I can’t tell you how often this scene plays out in my head when I share with someone that I battle depression.
“You don’t look like you battle depression”
“Its this darn sense of humor! I can’t show the ‘appropriate’ emotions for a depressed person.”
It seems to make sense that a depressed person would appear sad or downtrodden. So, how is it that I have this battle with depression in conjunction with a gift of joy? It confuses people. Heck, it confuses me!
I spent a lot of my earlier years of this journey trying to manipulate my emotions to align with my self imposed expectations. I fought back laughter or smiling for fear of people disbelieving my struggle, or thinking that I was inauthentic. Ironically, for all my concerns, I was living a big fat lie.
I wrestle with depression. Sometimes, the days get so dark I forget what light even feels like. This is true of me, but what is also true of me is that God has placed in my heart an unexplainable joy. It's something I feel weird even talking about, since it almost sounds like the thing I’m supposed to say because I’m a Christian.
Maybe it IS the thing I should say, but its also true. It doesn’t make any more sense to me than the people I share it with, but here is the little bit I do know:
It's NOT a joy that removes the sorrow. What I mean by that is, when you see the joy in me, it doesn’t mean I’m not in a dark place.
It's NOT a fake joy. Even though the darkness may be overwhelming, if you are seeing joy in me, than we are both experiencing this crazy culmination of joy and sorrow both present at the same moment. Weird? I know.
It's NOT something I can conjure up. I have many dark moments full of joy, and I still have dark moments that joy seems nowhere to be found. I don’t get to control that most times. (there are times I make poor decisions that feed my depression and starve my joy) Most times, I can be doing the same things as always, but this time the laughter is replaced with tears. These are the moments I choose to own my feelings (depression sucks, and I hate this!!) but then claim the truth. (“Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning” / "His mercies are NEW every morning” / "It's ok to NOT be ok.”)
Bottom line: time has taught me there is no “appropriate” response to my depression. It's ok to embrace the joy within the sorrow, even if it confuses people who know you battle depression, and its ok to not be ok even if that confuses people who know you as a joyful person.