I live in a small concrete room. It has one narrow window with bars across it. The soundproof glass is dusty and finger-printed but from the outside so there’s nothing I can do to clean it.
Inside the room there is a thermostat on the ceiling. The temperature reads 50 degrees but I can’t reach it to control it. Once in a while the temperature will readjust itself to 67, or 95, and back to 50. I just angrily watch it shift without my permission.
Every once in a while someone enters the room. They seem not to notice I am there. I speak to them but when they finally speak back, its in a different language. I repeat the same sentence over and over to them, getting more and more frustrated at their baffled expression. It makes perfect sense to me. As they conclude that we will never understand one another, they leave the room from where they came. I wish I knew how to unlock the door.
Later, the same person returns but with a train of people following. Each looks at me sympathetically but does nothing to help me and then exits the room as a group. I’m confused about their purpose as I’m left standing in this room alone.
Outside the window there is a stage. Throughout the day people enter the stage. I can see people on the outside watching them happily, clapping occasionally, and then moving on. I wish I could be on that stage.
Without warning, someone will appear and announce to me plainly, in my own language, that they need something from me. My mind becomes clear and I feel a breeze coming through the window that is usually sealed shut. I have a purpose. I ask them what they need, and they lead me out of the room and to the stage. While I’m on that stage I forget where I came from or who led me there. People are watching me. Really seeing me. This is where I belong.
It ends as quickly as it began and I find myself looking out the barred window at someone who looks just like me, only she’s smiling and there are people surrounding her. I think maybe that person is the real me, and the person in this room is only dreaming. I wish she would look at me so I can give her some kind of sign that I need her help.
I watch the smiling girl and take note of her mannerisms, wondering if they’re real or if she came from a room just like mine. I try not to judge and just enjoy watching “myself” be happy. The thought comes to me that maybe one day I can be just like her all the time. If that is the truth, can I handle this small concrete room with the dirty, barred window for a while longer knowing what I have to look forward to?
Yes, I think, I can.
But what happens when the sun goes down and I can’t see the stage, or the girl?
After what seems like an eternity of silence and darkness the door opens, letting in a flood of light, and someone comes in. They look familiar. They’re smiling and greet me warmly. I should be as happy to see them as they are to see me. I bury my face in my hands as they embrace me. When I look up and scan my surroundings, the person is gone, but I’m standing outside. I can hear birds and laughter. I’m not alone, in fact I’m holding the hand of a young child who is gazing up at me. She tells me that she loves me. I take a deep breath.
Even if you know me well, you may still not know that I struggle with depression and anxiety. The anxiety part is a little more obvious. The depression part is much better concealed.
I couldn’t tell you exactly when it started, but what I do know is that until I had children I had many more things to distract me from how I really felt deep down. I was rarely alone; I had great friends and a supportive family, lots of activities and goals that consumed every waking (and non-waking) thought.
For the first year Aaron and I were married, I worked as part-time faculty in the dance department of the college I graduated from, followed by a short stint as a secretary in the hospital ER. Both jobs were somewhat fulfilling, but as I only worked part-time I spent a lot of time home alone while Aaron was at work. I had no roommates, and now that we had moved to a new town I had no friends.
When my daughter was born, I decided not to go back to work. And I have been not working ever since. For 7 years, I have been in my house. Alone. I still have difficulty making friends as close as the ones I had in college. The decision to go back to work is always there, but this is where the anxiety kicks in. Where do I take my kids? What qualifications do I have? Is there actually a job I would enjoy enough to make up for the guilt I feel about not being a stay-at-home mom?
I wrote the above short-story last week — I was having a very bad day — to try to put into words how it feels to be depressed and anxious. It was the over-analyzer in me trying to make sense of my brain. It was therapeutic to write it, but I worried about how people I care about would take it. So I had my sister and my husband read it for me.
I don’t think they got it. At least not Aaron, bless his Mr. Rogers heart. And as I tried to explain myself I felt less and less validated that my feelings were real and uncontrollable.
But it is real. I have spent many years feeling trapped and alone. My prayers (when I have the energy and courage to say them) consist of anything from begging for a miracle to admitting that I give up. I feel forgotten and usually angry when I think that my prayers don’t change anything.
Today I saw this video.
When I got to the part in my story about what would happen when the sun goes down, I felt very hopeless and had no idea what to write from there. Suddenly, as if someone was putting thoughts in my head, I started typing and what came out was that someone who cares about me, who knows me, entered into my lonely room and gave me peace when I least expected it. I didn’t know what to think of that. A part of me thought of Aaron and his support for me even during my most difficult times.
But as I watched this video today, the very strong realization came over me that no matter how lost I feel and that no one is listening or understanding, my Heavenly Father is watching over me and has his hand in my life. But his timing is different from mine and he knows best when to interfere and when to let things play their course. In the mean time, he needs me on his side. Today.
I loved the end of this video: It is part of our condition as Mortals to sometimes feel as though we are surrounded by darkness. But even though we may feel lost, God promises to illuminate the way before us…no matter how long it takes.
Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness, waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the light of Christ.
Twenty years later, I still don’t know everything, but I now know who I am. And I know who God is.
I have a feeling that there will be no Mary Poppins that shows up on my door step to take care of my kids, clean my house, get me my dream job, all the while singing happy songs. But there will be a day when a feeling of peace comes over me. When I feel as if someone is hugging me. When I feel as if I am home.