That quote from a blog post critiquing the old adage “God won’t give you more than you can handle” dug itself under my skin when I read it. If you think about it through a Christian lens, it fits rather well with the idea of “picking up your cross.” What defines a “cross”? A burden. A struggle. A condition that cannot be improved or dissolved, but must be coped with. It can look like taking care of a difficult relative, living with chronic illness, or making a hard choice that is the right choice.
For me, that “cross” is living with depression and anxiety. Someone once told me I’m calling Jesus a liar by saying I cannot be healed. Would anyone have the nerve to say that to a cancer patient who can’t be healed? The treatments look different, but for the cancer patient and the person with depression, there is little choice but to manage the symptoms and live optimistically, but also realistically. We often credit the cancer patient for “winning the battle” when the illness goes into remission. Those who learn to manage their depression deserve the same credit.
I have two other “crosses” I’m learning to manage: the loss of my father, which is so indescribably deep that it physically hurts, and the trauma left by abuse from my last boyfriend. But I had depression before that, so I don’t really need to cite those things as evidence for its existence. That’s just to explain why the depression has gotten worse, despite being medicated and going to therapy. All lives are difficult in their own way, but trauma for a person with depression is like kicking a dog that’s always been down.
There are days when just getting out of bed feels physically difficult, and when I do, it’s an accomplishment.
There are days when getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, and leaving my apartment is cause for celebration. I remember texting my husband one day about accepting a colleague’s invitation for coffee. No exaggerating here: it was a pretty big deal for me to say yes, to actually show up and engage. I’d honestly have no problem staying in my apartment with my books and my two cats forever, except I’m told that community is a vital part of being healthy: spiritually and otherwise.
I’ve had to downsize my expectations for healing and celebrate the little accomplishments, but “little things” are no less significant. It’s also necessary to point out that “healing” is not always a lasting condition. You can’t let anyone tell you you’ve lost the race if you get close to the finish line but never actually reach it. Not when you’re running for yourself. The days I am successfully able to be present, with a cup of coffee in my hands and a cat on my lap, bring me closer to that line.
Managing depression and anxiety is not a weak substitute for complete healing. But small acts of self-care lead in that direction, which is the most important thing.