When All Else Fails, Just Be Still

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My head can be a scary place to live some days. Yesterday was one of them. The depression fog had settled in and clouded my every thought. In the midst of a gorgeous summer day, the world looked dark. The sweet sound of my kids’ laughter just sounded like noise—loud, obnoxious noise. The connections with the people I love felt shallow. I felt empty.

Most days, when the depression fog starts to creep in, I can act my way out of it. I use the tools that I’ve learned along this journey to help pull me out of my head and go into the stream of life—taking a walk to the playground or the pool with my kids, talking with a friend, shopping, cleaning the house, anything that gets me engaged in life.

But sometimes, submerging myself in activity isn’t enough. Sometimes the depression fog is just too thick, and the sunlight beaming through the window is just too bright. I want to hide.

My husband doesn’t have depression. He doesn’t know what it’s like to feel all alone in a room full of people. He’s never felt the sting of fresh air as you force yourself to leave the house for the first time in days. He doesn’t know what it feels like to have your child smile at you and feel nothing.

It’s easy for people who don’t have depression to look objectively at a person’s life and point out all of the logical reasons why one should not feel sad. But depression isn’t logical. Depression doesn’t care to reason.

I remember, years ago, talking to a friend who was in the midst of deep depression. She had a fabulous life. She was financially secure, was in a loving relationship, had a host of friends, loved her job, was very successful and was drop-dead gorgeous. There was no logical reason why she should feel even an ounce of dissatisfaction with her life. She had it made. Whenever we talked, I reminded her of everything she had going for her. I just didn’t understand why she felt so sad. I was so busy trying to pull her out of her depression that I failed to take time to listen to it, to understand it, to get to know it.

What I’ve learned about depression is that sometimes it wraps us up so tightly that we get trapped inside. The world isn’t seeing us, but rather our depression. People aren’t talking to us, they are talking to our depression. Depression locks us up and holds us captive, and it’s immensely frustrating for those around us.

My husband fought with my depression yesterday. The angrier he got, the tighter the depression gripped me. He kept wanting to talk and was asking me what was wrong. I couldn’t tell him. Every question that was left unanswered fueled his anger. We spent most of the evening in silent scorn. He went to bed without saying goodnight. I felt defeated.

I texted him an hour later and simply said, “Deep depression. I’m sorry.”

He replied with more questions: Why didn’t you just say that? Next time just tell me you’re depressed so I won’t think it is me.

I can’t.

That’s the thing about depression. It won’t let me speak. I so badly wanted to talk to him. I needed that human connection. I needed support. I wanted desperately to let him in, but I couldn’t. The depression wouldn’t let me.

My depression fog never lasts long. It’s usually only a day or two. I’ve worked really hard at fighting depression. Therapy helped. Spirituality helped. Discovering passions, finding hobbies, and making deep friendships all helped. But the key to fighting my depression was getting to know it—letting it in and listening to it, figuring out what feeds it and what triggers it, finding the holes in its tightly wound grip, and knowing that when the actions just feel like motion and the fog gets too thick, the best thing I can do is be still.

My depression wants me to act. It wants me to make a mess of myself and my relationships. It ultimately wants me to die. It tries to convince me that a permanent solution to a temporary problem makes sense. It tells me that the world would be a better place without me. But because I know my depression well, I know that it lies. I know that it feeds off of me considering its lies. If I can just be still, listen to it, talk to it, and not act on any of its irrational thoughts, my depression has nothing to feed on and will eventually loosen its grip.

Depression is tricky. It’s different for each person it affects. My depression doesn’t look like yours. And your depression doesn’t talk like mine. But one thing that we all have in common is the ability to be still.

When all else fails, just be still.

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