Depression is real. It has strength, tenacity, and the power to push the sufferer down into unknown depths. Depression has a posse, bringing along with it insomnia, anxiety, and anhedonia. It can be controlling, ordering its victim to stay in bed, decline hygiene, or even cease to speak. Depression is real, powerful, and it’s disabling.

I remember when depression first arrived on my door step. I was fine until I wasn’t. It started as a quiet whisper in my ear. Reminding me that my life had been changed and I was powerless to will it back. Ringing in my ear with a steady hum until it became so loud that I could not hear anything else. The darkness that came with it also gradually moved in. The light outdoors wasn’t illuminating but blinding. The care of others was no longer helpful but stifling. I was becoming a remnant of my former self, drowning in the waves that depression dumped over my head. Depression had moved in.

The day my father died was ordinary until I received the call that changed everything. His death was a surprise, yet it wasn’t. I knew one day he was going to transition, but I didn’t expect I would too. I was sorting laundry, placing colored clothing in one pile and whites in another, never once thinking that soon my life would be separated too, into before and after. Once the words of fatality were spoken, they could not be taken back. The whole world had changed.  The drift between happiness and sadness had commenced.

The hustle and bustle that comes with the dance of death kept me busy at first. Initially, it took about three weeks for my life to settle. I made funeral arrangements, selected attire, and eventually wrapped things up.  I had survived it all and still had thanksgiving in my heart. Afterall, my dad had enjoyed a life well lived so returning to my home after cleaning up his was easy.

I smiled every time I glanced at his urn. Putting away my clothes along with some of his things reassured me that he was still part of my life. I felt comforted that one day I would see him again and he was no longer in pain. It wasn’t until weeks later when I opened up my freezer, discovering one of my favorite meals that he had prepped for me, I was met with the discovery that he was really gone.  I did not know it then, but I am aware now that it was a trigger—a trigger that eventually shattered my life into pieces.

The days started to become longer as I approached each morning with regret. The truth looming which each waking, I would not receive a phone call from my dad today. The thought of going on without him became unbearable. Depression had arrived and taken me prisoner. I spent each day sitting in front of the television staring at the screen, unable to understand how life continued on. Didn’t everyone know the world had changed? A mechanical smile plastered across my face for visitors. Meals sat in front of me, untouched. My family tried to console me, but I could no longer feel. Talking became labored and walking even more difficult. Depression became real and I ceased to be.

In my battle with depression, I forgot one important tenant—I was in a battle. I leaned into pain and despair instead of leaning outward to life. I remember the exact moment it happened. The precise time I gave into the crippling disease. Sitting alone at my kitchen table, I decided to let go. Let go of the fight within me and surrender to the monster. It was winning anyway. There were many people surrounding me with positive words, but I had stopped saying them to myself.

The external support system I had designed also failed. Friends and church family sent cards and text messages reminding me that my father was in a better place. I knew that already, but that fact that he wasn’t with me was the real problem. It wasn’t until I attended church on one Sunday and something was said that actually made me feel better. I had been to my church home several times since losing my dad, but this day was different. The pastor’s wife, who had been a long-time sounding board for me, really saw my pain and acknowledged the suffering. Unlike others, she didn’t try to fix it. She reminded me that it was okay to not be okay. She repeated scripture citing that the Lord gives power to the faint and to them that have no might, He increases strength. Even Jesus himself was strengthened by the Father.

His strength was exactly what I needed. I remembered that His strength was made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and the more I meditated on those words, the more I remembered. The capacity to withstand was something I already knew about. Sickness had come to my door many times. Financial stressors had arrived. Disappointment had shown up. Heartbreak had visited a time or two. I wasn’t going to just wake up one morning and feel better, I had to purpose it.

Separating struggles into their proper place was a necessity. I had to put them in their proper pile. His or mine. He could handle all the things that I couldn’t. If I wanted my days to look different, leaning on His power would make them different. I leaned in to God’s grace, prayed, attended church, listened to encouraging music, exercised, and enrolled myself in therapy. Eventually I rejoined the fight. It took about a year, but my mood eventually improved. I even learned a valuable truth, that if I lean on myself when I am broken, I will fall. But if I lean on the Spirit within me, I can stand, heal, and love myself back to life.