Holiday Depression

Lets have a conversation about my brain. I have an anxiety disorder that, apparently, could be easily misdiagnosed as bipolar disorder. The way it was explained to me is that my brain just can't come back down after a perceived threat. It's why I'm so fearful, my thoughts can turn intrusive, my tendency towards sheer panic is high and I'm so, so prone to depression. My brain will hold a state of anxiety until it just crashes and then I'm a big, fat mess. I've spent most of my life riding the roller coaster of my own brain. At different times in my life I've been depressed, anxious, fearful, suicidal, desperate, numb, heightened and broken.

The times when I'm happy I'm so happy - its like coming out from under a thick, black, suffocating fog and into fresh, soft, relieving daylight. The times when I'm sad are the hardest roads to navigate. My fear and grief are amplified. I'm lost and wandering and desperate for the moment when the bleakness lifts. My highs are high and my lows are low. It's like a wild swinging - never knowing when I'm going to land in a puddle or on solid ground.

I fully believe that life was meant to ebb and flow. We aren't meant to stay static and emotionless. For some of us the ebb and flow are just more deeply felt. For some of us its more like being carried off by an invisible current. One moment we're content on solid ground and the next we disappear in a quick, silent tug.

It has always really confused me that the Holiday season amplifies the sensation of drowning for so many of us. I've been thinking about it a lot this week - wondering why we tend towards loneliness and depression during a time that is generally celebrated as a season of connection and love. I think it has something to do with contrast. We don't often see the density of the fog while we're in it, but if we stand just above it for a moment it's alarming how far it reaches; how impossible it is to see through it.

Contrast makes everything different. Black and white are never so stark as when they sit right next to each other. Depression and contentment are never so sharp as when they are right in your face. You might not notice how sad you are in your marriage until you see someone connected and free in their own relationship. You might not realize how much you hate the rug in your living room until you see a trendier one in your girlfriend's livingroom. You might not know that you want more until you SEE more. Its human nature. Its how we live and move and breathe. Contrast breeds discontent in every human heart. Even more so when we're all living broken lives with secret hurts and repressed wounds. The Holiday season comes rushing in with advertisements showing families connecting, loved ones gifting each other and the great big hole of loneliness being filled. But not really filled. And that's the ache.

But the cure for contrast is kindness bolstered by truth.

Kindness. And truth.

It always has been and it always will be. When broken-hearted human beings dragged themselves to Jesus, searching for just one word, or one touch, to turn their suffering into peace, it was his kindness that paved the way. He looked at them with compassion and he renamed them with value and deep worth. He healed their bodies, but he healed their hearts first. He spoke into their abandonment and their drudgery. Human lives have always, always been stricken with contrast and there are always going to be seasons when contrast is heightened for some of us.

Truth is like a light, shattering the darkness.  Sometimes it helps to just name the sadness. Sometimes its enough to be brutally honest with someone you trust to be tender with your fragility. There is freedom in  leting truth flood you as you shake the grit from your eyes and the tension from your heart.

So here's the thing: I'm telling you that truth and kindness are the cure for contrast. They are. They can reset our brains - taking us away from what wounds us most: our loneliness and the overwhelming tide of ugh. If you're Holiday-depressed like so so many people, serving others might be just what you need to shake it off - and there are people who NEED to be served. If you're generally depressed you might need truth and kindness from the mouth of someone who is trained to help you navigate the fog. So get that. I have. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed. That choice is going to produce more life and more transparency and more kindness in the world. We all need that.

We're a revolution, you know. We're those people who love Jesus and love people. We're those people who are being shaped by the force of love and truth in the face of hard circumstances. Lets also be the people who are wise to how contrast is working its way into human hearts like a sliver. Lets love each other in glorious ways this season. Kindness and truth. That's the mission.

*December 2013