This post is heavy at first… but give it a chance. Read to the end.
I’ve been spiraling down into this depression for weeks. It’s been a slow fade. I fought it for a long time because I haven’t visited here in years, and quite frankly I was shocked to find myself in the old neighborhood. Those who don’t suffer from depression have a tough time understanding it. Others have described it as a stubborn darkness. In my mind, depression is very much like an old, rickety house of an aging, dysfunctional aunt. The one who made your skin crawl as a kid. The house is unkept and dilapidated, dark and ominous.
In the past, as depression would set in I would be transported to the warped front steps there, a stale breeze might cause the rusty porch swing to squeak painfully, as if it, too, was bound by sadness. And when I walked down the dank, still hallway with my bags I saw that old aunt just sitting in her faded housecoat in front of the old-fashioned television with a flat beer and a cigarette watching her soap operas.
The room wreaks of old pain and lethargy.
She notices me in the doorway and turns, glassy-eyed, in my direction. With a listless smirk she says, “Oh, you’re back.” And with that I begin the monotonous shuffling through the old house. The house of many, many rooms.
Early on I didn’t know which ones to avoid. I spent a lot of time in the Basement and discovered the Torture Chamber down there where I just relived the pain of childhood trauma in the forms of physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse. Memories of being a 6-year-old and waking up to my mother being beaten or the guy who molested me for years having his way with me again often greeted me in the doorway of that place.
There were worse torments waiting for me inside, though.
That was a very foul, demonic, bloody room. It held every crime scene of my heart. For a long time I went to that room first out of ignorance and a false belief that I was born for punishment. That my purpose was to be tortured because I was so damaged. I didn’t know I had a choice not to go down there or, better yet, to gut the place.
Other rooms were called Anger, Hatred, Self-Loathing, Lethargy, Sadness and Unforgiveness. Spent a lot of time in those.
I think the one I lived in most was Despair. Yes, after staying in the other rooms I usually unpacked my bags in Despair.
That was an empty, dirty bedroom with no clocks and boarded up windows. Old wallpaper, browned and peeling from the ceiling. A dresser to the left that just held a lamp with a bare bulb and a cracked mirror over it. The light casted shadows where the demons exhaled on me a heavy smoke of tight words feathered in despondency… morose whispered sorrows. The floors were dusty and the mattress was damp. At night when I would try to sleep in that room I could hear the rats of distress and anxiety crawling behind the walls and on the floor. In the faint distance from below sounds of screaming and crying floated up as my small former child-self, little DJ, was tortured over and over again in the basement.
Yes, I spent a lot of time in that room.
BUT NOT ANY MORE.
Over the years I have learned a thing or two about this old house. First of all, I have a lot of power over whether or not I visit. I have learned the roads that lead me here, and for the most part how to avoid them. Some of the roads were clearly foreboding and were easy to spot, such as ‘Don’t-Look-Up-Your-Abuser-On-The-Internet-While-You’re-Drunk Avenue.’ Others were less obvious. For instance, it took me years to stop speeding down ‘Working-Yourself-Into-The-Ground-With-No-Self-Care Boulevard.’
Sure, I’m back at the house right now. Yeah, I missed some important signs along the way.
But I haven’t been here in years.
I mean, I used to be depressed REGULARLY. I used to live with a low-grade depression that was always waiting to pounce on me when I was alone. It’s been a long time since that darkness has been a part of my life.
And I choose to celebrate that. It isn’t all bad.
Plus, I’ve done some renovations to this old house on Despondency Lane. Gutted it, first of all, down to the foundation. Down to the posts. Ripped it all out. Laid a new foundation in Christ and rebuilt from scratch. Kicked the aunt out to live down the street and gave others a key and directions so when I get here they have permission to come on over, find me inside and help me out. One day maybe I’ll be able to burn the damned thing down, but until then, it is no longer an old place of pain and it is no longer an abyss.
It is a place of revelatory warning with a firm foundation.
An important stopping point on a longer street I never want to walk down again. As dark as this house was there are darker residences in this neighborhood. Namely the House of Addiction and the last stop, Suicide Manor. I’ve lived at Addiction House before. Just imagine the torture chamber as an entire house but I’m drunk & disoriented and throwing up on myself underneath the blows.
Yeah… not fun. So not fun. There has never been another place on earth that lacked more fun than Addiction House.
And I’ve stood on the front stoop of Suicide Manor from time to time. It’s a welcoming place. Gentle atmosphere. Seductive. An enormous white banner with 3 words in large black letters is hung on the front of the house,
“PAIN ENDS HERE.”
I have lingered out front and longed to go in and stay awhile. Maybe forever… The darkest times of my life I actually went inside and looked into renting a room. Held the paperwork in my hands, fingered the smooth, cool pages. The idea of reprieve washing over me like a spinal tap… the promise of numbness so alluring.
But somehow I could never find a pen.
As a result of all this, Depression House is a very useful little piece of real estate in my life. It can keep me from taking a stroll around the neighborhood. When I find myself here it means I’ve got some work to do inside. Something isn’t right and that suffocating, drowning feeling is a welcomed red flag that helps me slow my heart down and take some inventory. Christ is telling me there are things He still needs to do in me. I know healing will last my entire life, and thankfully it usually happens in a place of strength and prayer in the flow of regular life. It also normally occurs right at my own home which is a mansion of safety and grace, by the way, very far away from this neck of the woods. But sometimes, rarely, when deeper things need to be uncovered I find myself here on the stoop.
Bags in hand.
On a renovated porch.
With Jesus, the God of Unshakeable Joy, happily waiting for me inside.
And my loving support on the way.
Oh, and that torture chamber? RIPPED OUT. GUTTED. Burned in holy fire. Walls knocked down and replaced with huge windows to get some fresh air and light into the place. Invited my loved ones to a Painting Party to repaint it and Jesus chose the color and brought the pizza. I even added a chandelier. All those demons? Strangled out by His Resurrection Power, Grace & the hard work of healing. Oh yes, they try to come around, but I’m happy to hold The Sword to their throat and say,
“I belong to Jesus now. You cannot torture me any more. The damaged child is safe now at the Cross. And I rebuke you. You are a defeated foe. Now do the only thing you can do. RUN AWAY.”
I’ve packed all the horrific memories up into neat little locked metal filing cabinets and only a couple of people have the keys. The memories still hurt when I bring them out (and I have to bring them out sometimes because they are not buried, just put in their proper place), but I never open the drawers alone. Jesus and a trusted friend is always with me to make sure I don’t get ambushed down there. And as I bring out the most painful memories Christ Himself drains them of their oppressive power. He makes them small.
And some He even makes beautiful.
See, depression isn’t all bad.
Stay Strong, DJ