We were sitting on the only furniture left in her late-grandma’s dimly lit nursing home room. She was back for the funeral and my friend invited me over so we could talk one-on-one with no kids around. Life-lived poignancy struck me. I suppose it was the perfect place to have a life-living conversation. This is how I remember it:
“Are you depressed?”
Well, I might be. I thought I would do better after having realized how I had been looking to others to make me feel valuable. We have really been doing well the past few months because of it…but I still feel rage when I feel overwhelmed.
“Do you enjoy your kids?”
Well…I love them. And there are moments I enjoy them but most of the time I feel frustrated by all their needs I am expected to meet. But I’m their mom. Isn’t that my job?
“Do you want to be angry at your kids or will you look back on this time of your life and wish you would have been able to enjoy it?”
There’s nothing like end-of-life reminders to evoke right-now-life movement. Her question made me realize I didn’t want to live to survive, I wanted to live a life of deep joy alongside whatever pain would come. But I could not do it on my own. Something significant happened in my heart while at the spiritual direction class, as I described in my last post. I am so glad I didn’t miss the opportunity for inner growth in the middle of my pain. But nine months later, at the time my friend confronted me, I was still struggling.
That’s the thing about depression. There very well may be spiritual transformation in the middle of it, but if it’s been around long enough, our brains may need help to finally overcome it. Soon after our conversation, I began taking anti-depressants. Choosing to take or not take anti-depressants is a very personal decision. My goal was to utilize them to help me regain chemical balance while I continued to work on integrating more healthy practices into my life. Several months later I went off of the medication and through another transition into a new beginning: a life aware of how the choices I make daily impact my spiritual/mental health.
I had expectations about what it would be like to welcome our children into the world and raise them. Some of my expectations became sweet reality. But if I have learned anything through this season, I have learned that joy is not found in fulfilling the “should’s” of life. It is not something you feel just because it is your middle name. Joy is much deeper than that. It is the others-centered freedom and love released when I lean deep into pain and find that I am safe and Loved, just as I am.
Here are some final observations from my heart-experience with depression:
- Depression may be emotional and spiritual, but it is definitely practical and physical. Meds brought their own set of side effects that helped me get back on track but also made me ready to be done with them several months later. Every person is different – if your doctor recommends anti-depressants and you are willing, give them a chance and follow the doctor’s lead to try something else if the first option doesn’t work. I offer other friend-to-friend practical advise in my post 11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression.
- We needed our friends and family. I’m so glad my friend moved into my chaotic heart to help me realize I was still depressed. But I’m not sure how we would have made it to that point without the unwavering support and practical care from our extended family – especially my mom who stayed and helped care for us a lot those first few months. If you think someone might be struggling with depression, reach out and invite them to share themselves with you. And just as importantly, reach out to their spouse or care-giver who may need and appreciate support, as well. Perhaps you want to utilize the discussion points in the 11 Steps to Prevent and Fight Depression as a place to begin.
Has this series been meaningful or helpful to you in any particular way? Are you left with questions unanswered or things with which you disagree or would like to add to the discussion? Leave a comment below, message me on Facebook or email me at email@example.com. I would love to hear from you.
When I Should Feel Joy #5: Deeper Joy