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Depression doesn’t mean you’re broken


Depression is not a state of mind.

It’s a whole body experience.

In the wake of the heartbreaking death of Robin Williams it seems time to acknowledge the silent pain that lives among us.

Time to fight back against the whispered lies that those who suffer lack the willpower to get better. Lack the skills to just show up and choose joy.

Sorrow is the other side of the coin. You cannot have joy if you don’t know sorrow. One of my favorite writers, Kahlil Gibran states it more beautifully than I ever could: “Sorrow carves the heart to contain more joy.”

I believe it is true. I cling to it in my times of sorrow.

We look at Robin Williams, a man who brought us all so much joy. From his movies and comedy to his goodwill toward those serving in our military, he was a joy bearer. A man gutted by despair held hands so intimately with this thing we call joy.

I know that story. It’s a story that lives in me and my generational line. I lost my uncle and my grandmother to depression and suicide.

I look back and see two inspirational and remarkable people. Two people who lived life and lived it full and well when they could. Who brought and bore so much joy. Beautiful on the outside, deep troubled waters on the inside. I am them.

I encourage others because I need it so desperately myself. Glennon once wrote, “Those who need help look a lot like people who don’t need help.”

Far too often our greatest encouragers and life lovers are hurting deeply. The pain of life has carved a well so deep that nothing can fill. The whys and what-fors aren’t as important as the deep soul ache.

And it doesn’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t felt it. It doesn’t make sense in the midst of it, and yet it is so painfully true and real and there seems no hope.

And so we try to fill the well.

We fill it with everything we can think of including the faith and truth of our redeemer God. Those who are depressed haven’t wandered from Christ. We simply cannot feel Him, see Him or find Him in this moment.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as choosing joy.

Sometimes the wave needs to roll and we ride it the best way we know how.

And in the aftermath of a suicide we talk cheaply about life.

We hear critical judgments about choice and whispered conclusions about death. But I believe in a God who doesn’t look at things the way I do. A God who He sees and knows the heart. Who hears the desperate cries or the silent tears of our pain.

I believe He understands what we cannot begin to comprehend about depression and mental illness and, despite our feeble attempts at understanding the unknowable and making conclusions about eternity, I am bearing on the side of grace.

I’m putting my bet on mercy.

He said, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

People who suffer with depression are intimately acquainted with unrest. When the enemy is outside your home you can lock the door, set the alarm, close the curtains and find some semblance of peace. But when the you have found the enemy, and it is you, the story is different. Rest is not so easy.

Because in the midst of the battle is the knowledge that the lies are not true. But they’re so loud. The connection between truth and hope is broken.

But here’s the thing that I can’t help but shake. Here’s the thing that I’m learning and processing and believing to be true: there is redemption in this seeming brokenness.

Depression doesn’t make you broken. Perhaps it is the very thing that brings you to light.

Maybe it makes you unbroken.

Strong enough to let the reality of this life break us so that we can fully surrender to Him and not our own foolish strength.

We were made to grow.

A few short years ago I admired people who seemed to have it all together. The ones who could throw their head back and laugh. Who seemed to have “made it” or had that elusive thing we call success. Now, I admire the ones who know they don’t. I connect so much deeper with the ones who, by the standards of this world, are broken.

Because I believe we can only grow when we know we’re not yet where we need to be. When we believe we’re good and life is fine and we just “are who we are” then somehow we’ve become hard. In some way we’ve denied our truth. In a sense, we’ve become unbreakable.

And God can only work with us, and in us, and through us when we’re willing to be broken to the things and ways of this world…so that He can rebuild us to match the heart of His. So that He can mold us to Him.

We live in a time where the world is so dark. How can we not feel broken? How can we not be depressed? Women and children suffering and dying in every corner of our world for the sake of sin. Arrogance. Selfish ambition. Pride.

God please, break us.

It’s so incredibly painful and I’m learning it’s a lifelong work. It’s my lifelong work.

Just when I think I’ve crested one mountain I see another one rising in the distance. Sometimes I get so discouraged. Sometimes I feel like I’m not learning the lesson because the destination never comes. I never stay on the top of that peak long enough to get comfortable. Long enough to feel like I’m not broken.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s when we know we’re doing it right. When the tests get bigger and the peaks higher and the cliffs steeper.

Maybe being broken isn’t so bad. Maybe those cracks are the spaces where we let the light in…because we have learned enough to know we cannot turn them on ourselves. Perhaps being broken and finding we’re not broken is the greatest gift of all.

Let’s be women willing to be broken so that someday, someway, we can finally break free. If you struggle with depression and feel like you’re alone, you’re not. There is help. Have the courage to reach out and ask for help. Call: (1-800-273-TALK (8255)).

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{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Michele August 14, 2014, 2:08 pm

    Thank you so much for today’s blog. I have been struggling with depression the past 16 months. Since my husband passed away unexpectedly. The last two weeks have been particularly difficult. Although I continue to pray, meditate and journal every day and see my therapist as scheduled. I am riding the wave, as you say. I have a thimble full of hope. Thank-you.

    • Tammy August 18, 2014, 12:38 am

      Oh Michele. I’m praying for you right now and am so deeply sorry for your loss. I pray for you to find God so near. Hugs & blessings, xo.

      • Michele August 23, 2014, 6:00 am

        Thank-you Tammy for your prayers.

    • Jennifer Pedersen August 20, 2014, 1:53 am

      It will get better. You are here for a reason! xoxoxo

      • Tammy August 22, 2014, 3:40 am


      • Michele August 23, 2014, 6:03 am

        Thank-you Jennifer for your support. Sometimes I feel my purpose in life died when my husband did. It’s hard but life does continue no matter what.

  • Brittany August 14, 2014, 2:52 pm

    Wonderful post, Tammy. Very eloquently put.

  • cathy August 14, 2014, 5:18 pm

    This. THIS is what I have tried to explain to people about severe depression but have never found the right words. Thank you for this. I think that Christians who suffer from depression bear an additional burden in that many condemn them for feeling the way they do, assuming that once you have Jesus, depression cannot be possible. Simply choose happy. It’s impossible to explain to people who haven’t experienced it. I get that and I certainly don’t wish to condemn them for something they literally are not capable of understanding. But I so wish the judgements would stop. Thank you for explaining this so clearly. Perhaps God allowed this with Robin because he was SO loved and so NOT the person you would have thought would be suffering enough to take this step. I’m finally seeing kind responses amidst the ugly ones. And by the way, that assumption about heaven after suicide? I too believe in mercy. He’s there. My beloved brother is in the arms of Jesus and since the moment he arrived there, he has been surrounded by ministering angels, enveloping him in more love than he knew existed. Thank you for your words.

    • Tammy August 18, 2014, 12:37 am

      Sweet Cathy, the tears are streaming down. He is there. Thankful for brave, kind warrior spirits like you. xoxo

  • Lori Wright August 15, 2014, 2:02 am

    This is beautiful! I have suffered from depression, but my husband has suffered at such great lengths that he removed guns from our house at one point. It’s one thing to suffer yourself, but watching a loved one suffer and you can’t “fix” it and your desperate prayers aren’t answered is so heartbreaking and leaves you feeling helpless.

    It can, however, bring you joy and comfort when you are brought out of that dark place. You develop a greater appreciation for having good days. It causes you to savor them…to let them saturate your spirit so that you don’t forget those good days.

    My husband is a survivor, but that dark cloud still rears it’s ugly head from time to time. It’s in those times that I’m so thankful for those like you, that are open and honest, that share your heart, and encourage others. It’s posts like yours that provide others with hope!
    Thank you! ❤️

    • Tammy August 18, 2014, 12:36 am

      Thank you so much for that Lori. I am humbled and honored to be even a small part of bringing hope. I think it’s only when we face the truth of who we are that we have any possibility of change. When we talk about the things that no one wants to talk about and find we are not alone. Depression surely is an ugly, two-faced monster and those of us who face it are blessed to have such beautiful brave spirits alongside us. Thankful your husband has YOU. Hugs & blessings, xo.

  • Jenny August 15, 2014, 11:23 am

    Finally – someone who gets it. Unless one has been there, it’s impossible to truly understand what depression is and how it feels. I too believe that Christians struggling with depression have an added burden, because so much of the world thinks Christians are supposed to be happy and joyful all the time. Well….it ain’t so. I love God with all that I am and yet I am struggling with this awful thing and have for most of my life. But here’s the thing: I KNOW that God has been with me and will continue to be with me every step of the way. He never said life would be easy – He said he would be with us every moment. I depend on that, breathing it in in the low, desperate times. Then when I finally crawl out of the cave of my soul, I rejoice and know God is rejoicing with me.

    Thank you for an insightful and beautifully written piece Tammy. God bless you!

    • Tammy August 18, 2014, 12:33 am

      Amen, amen, amen Jenny. He is rejoicing with you indeed. Hugs & blessings, xo.

  • Shanna November 6, 2014, 5:18 pm

    This is such a beautifully written article. Thank you for sending out a message of hope to those in a tough time. I’ve struggled with depression and know how desperate it can be, especially when your family tells you to just “snap” out of it. It’s so easy to define yourself by your depression and your problems. I just have to remind myself to keep my eyes on His light. Thanks again 🙂 x

    • Tammy November 10, 2014, 5:41 am

      You’re so welcome Shanna, thank you! Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will never leave your side. Blessings. xoxo

  • Marge December 2, 2014, 2:50 pm

    I have read this over and over. Every time I read your words I feel the same way. You some how got inside my head and put my thoughts on paper. Thank you for being willing to pour out so others can process and heal.

    • Tammy December 3, 2014, 4:32 am

      Oh Marge, I’m so honored to be part of your journey to healing. What a gift your words are to me. xo

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