“The words spirit and inspire both derive from the Latin word spirare which literally means to breathe. These emotional highs and lows that we experience are just the natural breathing process of our spirits.”
The Rev. Marcy Ellen, author of The Soul Truth: Reflections for the Waking Soul
Yesterday I wrote about what depression feels like and how much I hate it. I’ve done that a lot perhaps even dwelling too long on the negatives, pain and grief.
Today, I’m reflecting on that. I found myself telling Tom, when he asked, “Yes, when I smile I’m forcing it, if not technically faking. Fake it till you feel it,” I answered in a text. Even he was surprised by my statements. And that got me thinking. What about a positive post?
So this is about how one accepts the positive outcomes of depression. What are they? How do we grow from this pain? Six ideas.
We must face the things that might have made us depressed.
When you are clinically depressed, it is difficult to process reality well or consider clearly what might come of being sick. Surely there aren’t positive outcomes? It’s likely you’re not thinking about how you might become a stronger person through the experience. But I have learned that if you are willing to continue the hard work of therapy good things do eventually come. I can attest to this in my life time and again.
For me, two good outcomes of depression and therapy are the growth that comes from self-discovery and forgiveness. This only happens by facing your pain squarely and accepting your past, then working toward forgiving yourself or others.
It is only by looking at yourself very directly as if in a mirror and seeing in your own pain—your history and the toll it has taken on your weary face and in your tired eyes—that you can begin to move forward.
My depression often returns (the really bad stuff) when I start thinking that I’m responsible for things, that I’m in total control of the outcomes of my life, my family, my past and my future. Ironically these are things that are usually quite out of my control. My perfectionism, my rigid thinking, and my acting like I am god all stems from a false belief that it is all within my control.
- If I were a stronger, healthier or better role model and mother, “less depressed,” then my children somehow would not struggle.
- If I had been a stronger child, more resilient and confident, I would not still be fraught with the outcomes of my father’s raging and abuse.
- If I’d been less weak, sad and lonely, then I would not have become dependent on alcohol.
And on it goes, with wrong thinking about situations that were for the most part outside of my human control.
In my right mind, of course, I know that this is ridiculous thinking. But depression does not allow the right mind to prevail, causing maudlin, senseless, sloppy and wrong thinking to rise to the surface and muddy the waters.
I’m so grateful to have been paired in life with a partner that is a frequent encourager, confident in his own ideas enough to sit me down, time and time again, and tell me squarely: That’s wrong thinking.
Through reflection, stillness and rest healing comes.
I often guiltily spend time in stillness and reflection. My life as a SAHM allows for this choice we have made for our family. But my heartache and self-doubts make me wonder if I should be doing something more. True “work”—earning an income, being a breadwinner, and modeling work outside the home as a woman, something I believe in strongly.
I had to accept that a part of the reason I don’t “work outside home” at this point is that I need spaces of stillness in order to continue to heal. My psyche is bruised. Spiritually I’m still dysfunctional. I need space to heal, to pray, to listen, to become aware of and open to the Spirit. I still wrestle with “Why me and not others? Why do I struggle so with depression? Why am I privileged enough to not have to work?” My brain always asks. For now, all I can do is accept how fortunate I am to have a partner who can provide for our needs.
Take the wide open spaces, as a Season to Heal.
When I worked full-time I was driven by fear of failure, insecurity and a need to build my own domain of responsibility. The more I accomplished, the more they threw at me and I ate it up, loving the affirmation and the challenge. If I’m honest I was motivated by conquest and power more than anything else.
Stepping away from that was not a choice to be a SAHM it was a choice to not work there any longer. Over the years, as I have lost that part of my identity, as you can imagine it’s been hard. I have always needed and wanted work—to fill me, even fulfill me.
A part of the healing has been accepting that I’m okay without that part of my identity. Yes, I write, and enjoy the expression of my soul and mind through photography but it’s not a paying full-time job. I have always written it off as lesser importance. Finally, okay not finally but for the most part, I accept myself and that means that I can face those monsters of purpose and identity.
I’m not there yet, fully healthy. My identity in Christ, my value in the kingdom, my desire for accolades, and attention, and applause, still live inside me. I can say that things are headed in the right direction.
We can heal by asking why we were led into this spiritual recession.
Marcy Ellen suggested the question. And this sort of question is helpful to me. I’ve never considered my depression as a spiritual recession and it’s a challenging idea. It reminds me of the spiritual seasons of the book of EcclesiastesSp Chapter 3.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
By accepting the seasons of living, we can be comforted. Especially when some seasons contain suffering and pain, we can know that it leads naturally to a season of healing and growth. If we do more than simply endure it and fully accept, we can appreciate the ups and downs, leading to a deepened time yet to come.
Life can be outrageously difficult, “A wild and mesmerizing melody,” says author and Benedictine sister Joan Chittister, one of my spiritual mothers, in her book For Everything A Season. “We can go with the flow (of life) or we can resist it all the way to the bitter end. We can learn from it or reject it completely…Life is a relentless teacher.” p. 154.
The truth of this life is that sometimes we’ll struggle and at other times we’ll thrive, even dance! This is hard to believe when you’re depressed. But the thought fills me with hope.
And I believe hope is what eventually heals the depressed, if it is not total healing at least something good. Whether it is through God’s healing or a therapist’s genius. Perhaps it is a husband’s quiet truth spoken over two decades or a friend’s frequent kindness. Or other forms of healing.
Hope spoken aloud and believed is the path to healing, and it is the way forward to a season of laughter and dancing.
I believe these seasons of grief, with tears searing warm salty pathways in my soul, will lead to building up and healing, to days other than this. As Chittister says, there is no such thing as a meaningless moment. It is all important, teaching us, molding us, chiseling our souls, shaping us into a person of compassion and joy. “Who is the happy person? Those who have survived each of the elements and found themselves to be more human, more wise, more kindly, more just, more flexible, more integrated because of having lived through that period of time, that moment of definition, that phase of survival, that streak of chastening awareness.” p. 156, For Everything A Season.
Awareness and acceptance are all.
Accept your lot, even while you strive through self-care, perhaps medicine and spiritual guides, and time, to heal. As we stop fighting our life, we become aware that each season is meant to teach and force us to grow and grow up.
This season of depression is an opportunity for me, if I am willing to be still and listen. I will sit in the quiet of this moment and lean in, for there life begins, again.