2020 has been one of the most challenging years of my entire life. First, I tackled the new year as a single person for the first time in seven years. Unemployed, with no money, and depression literally crushing me, I had no idea what 2020 would hold. I tried to study, but in the first half of the year, my mental health got the better of me, and I woefully failed. I couldn’t bring myself to find employment; there were days I couldn’t do anything but stare at my phone in an open-eyed coma silently screaming to God for something to change. COVD-19 hit us all; isolation wasn’t just a mental health issue; it was a physical necessity as Australia battled the first wave of the pandemic. Doubt started to crash upon the shores of my mind and heart. I doubted the existence of God; I questioned my place in the world, my life. Every day was a numbing haze of uncertainty and a mental void as I lived each moment almost on autopilot. Books became mush in my hands as the words fell off the pages. The Bible, church, and prayer became God walking through Garden calling out to me as I hid from them (Him) in video games and meaningless distractions.
There were some good times. I started therapy (which I need to go back to). I had supporting friends (they probably didn’t know half of what I was going through). The times we could meet helped me get out of my rut even if they were too fleeting. I met someone new who interestingly enough is an art psychotherapist and a Christian. God has used her to make sense of what I’m going through, and she has encouraged me to get back onto the Path (relationships are always sanctifying). Coffee still tastes good. However, I’ve gone off soy, and I’m onto oat milk now. Seriously, try it. It’s both good for the environment, and it tastes like regular milk. This year God has had me go through some vast transformations regarding my theology around the environment, and with me coming to terms with some of my racial bias’.
Nevertheless, despite some significant change, the world still feels a little less colourful, and a little less bright. Even writing this blog is so much of a mental effort even though I love to write. …. Where am I going with this? I suppose, if nothing else, I want to write to other people who are like me. To those who know God exists yet, He never seems to speak. To those who know that miracles exist yet they seem to only happen in fairy tales. To those who know life is full of beauty and goodness, yet they’ve been without it for so long they’ve forgotten what that means.
I. Totally. Get. It.
I can’t remember the last time God ever spoke to me from the Bible or otherwise. I can’t remember when I saw something miraculous and jumped for joy. I can’t remember the last time I saw colour, or truly enjoyed the smell of saltwater in the air or the sand between my toes. I can’t remember getting that intellectual buzz from a good book or sermon or having a genuine laugh with a good friend. The love of a woman (or a man), fine wine, good food and friendship all seem like out-of-body experiences for the depressed. Unfortunately, I’m not much better than the rest of you so I can only offer some tiny pieces of advice.
- See a professional therapist/ psychologist. I cannot encourage you enough. Talking to someone who doesn’t judge you, who is paid to help you and to listen is worth its weight in gold. If the first one doesn’t work, keep looking. But get help (I promise I’ll start going again as well).
- Awe. You’re mentally flatlining. You’re dull and without life. You need a shock to the system. Lay on a blanket, naked, in the middle of the night, look up at the stars. Find the longest stretch of beach and walk it. Swim until you can’t breathe any longer. Go to an art museum. Eat food you usually wouldn’t. Spice up the bedroom. Experience the world God has given you in new ways, from new perspectives and meditate on it all.
- Cry—a lot, and often. Real people cry (Jesus wept).
- Listen to good music to get the creative music flowing (I suggest lofi chill music like this. It matches the depressing mood while it slowly and gently lifts you out of it). Also, if you’re a reader but depression has killed it for you try audiobooks (Audible is excellent).
- Community. I know it’s hard, but keep going to church and hanging out with friends. Have your pastor or someone at your church come to drag you out of bed. Have your friends literally pick you up off the bed and chuck you in the shower if that’s what it takes. You have to stay connected.
- Finally, to the others who have someone in their life that suffers from depression, be patient. Depression won’t go away overnight. If they can even do one or two of these things within a year, that’s progress. I know its frustrating. You see laziness; they see despair. You see unwillingness; they see unmeaningful.
I’m not some guru on life or mental health. This is all new (and old) to me. Life is hard. It does suck. It is full of pain and hardships. There are no easy silver bullets or seven steps to a better life. Anyone who says otherwise is full of shit. We do have a lot to look forward to, though. If you’re like me, then you believe that Jesus is coming back to wipe away every tear from every eye. To right every wrong. To make all things new again. I know it feels like you’re hanging on to a thread, and you’ve heard it a million times (and then some), but stay with me here as we walk after Jesus together. I can’t ever guarantee you an easy life, but I can promise a life with purpose, forgiveness and hope. That’s more than what many others find.