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A Struggle to Find Peace
I wish I could tell you that dealing with depression can be solved with a pill, or a little more sleep. It would be easier to say that having great friends and family that love and care for me fixes the problem, but depression does not work that way. In fact, depression is different in each person. Sometimes it is mental illness. Sometimes a person’s depression traces to their past. Maybe it’s a lack of direction in life. What causes depression is different for everyone, and a person may not even know how or why his began. However, it is easy for me to trace my own depression.
An Abandoned Child
I was only a year old when my biological father abandoned his family. My mother was left with two infant children and a questionable future. I grew up wondering why this man left us. I thought maybe I did something wrong, and I eventually grew to think I simply wasn’t good enough for a father. Even as other men tried to step in, the pain that his abandonment left behind damaged my soul. I carried around with me the feeling that I was never going to be good enough for anything. Sometimes I still struggle with that feeling. And when I struggle with those feelings of self-worth, that’s when I tend to find myself curled up in a ball on the couch or in bed not talking to anyone.
Years later, my father and I tried to build a relationship. He had remarried and started a family with his new wife. However, when he abandoned that family too, our relationship ended. At that point I realized it was never about my failures. My father was the failure, not me. Still, the damage was done, and I continue to struggle with issues of self-worth.
When I was four years old, a teenage boy that my mom and stepfather hired to babysit me sexually abused me. It was traumatic enough that I can only remember flashes of it, but I’ve struggled with those flashes ever since. Growing up, I felt dirty that someone touched me in such a way, and I felt violated. I grew to hate myself, and it took me until the age of 30 to finally start dealing with it.
Marriage and Divorce
When I got married in 1999, depression was not yet an issue. My wife and I spent the first three years of our marriage traveling Europe while I was stationed in Italy, and we got along well. She was my best friend, and even when we disagreed, we communicated well and worked through our problems. However, the longer we stayed overseas, the more I started to have days where I felt hopeless and lost. I started to feel sad or down with no warning at all. I didn’t understand where the feelings were coming from, but I soon began coping with these feelings by immersing myself in hobbies to keep me busy. Soon, I was busy spending a lot my free time playing video games and collecting comic books, movies, and books. I buried myself in anything that would divert my attention from the discomfort I was feeling.
In late 2003, I got stationed in Washington, D.C., while my wife took up a part-time job and started school at the University of Maryland. Because we were both so busy, we struggled to find time together and soon started to grow apart. I missed her all the time and often felt abandoned by her, but I failed to communicate this with her. Instead, I pushed her away and busied myself even more with my hobbies. The problem was exacerbated by my finding newer and more destructive hobbies, namely pornography. The more involved I became with porn, the more depressed I got and the more my wife and I grew apart. Eventually, she found out about the pornography, but even though I repented and sought counseling, the damage was done.
I was discharged from the Navy in July 2006 and we moved back to our home state of Ohio. We were both surprised to find that I couldn’t secure a job in the months leading up to and after my discharge from service. Again, I turned back to my hobbies instead of communicating the discouragement and devastation I was feeling with my wife. When I wasn’t applying for jobs, I was on the computer playing World of Warcraft and gaining serious amounts of weight. I woke up every day feeling like there was no purpose for me to live. My self-esteem continued to disintegrate with every rejection letter I received and every phone call saying that they had hired someone else. I was disgusted by my inability to be the breadwinner of our home, and nothing I did worked to pull me out of my funk. Ashamed of who I was and where my life was going, I pushed my wife further away from me, and eventually she left me.
The Battle Rages
As depression continued to grip me, I found hope from a long-forgotten source: God. Four months prior to my wife leaving me, we visited a church in Pickerington, Ohio, and the pastor’s words caught my attention. I used to go to church all the time as a child, but I disregarded God and tried to do things my own way as I got older. After hearing this pastor speak, though, I was reminded of just how desperately I needed a Savior, and I started attending church.
When my wife left me four months later, I was active in the church and I was starting to come out of my depression. I quit playing online games and started working towards a future. I found direction again. The moments when despair crept in became fewer and farther between. But when my wife left, her departure devastated me. It threw me back into a world of darkness and I was left immobile. I fell so far back into depression that I couldn’t sleep without weeping or get myself to cook a meal. I lost 35 pounds in a month. Though I’d found a job, I was nearly incapable of performing it. A friend that I had made at work later told me that I looked like death whenever I was on the job.
However, something had changed in me. Though I loathed myself and everything about me, God was there, and for once I fought back. I sought counseling and finally allowed people close to me to see the pain that I had held onto for years. I chose to fight for my marriage, and though I was ultimately unable to save it, I was able to move on and forgive myself for my failures. Depression’s grip on me loosened with every prayer and every tear. Through faith in Christ, depression no longer bound me.
Since those dark days, I have remarried and moved to Cincinnati. I am a different man now. I still battle depression daily, but the difference is that I continue to seek counseling and I communicate with those close to me, including my new wife. I still have to deal with the abuse and abandonment that I went through, but I face it now instead of hiding from it. Those who are close to me do what they can to offer support, and I know that I can lean on them when the darkness closes in and threatens to consume me. Depression sucked the life out of me for years. It stole my joy and peace; it played a huge role in my divorce and held me captive in a prison where my agony could not be consoled. Now there is hope for a future, and I have God and the people He has brought into my life to thank for that. I know that depression looks different for everyone who struggles with it, but there can be freedom. I am living proof of that.