In some ways I feel like I've already written about this better than ever I could again. Part of me is tempted to just copy and paste the old post into this one.
I sort of strayed into the despair land in yesterday's post, when I wrote about the emotional effect my grad school delay had upon me. But really, it was never just that. It was that combined with the breakup I went through in July. Because it was after the breakup that the despair hit me.
And I didn't call it despair for a while. I knew I was moody, I knew I was down, that there was a taste in my mouth of dullness -- as if I was walking around with cotton in my mouth, as after dental surgery.
I described it yesterday as a kind of gray mistiness, but I think this cottonmouthed sensation works just as well.
Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself.
What do we say?
When I was brainstorming this series (all of 31 Days of Calling, not just these specific posts), I jotted down the title of one of my favorite arias: "Piangero la sorte mia." Actually, when I wrote it out I wrote it the way you sing it: PiangeroooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOO la sorte miiiiia. That's because that line, the opening line of the aria, means "I will weep for my fate." There's more to it: "I will weep for my fate, so cruel and so merciless, as long as I have life in my chest." It's the ultimate despair aria. The character feels like she has no hope left, that she has lost everything. So she sings this aria. It is slow and gut-wrenching and to sing it does something to my heart.
What do we say about despair other than weeping?
How do we talk about it? How does one talk about depression?
When my relationship ended, I was routed. I won't say I hadn't seen it coming for a while -- I was anything but surprised -- but I was utterly grieved. I was so sad -- and I don't remember when I knew that the sadness was due to both the ending of that relationship as well as my vocationally-related decisions, but when I knew it, it was unmistakable.
That heartbreak was the thing that catapulted me into the sudden understanding that I had Made a Mistake. That my motivations had been mixed in staying in Lubbock.
The realization that I wished I had gone to graduate school came later, not at all suddenly. It was a dawning -- but a dawning under clouds.
And y'all, I was afraid to pursue singing. For the first time in my life, I was legitimately afraid of a career path. I remember saying to anyone who would listen, "I want my work to matter to me... but I don't want to be poor!" I was already feeling so low when I said that sentence to my dad that I thought that to continue scraping by, financially speaking, would kill me.
Yes, feeling so low: it was the end of July, and all I wanted to do was sleep and cry. My dad told me that he hated seeing me this way -- he didn't want me to have to go through this ever again.
I am writing as things come to me, and not very well, because how do we talk about depression?
We talk about how everything around us just seemed like it couldn't make us smile.
We talk about how laughter felt fake. Or how it startled us when it jerked forth from our bodies.
We talk about how we just want to sleep all the time.
We talk about how the grayness that comes with rain mirrors a grayness in our souls.
We talk about the things we wish could have been but we don't know how to talk about what we hope will be because we no longer have any hope for the future.
Leeana Tankersley says that hope comes from the belief that what looks like the end may be only the beginning.
When we are depressed we cannot see a road ahead. We cannot fathom ever summoning up the energy to begin again.
So every time I thought about pursuing singing as my vocation, something inside me balked and vomited, while all the rest of me yearned for it. It was like my body revolting against itself.
I could not see possibility or light or dawn -- only danger everywhere I looked.
And that's when Adventure starts to frighten us: when we start looking only at all that could go wrong, or all that we are sure will go wrong, rather than at possibility. Rather than at the hopeful vision that has been placed within us.
Again, I don't really know how to write about this.
I am trying to tell you my experience with the misty grayness that surrounds us from all sides.
Depression is different from heartbreak, which I'll write about tomorrow. Heartbreak is a knife. It's an instrument of torture. Depression is a waking sleep and the conviction that you'll never be joyous again. It doesn't seek to torture you. No, depression is one long, slow smothering with a pillow.
And mine was brought on by my refusal to follow calling.
You see, I didn't know it, but when I decided I wouldn't pursue music vocationally, something in me died out.
Something in me curled up in the corner and hid away from the side of me that loves a sure thing.
You see, I am my father's daughter, and he is nothing if not practical. The men in my family are born and bred out of the regular-everyday bread of pragmatism. I have come up in the Baumgardner School of Common Sense.
But the more I walk around in my own shoes, my own skin, the more I'm discovering that this practicality is a learned skill, and I'm grateful for it, but it's not who I am at a deep level. It's not who I am any deeper than my skin. When you get down into the muscles, the fibers of my body and my soul -- well. To be practical is good, but it's not all my DNA.
But I didn't know that at the time, or if I did, I chose to ignore it. I stuck with practicality because I was afraid. Afraid of the uncertainty. Like I said: I love a sure thing.
And when I chose to not go to music school, it's like someone blew out a little flame and I grew cold and dead inside. Like a winter forest with lots of dead wood lying around: that kind of gray and disrepair.
The point of this post is to say that that's what happens when we ignore calling, or we attempt to make it into something else, or when practicality gets to drive the car (I'm not saying it can't ride along -- but when it comes to calling, we cannot let it drive).
If we are choosing the calling of our lives based on what feels most practical, then we will die. Or we will unknowingly attempt to amputate some part of us, and it will be too much to bear.
If we amputate calling in the attempt to save ourselves, then we will actually be committing suicide.
And the sadness will descend upon us like a warm blanket, and it will smother us, and our souls will pass into extinction.
it isn't what Jesus meant, but: What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?
I'll be honest with you: this has been difficult to write. I've not found the right words, I feel. But I wanted to share this part of my story -- because it is part of it, and it's been my reality from June-ish through September.
Really, I'm grateful that my depression was not of the severity of the kind that many suffer. I'm grateful I never thought of committing actual suicide, and that my own despair can be categorized as misty grayness rather than a blackness beyond all emerging.
But it was depression all the same.
Tomorrow I'm going to write a little about the healing process. Not a lot: it's about heartbreak -- but it's also about the things that healed me when I was in despair. And we'll see how Jesus uses the things that are at once the most likely and the least likely to lift us out of the pit.
The Psalms promise us that He does. If there was a verse that sustained me during the depression -- and there may not have been -- the one that kept recurring to me was Psalm 27:13
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Depression is the land of the half-dead and frozen-solid. But when you start to even speak the words about dawn and "the land of the living" to yourself in the dark watches of the night -- even if you don't believe them -- that's the first step. It's the introit to the dawn; it's the Holy Spirit reaching down into your depths and shining a fingernail of light.
Hold tight, beloved.