A couple of months ago, I found myself the lowest I’ve ever been. I hadn’t been able to say for sure why that is. I can make guesses, but just can’t nail it down.
My whole life, I’ve been the encourager. I think some people see encouragers as “rock solid.” Maybe that’s true… but if it is, it’s only a portion of the time. I would say I’m solid about 95% of the time. The other 5% is really rough. I find myself down and helpless – it almost felt at times like someone would walk by, look at me down, say “oh, I see you down there!” and then just keep walking. I guess it’s because people don’t know how to encourage the encourager. If they perceive themselves as a person less secure or happy, they just may not know how to help.
Usually, I can be talked through anything. Give me a cup of coffee and an hour with a good friend and we can change the world – or at least my perspective. This season wasn’t like that at all. I felt disconnected form my friends, from God, and from my life. I just wanted to be me again.
I’ve read Allie Brosh’s blog “Hyperbole and Half” for a couple of years now. She is hilarious. She also struggles with actual depression (which I don’t claim to). You can read her posts Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two here. I have a close friend who has struggled with depression his whole life, and before reading these posts felt like I just couldn’t understand it. I remember sitting at my desk reading these posts and just crying feeling so sorry for those who suffer from depression.
Now that I feel I’ve dug out of my (shallow) hole, I have some observations from this process:
- Everyone needs to be encouraged. Don’t assume someone is rock solid – nobody hates to be praised. The smallest comment can make a huge difference in someone’s day.
- Don’t try to fix something you didn’t break. If you notice a friend is down – don’t try to fix them. Just be there and be supportive. This has been one of my greatest mistakes in trying to console people around me who are struggling.
- Extroverts can become introverts… temporarily. Recently, the only thing that’s consistently given me energy is spending time alone. Reading, studying, working, writing, watching TV… I’ve just needed “me” time. As an extreme extrovert, this was really confusing for me and most of my friends.
- Cling to the healthy relationships that help. I’ve had some great friends over the years – and a few close friends that have stayed beside me. Through this process I felt I disconnected from most everyone – but had a close friend who knew that I was down. He knew I didn’t need to sit and talk for hours. That I just needed to exist and feel like I wasn’t alone. That relationship is what got me through this in one (partially sane) piece.
- Exercise. Running, aerobics, whatever – DO SOMETHING to get your body moving and work out some of the junk that you’re feeling. Cleaning up the diet doesn’t hurt either! Garbage in, garbage out. (I failed at this one… so much dessert… so much cookie dough).
- Be okay with being broken. Beating myself up for being low just made me feel worse. At some point, I just had to accept that I wasn’t okay and wasn’t going to be for a while. Waiting it out was the only option, and hating myself for it didn’t help.
On the other side of this – I have so much more respect for people that battle depression. I feel the illusion that I am a strong person is bunk – the people that fight depression day in and day out and continue functioning are really strong. From this, I’m ready to be the best supportive friend I can be.