This post has been a long time coming because it's a difficult topic to write about, but I think it's important to be honest about the things we struggle with. My struggle with depression began during my sophomore year of college. At first I didn't realize that it was depression. I was under a lot of stress from my classes that semester and I though that once I got a break, everything would be fine. I convinced myself that I just needed to make it to spring break and then I would feel better.
During spring break, I was participating in a mission trip to Nashville, Tennessee. It was a really hard week for me, mostly because even though I was away from school and the stress that came with it, I was still extremely unhappy. I distinctly remember coming to the realization one night that if I wasn't happy while I was on a break with people I liked doing things I liked, than something bigger than stress was going on. I talked to some of the other people on the mission trip about it and they were wonderful in supporting me and encouraging me to tell my family and friends how I was feeling. When I got back to school, I did just that. It was really hard for me to do because I felt like it was somehow my fault, that somehow if I was stronger I wouldn't be feeling this way. It turns out that depression is something that many people in my family have struggled with, which made it much easier for them to understand.
Obviously, realizing what I was dealing with and talking to my family and friends didn't magically make it go away. I struggled for the rest of that year and into the next before I finally felt like I was starting to feel better. That involved a ton of support from my friends - especially my wonderful roommate who had to put up with my crying about pretty much everything - some counseling and eventually taking antidepressants as well. (There are so many things that can help those that are struggling with depression. I honestly don't think there is one thing that works for everyone, you simply have to find what works for you.)
Through the years since then, my depression has come and gone and come again. It is something that always seems to be there in some way when I get really upset about something, but I am much, much better at dealing with it now. I recognize what helps me and what doesn't help me and - for the most part - am pretty good at asking Andrew for what I need, which is usually just for him to be there to remind me that I'm not alone in this and that people around me love and care about me.
There are several reasons for me writing about this. 1) Depression is a huge issue. If you have not dealt with it personally, I'm sure that someone you love has. 2) As much as people claim that things are improving in terms of depression and the stigma surrounding it, people still do not like to talk about it. They do not like to be open about it because it makes people uncomfortable. I know that when I realized I was dealing with depression, it was a huge deal for me to tell my family and friends. I was worried that they would think I was weak or that it was somehow my fault. In the end, most of them were supportive and understanding about it so most of my worry was for nothing. 3) There is a movie coming out soon that is titled Helen in which Ashley Judd plays a woman who is dealing with an extremely severe case of depression. When she was being interviewed on The Today Show she explained depression extremely well. She said that people who struggle with depression are not unhappy, but instead they are unwell. It was the best explanation of depression that I'd ever heard and I thought it was worth sharing.
One final thought, the title of this post comes from a Jars of Clay song that was a huge help to me when I was really depressed. It served as a reminder that even though I couldn't see a way out of the sadness I was feeling that I would eventually make it through to the joy on the other side. And I am definitely living in that joy now.