Sometimes I have a lot on my mind and it shows on my face. Many times, random people-strangers and others-will say:
“Smile, it’s not that bad!”
It usually isn’t. But sometimes, it is.
I suffer from depression.
Up front, I want to say that this is not an anti-treatment rant, because I have had treatment in the past. The way I see it, is that sometimes our emotional health needs not only a spiritual boost, but a little professional help too. I liken it to having a broken leg. We know God heals, but a broken bone needs a cast, right? It’s a temporary help to speed the healing that is already taking place.
Mental health treatment is like a cast for the emotions.
The reason that I haven’t had treatment for some time, is that I have chosen to use my depression as a tool. When I go through a valley, I use that time to commune with the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to strengthen me through my weakness. I use it to inspire me to help others. To learn more about empathy. I learn what it means to survive. It can be painful and yes, lonely. But I have experienced my best self at those times. More importantly, I have learned to recognize when I am entering a valley that I can handle with the help of my faith, and when I need to go to a professional for a cast.
I cannot suggest what everyone does for their own individual comfort and healing. As a Christian, I will always lean on my faith first. But there is no reason to suffer needlessly. God also helps us through people who have the knowledge to apply a cast when needed.
Christians must stop being ashamed about being depressed. It is a remnant of living in a fallen world. It happens due to grief, abuse, disappointment, trauma, or any number of reasons. There is no shame in getting help when we need it.
So, you won’t catch me telling someone to smile.
But you may catch me asking them if I can help. I’m pretty good at applying a cast.
10 thoughts on “Smile.”
Wow! That’s really heavy.
I want to take care NOT to encourage depression. (I think some pop culture does that, and I think it is a mistake.) But I definitely find value in suffering – suffering for Jesus. And I must say, you are in good company. St. Paul writes from a place of deep depression in II Corinthians. The whole letter pretty much exhibits this, but look at chapter 1, verse 8 specifically. The man despaired of life itself. He is an Apostle of the Church!
I used to work in a psych hospital. I met a lot of clinically depressed people. (I am sure I too have suffered a measure of it in my own way from time to time.) One of the passages I shared there with numerous clients that seemed to catch a gear with most was Psalm 88. It is known as “the psalm of no hope”, and that is for good reason.
I would love to share deep thoughts on that with you, but this comment section is not adequate for that. So, in brief let me say that the psalm is intended to be read twice. Not once, but twice. It was written many generations before Jesus. So when this psalmist dies in the end, he/she is languishing in the grave in the despair which we find penned as it is. But along the way, this psalmist asks some strident, though important, questions.
In the first reading of this psalm, you must allow the questions to fall on God’s unresponsiveness. Sometimes God is silent. Let us not lie about that to puff up a false hope. And so those questions seem to fall on deaf ears, and that is the way the psalmist experienced them. AND THAT WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE IT IN THE BIBLE!
But, many generations later, Jesus rises from the dead. And one of the things that saving moment does is to go back and answer those strident questions with the grace of God who seemed sooooooooo deaf and silent for soooooooooooo long before.
Thus, as a Christian, you read the psalm twice. The first time, you let the questions do their shrill thing. They take God to task for the injustices of the world and in one’s heart. And this psalmist is in the depths of despair. So… if this psalm is good enough to make it in the Bible, then it means God deals with despair in these kinds of dark places…, and you can and should take comfort in even that.
But you should read it a second time too. And let the resurrection of Jesus answer those tough questions. You will find the answer to them is YES! And that little fact turns this depressing psalm of no hope into one of the most hopeful psalms in the whole Bible.
What an irony?
But one I need. And perhaps you need it too.
I hope it helps.
You are not alone in those dark places. God hears your cry. And in the end, the answer is YES.
You are so right about Psalm 88, X. I have read that many times. Thank you, as always, for your words. And yeah, being depressed is very, very, heavy. But I have grown to understand the source of it in my individual life. It’s not that it’s a friend of mine. But it is a part of my soul that I choose to acknowledge. Not for it’s glory-God forbid. But in order to allow the Holy Spirit to work in me what I cannot accomplish in my own power. I know joy comes in the morning!
Ms. Sharon, perhaps I should have left out my caveat about not encouraging depression. That is not an exact quote, but I have been accused of doing that before. Not by you, of course, but I am a bit gunshy after that, so I prefaced my response with that caveat on account of past experiences elsewhere.
Thank you for your kind words.
It’s all good, X, We’re on the same page!
Ah, to have the emotional control of a Vulcan! Maybe next time someone tells you to smile, just raise an eyebrow and tell them it wouldn’t be logical to smile when you don’t feel happy.
My daughter suffers from depression and a host of other issues, so I’m familiar with how this goes. I certainly applaud your faith and reliance on God balanced with using all of the helps He puts at our disposal. Like Therapists. I really enjoyed your take on this. Thank you for putting this out!
I spent many of my teenage years wishing I could be Vulcan. (And some of my adult years too…)
I’d really like to have learned the neck pinch. And mind melding. I’m old enough to have watched Star Trek when it originally aired in the 60’s. I looked forward to every episode and would be VERY upset if I missed one for any reason! I have a poster in my home office: “All I need to know I learned from Star Trek.” Such sayings as “Keep your phaser set on stun” and “There is no such thing as a Vulcan death grip.”
This!! And I agree that mind melding would have been great. Although now that I’m older, I’ve seen some minds that are best not meddled (or melded) with!