When Depression's Voice Is as Strong as Goliath
The day was going well. I was feeling pretty good and having fun with my family. And then, while driving back from the post office, the following conversation happened:
“I think I’m going to need a new laptop. One of those cool ones that’s also a tablet,” I said. I had recently left my job to stay home with my new baby for awhile, and I planned to gradually start writing again. I had an image in my head of me at my desk in the morning, fancy laptop in front of me, cup of steaming coffee at hand, immersed in my work.
Simple and straightforward, right? Well, here was the response: “You’d be better off with a $100 piece of crap. You’re the last person who deserves something like that, you lazy ass. You contribute nothing and yet you think you have the right to have something pretty and new? You’re a loser and it would be a waste of money. You should be ashamed of yourself for even thinking of it.”
Who would you guess that cruel voice belonged to? A no-good husband? An abusive parent? In fact, it was neither. It was Goliath, the voice that’s lived in my head for as long as I can remember. Through graduate school, world travels and job transitions, through marriage and moves and babies – Goliath has been there. And this is how he’s always spoken to me about every single thing in my life, from the small to the large – from the items I want to purchase, to the foods I choose to eat, to the career path I’ve taken, to my role as a new mother. He’s been with me so long I’ve come to trust him and defer to him, knowing all the while that he’s ruining my life and I’m letting him.
Goliath has some impressive traits. He’s persistent and resilient; he’s clever and can outsmart anyone; and, he’s incredibly reliable and never afraid to assert his opinion. In fact, he embodies so many traits I deeply admire. It’s just that he uses them against me, ruthlessly and constantly.
I wish David would come to the rescue, just as he does in the famous biblical story. I suspect he’s in there somewhere, but he’s still young and small and scared and I don’t quite know how to nurture him (or perhaps I’m simply too afraid to). Sometimes I hear him, though. Like later that night, while I was nursing my son and listening to Goliath’s relentless monologue about what a lousy person I am, I just about make out a small, meek voice asking “but how do you know? What if you’re wrong?”
There might be a thousand moments like this in each day. Moments when I could listen for David and choose to back him instead of Goliath. If I did this, I’m sure he would get stronger and eventually fell Goliath. And that would be good for my son, for my marriage, for my career and for my heart. It would mean I could be grateful, really and truly grateful, for my amazing life like all those “how to be happy” books and articles tell you to be (without ever explaining how that’s possible if you live each day believing you don’t deserve all the things you appreciate so deeply they break your heart).
But I usually don’t. Instead, 999 times out of 1000, I make the wrong choice, the tired choice. And then when I wake up the next day it’s even harder to hear David and even easier to blindly trust Goliath despite the lump in my throat and the ache in my heart. And this is the story of my depression, the cycle that separates my life into the happy times and the hard.
But as I write this, I recognize something hopeful. Tonight, after months of therapy and the prospect of many more, I heard David for the first time in weeks. He piped up against a really scary giant, and I let him. I let him speak and I even took him seriously for a moment. I felt a little sorry for him when he inevitably shrunk away again, but now I know he’s still in there somewhere. And that has to be a start.
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