Like Ash

Depression makes everything pass through me. Or at least, everything that could give me even the remotest form of pleasure or comfort. Like I’m full of holes.

I’m a colander. Shaped like a bowl, but unable to hold water like everyone else. I can keep filling it and filling it but it’s never enough. It doesn’t make a difference. And in fact, because I keep trying and I have the water there for a few heartbreaking moments before it’s gone, drained away as if it had never existed, it makes the following emptiness that much worse.

The only thing that’s left in the bottom of the collander is the pain. The bitter dregs. The darker thoughts. The dead weights attached to my ankles that make dragging myself out of bed feel as if I’ve crawled on my hands and knees across a bed of nails just to make it to the other side of my room.

I’m a walking wound. An exposed nerve. A rotting tooth.

If you haven’t seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, then I’ll give you a brief insight into a scene that has haunted me for nearly two decades since I first saw the film, namely because it is such a visceral analogy for depression. (If you have seen it, bear with me, dear friend, as I explain a bit of the plot!) The villains (of the supernatural kind) in the film are a crew of cursed pirates. The vast majority of the time, they look normal to everyone else. No one would know they were cursed should they see them; only the moonlight in the dead of night reveals their true state. In the scene, the cursed pirate captain reveals the torment of his existence. He hungers and thirsts, but can never be satisfied because anything he drinks passes straight through his (true) skeletal form, and anything he eats turns to ash in his mouth. He can’t even feel anything, not wind or the spray of the sea. He is numb.

He is, to put it simply, alive but not living. Which is exactly what depression feels like.

You look alive. Your body is alive. You hunger. You thirst. But nothing satisfies because nothing has taste. Your physical senses remain, but you are internally numb to them. Every pleasure turns to ash, every hope escapes like water through holes, until all desire for anything good, and even the remembrance of what it was once like to desire anything good, fades and slips away like a shadow swallowed by shadows.

I am speaking of the deep, though. The pit. The Black Dog, as Winston Churchill called it (who was bipolar, by the way). The “dark night of the soul,” to quote St. John of the Cross. Depression, like any other sickness, presents itself in “good” days and “bad” days. It varies, waxes and wanes, peaks and falls. Praise God all of my depression (which lasts about 320 days per year) is not as horrific as I’ve just described. Though it is close to that on a regular basis lately as I’ve struggled to find healing for my brain following what happened last Spring Break.

As I’ve spoken of in my previous post concerning the ways in which I’ve coped my whole life, the only true source of relief I’ve found, is Jesus Christ, primarily through the Word of God.

Over the years, the Lord has given me what I call my “anchor” verses. I will be vulnerable and say the Lord has used them to literally save my life.

I’ll list them below for any of you, dear friends, who also struggle with the pain as I do, or who perhaps know someone who does. I hope they bless you as they’ve blessed me. You’re not alone! You matter to God, and He wrote these words to you. Yes, to others, but also to you, to you personally, you specifically, with you in mind… Blessings, friend.

(In regards to those sleepless nights–like this one is for me (it’s now 2:52 AM)–and the tears…so many tears.)

You have kept count of my tossing; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

Psalm 56:8

(Jesus understands my pain!)

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.

Isaiah 53:3-4a

(Again! Jesus understands me. I am not alone. And He is with me unto the end of the age!)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:15-16

(This is one of my oldest tattoos…)

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Revelation 21:4

(God Himself weeps for us and prays for us constantly…what mysterious, beautiful love!)

…the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

Romans 8:26b

(This gives me comfort knowing that what I’m suffering is truly horrific and God isn’t up there on His throne telling me to get over it, that it’s all in my head, that I’m overreacting. He understands.)

A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Proverbs 18:14

(In regards to struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm or addictive behavior/unhealthy coping/self-medicating.)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

27 thoughts on “Like Ash

  1. It’s so hard to read the first part of this post, but I needed to. There’s no hope unless there’s first the temptation to despair. Thank you so much for sharing your heart and story, it has helped me to understand the cross of depression and anxiety and therefore weep for those who bear it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You have no idea how much you’ve just encouraged me, friend! Last night was dark. I finally silenced the false guilt from the enemy of once again feeling like a burden, and woke my husband up (even though he’s a pastor and had to be by 7 this morning) so he could pray for me and hold me. Thank God for him. I feel I was writing it more to preach to myself than anything else—and to glorify God. Worship is another mighty weapon against the dark nights. He’s the only reason I’m still here and He is worthy of all the praise…
      Thank you again, and I pray the Lord uses you mightily in the lives of those around you who struggle with depression and anxiety. 💙
      PS
      I love the name of your profile! That is one of my tattoos—The aim of our charge is love! 😍🥰

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Matthew–after reading your blog now and then whenever I get on here long enough to read or write anything (I need to get more consistent on this thing), I can say I like your style too, and can see you have a talent for writing, so your encouragement means a lot. I want to check out some of your poetry. I did get a chance to read the short story you wrote, “The Rise and Fall of…” I can’t remember their names right now, but I liked the arc of their characters, how different they were, and it struck me as realistic. Sad but also hopeful.
      I’m sorry you suffer from mental illness as well… It’s a cruel disease. Is writing as cathartic for you as it is for me?
      Praying the Lord blesses you, especially as you begin a new chapter in your life with school.
      ~Mandy

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks a bunch, I appreciate that. That’s why I’m working towards honing my craft as an English Major right now. As far as my anxiety goes, I don’t care for the term “mental illness” or a “disease” because that implies someone is sick, when most anxieties are just caused by bad thinking habits and I believe they can be changed. Spirals of anxiety don’t happen in me on a daily basis only when triggered by something which had caused me anxiety in the past. I think most people get anxiety at times from different things, I’m just not afraid to talk about it. 😋

        Writing definitely helps me to relieve my inner thoughts and turmoil though. Thanks Many. Take care.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I admire your view on not using the terms “mental illness” and “disease,” and I do agree that most anxiety and depression is a mental issue in that it is indeed tied to thought life and previous mental scars and traumatic events (no matter how small sometimes).
        Mine is chemical, however. 😦 I wasn’t always like this… I was still bipolar, just not to this extreme. So while I do use “mental illness,” I actually think of it as a physical illness since it involves my physical brain. Campbell taking his chemo pill everyday is no different from me taking my meds. We even joked around about getting matching old people pill boxes. Except as a twin I swore to never match anyone again. 😉
        I applaud you for talking about your anxieties! I think more of us should. It could make a huge difference in eliminating the cultural shaming (or romanticizing, which is almost as bad) concerning things like depression and anxiety.
        Happy writing!
        ~Mandy

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Thanks Mandy. I appreciate your feedback and your perspective on life. Yeah, it would be nice to try to address the stigma more in our societies! Simple things like therapy can make a world of difference to the average person’s life and it’s underutilized for sure.

        I just hope you’re happy and living your best life 🙂 Take care. Happy writing.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Hugs to you too, Purple Rose! I love your blog so much. I’m sorry I’ve been so dicey on here; I am still planning to write a response to your kind blogging award, and am excited to read your new batch of stories. You have led an interesting life, dear friend, and the hand of God upon it blesses me every time I read about it. And thank you for the encouragement. It hurts every time I read about or meet someone who also struggles with depression, but I am grateful you too have Jesus. I would’ve been dead a long time ago if it weren’t for Him.
      Blessings, sweet friend,
      ~Mandy

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have learned that when depression tries to hit me, I have to start being positive right away. What helps me is Christian music, scripture, devotions, sunlight, outdoors, speaking positive things in prayer. I will be praying for you, too my friend!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Stu! You’re the best. Thank you so much for picking this post. It means a lot! And my heart goes out to you with depression. I am inspired by your fight for Jesus and a life of holiness despite the despair. I feel we all fight an uphill battle in this world as believers, but those with mental illness fight it with weights attached to our legs and a cloud of torment around our minds. Stand firm! To Him who is able to do more than we can ever imagine; to Him who is our All in all…
      Blessings, friend!
      ~Mandy

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the encouragement. I feel like writing about myself like this is tantamount to taking a selfie and posting it…but the picture was taken the moment I just got out of bed. My hair is a mess, I have bags under my eyes, that nighttime pallor still clings to my cheeks, and there’s that line on my face from my pillowcase that won’t seem to go away, even when I smooth out my pillowcase every night. But I believe it’s what God’s called me to do, so it’s what I do. 🙂 Lord, help me!
      I had a moment to check out your blog today and hope to take a look further in later. I look forward to reading what God has placed on your heart, friend. I will admit my presence on here is dicey because of my depression. I’ve been in a pit this month. But I believe I’m coming out of it, praise God. But the new, fresh air is cold and sharp and I’m just now peeking out from the hole. I’ll reemerge soon, just little by little. Blessings upon you with your blog and all you do!
      ~Mandy

      Liked by 2 people

  2. My parents both had dementia when they passed away. My mother was also depressed and just wanted to “hurry up and die.” I’ve been following the Dale Bredesen Protocol for several years hoping to preserve my mind and memory for the rest of my life. In following Bredesen’s advice, my depression lifted. Part of Bredesen’s protocol involves mild ketosis (because the aging brain often loses its ability to use glucose for energy but keeps its ability to use ketones for energy (ATP)).

    I lost too much weight on a strict ketogenic lifestyle, so now I follow a “circadian eating” lifestyle (which Bredesen recommends now. I don’t consider it a diet.). Each 24-hour period, I fast for 13 to 18 hours. When I reach my eating time-window, I save the carbohydrates for last because they turn to glucose more rapidly than proteins, (fats don’t turn to carbohydrates at all). And a glucose spike is like a mild toxin to my brain now, though my muscles seem to need a small and regular amount of glucose (from carbs) to avoid atrophy.

    The interesting thing is that each day when I eat my carbohydrates, within less than an hour I have symptoms of mild depression for the first time that day. The symptoms include things like mild ruminating on the worst events of my life, feeling that whatever I’m trying to accomplish is actually beyond my capabilities, loss of humor and easy smiles, loss of desire to do anything fun, and some loss of the ability to enjoy things that were fun earlier in the day when my brain was using ketones instead of glucose for fuel.

    For me, this phenomenon is reproducible from day to day like clockwork and has a dose-response curve in which the more carbs I eat and the more refined they are, the worse I feel. Not that I ever feel clinically depressed anymore. I’m free from that now, thank God. (Refined carbs deliver glucose in a quick bolus causing a sharp insulin spike which drives the glucose into the neurons and oligodendrocytes, causing problems for most, if not all people.)

    One size never fits all in diverse biologic systems and groups, and depression is not a single entity with a single cause (any more than Alzheimer’s disease is one disease with one cause – amyloid – a sadly mistaken theory), but I suspect that many depressed individuals would benefit tremendously as I have from limiting their carbs and experiencing ketosis for themselves (rather than googling the debunkers and letting them do their usual one-size-fits-all criticizing).

    If you try this, let me know how it goes.

    Talmage
    storiform.com

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for this wealth of information! Especially the science about the brain and how the body processes food and the chemical reactions. Fascinating!
      I am so sorry for the loss of your parents, and especially for this horrific disease that has touched your life. But you are proactively fighting against it, and I admire your grit and resolve and drive toward health!
      Trying a ketogenic diet would be problematic for me. 😦 I eat high protein and low carbs already, mostly because I have celiac, so I can’t have anything with gluten in it. It’s not only things with flour, but I can’t even have anything that has touched gluten–like french fries when eating out because they use the same oil to fry breaded things in it, and that contaminates the oil. It’s pretty crazy how intense the disease is. It’s an autoimmune disorder, not an allergy. Complicating things further, gluten is used as a bonding agent, so it’s in all kinds of products one might never think of. Like lipstick. Oatmeal. Ice Cream. Granola. Rice puffs. Etc. I’m also lactose intolerant. Yikes! All that to say, my diet is already pretty restrictive and I think I might despair if I had to give up even more!
      For my mental health, I have tried radical diets (like keto) before, and I trained for and ran a half marathon, etc., but nothing helped the depression/anxiety. In fact, the more healthy I ate and the more I exercised, the worse my mental illness became. I have a tentative theory as to why. I used food and things like reading, etc. my entire life to cope with my bipolar disorder, and since I was eating better and spending quite a bit of time training, I wasn’t able to use those coping mechanisms anymore, which only served to peel off the bandaids and reveal how bad the wound actually was. That was when I began to see a psychiatrist in 2016 and was finally diagnosed correctly.
      Bipolar disorder is a whole other animal than major depressive disorder or anxiety. Some key differences are–they know that while trauma can inflame bipolar disorder, the effects of the disease can have no trigger whatsoever. The depression and mania simply appear for no “reason.” They also know it’s hereditary, but have not found a gene yet. They have also discovered there’s a link between bipolar disorder and epilepsy within the last ten years. Both of my medications were developed for epilepsy, but they discovered it helped to regulate mood disorders in bipolar patients. Amazing! This is wonderful because now they know where the problem is located in the brain. All that to say, I have just begun a regimen on CBD oil in hopes that I can replace one of my medications with it. I’d much prefer to use natural methods and am grateful God gave us all of the incredible healing agents in the hemp plant. (My CBD is from hemp.) I’m sure I will write a post about my struggles with meds and all of that at a later time.
      I am so relieved you have found a method to help with the depression. Even the smallest level of that internal pain feels like a giant, because that’s what depression does. It warps everything. It’s like living in a carnival funhouse where everything is distorted by deformed mirrors.
      Blessings, friend, and I pray your treatment continues to work and guards your brain!
      ~Mandy

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, Mandy. I hope the CBD oil works wonders for you. Since several versions of the ketogenic diet have been useful in controlling epilepsy, and you’re saying that bipolar disorder seems to have a similar pathophysiology, you might give MCT oil or “C8” oil a try. The eight-carbon triglyceride is converted fairly directly into ketones without dieting. I use the stuff often because it gives my brain something besides glucose to burn. Also, you might look into the possibility of taking prebiotics and probiotics. Functional medicine practitioners offer tests to identify the specific bacteria comprising the colonic microbiome. The science is in its infancy, but some docs like the neurologist, Perlmutter, are raving about the importance of a diverse gut bacterial population to a vast number of disorders, including autoimmune conditions like sprue and a few disorders of the central nervous system. The difference between the mainstream doctors and the functional medicine practitioners is huge these days. As a (retired) pathologist, I see much insight and value on both sides of the divide.
        Blessings right back at you, Mandy. Hang tough. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow, more wonderful information! Thank you so much for the share. I find the budding science behind gut microbes fascinating as well. The first time I ever heard about such a thing was in May 2015 when Campbell was hospitalized with a severe intestinal infection (it ended up being campylobacter). They talked about doing a fecal matter transplant to repopulate his gut with properly balanced bacteria after the 15 or more antibiotics they had him on for five days until they finally were able to discover what bacterial infection he had. It was a scary time, but it’s also how they found out about his cancer, due to his terrifyingly high white blood cell count. So we’re so grateful he got sick like that! Leukemia often has no symptoms until it’s too late.

        I will have to give the MCT oil a shot, especially as a natural alternative. I have nothing against medication, it’s simply a preference.

        Thank you again for all the great information! Blessings!

        Liked by 1 person

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