by Shaina Bolin
I could hear the howling in the distance; I thought the sounds were the scuffling of animals, the shrieks of some creatures of the night, but they weren’t. Those sounds were coming from people. People just like me, alone and scared in the dark forest. I could see the distant blazes of man-made fires shooting out and spreading, dissipating just as quickly as they had begun. Whoever was out there in the dark, in the distance, wasn’t having much luck with light or warmth. I shivered as my cold hands gripped the handle of the lantern I was given. Some improbable thing, I guess, that I was somehow given this lamp, which only lit the ground a few feet around me. Everything else was bathed in darkness, while I stood in a circle of light. I could only put one foot in front of the other as I slowly moved forward, by the limited light I’d been given.
It was more than the wild shrieking people in the darkness had.
Last winter/spring, I began to feel very depressed, and I don’t mean like a mild, clinical depression. I’m talking about not getting out of bed, completely numbed out, not excited about anything exciting happening in my life, barely eating, barely functioning kind of depression. It ran rampant very quickly. Those days are a blur of just trying to be a normal adult. I think I operated on auto-pilot through most of it.
It was scary. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
My therapist noticed it and so did my friends; this discrepancy between awesome things happening in my life and my lackluster mood about it all. On the suggestion of my therapist, I talked to my doctor about going on medication. First I had to go through an evaluation, where I answered questions about my sleep habits, my eating habits, how often I felt hopeless, if I’d ever thought about hurting myself. By the end of it, I was crying hysterically. My doctor gave me a prescription for antidepressants and I spent two weeks in zombie-mode, then two weeks feeling all my feelings again after being numb for so long. After about a month, I slowly began to have days where I didn’t feel weighed down. I began doing the dishes again, packing my apartment in preparation to move. I began making honest, emotionally connected art again. I began moving around more, meditating and doing yoga, rather than staying stagnant in my bed. I started taking care of myself again.
I’m still on antidepressants and now, months later, I still have some days where I feel the depression like a huge giant holding me between its fingers, but these days aren’t as frequent. I am able to better function and engage in life. I feel more like myself. I have a more neutral baseline and more stability. Going on antidepressants seemed to work for me, although I don’t know how long I’ll be on them. It may need to be for the rest of my life.
During some of the darkest days of my depression, I frequently wondered why it didn’t feel like Christ’s grace was enough for me and why it seemed like I needed these oblong pills alongside that grace. I read articles that said that depression could be treated for a time, but that antidepressants cause Christians to rely on something other than God, although this hasn’t been my experience. In fact, I couldn’t find much material that advocated Christians using medication to treat mental illness at all. Although there is plenty of evidence of depression in the Bible, there’s a whole “too blessed to be depressed” mentality that seems to have worked its way into the church.
I understand gratitude and trying to focus on that rather than negative feelings, but for me, faking it until I make it or denying there’s only blessings in my life, doesn’t do much good. To get to the bottom of my depression, I have to understand what it is, where it comes from, and what God has to say about himself and myself through it.
I also began to accept the depression, rather than deny its existence. I had to accept that finding myself walking through a dark forest of depression was somehow right where God wanted me and that he still had a plan for me. And if my depression wasn’t a temporary thing, but a chemical thing, then I had to accept that this is how God made me. If God fashioned me in my mother’s womb, then he knows all the chemicals in my brain; he’s the one who put them there. If God knew all the days of my life before I lived them, then he knew that I would struggle with depression.
If God did in fact create me with a chemical imbalance, then I wonder what use he has for it. How does he plan to use that part of me? How does depression integrate into the rest of me?
I’m still asking the questions and seeking God for the answers. Since I no longer feel like I’m sinking in the quicksand of depression, it’s easier to see that I’ve learned things about myself and about God through it. It’s easier to believe that God does indeed have a plan for depression, for me, now that it doesn’t feel so raw. Depression was, and sometimes continues to be, a dark and scary forest for me, filled with terrors unseen. I’m apt to think that going through dark and scary times is unnecessary, but the truth is we need them.
We need dark and scary times to remember from where the light comes.
|Shaina Bolin is an art student at UT and is a single mother to two children. Shaina is learning what it means to hunt for God amidst writing papers, attending classes, checking elementary school homework, and changing diapers.|