I struggled with depression for years and years and years; for most of my life, really.

I actually get depressed just thinking about getting depressed again, it sucks that bad.

The thing about depression is that you aren’t just in a bad mood. It’s not that you are sad and cry easily, or that you sit around crying for no reason. It’s that you aren’t operating as a human being. Your soul knows that it is supposed to act one way (smile at the beautiful sunshine), but your head is not letting you. It is keeping you hostage. It takes that natural instinct of satisfaction in the sunshine and washes it in bleach, so that it looks like the rest of what you just felt. I think it’s like starting to feel something and then, every single time, you stop mid-feeling. Imagine that our thoughts and feelings are all riding a train, and they all look and seem as different as they are supposed to.  At the last stop, before they come out of us as words or actions, something malfunctions, they drive through a force-field that zaps everything into bone-white empty boxes.   This is why people don’t actually like being depressed, or think that they are cool because they are depressed, or even why you can’t say, “I don’t mind being depressed.” This is why depression is an actual physiological thing and not a bandwagon some assume we have jumped on.

More on the physiology of it all later, but first:

I didn’t know how to find God in the midst of my depression.  It does turn out that He was there all along, and that’s something that I really appreciate about Him.  I have learned that I can simply trust that He is always there, always interceding for me; it may not seem like it at the time but my own personal experiences have shown that I can always recognize His presence when I look back.

God really does like to make sure that He keeps His promises to us.  As humans we have a lot of junk to deal with.  Junk inside of ourselves, inside of other people…even the most beautiful and innocent piece of nature has some kind of junk.  It’s hard to believe He is there a lot of the time.  Everyone always breaks their promises at some point or another, and it’s our natural instinct to assume that God will too.  A lot of us are even on the lookout for ways to say that God has broken His promises.  Some of us, like me, just fall asleep and wait until God comes to rescue us.  I thought that I didn’t have to do anything; if I just keep my eyes closed I assumed that one day when I opened them everything would look different.  But not only different, it would look better.

Because of my depression I was very frustrated, so I dealt with a lot of anger.  Just about everything made me angry. I remember feeling so angry when my friend was buying her first house, even though it was clearly the best option for them.  It just made sense for them to buy a house.  When she told me about it, I remember just being bent out of shape, and I was so perturbed at being perturbed. I knew that it didn’t make an ounce of sense to be angry.  I would say to myself, “What on earth is your problem?  Just get over yourself and snap out of it!”  No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t feel happiness or excitement for her, I could only feel annoyed, and I just really hated having such an opinion about everything.  Especially opinions that didn’t even make an ounce of sense.  It was driving me crazy.

Back then, when all of this was happening, I thought that I was choosing to be angry, and so I would try to bully myself out of it.  I truly didn’t understand the connection between the depression and the anger.  I was just so sick of always being around myself, so bent out of shape about everything.  I mean, if you get down to it, anger is basically deliberate. But what I didn’t know at the time was that anger is an expression of something else.  Did you know that a lot of people who can’t communicate well, say the elderly with dementia, or some people with special needs, they will begin to act angry and aggressive if they are experiencing some sort of physical pain or other type of disturbance?  So if someone who is normally pretty laid back starts throwing stuff, or shouting obscenities, you can rest assured you need to check their temperature, or make sure their little toe isn’t bent back inside of their shoe.

At some point, though, the chronically frustrated/irritated/angry people have to recognize what is happening, and admit how much it sucks for them, or at least for everyone around them.  Unfortunately, I get the feeling that a lot of people just plain like to get angry. It makes them feel good about themselves. They associate it with power and validation and justice, so they think they have a right to be angry. I can honestly say that I did not like it.  I hated it.  I felt like I was infected by a disease; that I was dying; that I was betraying myself and that I couldn’t get myself to stop.

Following this new-found self-awareness in regards to the whole anger problem, the next step absolutely needs to be making it right. It’s not okay to just shrug and say, “This is how it is. This is how I am.” That simply isn’t true. We aren’t meant to be angry. Angry isn’t a personality trait. It’s a defense. It is ammunition for a war. There are simply no acceptable excuses for it.

I spent a lot of time gnashing my teeth and harassing God, asking Him, “Why don’t You fight for me?”  I was incredibly angry, and this was the real kind of anger, not the kind of frustrated anger.  This was the angry-at-God kind of anger, which looks unlike anything else.  One day, it was as if I came into the eye of the storm, and He was there, asking me, “Why don’t you fight for yourself?”  I thought that was really wrong.  After all, I am only a small human, and I should not have to fight my battles.  God was supposed to vindicate me like all of those really empowering verses say.  From then on, every time I would ask Him, why didn’t He fight for me, I felt His same answer coming back to me: why don’t you fight for yourself.

This went on for a really long time.

The thing about depression is that it makes you anxious (at least for the control freaks).  Now, allow me to elaborate: when you hear somebody say that they have anxiety it doesn’t mean they don’t like sitting still, or that they are high-energy. It means that they are solely focused on everything going wrong.  Even if it doesn’t seem like anything is going wrong to the innocent bystander, it is obviously going wrong since it is out of our control.  Obviously.  And since depression takes the control away from us, we begin to feel anxiety; we begin to see that the world is literally swirling down a huge giant toilet. This is what people mean when they say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. It isn’t actually a handbasket, per se, unless ‘handbasket’ is another word for ‘toilet’, which could be a possibility in some languages.  You never know.

Since the world is being flushed down the toilet the person with anxiety feels like they are simultaneously spinning like mad and drowning. It is not surprising for people with anxiety to puke a lot, and that’s a fact. I don’t actually know that it is a fact, but I am basically certain that it is. At least it was for me. I got a lot of migraines, and my nerves were bad, and so I would puke a lot. My body was apparently trying to purge the disturbance.  Some people smoke or drink because of their anxiety. I puked.

I had been dealing with all of this, all of this depression and anxiety, from the time I was a small child.  I call it my ‘bent’.  We all have one, they just look different on each person.  I was a morbid kid, and I was a morose youth.  I was pretty self-obsessed, and incredibly stand-offish.  I was afraid of everything.  Literally.  I wouldn’t even play in my front yard because I was afraid of being kidnapped.  I have no idea how on earth I joined the military.

The Marine Corps, people.

It doesn’t make an ounce of sense.  Accept that it was the direction God wanted to send me in, and it was where I went, and I’m so glad that I did.  Because I really grew up during my time in the military.  I blossomed, if you will.  I met my husband, and so many incredibly friends.  I had amazing experiences, and I am proud of all I accomplished.  And yes, I got the free college, which is the guise I joined under.  I didn’t know that it was God sending me into my life, I thought I was just choosing free school.  I was obsessed with school.  I was good at it, and I loved being smart, so I thought I should just keep going to school, and since I couldn’t afford it, I would do an enlistment in the military, and then get four years of free school.  Easy peasy.  And if I was going to do the military I was going to do it right, you know, and some deranged side of me wanted to go to Marine Corps bootcamp.  What is up with that…

I mention all of that because the first half of my time in the military was amazing.  I was on top of the world.  The second half was hell on wheels.  And I was dealing with undiscovered health problems.  So, man, did my angry problems go through the roof.

By the time I came back to the civilian world, I had really reached the point where I was totally strung out. I honest to God didn’t relax. (I would swear to God but that is taboo). I was always doing something. Even in my downtime I was keeping busy with something else. When I slept my dreams were all bad. All of the hollow places in my body ached, and it turns out these exist primarily in and between the bones, in the guts, and in those spaces of the skull that fill with mucus during a sinus infection.  I do believe that our cells might also possess some hollow places.  My skin hurt.  When I say that my skin hurt I actually mean that my skin hurt, so that I did not like someone to even brush against me, and this was probably from all of the hairs standing on end because of all the energy I produced.  I still don’t know how I didn’t set off car alarms just by walking by, or why dogs didn’t bark at me because of the high-frequency buzz coming off of me, or that I didn’t cause all light bulbs to blow up.  I was always rocking my teeth back and forth against each other; my knee was always bouncing.  People would comment on this bouncing knee.  “Nervous?” they would ask.  I don’t remember what I said in response.  Probably something like that I was cold.  Which was probably also true. I was always cold.  We called it being a freeze-baby.

I wouldn’t argue if you accused me of being melodramatic.  I know what all of this sounds like; the desperate attempt at a haunting yet redemptive memoir, a riveting turned cathartic Hallmark movie… I suppose in part this is because I am a writer and I have to get you to sympathize with what I am saying.  I do admit that I tend towards the sensational in a rather low key kind of way, if that is allowed.  It would probably not surprise you to find out that I am a hypochondriac.  And when I was younger I never tried to mask my brooding (what I fondly referred to as my ‘depth’).  This was unfortunate for the rest of the world.  I was occasionally outlandish and brazen but ultimately I was a sullen individual, not prone to casual conversation, and a lot of people admit that they did not find me to be friendly.  Unless we were actually friends.  Because I was what the times referred to as ’emo’ this made me kind of proud.  I am really embarrassed about this.  I guess looking back I can say that the ’emo’ phase ended after I entered the military at the ripe old age of seventeen, and it transformed into recklessness and various forms of lunacy.  By the time I got out of the military at the ripe old age of twenty-two I was an actual stone instead of a person, and this was to save everyone and mostly myself from what was going on inside of me.

Thank goodness I began to be tired of it all.  I wasn’t an imbecile.  I knew that I needed help, but I flat-out forbade myself from seeking it.  I was completely against the stigma.  Been there done that.  Unfortunately, the practitioners I had seen as a teenager probably thought I was pathetic.  Even though they called themselves child psychologists, I don’t think they knew much about teenagers.  They barely tried to tap into me and were happy to prescribe my pills.  I lied to them a lot.

It was kind of a miracle that I wound up telling the physician that I didn’t care if I drove my car into a tree.

It kind of just came out.

Before you roll your eyes, it wasn’t a melodramatic moment at all.  It was actually really casual.  She was asking the questions she was supposed to ask, and I think I just sighed in resignation and said, “Well, ma’am, quality of life really isn’t that great right now, considering I wouldn’t even mind if my car wound up driving into a tree.”  I’m sure I smiled apologetically, and she didn’t write down “watches too many romance movies.”  She put down her pen and began a conversation with me about what could be done to get it taken care of.