Distractions

I have the most amazing life. I can lie in bed and look at a galaxy of stars glowing on my ceiling. I wake up to the cutest little kids in the morning, that want to play with me and sit next to me and have me read them stories, and even though I’m not a mom yet, I get to be a mother figure to my nephew and nieces. There is always food in my fridge and I can almost always join my brother and his family for dinner. I have the opportunity to go to school to further my education and learn new skills, and I am at the exciting point where I can qualify for a job in my field of study. I have the privilege once a month of teaching an amazing group of women that actually listen and care about what I have to say. I have the most wonderful friends who would be there for me at two in the morning if I needed them. I am so loved and taken care of and have responsibilities that I cherish, and yet I find myself seeking distractions in my daily life.

I had one thing I needed to do yesterday. One single responsibility and 24 hours to use to fulfill it, but at the end of the night, it still wasn’t done. And I laid in bed and looked at the stars on my ceiling and wondered what I am doing with my life.

A year ago, I was at the end of my rope. I had taken on too many responsibilities that I could no longer handle after certain life circumstances. I woke up early to commute to work. I was taking night classes. I was an essential resource for everyone at my work, and I was depended upon at home and with friends and at church. I had thrived on the social interactions and fast paced flow of life, but I was in so much pain and so exhausted all the time that life was no longer a thrill, but a tremendous burden.

I reached a point where I could no longer handle things and withdrew as much as I could. I stopped taking classes. I quit my job and got a part time job instead. And I didn’t feel the need to go out and socialize much. I slowly started adding things back in. First school. Then family. Then friends. But I abandoned responsibility somewhere along the way, and I refused to pick it back up again.

I am basically back to normal now. I am not in constant pain every day. (Well, at least not pain I can’t handle.) I can do everything required of me fairly easily and without needing to find time in my schedule. In fact, I hardly even have a schedule and can do almost anything whenever I want. Yet, I find myself wanting to be distracted from life. I want to get away for no particular reason other than I just can.

I used to be addicted to video games because they distracted me from life. At a point in my life where I didn’t want to face myself or the world or the demons living in both, games were my lifeline. Now though, I have worked through the trauma from my past. I have faced my demons and resolved them for the most part. Why do I still feel the desire to distract myself?

I think as human beings we have a natural inclination to avoid distress. If there is a choice between facing something that may be beneficial but distressing or doing something that has no benefit but no obviously negative consequences, I think we would naturally choose the latter.

But anyway, to get to the point of all this, I found it both interesting and frustrating that despite my wonderful life, I often choose to be distracted rather than present and responsible. I find myself seeking forgiveness, while still not stopping my actions.

But tonight, as I look up at the stars, I feel fully present. I feel. I am. I am completely here in this moment, feeling the cool of the air around me, letting myself sink into the softness of my surroundings, and with all the good things in my life flowing through me in floods of peace and gratitude. Why do I distract myself? I have no idea… Because this moment is better than any I had all week.

Depression and Happiness

Happiness has about as much to do with depression as hygiene has to do with being healthy.

Happiness definitely influences depression, and it is an important thing to learn in overcoming and living with depression, but there is so much more to treating depression than learning to be happy.

Depression is like a blanket that covers you from everything around you. It makes it hard to see the light. It makes you feel like there is nothing else in the world but how you feel right now. But as bad as it is, it makes you feel safe somehow. It makes you feel like if you stay in that state, if you isolate, if you don’t do anything but stay in bed and cry, you won’t have to deal with all the worse things in the world. Because while others around you see a world filled with light and hope, and they wonder why you are staying under a blanket when you “don’t have to,” you see the dark shadows of the world. 

You see the demons that hide inside of you and everyone else. You have nightmares that wake you up or make it hard to sleep. You feel the pain of the world- the hurt and neglect, the children that are abused or starving, the wars and violence and men and women that show no respect for others, that take advantage of people and tear people down and take away another person’s ability to feel human. You hear the screams that no one else seems to notice. You see the pain in the eyes of someone that has been hurt. 

In the depths of depression, depression can feel like a safe place because depression shows you everything wrong with the world and tells you that it is hopeless to fight against the dark and the only way to find peace is to get out. Depression tells you that getting out of depression will only make you have to face a broken world with no filter, with nothing between you and the hurt. Depression is your shield in an uncertain world because depression is very dependable.

Depression is there at the end of the day when the world is quiet and there is nothing left in you. Depression is there when you wake up in the morning. It is there when you eat your cereal and get ready for your day. And it is there anytime you need it. If something hurts you during the day, depression is there to surround you with grief and tell you it’s okay to cry. Depression is there because sometimes people are not.

People can tell you to stop crying, to suck it up, to get over it, that things aren’t that bad, that you’re exaggerating, that you have no reason to be sad or upset, that you just need to try harder or think happy thoughts or pull yourself out of it. When people are not understanding, depression is there to turn to. When you feel isolated and alone, depression is there to stay with you. 

Depression is comforting. It doesn’t expect you to fix yourself or make yourself happy or get better. In fact, depression is perfectly content if you never improve. And that in itself is comforting. It is comforting to not have any expectation of change or progress because those things are hard, and depression doesn’t expect you to ever improve.

Depression has little to do with happiness because depression is everything. It is an entire world, an entire being, and an entire state of mind. Depression is not about being happy. It is about learning to cope in a world with unhappiness. Depression is about living in a world that is broken, that is imperfect, that is difficult and sometimes impossible.

The most surprising fact about depression, for people who don’t understand it, is that you can be happy and still be depressed. You can be amazingly happy, incredibly happy, ridiculously happy. You can be laugh out loud and dancing in the rain kind of happy, but just outside of that happiness or underneath that happiness or coexisting with that happiness is a depth of discouragement and hopelessness. Depression does not steal your happiness. Depression masks your happiness. And sometimes happiness masks your depression.

I see depression as the absolute acknowledgement that something is wrong with the world. It is a whole body, whole mind, whole heart perception that nothing is okay. Can you still be happy in a broken world? Yes, but that doesn’t make the world stop being broken. That is the key to depression. 

The difference between someone who is depressed and someone who is not is that freedom. Not having depression gives you the freedom to believe that things will change. It gives you the freedom to believe that what you do makes a difference. It allows you to go into the world with purpose because the world is there for you to put light into. For someone without depression, the world is changeable, able to become better or different or whatever you make of it. The world is yours.

Depression is hardly ever a one lane road. You have glimpses of the other side. You have moments when you feel like you’re making a difference and that you have purpose. The trick is getting those moments to stick. That is what I try to do when I am depressed. I try to give myself reminders that there is purpose, there is change, there is reason to believe that things can get better. This world isn’t that bad, but you have to see the good. You have to expose yourself to the good. And when you are depressed, you have to remind yourself of that good. Because otherwise, you will stay under that safety blanket of depression until you pass away or the world passes away because without the good, there is no real reason to come out.