Treading Water


When peace like a river attendeth my way,

when sorrows like sea billows roll;

whatever my lot,

Thou has taught me to say

It is well, it is well with my soul.

At some point, in my teenage years, I began to feel like sorrows would drown me. The sea threatened to swallow me whole. All was well? My soul was conflicted, my pain ran deep. As beautiful as the hymn is, I wished I could say all was well, but no amount of wishing made the sadness leave. The black cloud just loved me. It hovered.

And so began a life’s journey of treading water; keeping my head up, the best I could. A little medication here, things feel manageable. Things get hard, more meds. The fog is lifting. Oh wait, the littlest thing is again too overwhelming to bear. More medicine. Sometimes this depression made sense. There were losses, goodbyes, a miscarriage. Often, it didn’t. Ordinary days became dark. All looked well to the naked eye but inside I was choking, gasping for air. I was aching for release.

At a certain point, in the last several years, I stopped trying to just get by. I stopped hoping this could be wished away. This sadness, this depression was weaved into the person I was. No amount of coaching or smiles was going to erase it. I am not the only one on my family tree to fight this battle. There are others who can’t make sense of their deep sorrow. I was learning, accepting this is NOT giving up. It’s an opening up. I believe it is saying to the Lord, yes, I know this about me. This is a part of who I am. And the Lord says, “I know. I know you’ve wanted to escape this. But remember, I’ve been in deep with you the whole time.”

I’ve made peace with the medicine. It’s a welcome tool. It’s my glasses that adjust my sight to see things as they really are- no better, no worse. It is a lifejacket in a world where I’ve spend too much time treading water. I feel deeply. I love deeply. I experience my pain and the pain of others around me, deeply. This is a gift! But it also threatens to suffocate me at times. If I was to write an autobiography, I’ve come up with a title: My Life As a Sponge.

What has helped me? The awareness that this is who I am. My move towards wholeness has required some of that honest work. It’s been opening myself up to community. It’s knowing that depression may always be a part of who I am. But, it doesn’t have to control my life. In fact, I believe that this suffering has brought about much good and growth. That is when I’ve been able to be honest with myself and those around me. I am not alone in this. Many other stories connect with mine in this way. Part of my healing has been opening myself up to others on this journey.

I will not lie, I hate depression. There are days where I resent those pills sitting on my bathroom sink. But, it has made me who I am. No amount of depression or darkness can extinguish God’s light of love in my being. But, I often have to peel back those layers (oh so painful) to remember the light that continues to shine bright.

-Lisa Averill Mullen

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