THE GIFT OF DEPRESSION
I am a people watcher.
This morning, I was early for a meeting, so I stood at the foot of the Flatiron building just watching people on their commute. You learn a lot when you stop and take time to watch people.
Some of them seem to be engaged in a race or competition to get across the intersection first. They bump into people like a spaceship trying to rush through an asteroid field.
Others are different. They move in a more deliberate, fluid pattern, seeming to cruise through the crowds like a glider being gently guided by the wind.
I watch people because I see myself in them. It gives me a shared identity. Those, "me too, moments" we all experience from time to time.
Sometimes it's funny, like when I see the guy who runs right into someone, face-first because he's so lost in his phone. I chuckle to myself, "Me too."
Other times, it's developmental, showing me the person I want to be more like. I see someone bound up out of the subway stairs, stop, turn around, go back down the stairs, and come back up again helping a mother with her stroller. "Me too." I think to myself.
We see things in people that help us learn and grow.
It's been reported that one in ten people in the United States struggle with depression.
I have close friends and a few relatives who struggle with depression. It's likely that you know someone in your life who struggles with depression. Maybe you struggle with it yourself.
I've observed something about those close to me who struggle with depression that I rarely see in my friends who don't.
While my friends who struggle with depression often seem to go through life tortured by all that is "dark" in the world, they also seem to possess a keen ability to recognize others who are also going through their own seasons of darkness.
My friends who do not struggle with depression usually never notice these people. It's not that they aren't compassionate or don't care for people who are hurting. They do many kind things for many people, but this particular "gift" just isn't in their wheelhouse.
Charles Spurgeon, the British Theologian and Reformer often spoke of being touched by seasons of "melancholy." When they arrived, he found that relief only came by helping someone else who was going through the very same.
I think for many with depression, they also experience a, "me too" when they see others hurting and it causes them to stop, engage, and reach out to help.
If you are reading this and you know someone who struggles with depression, I would like to challenge you to look at them differently. Could it be that they are uniquely wired to sense human suffering on a level that you are unable to? They may be the "lens" that you are missing to see the fuller spectrum of humanity.
If you are reading this and you struggle with depression, by all means, seek clinical help. Do all that you can by way of therapy and if need be, medicine.
But if I might also challenge you to do one more thing? Remember that what you may think of as a handicap is also a gift. When you know what it's like to be at the bottom, you possess things on deeper levels that so many others can't (and don't) - things like empathy, shared identity, and understanding.
After all, when you've been to the bottom, you can show others the way back to the top.