I am pretty open about my mental health. I think it’s important to be vulnerable so that I can find and help other people with similar struggles. And I sure have met some amazing people through my blog and twitter account! Thank you Jesus!
This past school year has been the hardest year of my life. I’ve experienced anxiety and depression on levels I haven’t know before. This is my first year of college, and my first year away from my parents. My family is all the way across the ocean, so I couldn’t go home on the weekends to see them even if I wanted to. For the first time, I had to figure out my mental health on my own.
Rei from “March Comes in like a Lion” had to do the same. When he moved out of his adoptive father’s house, he was completely on his own. If you want to understand what depression is like, you need to watch “March Comes in like a Lion”. I haven’t seen anyone explain it better.
Rei is a high school student and a professional shogi player who lost his parents and sister in a car crash. Although spiritually adopted by a family friend, Rei feels alone in life and starts battling depression. He feels the only thing keeping him alive is shogi, a chess game he doesn’t even like and is too afraid to admit. Rei doesn’t really care too much about the people around him and they don’t really care about him… until he meets a family just as broken as he. Their love is the only thing that keeps them together. The family can’t fix Rei, but the love they give changes his life forever.
I made two really good friends… but then I realized that those were the only friends I had made at college. I started dating, but it was a long distance relationship. I still felt alone. I still feel like a stranger to my roommates and in my own dorm hall. They’re never met the real me… because I haven’t even seen her for a couple of years.
For people with depression, it is really hard to find friends and people you can trust. I ate almost every meal alone. I never talked to anyone unless I absolutely had to. I would text my boyfriend all day and talk to my two best friends as often as they were available, but all I really wanted was to be alone. People could tell there was something wrong with me, or maybe they just thought I was super introverted.
Depression takes your life away from you. It robs you of what it feels like to be human. Some people claim that March Comes in like a Lion is boring. Maybe to some people, but to me, it’s refreshing to see someone who “gets it”, even if it’s a fictional character.
Having depression made me feel like I was a burden on everyone around me. I felt like no one had time for me, and everyone just wanted me to go away. I knew that I was getting to be pretty intense on my only two friends I had made at college, and I didn’t know what to do.
Rei also felt like a burden. But he was shown passive but relentless love from a very special family. That is what my two friends have shown me as well. Relentless love.
If someone has a physical disability or a sickness, people are obviously concerned and wanting to offer help. As well, the hurt person can show their effort at defeating their circumstances by having a positive attitude and relying on God. You can choose to dwell on the good things in life instead of the bad to show that your hurt will not defeat you.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
It’s not like that with depression. When one is depressed, they cannot willingly change their attitude. The person’s brain chemicals are out of balance. As much as they want to, they cannot make themselves feel better. It’s the same as if someone had a broken leg, they can’t fix it themselves using only will power. It takes time, medicine, love, and a lot of patience and grace. Love, like the love of the Kawamoto family, or my friends at college, or Jesus showed me.
It’s hard to have depression when all people can see is someone who has “given up” or just has a sour attitude and isn’t willing to perk up. People ask, “Why can’t they just get over it?” My favorite one is, “You’re just not relying on God enough.”
People with depression need their feeling to be validated. They need to know that where they’re at is ok, and that it’s not going to be there forever. Someone with depression will have a hard time with hope, so they need to be shown the love and grace that Jesus has taught us. They need people around them to know that their circumstances are not of their choosing. If they could choose to be happy they would, but there is something inside of their brains that isn’t working right.
I dated my boyfriend for about 8 months. During this time I fell into two waves of the worst depression I have ever known. His encouragement is what made me even want to get up in the morning. He cared so deeply for me and my wellbeing, and he didn’t ask me to do more then he knew I could bare. One of the many reasons we broke up was because he told me that I wasn’t relying on God enough for my depression. He claimed that if I relied more on God that my depression wouldn’t be as bad and that I could take on his burdens as well as my own.
“I was in a hurry to become an adult. I thought if I couldn’t stand on my own two feet, there was no way I could protect those who were dear to me.” – Rei
This hurt me a lot, because it made me feel like I was a bad Christian. If I were truly relying on God, then I wouldn’t be suffering as much, right? I partly felt like my boyfriend left me because I wasn’t good enough. That gave into the biggest lie I struggled with. Was I worth it?
My depression already made me feel pathetic and worthless, because I wasn’t really capable of even doing school or proper hygiene, but now I felt like I needed to work harder at being a “good Christian” who “relied on God”. I was also the biggest burden to all my friends and I was in absolutely no position to do any good at all for them. I wasn’t good enough.
That my friends, is called legalism.
You can’t earn anything. God has already given us everything we need, as a free gift! His grace is enough. And know that I hold nothing against my ex. It was simply a misunderstanding on what depression really is. I have no more hard feelings!
My depression made me feel not just that I needed to work better at being a good Christian, but at being a better human being. Just like Rei, I was even terrible at having depression. I couldn’t even go through suffering the “correct” way.
Not only was I unable to work at “being better” because I was very sick, but there is no way I can ever become a “better Christian” because there is no such thing as a “better Christian”. People with depression are working a heck a lot harder at simply being alive then you are. Everything they do is about 10 times more difficult for them then it is for you. So don’t try and convince me that I’m not trying hard enough because I promise, I am trying as hard as I can to simply put enough food in my body to function for the day.
Second, no one can see your heart. Maybe I’m not “relying on God” as much as I can, but that’s between God and I. The way I rely on God during my depression is going to look different then your definition of what it should look like. As well, “relying on God” is not going to magically make my problems go away or is it going to make the chemicals in my brain work they way they are supposed to (unless God wills it of course). Not being healed is NOT a sign of a lack of faith, and don’t be fooled when some Christians (*cough, cough* Bethel Church) tell you otherwise. And suffering isn’t a punishment either people.
The biggest hurt you can inflict on someone with depression is by telling them that they aren’t good enough or they aren’t trying hard enough. Having depression is just as painful as having a physical disability. If I were in a wheel chair, people would open the door for me and would be happy to help me. But my hurt is in my brain, where no one can really see it, so no one really knows how to help. So they insult me instead and tell me to “Just try harder”.
This is where my Hawaiian will come in. *In a pigeon accent* “No fight… just love bra!”
The love the Kawamoto family shows Rei is the kind of love that Jesus shows us. Often God is thought of as being male. Jesus was male yes, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t loving like a mother. The Kawamoto’s were able to be a “Jesus with skin” to Rei. They loved Rei without asking any questions or telling him what to do. They accepted him the way he was and let him grow in his own time when he was ready.
Similarly, God knows what I need. His timing is perfect. He let me suffer within the limits of what I could handle. He let me weep and sob so that I could learn and grow. He ended my dating relationship so that I could properly look back and see what he was doing in my life during that time. It wasn’t in God’s will to magically make me all better. I see the purpose behind my suffering, and not many people can say that.
Even as I struggled to get out of bed in the morning, I knew that God’s grace was enough for me. I knew he was going to be faithful to me in every moment of that day. The deepest depths of my brain chemistry could make me feel distant from God, but it couldn’t tear me away from his goodness in any way.
Friends may come and go for various reasons, but God will remain. This life he has giving me, although very hard, I choose. (I feel like a Pokemon trainer, I CHOOSE YOU!)
So yes, while depression sucks, if God gives it to me, I choose it. And, God will choose who will be apart of my life, for how long, and how much. I am beyond thankful to everyone who tried to help me this year. Hannah, Natasha, you two were the ones keeping me centered. Your diligent love has not been forgotten. You two are the greatest friends I could ever ask for and I am blown away that God gave you hearts that could love as deeply as yours. You two (and Jesus) have made my life livable. Gabriel, Micah, Dani, Conner, EVERYONE AT CHURCH and everyone on Twitter (you know who you are), all I can say is thank you. Thank you for showing me love. That’s all I wanted. And of course, thank you mom for letting me call you five times a day and cry into the phone.
His Grace is Enough.