My goal in writing is to be ‘gut-honest’. That means I tell tough truths, hopefully in loving ways. Not because I think I’m all that and a bag of chips, but because I know the human experience is a common one and we learn from each other.
In that gut-honest spirit, I need to say some things that are going to be tough for me – but must be said if I am to call myself a truth-telling writer.
So here’s the situation:
I’ve been battling depression.
Not depression in the clinical sense (I absolutely do not want to belittle those who wrestle with chemical imbalances, the inability to get out of bed, or thoughts of self-harm.) but depression in the ‘life is really hard and I’m having trouble coping’ sense. After a couple of months of slowly fraying at the edges, one particularly low night pushed me to call my midwife to be screened for perinatal mood disorders – postpartum depression and the like – since I am still in my childbearing year, albeit at the end. But you need to know it took me a literal week to work up the courage to make the phone call.
I had trouble coming to terms with the need to reach out for help. Why? My pride. I’m all about ‘nurturing women with my work and words’, how could I be the one needing nurturing? Physician, heal thyself.
Finally, I opened up to my husband, close friends, mentors, and my midwife. It was amazing how even just speaking the sentence, “I have been feeling depressed,” seemed to lift some of the load. (And is that not biblical? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 )
And then, I finally talked to Rachel.
Everyone needs a Rachel.
Rachel is a godly woman, loving wife, homeschooling mom, and member of my church community. The same Rachel of beef pot pie fame. We share a lot of common interests, but come from different backgrounds. As I mature, I have come to deeply appreciate Rachel’s presence through many impactful moments of my life.
Why it is we need ‘permission’ to do the things we ought to do is baffling. But after several people (including professionals) urged me to talk, I reached out to Rachel.
She listened so patiently and earnestly. She nodded with empathy. She assured me I wasn’t alone. And then, she spoke biblical wisdom into my life.
“I think ‘life is hard’ is a blanket we can throw over so many situations. And life is hard. Your circumstances may shift, but life can still be hard. The way to handle any life situation is with the Gospel. By studying Scripture and seeking the Lord, it doesn’t matter what is going on. The Lord will comfort you.”
Rachel and I started meeting regularly. We prayed together, prayed for each other, studied the Bible together, and talked about life together. Friends, this is discipleship. A practice we are called to as believers. This is church community. Speaking up when we’d rather stay silent. Reaching out when we’d rather withdrawal. Opening doors when we feel like shutting them. And it is within discipleship we aren’t called out, we’re called up. Called to be more like Christ. Encouraged and edified. This doesn’t happen alone. We’ve got to be in context of the local church for this sort of fellowship.
A peace agreement in my mental battle has been achieved in the arms of Christ. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
In the moment, I couldn’t see past my own situation. Turns out, I had been trying to save myself. To numb or avoid the pain. Or worse, to let the pain simmer until it boiled over. The solution was not in my own heart, but in the heart of Jesus. And because God designed us for one another, community is a means of grace in our lives. It draws out the deep and hard and lonely and hurtful, as well as the joyous and delightful.
Since I’m not a specialist, I can’t tell you what has clinically gone on in my head and heart. I can honestly tell you that, at this time of writing, I feel better. Some circumstances have gotten better, some have gotten worse, and most have remained the same. But today, the cloud is gone. I don’t feel completely lost. I understand that depression is real and oftentimes requires intense treatments to resolve. And in many cases soul work should be coupled with medication or other measures. I understand that having ‘feelings of depression’ is not the same as ‘being depressed’, but it can be. And I’m not under any illusions that I’ll never walk through a valley in my life again – goodness, no. And I am very sure that in any life season, God works through His Church to care for and sanctify His people.
When life is hard, you need community.
And for me, it looked like needing Rachel.