By: Rebekah Leavell
Susan vividly remembered the idealism of her youth, the eagerness of the adult life ahead of her, the tingling of hope as she anticipated achieving her dreams and goals. Now, years later, more than anything, she felt invisible by her peers. If she closed her eyes, she could instantly step back in her mind to when she stood eagerly at that entryway to life, but she now bore the weight of decades of “real life” fraught with rejections, heartaches, disappointments, and betrayals. At some point along the way, the fire that had been in her soul was doused, and her hope for the future disappeared in the final puff of smoke.
This woman, once bright with life, felt like depression was suffocating her heart and mind every day, and she felt so overwhelmed. Susan had been to the doctor multiple times and been told that there was nothing physical causing her anguish, which almost made things worse. Her husband, Frank, had done his best to go above and beyond to be supportive, but for Susan, it still took every bit of will she had to just get out of bed and complete the bare minimum for that day.
In desperation to be seen by someone, anyone, Susan would routinely muster more than she had for social activities, obligations, and interactions with others who knew little or nothing of her battle. At the same time, she was terrified of truly being seen by them because it often meant even more hurt down the road.
Not wanting the children to suffer from her mental and emotional struggles, Susan chose to channel any bit of remaining strength into their care, so that by the end of most days, Frank ended up being thrown the last short straw. Due to the never-ending swirling thoughts, she felt anxious about going to bed each night when she would be left with just her and her depression. She would end up avoiding the bedroom entirely for as long as possible. Frank would usually be long asleep before Susan would drop into bed, exhausted enough to fall asleep quickly.
Through it all, she was grateful to be able to rely heavily on her spouse loving her even through these tough times. She could be honest with him in the way she couldn’t be with anyone else. It was also a tricky balancing act to not fall headlong over into taking Frank’s care for granted and hurting him deeply as he observed her expending energy for others but seemingly not for him day after day. The guilt she felt over her constant failures just kept expanding and intensifying her struggles as she was keenly aware of hurting the one person who loved her most and that she knew she loved despite the struggle to feel. What could she do when she felt so powerless to be the person she used to be or who she wished she could be? How long could Frank’s patience hold out? Was there any hope?
On Frank’s side, he watched hopelessly as his other half acted devoid of all hope and motivation in what seemed to be an endless cycle. How could he continue to pour out his love and support when it so often his love seemed to do so little to help her and there was so little given in return? How could he prevent the widening separation with the person he vowed to be one heart and soul with for the rest of his life? Would this relationship strain continue forever? What about hope for him? Misery loves company, and Frank found himself more and more slipping into the same despair.
Susan knew that the Bible had passages about depression, but she was wary. She had braved opening up about her struggle in a ladies group once, and someone had quoted some verses in her face as though it were a magical incantation that should make the hurt disappear. The verses written to comfort had ended up hammering against the soul like a stinging hailstorm, and she was left unseen and unheard. She wondered about getting counseling but who could she trust to see her without causing more pain? Would someone actually see the real her and still love her? Would she be allowed to share without heaping on another layer of guilt? She believed the Bible and had heard of Biblical counseling, but all she could envision was opening herself up for another sheet of icy hail to rain down rather than having an arm come around her shoulders. She couldn’t endure the pain again, so she remained frozen and unseen.
Is This Your Story?
Though rarely spoken about in public, Susan and Frank’s story is all too common. Susan, desperate to be seen in her sorrow, and Frank, feeling powerless to support his wife. Often, it is the husband that struggles with depression instead of the wife, but rarely does depression affect only one spouse. Where are they to turn?
Over one third of the Psalms relate to difficulties and depression. One of the most powerful is Psalm 56:8. Through one of my own difficult seasons involving many tears, this Psalm especially brought hope. While soaking in the whole passage, it was verse 8 that jumped off the pages for me.
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”
In the midst of my pain, I was stunned at the thought that God would see me and care for me in such a detailed way that He would capture my tears and record the nights I cried into my pillow!
What do I need when I struggle with being seen amid despair? I need the confidence and hope in the core of my being that God sees me – really sees me – and that He cares! Like the Psalmist, I need to take my hurts and pains to the God who sees me and loves me in the midst of my pain! I need to walk with the people of God as they demonstrate and celebrate God’s care along-side me. The counselors at Biblical Counseling of Arizona are trained to speak into the heavy burden of depression, but more importantly, they truly care and are committed to really seeing you where you are and walking that road along with you and your spouse whether individually or together as a couple.
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