By Liz Ellis
Let’s talk about mental illness: specifically, depression. Having depression sucks; it can literally make one’s life a living hell from the comfort of their own dorm room. It can haunt someone on the way to class and force them to just put in their headphones and look at the cracks lining the sidewalk. Depression can turn the most beautiful fall days or the most blissful snowfall nights into a gloomy fog.
My story with depression is twofold.
The first part is my story. Between the ages of 13-16 my struggle with depression was a secret. I hid it by being loud and “fun”. I took charge in every situation and always looking for something else to distract me. I never realized that the thing that would fill the hole in my life was a relationship with God.
I was diagnosed when I was 16 by a therapist after my parents found out I was depressed. They found out after the police showed up at my house because of a tip that I was going to kill myself and was causing myself harm. I remember feeling so isolated but so publicized that I was hurting. The isolation I felt during this time caused me to slip further into my depression. I longed to be understood. Not only was I haunted by this darkness, I felt like it was the defining factor of my life and who I was as a person. I felt like depression had become my identity, not to mention that this affected the way I made relationships with others and the way I looked at myself – both physically and mentally.
When I was 18, I started taking medication for my depression as well as anxiety. At first it was really hard to manage the “blocking out” of feelings I had when on the meds. I still wanted to feel emotions, but some days I would feel emotionally numb for hours and other days I would feel everything at once, like an overwhelming tidal wave. But thankfully, it got better soon. I adjusted to being a “normal” person again. I still have bad days, but mostly it feels like a voice in the back of my head that I can block out. I developed tools for fighting my depression such as poetry, both written and spoken, and studying Scripture, which leads into the second part of my story.
I am not alone. For most of my adolescence I felt as if I was the lone soldier in a battle against myself, but as I have grown in my faith, I’ve come to realize that the real fight is against evil in the form of a mental illness. But, I’m not alone in this fight, I fight with Jesus by my side and it took a long time for me to realize that every time that I felt alone in the darkness, Jesus was my ever-present light. My relationship with Christ has grown through the struggle of this mental illness and it is continually being shaped. I discover new things daily about religion, faith and myself even through the darkest parts of my life.
I am not alone, nor forgotten. Depression is a part of my story but does not define who I am or who I will be, Jesus’s love does.