I moved to San Francisco in my early twenties because I was depressed and struggling at college in Long Beach. I remember thinking that moving to such an aesthetically beautiful place had to be good for depression. And I loved all the beauty there. I took long walks and enjoyed the architecture and flower stands and parks and the beach and museums and opera and all the beautiful things. But not really. I don't know how to explain it, but I could tell it was beautiful and I appreciated it, but I didn't really enjoy it. It was like eating sand that looked like wedding cake.
I wrote about that when I wrote about depression and suicidal ideation. It was a truly sad and scary time because I lost my assurance of God's existence. I wondered if this was just going to be my experience for the rest of my life, and I had scary thoughts like, “I don't think I can handle feeling this way for decades, let alone years.”
Eventually, I came out of it, when I married and moved to a different state, and just experienced a much happier life. I remember really experiencing day-to-day things as beautiful, not as tasting like sand. I kept that appreciation for years. Experiencing things as beautiful has always been a vital part of daily worship to me.
Apparently, my ability to sink deeply into the experience of beauty was again lost at some point in the last decade, I'm not sure exactly when, and I'm starting to get it back now. I've been pretty depressed for a long time, and I'm coming out of it.
Today I was sitting in my room waiting for my phone to connect to the charger and I reached out and propped the bedroom door open. For some reason, that physical movement caused a moment of mindfulness and memory of that time when Bradley and I were first married and even simple things like our little apartment produced so much in-the-moment joy and thankfulness. I touched the door and really looked at it, and then looked through the bedroom doorway at the flowers on the table, and the curtains and the sun coming in the windows, and my table and chairs that I love so much and they are beautiful pieces of furniture. And I realized I was having a much deeper experience of their beauty than I have had in a really long time, years even. There are things in that part of the house that were put there recently by people who love me and are concerned about my mental/emotional state (and who can blame them) like the birthday banner we kept up after the surprise party... and for the first time I deeply appreciated the beauty of them.
It made me realize I've been in a very bad state for a very long time. I'm sad I didn't realize it until now, when I'm coming out of it, but that is probably a protection. I did see my depression in my twenties and almost lost to it. This time, I didn't realize the world was in black and white until recently. Maybe it is because I was raising little ones and shepherding young people into the world. Parents sacrifice a lot for their children. (This is nowhere more poignantly epitomized than in the movie, Life is Beautiful. Highly recommended, but bring loved ones and tissues.)
I am glad to see colors again, to really rejoice again in the morning, in the sunrise and the birds. I'm starting to sing again. I'm delving deeper into piano. I'm writing again after a long period of nothing.
God has never left me in all this. The greatest thing of all is that this time I knew it. I felt His love and kindness and sense of being right there beside me the entire time. The fact that I never lost the sense of His presence and care is a true blessing. I know it because I've lost that assurance before and it is hell on earth. It's pretty much unavoidable to go through darkness in this life, but to go through it absolutely knowing He is right there with you, the real Him, not some God you hear others speak about, is the greatest gift.
I hope things continue getting brighter, but I don't fear the dark times as long as I can feel Him beside me. This is my hope for everyone who struggles. I think a lot of us are in a crisis of sorrow and anger, even those of us who know the Lord. I don't know how to fix it, but I pray to the One who does.