May 31, 2014 by Kara Nichols
When I was diagnosed with bipolar my junior year of college it was an a-ha moment, as Oprah would say. Finally I had explanations for some strange behavior. The a-ha moment soon turned into a boatload of new fears about being rejected for being crazy, weight gain from medications, and making unsound choices while sick. For the longest time I was mainly worried about mania because the stakes seem to be higher. I tend to let my freak flag fly and become reckless behind the wheel, reckless with money, and just generally crazy. But let me tell you. If mania shows up like a swift kick to the privates, then depression greets me in slow motion like honey dripping from a spoon.
A few years ago a therapist told me that some people use depression as a vacation from their problems. I had never heard of this, and maybe it’s a thing, but as far as my experience goes, depression is nothing like a luxury cruise to the Bahamas. There are a lot of misconceptions about depression. My personal favorite is “can’t you just snap out of it?” I’ve been asked that before, mainly chiding myself. I felt, and still do feel at times, that I should be able to control my mental illness. You know, put it on my calendar and plan around it.
With mania, I have a plan. My doctor’s phone number is on speed dial, I know which medication to increase if I feel manic, I hand over my car keys, I try to lessen the chatter of music/tv/internet, I ask my prayer warriors to send up an extra special blessing over me. This plan usually doesn’t work, to be honest, but I feel better having some sort of rule book.
With depression, I’m slower to action. I have a hard time seeing it for what it is. I blow off depression symptoms like a bad first date. Usually I wait 7-10 days before bothering anyone about it. Partly because I don’t want to mistake a few bad days for something serious but also because I’m stubborn and don’t like to admit when I’m depressed. Right now I’m a few days into something. It could be hormonal, the season (I tend toward depression in the summer), a random fluke, or because I just got back from vacation (I wonder what that old therapist would say about that?). But I can feel it settling on my shoulders. It’s heavy and dark. It’s avoiding people and things I love. It steals my joy.
Someone in the Bible who would totally get this is David. If there were support groups during Biblical times I think he would have led one for depression. That man went through it. Again and again. And still he was known for being “a man after my own heart” according to God. In Psalm 43:5 David says: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Living David’s life would have definitely sent me to therapy. I admire how time and time again he called out to God for comfort and strength. This is something I am realizing that has been missing from the top of my action plan lists. If there’s anyone who understands exactly what I’m going through and who will give me peace of mind it’s God. I’m not saying I’ll never get depressed again. David dealt with depression at various times throughout his entire life. No one is immune to suffering. What I am saying is that above all else I have a creator who loves me. Who knew I would have this chemical imbalance. Who saw me struggle just to stay alive at times. I feel so much better knowing there is a Hero in this tale. That there is a happy ending. That there is a place where disease and suffering will be no more.
So what do I do about these feelings of depression tonight? I think I simply need to read some Psalms and cry out to God. He is a loving and kind father in whom I can place my trust. All-my-eggs-in-one-basket kind of trust.