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The 2-Letter Word That Controls My Life With Depression

“If.”

It’s one of the heaviest words in the English language. With “if” comes conditions. I can help you with that if… I can tell you something if… I can love you if…

Life could be great… if. If I had more money. If I had a different job. If I knew real love. If I could stop dreaming about the “if” and stay rooted in the present, which is.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a big “if” in my life that isn’t always easy to talk about. It is the “if” that consumes my thoughts and my nightmares. It determines which days are good and which are bad. My “if” doesn’t go away when I close my eyes, nor can I escape it if I travel around the world and spend every night in a different location.

My “if” is severe depression. It is like a cat in that it can take the shape and size of whatever container it desires to fit in. For example:

I can finish my homework on time, if my depression is under control.

I can go to the party and have a great time, if my depression doesn’t flare up.

I can be a lot of fun to be around, if I am not in the throes of a depressive episode.

I can be a perfectly “normal,” high-functioning, talented professional, if I forget I have depression and somehow it forgets it has me too.

That is barely scratching the surface of the “ifs” I face on a normal day. Some days are easier to overcome than others. Some days, the “if” wins. I lie in bed, in defeat, because I know it isn’t an “if” anymore; it is a “but.”

I could have a really great, trusting relationship with other humans, but depression convinces me I am not worth being around.

I could contribute great ideas to the project I am working on, but depression‘s voice in my head says I am not good enough and no one wants to hear what I have to say.

I could feel the laughter and joy all the way down to my toes, but my depression glasses make everything seem just a little bit darker and a little less important.

All of these would be hard enough to face on a normal day (never mind a heavy depression day), but they are really nothing compared to the biggest if/but… the one that keeps me awake at night and feeds the others, should their hold on my mind diminish even the tiniest bit.

I could be loved (by my family; by my friends; by a man; by God) but my depression gets in the way of having a real relationship.

I know this isn’t true literally or scripturally, but the seeds of doubt have been planted deep in my mind and allowed to grow unhindered for too long to ignore completely. I see these beliefs at work in my everyday life, whether it is in the way I interact with others, the distance I try to keep, or the speed with which I shut down any emotions that might serve to make me feel connected to another human. At the same time, the part of me that was created for community, both with others and with God, feels stifled and ashamed.

From time to time, I find myself in situations that manage to shut off the if/but part of my brain, even just for an hour or two. Sometimes, it is the people I am with. Other times, it is the place or situation. In rare and divine moments, it is a perfect collision of wonderful people in a welcoming space where I forget, just for a little while, that there is an “if” to my life. I’ve had a few of those moments lately that have been worth celebrating and cherishing. I’ve met a few people who remind me that the first part of those sentences matter just as much (if not more) than the rest of the sentence. I am thankful for these people because their faith and trust helps to silence the if/but for longer periods of time. They help me to see the truth of the statements that come before the comma.

I can finish my homework on time.

I can go to the party and have a great time.

I can be a lot of fun to be around.

I can be a perfectly “normal,” high-functioning, talented professional.

I could have a really great, trusting relationship with other humans.

I could contribute great ideas to the project I am working on.

I could feel the laughter and joy all the way down to my toes.

I could be loved (by my family; by my friends; by a man.)

The if/but doesn’t disappear. It will always be in my head and in my heart. The doubts will always be there, even if they go dormant for longer and longer periods of time. The wonderful people I spend time around, laughing and living, help to remind me that the first parts of those sentences are true… even if the if/but is still there. It doesn’t always make it easier and it definitely isn’t fun… but it is bearable.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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