How I Came out of the 'Winter' of My Depression
“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” — Albert Camus
Last month marked the beginning of spring for those of us here in the northern hemisphere. It is a season of rebirth. It is a season that reminds us that there is life after death. We begin to see the light after a long and dreary darkness. We begin to feel the comfort of warmth when we once felt the bitterness of the cold. We trade in our coats and jackets for T-shirts, shorts and flip flops. The days grow longer, and the nights grow shorter. Everywhere we look, we are reminded of new life. Flowers burst forth in color, trees display the brilliant, fresh green of new growth. Spring is the promise of summer to come: long days, relaxed schedules, trips to the beach, picnics, ice cream. It is a season of hope.
But what if winter didn’t end? What if the darkness didn’t go away? What if the bone-chilling numbness became your constant companion? What if the world lost its color? Would you keep searching for the light? Would you look for new growth? For how long? Would you continue, even when it became a frantic search that ended in deeper darkness? How long would it take you to give up all hope? A week? A month? A year? Two years? Would you then finally give up? The darkness and cold are powerful. They can envelop you completely. The fight to find some shred of happiness that only ends in more despair begins to suck you deeper and deeper into the abyss. You can start to believe there is only one way out: death. I know. I was there. It was in the middle of this past January that I stood in front of my medicine cabinet and contemplated how I could end my life.
My depression had taken over, and it nearly killed me. It was the coldest, darkest day of my life. It came after a long season of bleakness and despair; it was a season in which I felt I had been abandoned by God and everyone else. I could not see any way out other than death. I just wanted peace. I wanted rest. The cold and darkness were more than I could bear. A friend of mine compared depression to C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” under the control of the White Witch, “Always winter, but never Christmas.” I find that quite fitting. My joy was gone. The brightness had been sucked out of my world. Depression was on the throne, and I was under its control. Any chance at spring or summer — even autumn — felt impossible to me. All that stretched out before me was the bleak and desolate landscape of a harsh winter. And my winter had already been long. It had been cold. It had been dark. It had been horrific. It had been lonely. I was desperate. How could I possible continue to survive a life like this? I thought it would never end. I hit the bottom of the pit.
But thankfully, my husband was there, and he was able to help me out of that pit, and because of his love and support, the grace of God and a situation that miraculously occurred which allowed my husband to leave work early on the day of my near suicide attempt, my life was saved. I was admitted to the hospital on that day, and I spent about a week on the psychiatric floor. During that first night, I felt I’d truly hit rock bottom. But there, in that cold hospital room, I felt hope for the first time in a long time. I knew I could get better. And I wanted to get better. In the midst of the worst time of my life, I learned how to love myself. I was given medication so I could function normally again and so I could begin to feel better. I went to group and individual therapy, and I was taught coping skills and how to practice self-care. I met other people just like me who were struggling. I learned I was not the only one facing depression and suicidal thoughts. I also grew closer to the Lord. When no one else could reach me, He did. He was such a comfort to me during my hospital stay, and He continues to be. My faith has become very important to me. It sustains me through the hard days I sometimes still have. I’m thankful that the Lord has surrounded me with supportive family and friends. I have an incredible support system. I’m also grateful for my doctors and therapists and for the medications they have prescribed for me. My depression has not magically disappeared, but I am better at managing it. I still see my psychiatrist on a regular basis, and I belong to a support group. I also talk openly and blog about my depression. It’s important to have those things in place. Isolation will only exacerbate depression and feed the lie that you’re alone. I’ve learned to reach out to people — they really do care. Every now and then, I have a day or two of winter. Sometimes I feel the darkness creeping in. But it’s not like it was on that January day. I see the promise of a future now. I see beauty. I see light. I see hope. Now I am coming into my spring, and I am looking forward to my summer. And, as C.S. Lewis states so beautifully when Narnia begins to thaw and the Witch’s spell is breaking, “Aslan is on the move.” Yes, my friends, there are painful and difficult days, but there are also days of great joy and happiness. Hold on. Stay strong. And never stop looking for the light.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Unsplash photo via Michail Prohorov.