This is a practical post, because I meant it when I wrote that Jesus is the joy of every longing heart, but I think he’s also given us resources through which he’s the peace of every broken brain.
That perfect cloud of mental and emotional clarity from the past six weeks finally deflated.
Thankfully I hadn’t let myself fully believe that I’d permanently become a normal person, and for the first time in forever, I didn’t forget Jesus or hang all my hope on the possible end of suffering. Instead of praying that I’d always be that healthy, I prayed that I’d always be that content.
Even as depression pokes his head out of the hole I shoved him in, that’s still my prayer, and God is happy to answer. So it feels different…but it still doesn’t feel good. Everything feels cloudy and heavy like before, but not at all hopeless like every other time. And there’s still no reason for any of it, but that isn’t bothering me either. It’s so different.
But two Mondays in a row now, my favorite customer has said to me, “I hope you’re okay.” (I really like that; it’s so much less pushy than directly asking what’s wrong) This was my first clue that I must not be getting better, because it’s one thing when your friends notice that the lights in your eyes have gone out, but quite another when someone who only sees you once a week for five minutes can see it.
So, I finished my shift and went home, and I wanted to lay on my bedroom floor but couldn’t because it was a mess, and I thought about how cleaning might make me feel better, even better than crying on the floor would, and the other side of my brain said “But what if I don’t feel better?” and I said to it, “Then I’ll still have a clean room.”
And that was the most important thought I had all week.
I’m currently depressed enough for everything to be more difficult than usual, but not so lost that everything feels impossible.
I’m taking advantage of that sad medium(depression has no “happy medium”) by making myself do healthy things that have some positive result guaranteed, even if it doesn’t necessarily lift my moods.
I didn’t get this depressed all at once, so I won’t get better all at once.
Cleaning my room is always a good thing to do, and it also might make me feel better.
Running is always good for me, and it might make me feel better.
Also cooking real food instead of throwing a Totino’s pizza in the oven…washing dishes right away instead of leaving them til morning…taking out the pile of recycling that’s been growing for a month…writing about how I’m doing and hoping it helps someone else in the world.
Even if none of those things fix depression, they’re STILL good decisions in their own right.
And if I do enough of them for long enough, I WILL feel better. Or so I’m theorizing. This is the first time I’ve ever tried this. As long as I do something each day to work towards getting better, that’s enough.
You don’t have to make a touchdown every day. Just get a first down.
If you’re reading this and you’re at a deeper level than I am, this still works. Your yards and downs are just defined differently. I get to say that because wherever you are, I’ve already been; for a long time in 2016, my first down would have been simply staying alive and not making myself bleed. I’m well acquainted with the depths where you flop on the floor with your eyes closed and listen to The Office, because you don’t even have the energy to sit up on a couch and look at the TV(then when it pauses and asks “Are you still watching?” you just stay on the floor until you fall asleep because picking up the clicker and hitting “Continue watching” is too much). I really do know.
So maybe the idea of getting up and getting dressed and running or even walking is too much(typing that sentence made me tired). Maybe today it’s enough to just get up, take a shower, and get right back in bed. Or if you’re not at the getting out of bed stage, then it’s enough to just lay there and read a chapter of a good book instead of scrolling your Instagram feed(social media is one of my top triggers when I’m not doing well; it might not affect you the same way).
Define your first down, do the thing, and don’t let anyone say you aren’t trying.
Pray for God to heal you, but don’t be surprised if he does it by giving you strength to take tiny practical steps like this.
You can do it and you’re going to LIVE and this will pass even if it takes a few weeks or months longer than you hoped.
Onward, brokenhearted soldier, into the great unknown…
Hear the golden trumpets sounding, calling the tired soldiers home. (Branches, “To the Desert”)