One thing I struggle with most regarding my major depressive disorder is the notion that my life is a waste. There are weeks, sometimes months in the past lost to me. I look back and can’t remember what my children were like at certain ages or if we had a good time on our 2008 vacation.
Even recently, in what I would define as ‘a season of health,’ I lose track of time. “It’s been pretty good these last few weeks, right?” I casually mention to my husband and he’ll look at me quizzically. “Gilly, don’t you remember? You spent two days in bed last week.”
Moments in my life are forgotten, lost, dark. How can whole, omitted days not be a waste?
In my recent book, Still Life, A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression, I describe it this way:
“When you are depressed, time becomes an enemy. You either have too much of it, like a sprawling Nebraska cornfield, or you’ve wasted it, your moments thrown into a heap and lit with a match. Burned up. Irretrievable. Each second holds an exorbitant amount of pain. It traps you. You feel each beat. Minutes are full and long as they crawl toward the new hour, and you do nothing but try to hold still and live through them. Time is wasted because you concentrate on living through each moment. You look back, you search your memory, but all you see is a heavy cloud of hurt, confusion and black.”
—Adapted from chapter three, “Major Depressive Disorder.”
But even within collected black moments in life, God keeps bringing me to the Psalms of David. His hymns ease my wreaked mind and provide a moment of peace while I consider his role in the overarching theme of God’s plan of redemption. Here is a man with a tortured life, both outwardly as he is chased ruthlessly by his nemesis Saul and inwardly with the lure of another man’s wife is too much for his sinful heart to ignore. If you read David’s lyrics recorded in the Bible, you see a man familiar with darkness and yet pleading for the light, and grabbing and holding on to the moments they exist.
The other day I read one of the most famous of the Psalms; 139. Immediately in the first verse, the theme emerges:
“O Lord, you have searched me and known me! He goes on, “You know when I sit down and when I rise up.”
This inescapable truth is staggering. God intimately knows the days I can’t function. Regardless if they are lost to me, they are not lost to him. He is not unaware of my numbed mind and aching limbs crawling towards the next minute. No, he is right there with me. He is sovereign. He is the one providing the next patch of light in my life. Even if his purpose escapes me, purpose exists nonetheless.
“If I say,”Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
In my ongoing illness I begin to understand the confusing need for darkness. If there is no darkness, why would I crave the light?
My life is not a waste to God and it is not a waste to my family. It’s not a waste to others who know my story and breathe a sigh of relief that they are not the only people in the church fighting depression. And in the extension of this line of thinking, I realize my life is not a waste to me.
I guess that’s why I wrote a book about depression; a vulnerable, at times embarrasing story about my inner most thoughts, struggles, and shame. I wrote it because this is what the Lord continues to write on my heart: Life with depression is not a waste. Life with depression is Still Life, and valuable to God.
For Gillian Marchenko, “dealing with depression” means learning to accept and treat it as a physical illness. In Still Life she describes her journey through various therapies and medications to find a way to live with depression. She faces down the guilt of a wife and mother of four, two with special needs. How can she care for her family when she can’t even get out of bed? Her story is real and raw, not one of quick fixes. But hope remains as she discovers that living with depression is still life.
Still Life is available here in paperback and e-book from IVP Press. The Kindle edition is available at Amazon.
God is using your journey to lead others in a Christian perspective of mental health. This first hand experience is needed so much. Thank you ten times over for sharing. God bless you and may He sustain you.
Thank you for sharing. God’s love and grace is anazing.
I used to sleep late (noonish) and go to bed early (7:30ish) to make the day go by quicker. The Lord has shown me otherwise, I WAS waisting time, Gods time!! That time he gave me as a gift. I am so grateful for the people He has put into my life………like the person who shared this😊 thank you Shannon❤
God be praised for your work Gillian!!