I’ve found myself in the last couple of months sliding further and further backwards into what feels like my default state of being: depressed and apathetic. My usual temptation is to try to ‘fix’ my life so that I won’t feel this way: make grand plans about eating well, exercising, going out and meeting new people, finding things of worth to do in my local community so I feel like I am actually contributing, and so on.
The trouble is, these things never materialise. I’m either too low to think about doing them, or I end up finding a distraction (lots of work, a romance, a new project) that means I don’t end up actually sorting out those areas of my life.
To top that off, I find myself feeling guilty because I become ego-centric (some would call it ‘survival mode’) instead of doing what I think I know to be the right thing to do – to love others and to stop caring about / feeling sorry for myself. As I wrote in my last post on living in the moment, I want to say “I did my best to be the best I could be”.
Of course, these two factors only ever result in one thing: feeling more depressed an apathetic than the previous time. I only escape by letting time pass and by numbing the emotion and – surprise, surprise – replacing it with other things temporarily.
So I find myself thinking more and more about what Jesus says, that I shouldn’t worry about tomorrow because “who by worrying can add a day to their life?” and “Each day has enough worries of its own”. I suppose the key thing is to recognise that any level of improvement in mood, however small, is nonetheless an improvement – and that to focus on the big picture is actually a really silly thing to do. Better to focus on the here and now.
People often describe deep depression as “the feeling that comes with the ability to cope being totally outweighed by the things that need to be coped with”. It makes little sense, then, to add to all of this with the need to be or do X,Y or Z. It’s okay to recognise not being strong enough. Instead of worrying about fixing it, it is better to keep things really simple.
When I stop and enjoy the sun beating down on my neck, I am happier.
When I stop and enjoy the natural things around me, I am happier.
When I remember that I have friends who care for me, I am happier.
When I am able to get out of bed, I can be happy with that.
When I am able to smile instead of stare blankly, that can bring me joy too.
I suppose that our relationship with God can be a bit like this. We’re often so busy looking for the big picture that we miss the little things. And yet we believe in a God that communicates through a ‘still, small voice’. How are we supposed to hear that voice if we don’t keep it simple?
I think that, for those of us who suffer from these kind of depressions, it makes sense to keep our theology simple too. I can often find myself worrying about wether or not God exists, wether or not I am ‘saved’, wether or not I need to be, wether or not God cares about me given something I have said or done, or not said, or not done, and so on.
But even if it is as low as 1%, I want to rely upon my belief in God in these times. For it is in these times that I need God the most – real or not. The simplicity is that God loves me, no matter what else. I am appreciated, valued, and cared for. I don’t need to say or do anything. So it’s okay that sometimes, at the moment, I can’t. It’s okay to keep it simple.
Perhaps that’s a good foundation to build on.