“Don’t worry it’s going to get better”
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel”
“Time is a healer”
What do all these comments have in common?
They are all true.
But they have something else in common too…
They are not overly helpful.
I’ve been talking recently with a quite a few people struggling with depression.
It’s got me thinking a lot.
As most of you know I myself went through a long season of depression in my earlier years.
I should know better than most how useless these statements are… And yet I can’t help repeat them.
Because they are true. And when everything is fine and dandy in your life it’s easy to say – because you are living in that light at the end of the tunnel.
I often need to think back and remind myself of what it was like in the tunnel.
Things aren’t getting better…
When you are in the depths of the tunnel, and it’s so long you can’t even see a tiny dot of light at the end…
When you follow everyone’s advice and keep moving forward, only to find the tunnel getting darker and darker…
When the only light you can see is back the way you came, in the past, that place you cannot return to…
You see time is a healer. And at the end of the tunnel there is light.
But when time only seems to be making things worse and when you are plodding in the pitch black not even sure if you are heading towards this mythical light or away from it…
That’s what depression is.
My recent reminder
About 8 months my wife walked out on me.
I haven’t struggled with depression in about a decade but experiencing that was a great little crash course reminder in what it was like.
In those early days I would wake up and look at the clock only to figure out how long it would be before I could go back to sleep.
Because when I was asleep that was the only reprieve from the pain. Even then my dreams would haunt me at times.
Well meaning people would give me a pat on the shoulder and tell me it would get better. That there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Do you know what I wanted to do?
Punch them. Right in the face.
I know. Very Christlike of me :)
Why? Because every single minute of every single day it got worse.
It wasn’t getting better.
I don’t care about the truth
Here’s the kicker – I knew it would get better – I’d counselled countless people through this same situation! Of course it’s not the end of the world, of course life goes one, of course it gets better.
But it wasn’t.
My experience was a whole lot more real than “the truth”.
I was at the bottom of a big pit and everyone was standing at the top telling me that it’s going to be great when I get out.
The problem was all I had in my hands was a shovel. I was my own worst enemy.
Me, myself and I… We weren’t getting out this pit any time soon!
What I really needed
What I needed was for friends to climb down into the pit with me, to join me amidst the pain and suffering and help me climb out.
I needed friends with climbing gear. Who could tell me to put down my shovel and help me get out.
I needed them to get alongside me.
I needed them to be non-judgmental.
I needed them to let me process stuff in my own time.
I needed them to bring their wholeness to my brokenness.
I needed them to bring their joy to my depression.
I needed the voice of reason, I needed to hear how great it was outside the pit, I needed to know it was going to get better. But above all I needed to know they were here with me, right now, when it wasn’t getting any better.
Thankfully that’s what I found – or maybe they found me.
Are you willing to get in the pit?
That’s what I want for people who are suffering around me. I don’t want to be a distant voice of encouragement. I want to climb into the pit and walk out with them.
I want to take Paul seriously when He exhorts us to mourn with those who are mourning.
Am I going to tell them it gets better? Of course. But not as an outsider, but as someone who has chosen to come alongside them – no matter how messy it might look.
If you know someone who is going through a really hard time don’t just tell them how great the light is at the end of the tunnel. Go deep into that tunnel and bring some of that light with you. Don’t go in with an agenda other than loving them, right where they are.
Trust me, they want out the tunnel more than anyone… But they might need to cry for a while. They might not move at the pace you want them to. They might be barely able to stand never mind walk or run towards the light.
Are you ok to stand with them till they are ready?
Because you might just save their life!
I know that’s what saved mine.
(Oh and if you are going through a hard time I just posted a 45 minute interview with my friend Dan talking about how I processed through my divorce and got through the other side – you can check it out here)