Depression and Spiritual Rebirth

Close-up of Easter Lily flowers
Close-up of Easter Lily flowers

A friend expressed skepticism this Easter season about the literal resurrection of Christ. I am not interested in arguing one way or another, but this year, Easter had a special meaning for me because I have never before felt the promise of the resurrection so strongly as I have recently, after recovering from a five year-long depression. It feels to me as if I was dead for five years and then, at last, came alive again. Oh, I know I wasn't actually dead. I know that I was animate and that I walked around and fooled people into thinking that I was still alive, that I was me. But I wasn't, not really.

Depression made a profound difference to my sense of self, to my spiritual being, to my ability to progress and grow as a person. And so I mean it without exaggeration when I say that it feels as if I lost five years of my life and am only now beginning to return to the land of the living. I feel less like I learned something profound during those years and more like I simply missed out on everything that living people do. I was just barely hanging on by the skin of my teeth, to the habits of being alive: eating food, sleeping, running errands and talking to other people.

I remember in the midst of my depression, I told my therapist that it didn't feel like other people were the same anymore. Of course, what this really meant was that "I" was the one who wasn't the same anymore. All the human interactions that I had once taken for granted as normal now seemed strained to me. I struggled not to weep or shout in anger at the tiniest things. I hated everyone, sometimes violently, and for no real reason, except that I hated myself, too. The whole world just seemed like a terrible place to be in. Life itself felt like a cruel joke. Nothing made sense, and people telling me that others had to deal with worse things than I did only made me feel more keenly my hatred of everything and everyone living.

It feels as if I lost five years of my life and am only now beginning to return to the land of the living.

When I look back at the person I was during that time, I feel a strange sense of distance. I remember the thoughts that moved through my head at that time, but they don't feel like "my" thoughts. Even at the time, I remember feeling angry that I was so changed from who I had been before. I wanted desperately to go back to that happy, well-adjusted person who had purpose in life, who didn't question everything that brought meaning to the world. I wanted to be normal again, to stop hating everyone all the time, to let my energy go to other things, like happiness or simple tasks that I'd once found so soothing. But it all seemed impossible.

Maybe I didn't ever really make it back to who I was before, but I made it back to someone who feels more like that person than during any of the time that I was depressed. I feel happy again, and not just happy in the moment, but genuinely happy without that fragile sense that it could be taken away from me at any moment. I feel connected to people again. I can cry over people's losses without feeling like the world has ended, and while I may still have a strange sense of humor, I do have one again.

I suppose the weird thing in all of this is that I don't necessarily think that I know what the point of life is now. I don't imagine that my children and I are safe in the ways I used to blithely assume. And yet, it isn't always part of my mind. I'm not constantly tortured by images of my children being hit by cars as they cross the street on the way to school, or being kidnapped in the house while I'm asleep, or any of a number of other scenarios which used to interrupt my sleep or keep me from sleeping entirely.

I wanted to be normal again, to stop hating everyone all the time, to let my energy go to other things that I'd once found so soothing. But it all seemed impossible.

Now I am so grateful to be myself again, to be a little bit blind to the pain of everyday life all around me. I am blissful in my capacity to find peace in the moment, to let go of my desire to control everything, to be responsible for everything. Most of all, I can say that I am at last glad to be alive again. Even on what passed for my "good" days during my depression, when I wasn't fantasizing about how to die, I wished I could simply snap my fingers and be dead. I didn't want to go to heaven, mind you. That would be further torture. I wanted to be gone, never conscious of anything again, not myself or anyone else. I wanted to be at the end of all feeling.

And now, through the grace of Christ, I am resurrected into the life that was interrupted. There are times when I still wish I hadn't gone through what I had. There are times when I am still angry and sad, but those emotions are measured--normal, even. Not exaggerated to the point of exquisite tenderness. I have moments when I weep again, but it doesn't feel any more like it will go on forever, like there will be no surcease. It is the closest thing to heaven that I can imagine, this rebirth I've been through. And it is very sweet.


Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.