The following is something I wrote to share with the Youth Group I work with. We have Notebook Nights where students and leaders share a slice of their life. It could be thematic, or as simple as I ate pizza and got heartburn today. The point is that we are sharing in each others lives, and listening to one another.
I shared as a way to open the door for some of our students to be aware that they are not alone in their struggles. It was really hard. My fellow leaders were nothing but supportive. And I hope that it provides an opportunity to create a safe space for our students.
There is something that we don’t like to talk about. Like it’s a dirty little secret. Something we push to the back corners of our closets in the hope that no one will see it. Because we feel like there’s something to be ashamed of, there’s something wrong.
I’ve felt the sting of friends who’ve hurt me. I’ve experienced the turmoil of becoming a teenager with parents who just don’t seem to get it. I’ve seen the devastation that comes from the suicide of a loved one. I’ve known the confusion over choosing which path to take, and the regret of chances not taken. I’ve known the darkness of depression.
There are some days when all I want to do is turn off all the lights, curl up under the covers and hide. There are days when people around me are laughing, having fun, chatting and I feel nothing. Not happy, not sad, not upset…just nothing.
Sometimes on those days I’ve felt like a waste. A waste of space. A waste of people’s time. Why bother talking to me? When you ask me how I’m doing I can say “I’m fine” or “I’m okay” when inside I’m not. I can put on a mask because the conversation won’t last forever. I can wipe the smile off my face as soon as you walk away.
The problem is that some days, I feel great. I can laugh, smile, I feel on top of the world. People see that and think you’ve snapped out of it. That you’re better. But there are days where every hour can be a struggle. Just like there are days when every hour is amazing.
What I’ve learned recently is that finding someone that you can talk to, even if it’s just trusting them enough to say “I’ve been better” or “It’s not going so well” when all you want to say is “I’m good,” can be a little freeing.
A few months ago I hit a rough patch in my struggle with depression. It was a perfect storm of events that all converged at once sending me into the dark waves. I felt alone. Angry that no one could understand just how sad I was. How hurt I was. I always fear that telling someone I have depression makes me seem weak. Makes me seem less than, incapable, unworthy. There are only a select few people in my life who know of my depression. But one day, I decided to jump. I trusted a fellow Crowd leader. When they asked me how I was I didn’t put on the mask. Or at least not completely, and I said something like, “I’m not doing so well.” And when they didn’t say “oh that’s too bad” and walk away, or try to make light of it I said, “I’m struggling with my depression. It’s been tough lately.” They simply said, “I know. I read your blog. How can I pray for you?”
They didn’t tell me to cheer up. Or to fix it. Or that someone else in the world has it worse than I do. They didn’t minimize what I was feeling. That made me feel comfortable enough to share with other leaders who have also been supportive.
There’s a song by Casting Crowns titled Stained Glass Masquerade and part of it goes like this:
“So I tuck it all away, like everything’s okay.
If I make them all believe it, maybe I’ll believe it too.
So with a painted grin, I play the part again,
So everyone will see me, the way that I see them.
Are we happy plastic people, under shiny plastic steeples,
With walls around our weakness, and smiles to hide our pain.
But if the invitation's open, to every heart that has been broken,
Maybe then we close the curtain on the stained glass masquerade.”
Sometimes life sucks. And you need to be sad, grieve or get angry. But try to take of the mask, because we all have weakness. We all have pain and sadness. But we also all have joy. We all have happiness and contentment. You sometimes just need the reminder that it’s there.
Tonight I’ve taken a step away from the stained glass masquerade. The number of people who know that I have struggled with depression has increased tonight. And that’s a big step for me.
Today was a good day. A great day. Lately life’s been pretty good. And when tough things roll my way, or I feel like I’m starting to slip I’m learning what I need to do for myself.
Knowing that there are others who feel this way is comforting. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. And if you struggle with depression, neither are you. Because I’m here. Anytime.