When It’s Not Enough

shipwreckIt’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)

  • Cspokey

    I’m trying to find the right words to say. The words that let you know that I’m here, that I care, that I know exactly what you’re talking about. When my depression first hit 3.5 years ago, it was a huge blow to find out that when you’re depressed, you can’t feel God’s love. I remember all the sleepless nights, praying to feel something, for Him to let me know that He still cared. And it wasn’t until after I was on medication, and I found many new friends, that I felt His love again. And even then, it took months.

    Know that I’m here for you. I love you. I care about you. I pray for you. I look for you on Twitter, and it touches me when you say that you care about me, too. We all need each other down here on earth. I’m not going to try to fix you, I just want to be here for you. I just want to let you know that you’ve been a positive influence in my life. Thank you.


  • LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I am so sorry you are experiencing this right now, because I know exactly what you’re talking about and have felt, even recently, what you are feeling. Almost twenty years ago I talked to a church leader about my depression. She told me to grow up. So I did. I pretended it wasn’t there and I tried not to talk about it or share that I was having thoughts about cutting or suicide. It was too much though. I could only hang on for so long until it completely overwhelmed me and I had to ask for help. And medication. And counseling. And I also had to forgive the pastor’s wife who told me to grow up. Her flippant response caused me years of suffering and led me to believe bad theology. I am so proud of you for writing this and sharing it. We especially need more men to talk about this.

  • Aaron, you are writing healing words through your vulnerability. Thank you for writing. Thank you for the call to love. Thank you for the call to be present.

    And thank you for allowing me to sit in the comfort of knowing that I’m not the only one who is caught in the darkest of days from time to time- you’ve given me a gift today.

    • Heather McClish

      Ditto Ditto. Thank you Natalie for directing me here, and thank you Aaron for writing this encouraging piece.

  • Just being there seems to be the one thing that Evangelical culture has the hardest time with.

    Don’t ask me why.

    I’m there, man, if you need to chat, rant, whatever.

  • Aaron,

    This is a heavy post, full of truth about the hard honest reality of depression. I’ve been right where you are; feeling alone, unloved and untouched by Jesus. I am not trying to commoditize your pain by calling it normal or average. On the contrary, it is the most awful feeling in the world, to know that Jesus ought to be there but NOT feeling Him at all.

    Even though we’ve never met in real life (so to speak), please know that I’m a ready ear whenever you need one. I know I can’t fit any kind of real physical emotional need, but I’m here for you. Just a tweet email or call away.

  • keltrinswife

    Needs to be said

  • Thank you for sharing this.

    I appreciate the difficulty in putting these words together and am grateful for your honesty.

    (I tried using your contact page the other day, and I’m not sure if it went through. I received an error when I hit submit)

  • samcarter44

    Aaron, this is a fantastic post! I have also been where you are, and I understand more than you can possibly know–down to the people in previous churches I was at that had no idea how to just be there. I was diagnosed with clinical depression in February. I feel very fortunate to have a church now, based on the idea of community, to have people who are there for me, who understand. My pastor’s wife also suffers from depression, and both of them have been a tremendous resource. I am in counseling with my pastor, and he has me journaling which has also helped me. In all of my years as a Christian, I never knew that faith could be like this, and when I hit those dark moments, people are there for me, and I can see Jesus through them. Feel free to message me if you ever want to talk.

  • Kim

    This…this is such an incredible post that drives home what so many of us who suffer from depression and/or bipolar disorder deal with all the time.

    I, too, suffer from depression. It’s painful and lonely and absolutely gut wrenching at times. I lost two friends earlier this year because I went through one of my worst episodes ever and they couldn’t handle it. They said they understood and would be there for me during those dark moments. Truth is, they didn’t understand and they weren’t there for me. It was a huge lesson in knowing who your real friends are. Painful as it was to see them go, I was also glad to not have the dead weight of two people who never truly cared about me.

    Although I don’t pray, I want you to know you’ll be in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us. It’s not easy to be this open about such a difficult topic. *hugs*

  • troy mc laughlin

    How can I respond? I’m overwhelmed by your honest words. I’m sorry that you suffer and endure the torment that you face. Tweet me anytime. @thenofactor.

  • Isis

    I love you brother. Thank you for holding strong. You are needed in this world.

  • monique

    hey darlin…i have always loved you and I KNOW exactly, exactly what you are asking for….well, of course not exactly, but as close as is possible. I believe one of the fundamental errors of our culture is the brutal, relentless and exhausting thrust to be so fucking happy and positive and constantly experiencing “life”. The sickening paradox here is that the “life” our culture keeps ramming down our throats, while it is incredibly seductive, it lacks any real nourishment. And so when we fall into severe starvation for connection – asking ourselves “Why am I so lonely?” – there is no one there to answer our questions. everyone around us is chasing the Emperor with no clothes….

    My dear sweet Aaron.. it’s painful waking up.

    Ask to find those with their eyes opening too….they will show up.

    Come visit and if you need, I will come there. Promise 🙂 We’ll go watch some cars

  • JuliaRoberts1

    This post is so powerful. A lot of what you write is how I imagine my son feels sometimes so thank you for sharing yourself.

    Suicidal at age 9 (he’s 14 now), I’ve always held the belief that sometimes he just needs us to hang onto him enough and welcome him back into our arms when he’s ready but not ever letting him forget we will love him through anything, no matter what happens. And a lot has happened.

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  • Oh, Aaron. I don’t have words. I can’t even pick out words to highlight because so much of this resonates with me. Hate that you deal with this; love this post (and love you, too).

  • Cindy Ann McLaughlin

    Thank you for this! I know how you feel (depression-though mine is mild-moderate) and have struggled with those who give basic advice thinking that getting over depression is simply a task of ‘changing one’s perspective’ or asking Jesus to ‘simply take it away’. I’m not sure why He doesn’t take it away for all and just some. There’s some reason. And, sometimes it’s just a medical thing similar to someone that has type 1 diabetes……it’s just something you’ve got medically ‘off’ and have to learn to live with. But the more people are open about it and share (I don’t like to speak face to face with folks but can via blogging/face booking), the more friends and family can learn that they are so important to us in our perseverance. Sometimes you don’t need golden advice, you just need someone to be there with you-take you out for pizza-or sit there and just say ‘yep, life can suck sometimes’. People don’t realize how powerful just ‘being there’ can be. We as people are so powerful in helping each other through simply caring….we don’t give ourselves enough credit for that.

  • Grace

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Rea

    Oh yes…a thousand times yes. I am struggling though a major depression right now, heart-hurt and soul-battered and some days I am amazed that I’m still standing. And it’s such a roller-coaster, thinking maybe I’m feeling better only to plunge back down again. So it was almost a slap in the face this morning to have the pastor denounce ‘those of you who walk in looking like you’ve been sucking lemons’ and so on. Because honestly, I would love NOTHING more than to feel God near. NOTHING more than to feel like I was getting some sort of answer to the thousand times a day that all I can do to keep the dark at bay is whisper ‘Jesus’. I KNOW that my jaw is set and tense and everything about my face probably screams lemon-sucking, time and time again I am forcing myself to breath, relax, try to get a smile there.

    THIS is what I wish I could tell him and everyone else. You cannot fix me, you cannot be God to me, but I NEED you to keep reminding me that he hasn’t forgotten me.

    • harrisco

      Rea: Boo and hiss for the preacher whose empathy has left the building. You did not deserve a remark like that. I do not believe God has forgotten you, though I hear in your words how much it feels that way. I know this is not where you want to be in your life. As someone who has walked through a dark, awful place, I want to let you know, recovery is possible. I whisper Jesus with you, for you.

  • Jennifer

    This is heartbreaking and true. Thank you.

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  • April

    You put this into words that I would love to have the courage to say. I can’t even imagine how difficult it was for you to write this. Thank you.

  • Lucy Renee

    I felt exactly this when I went through my depression. You put into words what is so hard to express. Thank you.

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  • Eileen

    I lost my daughter back in August. Until that point, I never really experienced depression. Since then, I’ve experienced it much the same way you described. I wanted so much to feel Yeshua’s (Jesus) presence, and I really thought that I had done something to push Him away. It’s morbidly comforting to know that I’m not alone. Your post really spoke to me. You’re an amazing writer, and I’m very grateful that God has spared you to help others. I will keep you in my heart and intercede for you. Shalom, and God Bless You!

  • harrisco

    Aaron: Your words come with stinging honesty, viscerally, from the well of pain you are feeling. Your words capture the pain, in its magnitude and its strength. All I can offer is what you ask for above–the sureness that you are beloved. You are beloved. You are beloved. I know it on faith. I know it from reading your posts and the comments below. I know it, and others know it, when it is impossible for you to know it for yourself. That love does not depend upon your wholeness. It depends only upon your identity as a child of God. I believe that. Depression says otherwise, but it has an impeachable character.

  • harrisco

    Aaron: Thank you for this post. I have returned to it several times and reflected on it since I first read it the other day. Your words are a call to deeper compassion. You are turning your own experience into a positive direction by sharing in this way–helping others understand what compassion really looks like, helping knock down stigma and misunderstanding. I also read the post by your friend whose wife is struggling with illness. The lesson there is just as powerful: Do not abandon people when they are hurting. Take no half-measures. My prayer is that we can learn from you and from her about real love and compassion, not the cheap stuff we try to use as a substitute. I also pray that you will feel, and your friend’s wife will feel, the real thing. Thank you again for speaking out of your pain, for helping me learn and grow from what you have written.

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  • KJM

    Aaron, I simply want you to know that when I am especially down and troubled as you describe here, I come back to this post to remind myself that others feel the same, and I am not alone. Thank you for that.

  • Miriam Clifford

    As a writer, I had a hard time really opening up and being a completely open page so to speak on the screen or the paper. Writing like this is hard to do-but it really reminds me why it’s so important. That is what this post reminded me of- why I should keep writing- because it’s so honest-because it speaks volumes to people-because it truly emotion on a page. It is great that you shared this, and it inspires me to continue to do the same, no matter how difficult it can be at times.

  • Tony Roberts

    I was led to this post by my editor, Leanne Sype, with whom I believe you connected last night. You articulate well the paradox of psychological pain when we feel the only One who can save us from ourselves is, for reasons we can’t understand and don’t want to accept, inaccessible. Yet, as David does in the Psalms, somehow your longing cries themselves make the hope of healing come closer.

  • Aaron.. your post was forwarded to me from a friend. I am glad that she did. I do not have, or I should say, I have not been diagnosed with Bipolar, although my therapist has at times said that she thinks I am… with the severe mood swings etc. But having said that, I have many other things I am currently trying to cope with and survive through and this week has been a really rough week in and of itself with being suicidal most of it, which puts a spin on things making them all so much more difficult to handle. I suffer from anorexia, self mutilation which started up while I was n treatment for the anorexia and I became addicted to it and over the past two years tried to NOT do it… but to no avail until November 2013. I also suffer from severe depression disorder, anxiety, PMDD and Dissociative Identity Disorder… plus I get suicidal with the PMDD and depression. I feel your pain and frustration… your loneliness. I feel lost and still have basically no relationship with Jesus because I haven’t been able to forgive myself for my suicide attempts… and I pushed him so far away that I spent more time in the dark that I can’t possibly believe that I could be forgiven and be welcomed back into the light… I WANT to try. But it is so hard. Because every time that I try to, the dark is right there again to pull me back.

    all I can tell you is hold tight to any bit of strength you can find within yourself…. even if that is on the floor covered up. You are safe that way. I do it all the time! We are better curled up in a ball, then doing something bad. I sleep a lot to keep from doing bad things… because I don’t know what else to do, and most times, I just have no energy to do anything else. I feel as if no one hears me… like I am talking to the wind. other days… I can be so incredibly happy… I am bouncing off my therapists walls… but what goes up… has to come down. I want to share a poem with you that I wrote…. it is about how I feel most of the time.. my two sides.

    feel free to write me any time.

    The Two Sides

    Oh on the one side there is color
    it is bright, cheery, it is all over
    there is no dimming it, covering it
    and it is there to always there, a part of me.

    Oh but wait, there is a dark side too
    one that fights to go to the color side
    but misses all the time leaving it lonely
    and unsure and wanting to die, to just be.

    The two at times struggle back and forth
    clashing between the dark and the color
    one minute there will be a bit of cheer and
    the next some tears will start to fall from me.

    Once again, it seems like I will rise to the top
    back to the cheery side again, painting color
    to the canvas of my life… short lived as it is
    since I’m never free from the dark that is next to be.

    It is a roller coaster and some times I just
    welcome the change since I know it is coming
    I have become so used to the switches but other
    times I get so wrapped up in life that it will just hit me.

    Some of the time I really hate the switching back
    and forth that comes to be so extreme at times
    the lows are so bad and I am left to tired when they end
    I am exhausted when it is over, I just want it the way it used to be.

    When I am on the top of the coaster, painting my
    world with the color that I have, I do all that I can to
    enjoy my life since I know it wont last long so I laugh
    and hold onto as much color before it is taken away from me.

    So there are two sides of me within me that I fight
    every single day that drive me crazy, some days are
    worse than others but still it is there just the same
    to fight yourself I think is just a battle that shouldn’t be.
    February 2014 K.Knapp

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  • thank you so much for being so transparent, and articulating the pain that many cannot. as someone whose spouse suffers from depression, i am deeply grateful.

  • Caroline Moreschi

    Holy shit. So glad I clicked over from Elizabeth Esther. Today is that ‘Monday’ for me. The pain is unreal. You curl up on the floor in the bathroom with the lights off trying not to scream, digging nails into flesh for comfort. And no, an invisible Jesus is not enough on that day. Thank you having the guts to say it for all of us. Please keep writing. You have blessed me and others so much with this.

  • “I need to be loved, not fixed. I need to have people around that wont shame me, that won’t tell me to get over it.” Mental illness or no… Don’t we all need this? Such powerful words, Aaron. Thanks for being open & honest & so relatable.

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