caring for someone in a deep depression is emotionally exhausting, and no one person can do it alone.
Listen, I need you because I have no other way to know Jesus. My faith is enough in these times of depression, but I still need Jesus. When I can’t find him when I can’t feel him, when I can’t have faith in him, can you embody him and just be near?
This struggle with my mood swings, this sickness, is something that isn’t being taken away. It’s not something that I can say is easy to deal with. If I am going to survive, I need more than my medications (which I need) and more than some internal faith and sloughing attempts to hope. If you want me to survive this, I need you to help me survive, even when it’s uncomfortable for you.
All We Need is Love
The kind of hope that staves off suicide in my darkest moments can only come from love and constant reminders that I am loved. See depression fills me with a self-hate that I can’t put into words. It is impossible to love myself, and therefore impossible to see anything lovely in the world around me.
Can you love me when I’m like this? Can you show me the great love of God by loving the unlovable, even when the unlovable is me?
Love is not some magic pill. It’s not some cure-all. I can’t stress this enough: Don’t love me to try to fix me; just love me because I am worth loving. This is what I need when my medication isn’t enough. This is what I need when my faith evaporates. I need to know that I am still worth loving. If you can love me, then God must love me too; then truly I am not alone, no matter what my depression tells me.
This is how I survive.
Our brokenness as humanity runs deep. It’s not always easy to deal with. Things in life don’t wrap up in a neat little bow. But we don’t love only when it’s easy. Loving in the hard times is when our love looks most like Jesus to those of us in need. It’s when love has the most fearsome power. It also means that love makes us uncomfortable. We all have a tendency to want to fix the problems. Sometimes, they can’t be fixed, at least by you. That doesn’t mean you love, your presence, your incarnation of Jesus into the situation is any less vital.
Love when it’s hard when it’s uncomfortable when you don’t know what to do. But loving hard is always enough.
This is the revelation of God’s love for us, that God sent his only Son into the world that we might have life through him. Love consists in this: it is not we who loved God, but God loved us and sent his Son to expiate our sins. My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another. No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another God remains in us and his love comes to its perfection in us. This is the proof that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us a share in his Spirit.
1 John 4.9-13 (NJB)