The second in the series by a young man with depression.
“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” Henri J.M. Nouwen
Have you ever been in a club or at a gig and you have really wanted to communicate something to the person next you but there is just too much noise to even hear yourself think? Such noise can be overwhelming; so dense it is almost as if you were suffocating beneath it; choking on the thick fog of sound that is crashing against your ears. It is relentless and merciless, giving no space to utter even a syllable in any meaningful way.
Well, for a number of months I lived in just such a place. From the moment I was diagnosed with depression, a wall of sounds came crashing down upon me. To this day I cannot recall much of what was said as the noise was lost in translation; words reached my ears as if they were another language – flooding into my mind and simply swirling around in a vortex of confusion. Oh, what I would have given for a moment of stillness; a tiny twinkle of silence, just enough for me to rest. Be still. Do…nothing. Take in everything that was happening to me and in me.
This wall of noise came rushing in from all around me; different people all trying to speak into my situation. Concerned and caring people around who all wanted, so desperately, to help the once-confident person who was now sat, broken, on his bedroom floor. The problem was not with their intentions but rather what it denied me: space.
So many words of advice. So many requests for an explanation. So many prayers. They ate up the space around me and slowly choked me. At the time, sifting through the various comments and suggestions seemed like climbing a mountain with lead boots. When getting up seems like an exercise in futility and even basic tasks exhaust the mind and body, working out the whys and hows of your own depression is simply impossible.
At this point, I must inject a confession and an encouragement. I must confess, before depression was my struggle, I was always too ready to speak and too slow to listen. To those to whom I did this, I am truly sorry. And the encouragement: if, like me, you have at one point or another been part of the noise please know this – those you spoke to will know you did so out of a deep love for them and an honest desire to reach out to them. Do not feel condemned or as if you got it wrong. Rather, let us consider the quote I began this post with. ‘[w]ithout silence words lose their meaning…without listening speaking no longer heals’. If our words of counsel are to be meaningful and a source of healing, we must first embrace that awkward and often unsettling space: silence. We must be ready to simply ‘be’ with those that are hurting, embrace those that are breaking and walk with those that are stumbling.
Depression can be a lonely and confusing journey. I challenge you, indeed, I dare you, to walk silently alongside those struggling in this way and rather than offering words, to offer yourself with the same kind of self-emptying love that Christ perfectly modelled to us.