Published on July 9th, 2020 | by Nina Pulley
Can’t Hold Us: Sadness, Depression, and Choosing Light
“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” ‒ John 12:46
“On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.” ‒ 1 John 2:8
“He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.” ‒ Job 12:22
“He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, the One who makes the dawn out of darkness and strides on the heights of the earth. Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name.” ‒ Amos 4:13
I was thinking before I started writing that it’s a weird thing the way the Earth rotates. It’s always night somewhere. Like, at some point in time, it is always nighttime. Not in one place, but in a place, from east to west, it’s night. Yet, the sun rises everywhere.
The same can be said of the daytime. It is always daytime somewhere in some place. Do you feel me? I think that’s wild, and that the concept has a spiritual component, too.
With everything that’s been going on recently, we’ve had the opportunity to look at Black mental health under a new eye, with renewed light. The killing of George Floyd, along with all the other victims of police brutality, has shown the world, and us, how arduous it is to be Black in America.
That being said, there are so many things to be proud of, so many beautiful things we continue to give to the world. But it isn’t without cost. Some of our greatest musicians suffered the most profound mental illnesses, and in silence, for the most part. In our shucking and jiving, we eschewed real talks of mental health for the means of production that is our bodies and our labor. That leads to darkness: feeling trapped in one’s skin, in one’s reality, that no one can escape without serious mental revitalization and renewal. But at the same time, we have continuously and consistently, as a community and as individuals, chosen the light when everything in our world seemed to be going dark.
Perhaps no one knows better than us that there is always the availability — the presence — of darkness. But there will come a time where that will no longer be the case, as those who believe know well. The light will consume all darkness and it will shine, forever, for always… (yes, for love!) That will come sooner than any of us know. This is something that keeps me grounded and from going crazy when it seems the world is caving in. In fact, it’s already happening. It’s a slow burn, but just like the rising of the sun and turning of the Earth, the light is increasing, too, and we can all feel it.
Some of us struggle with the darkness, and by some of us I mean me. That is what I call depression. I think, on the other hand, we have sadness, a natural response to painful things that are happening around us. The two are different, and in important ways.
I think we have to realize that at any time there are ways for us to be happy and smile despite what’s going on around us, and that often disables depression in important ways. There might always be a voice telling you it’s too late, there’s no point, and that all is lost. There may be death, heartbreak, disappointment, and whatever else may come your way when you’re trying to live life. That is the point of life: that it is a struggle, it is a battle, and we must never forget that. However, we are not here just to be here, struggle, and then die; rather, our spirits are eternal and there will be times in this life where that becomes abundantly clear, and we can reach towards that and ask God for help, for guidance and forgiveness for our daily sins.
It’s about tapping in. That’s where depression meets its end. Darkness hovers but it cannot survive in the presence of a God who is Himself light, who himself created our being. Depression, to me, is the ever-wafting question: will I make it?
There is something utterly transcendent and inherently difficult to explain in words the nature of what we are talking about ‒ moving out of the darkness and into the light ‒ but I will do my best. It ultimately comes down to will and knowledge. There is nothing more powerful than this.
Imagine you have $100 dollars in your pocket. Can you spend it if you don’t know you have it? It is still $100 dollars ‒ not counterfeit, not ripped, perfectly legal tender ‒ and can be accepted at any store, given to any person, used at any time, anywhere. However, you don’t know you have it in your pocket! So, can you spend it?
The answer is no. The same applies if you don’t want to. Let’s say you have these same $100 dollars, but it’s cash, so you need to get up and go to the store to use it. Let’s say you’ve been lounging in your house for a long time, comfortable, chilling in your room, clothes on the floor, TV on, sun shining through the window. It is not the biggest or best place, but you’ve inhabited it for pretty much all your life and have become averse to going outside or even adventuring to do other things because this is all you know. You’re comfortable and you know you should get out and spend that $100 because it’ll get you a new person who can help you with your stuff and ultimately make your life better. However… you just don’t want to do it. You don’t want it. So… can you spend it?
The answer here is also no. The same is true in life. Sometimes we begin in a state of sadness and, not knowing the power and suggestibility of the human mind, we will ourselves into a place that we might just be able to will ourselves out of, but for lack of knowledge, we perish under a cloud whose conditions we nurtured. How do you escape this?
The first thing you must know ‒ and believe ‒ is that love and light is always there and accessible to you, you just have to turn away from whatever it is that you’re doing, and embrace that which waits for you: freedom, bliss, peacefulness, love, mercy, happiness… everything you ever wanted.
That’s it. It seems like there is so much more, but that is the lie. In the New Testament, the disciples left everything they had and left for the walk towards Jesus. That was it, truly. It reads, in Matthew 4:19-20,
19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
So, regardless of what you’re going through, oftentimes we are the solution but we don’t realize it. I’ll give an example of my own. When dealing with an awful breakup, I felt at fault and ultimately was plunged into a dark time because I did not believe in my own capacity to be happy on my own. I gave my power away — as cliché that sounds — and soon fell into a dark pit of unhappiness, but deeper — it was a kind of morbid refusal to accept what was true and my part in the matter, a refusal to accept the gravity of what I’d done. I blamed myself one dimensionally but did nothing to get myself out of the situation, upset that things weren’t going the way I’d hoped or planned.
Everything is based on what you know about yourself and what you are willing to do about your situation. Some experiences are truly debilitating, but they are only so to the extent that you believe what the world will often sell to you. That experience was unwise first of all because I knew I was entering an environment where I didn’t know anyone. Coming off of a breakup at a critical juncture in my life, I was heartbroken, reckless, and looking for a temporary fix to a permanent, eternal problem. I needed something to repair my soul and my heart. My decisions led to years of believing lies about myself — that I was a heartbreaker, a bad person, unlovable, “damaged goods,” which in itself is such a problematic comparison because it likens women to “goods,” to be used or consumed, which we are not. Anyway, once I stopped believing these things and began to realize that I wanted to change, become a better person, and depend on someone greater than another human being as weak and flawed as myself, I began to see my life change. The center of my love was not another human being, but love itself.
Once you deeply resolve within yourself to embrace life, the problem is over. I know it’s so hard to believe. I know you don’t believe it right now, but it’s true (and if you do… yes. Yes. And more yes!)
In these dark times, it comes down to our knowledge and our will to do what we need to do. The best place to start is just random Bible verses that call out to you. The more you read, just to your own heart’s content, better to start with the Old Testament and move forward, so you get the whole story, you’ll have a clearer idea of the world you’re living in and the people you’re around, and the scheme we’re living inside. Sometimes, the world feels so out of place, disjointed, and like it was prophesied, in darkness. But it’s important to remember that we’re working with a God who is complete light. Even his presence dispels darkness. So in the end, how do you move out of a dark time? A breakup? Heartbreak? Death? Depression? We draw nearer to God.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” ‒ James 4:8