There is a bird singing just outside my office window to interrupt the silence surrounding me. The coffee is still warm enough to drink, and I should eat a bit of breakfast, but food doesn’t appeal to me. The sky is gray and the floor around my feet is cluttered with items I should pick up.
I put on gym clothes this morning but doubt I will exercise unless I take a long walk. If I do, I plan on walking alone. I am wondering why I write and why I am here and why life seems distant today, as if I am not quite up to living.
Deep in my mind, I know the answer and the battle I will need to fight to enjoy the little bird’s trill fully. I have walked back into the shadow of depression. I suppose this depressive episode won’t last long because I have the tools to combat it, unlike those who don’t recognize its call to isolation.
Even though I take a daily medication for the illness which has affected me since I was in elementary school, the shadow can be triggered by the simplest of things or a variety of what I call “add ups.” Those are the petty annoyances which have accumulated and become one major headache or heartache.
When I awake with feelings of insignificance, exhaustion, isolation or not wanting to converse, then I know I have some work to do. When my friends tell me I look tired or they ask, “What’s wrong?” I am aware my depression has risen to the surface.
I am sharing my brief walk with the shadow while knowing there are others who live with depression symptoms every day behind closed doors. They never hear the birds singing or have friends who remind them “something is wrong.”
There are 16 million Americans who have experienced or are living with major depression. Some, like me, will battle with clinical depression for most of their lives. Most of these folks will not seek help or have the means to afford medical assistance or facilities offering support. Some will commit suicide, others will turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain and slowly, daily, wither away.
Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Sinatra, Springsteen, Lincoln, Churchill, Beyonce’, Bon Jovi, Hemingway, Rowling, Winfrey, Parton, Bradshaw, Ellen DeGeneres and Mark Twain are just a few of the hundreds of well-known people who have battled with major situational or clinical depression. Depression doesn’t care if you are famous or not, nor does it care if you are a child or an adult, or about your race or religion. Like most illnesses, it requires medical attention, and many will seek it; many can’t or won’t.
People have asked me why I am so open and transparent with my readers. There is an answer, and it lies with sharing life with my sweet mother.
She was the most reserved, quiet and intelligent woman I ever knew. She never shared her personal struggles, nor did I ever witness her succumb to emotion except when her father passed away suddenly. She was never judgmental and could always see the other side of someone’s story. She had only one fault that I am aware of, and it was her fear of allowing those she loved to witness her faults. Many times, I felt I didn’t know her even though I adored her.
It was common for her generation to hide those things which are unpleasant and painful. I remember on one occasion after a severe bout with my depression she handed me a gift. The present was a framed quote from a famous poem called “God always Sends Rainbows After the Rain.” It was one of the few times we openly discussed “sadness.”
When I stood next to mother’s grave gazing at the flowers surrounding her, I was happy she was now filled with joy in heaven. At that moment, I understood she, too, had lived with a sadness she could not express or reveal out of fear we would learn just who she was.
Our desire to remain anonymous as victims of depression hurts not only us but others who share our world. We must speak about our own battles with mental health so that we can encourage others to seek aid and open their locked doors.
God helps, Lord, does God help! He encourages us to live every day to the fullest. God wants us to be the best we can be to fulfill his purpose for us. He begs us to seek and see the rainbows after the rain.
I feel a bit better now. I am going to pick up the clutter, listen to the birds sing and watch for the sun to break through the gray.