By Tiffany Pickett
A few months ago I was really struggling with depression. My mom has progressively gotten more ill the past three years; stress from school and other personal issues has caused me to deal with depression from time to time. A few months ago I had a severe episode with depression and in my darkness I decided to write about how I was feeling. I hope my words can maybe give a voice to someone who feels voiceless, and shine a light on another's time of darkness.
Sometimes the darkness of depression creeps back in when I least expect it. Life swirls around me carefree and bright when the edges of black start to distort my clear and happy view. I haven't always struggled with depression or self deprecating thoughts or feelings of hopelessness.
This hasn't always been a fight I have battled, but it is now.
In my experience it hits when I least expect it. Like any good enemy it strikes when my defenses are down, when my shield fails to protect me. At my darkest moments I feel completely and utterly alone. This darkness seems to know exactly when to come back around. In some ways I push people away and I don't realize it's happening. Depression can ambush me when my community wears thin and isn't so tightly knit. I find excuses to stop hanging out, to isolate myself with indifference and feel confidence in my solidarity with solitude. Sometimes the shadows appear when I feel useless and unneeded. You would be surprised how important it can be to feel needed.
These feelings so intensely tell me that my friends purposely avoid me and that they just tolerate me to begin with. My family would be better off without me and there is no need to burden them with my insignificant problems. So with these badges of despair I curl into a ball of emotion unsure of when to move, breathe, or what to think.
Sobs rack my body as I search for a silver lining, just a ray of that beautiful sunshine I so love. I fear rejection above all else during these times. Rejection by my friends, parents, that what I'm feeling, this darkness that has found me again, isn't really that important. I feel this unwavering sense that I need to be heard, to be understood, but it's like I'm standing behind sound-proof glass with no way to break through.
With so many papers due, reading assignments to complete, and quizzes to study for there seems to be little to no time for mental health days. The assignments go on whether or not you feel like you are even capable in that moment. During days of depression it feels like I am constantly treading water just to stay afloat in the mountain of assignments, and work responsibilities before even addressing my mental health. The thing is–I'm not just in graduate school. I am a seminarian. I am attending an academic institution to pursue my calling from God to live a life of ministry. Shouldn't that mean I'm exempt from feelings of inadequacy, aloneness, and depression? Absolutely not.
In this dark season I see God's spirit at work in my life, but that doesn't change that I am depressed. It doesn't mean that I am not as close to God as I once was or that my relationship with the Creator has back slid or waned. It means that I have a mental health issue and that is perfectly okay. In my battle with depression I have learned to accept how I feel, take ownership of my issues and believe that it doesn't make me weak. Being in conversation about depression and facing issues head-on only strengthens you.
Being a Christian and struggling with depression or other mental health issues means you shouldn't hide or keep your issues hidden; at this time in life is when you need the community, compassion and love of the Church more than ever. So if you feel like no one cares, no one is listening or what you are feeling is just too much, I promise you that someone cares, someone will listen and your feelings are valued. I care, I will listen and I value you. God cares, God is listening and God, above all, values you. In this darkness, light is around the corner. In this pit of despair, a ladder of hope will be let down for you. And remember you are loved by the Creator God. You are loved indeed.
Tiffany Pickett is a third-year student at McAfee School of Theology.