Beggar’s Fortune Part Two

Several friends and friends of friends are in the thick of it right now. Swallowed up by depression, anxiety or both. Tis the season.

So I’m reposting a series of essays I wrote in August of 2009 about my own struggle with depression and how God and the people who love me best brought me through it. After the last essay from 2009 is reposted here I’ll write one new one about what I’ve learned in the last three years about depression and keeping it at bay.

I hope something in all these words helps you and yours – gives you hope, a prescription for healing or just the comfort of knowing you’re not the only one.

Here’s the second essay…

I felt it coming.  I called my parents a few months ago and asked them to pray.  My marriage was good, kids were healthy, work was steady, finances in surplus.  But – and I know how this must sound – I felt like something was coming after us.  “Or I’m crazy,” I laughed.

It was an ominous feeling. It’s probably nothing, I thought. It’ll pass. But I was wrong.

One morning the shower didn’t clear the fog from my brain like it usually did.  After eight hours’ sleep I thought like I’d been up all night.  My legs felt like two year-olds were wrapped around them.  I had little to say and usually thought to say it too late, as if someone had poured syrup into the gears in my brain.

Then, slowly, feelings of insignificance, doubt and inexplicable sadness – deeper than any I’ve felt before – began covering me up.  It was like the misery of every miserable person who ever lived was being funneled into my chest. By the end of that first day my rational mind was tied up in the back room of my skull somewhere. Depression drew the shades and took the controls.

“Depression.” That’s what the doctor called it a few days later.  I sat on his examining table shivering.  My eyes were bloodshot and puffy.  My veins were too sunken to draw blood on the first two tries. “We’ll test your thyroid, iron levels, testosterone and do a CBC but I’d be surprised if any of that turns up anything that could cause something as severe as this.” He also used comforting words like “extreme” and “pronounced” to describe my condition.

“More than likely, as pronounced as your depression is, you’ll deal with this your whole life.”

That, by the way, was one of the worst things he could have told me.  The first thing depression had done to my brain was rip out its filters.  I was no longer able to defend myself against criticism, doubt, fear or to remain optimistic in light of such a pessimistic diagnosis.  No, my brain was velcro for all things depressing.  His words stuck and they were all I could think about as I shuffled out of his office with a bag full of sample anti-depressants and a receipt for his services in my hand.

I felt sentenced.  I took a seat on his table at the end of my rope, hopeful that someone at the other end of it would soon pull me to safety.  I drove out of his parking lot hopeless.

I called my parents and let them know what was happening to me, what the doctor had said, that I wasn’t crazy after all – just “severely” depressed.