10 June 2011

Is there anything good about depression?

by Pastor Jayne and Soledad. Read Nia's earlier answer.


Pastor Jayne: Yes, hence the term "blessed depth." Before depression, I never had occasion to look deep within and let God heal me from the inside out. I simply moved too fast for Him to catch up with me (or for me to realize that He was trying to say something). I firmly believe He allowed depression into my life in order to slow me down and begin to heal me from everything that led up to depression.

We humans (I daresay especially women) are good at masking pain. But we can only do it for so long. If depression is the unmasking, then bring it on! I was unmasked, raw, and forced to deal with my "junk" for really the first time. I see my three-year bout with clinical depression as a turning point in my life: it meant looking backwards for awhile (in therapy, in my times of prayer) in order to move forward as a healthier person.

I'm not saying all this to minimize the debilitating effects of clinical depression — it wasn't fun. In fact it sucked. I'm a sunshine girl — grew up in Hawai'i. Need. Sun. So the grey skies of Portland (where I lived at the time) portrayed what was going on inside of me. But I came to see that clouds aren't all that bad — they bring protection from the heat of the day. (And God traveled with the Israelites in the desert via a cloud during the day, by the way, so they were never alone). Once I embraced the cloud of depression as the protective hand of God I needed, guiding me to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n, I daresay I found blessings in the depth.

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Soledad: I think there are good things about depression. One thing I have learned is that I would not have won the acclaim and awards that I have as a writer if it were not for my depression. Because of the condition, I am very empathetic and attuned to others' struggles. And one of my favorite things to write about is how people have conquered their obstacles and achieved their dreams. I thank depression for tuning me in to others in a way that I see many others unable to do. It allows me to ask the right questions to get at the core of their experience. I am always astounded when I see someone having a difficult time, and others just ignoring that person and not offering any help or understanding. Or worse — they actually criticize the person for being weak, rather than trying to help them see a way around their obstacles.

I have always found it an interesting irony that many comedians suffer from depression. You have Jim Carrey, Owen Wilson, and many others. So the art of comedy is their triumph over darkness. And it's a triumph they may have never had if the darkness had not presented itself as an obstacle to be overcome in the first place. Jim Carrey is one of the best comedians on the planet, and I think if you ask him, he will tell you that his depression is what made him who he is today. It was his way of connecting with people. And he has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.