Banishing the Skeleton: depression, one year later

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I want to talk about something that has been weighing on my heart.

As a recent university graduate, my mind has been very retrospective as I reflect on where I am in life and where I want to be. I think about school, friendships, family, relationships, and adulthood. But the one thing that continues to take over my thoughts is the memory of my encounter with depression.

I was diagnosed with depression thirteen months ago. Unbeknownst to me or anyone else, I had been living with the illness for five years, and upon diagnosis it morphed from a personality trait into an all-consuming power over my being. Funny how once something has a name, has an identity, how it comes alive. Even when my depression was named for what it was, I chose, and still choose, to call it by a different name. I still try to have an element of control over what power this illness holds over me. I call the turmoil my skeleton, because it lives in the closet of my mind, and that is where I like to keep it. I try to deny it’s existence, to keep it ignored. But when it does come out to play in my moments of weakness, it takes over, and there’s almost nothing I can do but surrender to the ceaseless tidal waves of overwhelming emotion. My skeleton whispers lies in my ear, teases me by playing tricks in my mind, and takes over control of my body.

At the time of my diagnosis, my behavior was marked by extremes. Over the course of a day I could go from head-over-heels in love and friendly to all, to choking on self-loathing and despair, drowning in the sheets of my boyfriend’s bed, my prison. And when I found myself in the emotional pit of darkness and hatred, there was nothing that could get me out. No effort of my own nor anyone else’s had the power to lift me from my hardened heart and hurricane of emotions.

Hysterics. Deadened. Fragile. Anger. Hurt. Shredded.

“I wish I was dead.”

The words that landed me on the doctor’s examination table. The words whispered as I soaked in my tears on the living room floor. The words in my mind as I considered my options of death over life. The words my skeleton embodied as it dominated my entire being.

One day I will write about the details of that hell. But not today.

One day I will also write about the details of my recovery. But that too is for another time.

It shall suffice to say that my collision with God in the months following my emotional and mental breakdown is what tipped the scales to once again favor life over death. I had a little pill, a furlough away from the circumstantial chaos, but most of all I had Truth being poured into my soul where before there were only lies. Like waves of golden light driving out the demons, I began to be renewed.

These are the memories that continue to grasp my attention.

And yet, I still have depression. I am by no means an expert, but I do not believe that once you recover from the bout of depression that landed you with a diagnosis, that you  are healed of the illness. It has been my experience that my skeleton still comes out every now and again. Several months ago it was so bad that I once again began to lose control of my behavior. When I realized that I was entering a place where my depression had more control over me than I had over myself, I about lost it in terror. Sheer panic at my emotional state as memories of the hell I had escaped less than a year earlier came flooding back. I couldn’t reach God by myself in that moment. I praise the Lord for the friend who guided me back to His goodness, truth, and faithfulness to me. I poured truth over myself to drown out the lies, and eventually managed to avoid the spiral into the depths of torment.

So. A year later. I no longer have a pill and I am no longer hiding from the things that bring me anxiety. But most importantly, I no longer fear the power of the skeleton. You see, I came across a realization a little while ago that about blew me out of my chair when it hit. It started with a song I heard performed, called “Ghost.” The understanding is this: that although I live with a skeleton inside of me, I also live with a ghost. A Holy Ghost. A ghost with the power of the God of the universe. A ghost whose mightiness and glory and strength is greater than any illness known to man. A ghost who tells me truths, banishes the darkness, and who pours comfort and grace over my soul.

A ghost who will always win. Who will always rise in victory when pitted against my skeleton.

My battle with depression has undoubtedly been a life-changing journey. One that will always be on my mind as long as I struggle with my emotions. But it does not define me. Only my title as a Beloved Child of God does that.