Depression and My Scary Gray Cloud (A Story)

Chapter 1

My gray cloud arrived as my soccer cleats crunched and broke the bones of the grass beneath me.

I remember feeling like someone had orchestrated a personal cloud to follow me. It followed me through the halls of the high school, arriving with me each morning and leaving with me each afternoon. It went home with me. Spoke to my friends and parents with me. Sat with me as I read.

I didn’t notice it when I was on the soccer field. When soccer was going well, it was a thoughtless, mindless experience. I liked those times.

But then I would step off the field, drive home from practice, and take off my cleats. My cloud would envelop me; its gray particles matting my mind with a sort of apathy and fear new and unknown to me. I didn’t care for it, and I didn’t know what to do with it, how to fight it.

So I slept. I’d fight off my cloud by attempting to shield it with my comforter, praying the pillow under my head would comfort me into the blissful oblivion that was sleep. Sleep was ignorance of life, of fear, of gray clouds. And ignorance was bliss.

But then I’d wake up and get out of bed. I’d eat with my family, do my homework, and sit in fear. Fear of what, I did not know. In my bad moments, it would be fear of fear itself.

My gray cloud was a faithful and fearful attachment to my everyday life.

*                      *                      *

Chapter 2

I spent a year praying polite prayers. Asking God to help me feel better; hoping for the potential to be happy again.

Nothing was working.

I grew despondent towards joy and assumed apathy and fear. Soccer wasn’t the appeasement it used to be. Day in and day out I lived within the shell of myself.

School. Soccer. Church. Friends.

I performed for each; trying to be perfect and seem perfect and act perfect. But I felt hollow and empty.

My gray cloud wasn’t noticeable to the outside world, but it felt like a vacuum to my insides, sucking me dry of the richness that makes experiences lovely.

*                      *                      *

Chapter 3

Soon enough my gray cloud was joined by a friend.

It was fall again. I was experiencing it in Europe with my family for nine weeks.

Fall was beautiful there, afternoon rains followed by peaceful stillness and leaves clinging to lawns and moss-covered aqueducts. I would ride my rickety, used bicycle to a local park and weave through ancient trees, each of which leaned towards me, bending as if to whisper their secrets.

Despite the beautiful countryside and the Burger King a mile down the road, I felt alone, suffocated, and isolated.

No one knew me outside my family.

People pedaled by smoking a cigarette and looking down; I was just another person in the steady stream of bystanders and citizens. A blip so tiny on the radar that I became indistinguishable from the rest of the world.

So my gray cloud grew stronger. I thought it was because I struggled with lust. I was crushed because I thought it was punishment. So I read my Bible more, memorizing chapters and praying for forgiveness. I wrote a thankfulness list once that extended well past two hundred items. I figured that if I caused it through my sin, then the way I was going to fix it was by becoming a better human being.

Then, one day, my gray cloud’s friend arrived. I was sitting in a restaurant with my family, warm against a window that looked out on ocean rains and blistering winds. Looking at a ketchup bottle, I began to retreat suddenly and quickly into myself. My mind, used to worry and anxiety, contorted and twisted, fitting itself into a dark hole of fear. For ten seconds, I couldn’t move or look anywhere else. My stomach tightened and stagnated my insides. My breathing became sharp and pointed.

I didn’t know what was happening, but I was afraid. My mind fixated on the simple feeling of fear. I could not entertain any other thought, worry, or emotion. Just fear. In one, swift, internal motion, my entire future, dreams, and goals were questioned and stripped.

I wasn’t worthy to ever be a role model or impact other people or get married.

I wasn’t worthy to ever be a role model or impact other people.

I wasn’t worthy to ever be a role model.

I wasn’t worthy.

I wasn’t worthy.

I wasn’t worthy.

Ten seconds later it ended. I looked up from the ketchup bottle and back to my family. They were having a conversation about trying to fight the weather. They hadn’t noticed where I had been or the places my mind had gone to, and that really scared me.

*                      *                      *

Chapter 4

I’ve taken a small, white pill with green stripes every day for four years now. I usually try to take it with a big glass of water and an applesauce. I like it that way.

I went to college a long way away from the people I loved. I spent days missing home and friends and the colors of Oklahoma falls. I spent nights afraid of the dark and the wind and the way my mind wandered at midnight. I would wake up the next morning and take my pill.

One day I had eight panic attacks. My chest heaved in and out, sharp and stagnant. I asked people around me to pray for me. They did.

I cried ugly, wet tears that stained the carpet tan and made my eyes puffy.

The prayer ended and people started hugging me. They held me close and whispered soft words that went straight to the front lines of my fight. Each person who hugged me was a physical visit from God, the God who loved me and cried with me, the God who looked at me and held my shoulders like my dad does when I come home for Christmas vacation.

The hugs ended and the night wrapped up, but I kept feeling like God was holding me. Then he told me, he told me “Drew, take my hand, I think you’ll like where we’re going.”

“Drew, take my hand, I think you’ll like where we’re going.”

“Drew, take my hand, I think you’ll like where we’re going.”

 I said yes and grabbed his hand.

*                      *                      *

Chapter 5 

I think my small, white pill with the green stripes is a taste of God’s healing.

I have good days, and I have hard days. And lately it seems like the good days have become more frequent than the hard ones.

I believe that God can work big, lightning-flash, mud-in-the-eyes miracles, and I also believe that he can work miracles with medication and friendly doctors and kind-eyed therapists.

God is in the business of healing. I was reading in the Bible the other day about how we are God’s messengers to a world needing comfort. That Jesus is alive and comforting Christians so that we can comfort other people in their pain, that perhaps we can use our problems and fears and insecurities to comfort people who don’t know Jesus and don’t know hope.

Perhaps my experience is a platform to love people well. There are a lot of people with anxiety and depression who don’t know Jesus, so maybe I can use my experience to show them His real, genuine comfort. Maybe we can bond through anxiety and be healed through Him.

I think anxiety is a platform and love is the message.

*                      *                      *

An Epilogue Letter to the Reader

Please, please 

...if you are struggling with anxiety or depression, know that you are not alone. I fought isolation for years, thinking that I just needed to get my life together and look perfect in order to feel better. I believed that no one else felt the way I did, and it would be better if I didn’t tell anyone about what I was going through.

Please, please

...don’t believe those lies. Let other people in and speak out loud the pain. Let other people hug you and whisper soft words. Let them gently nudge you towards the everlasting love of God.

Go to a counselor. Go to a doctor. Go to a friend. Go to a parent. Go to a pastor.

Go to God.

Let him take your hand and allow us to help.

I think you’ll like where God takes you.

Your friend,

Drew

 

 

P.S. If you are struggling, I encourage you to go check out the organization “To Write Love on Her Arms.” They have a page with contact numbers and locations where you can find help. I really, really pray and hope you will find encouragement and rest on your path to healing. Please know you are loved.

P.S.S. For an amazing female’s perspective of depression (and actually one of the inspirations for writing this post) check out Hannah Brencher’s blog post, “Good Morning Baltimore.” Hannah Brencher rocks in her honesty and vulnerability and word choice and syntax and love of life. I hope she will speak to your soul and remind you of community like she did for me.