Why I talk about depression is so maybe someone else can heal.
There’s this question doctors ask if you’ve been injured: “On a scale of one to 10, one meaning manageable and 10 the toughest pain you’ve ever encountered, how would you rate your pain?”
I’ve been asked this dozens of times, when I was in labor with my kids, when I wrapped my Suburban around an electrical pole, after several surgeries, and, thankfully, from a counselor when I was dealing with depression.
That’s the thing with pain — it’s white hot and intense. Like birthing pains, the next pang hurts worse than the last, so we avoid or escape it at all costs. We hide from it, block it with a pill, cover it up with makeup and a smile that says, “I’m fine.” We attempt to control it with personal vices.
That’s another thing about pain, it seems as if no one else can feel what you’re going through. Often, it leaves us gasping for air because we’ve been taught by our culture that it’s not OK to invite someone into your mess, your pain.
Somewhere along the way we’ve lost the ability to say, “I’m not OK,” and when we do say something, our culture has been taught to respond with:
“It will get better.”
“Just be positive”
“It’s all in your mind.”
“Don’t let your emotions control you.”
“Focus on the positive.”
“It isn’t as bad as you think.”
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
And my personal favorite, “Happiness is a choice.”
So when a friend began treading water sinking into depression because of a failed marriage of more than 20 years, I didn’t tell her any of those things. I chose the opposite.
I stood with her at church when the blade of her pain was searing hot and I asked her what someone once asked me, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your pain — one, manageable; 10, the worst pain you’ve ever experienced.”
Her tears soaked my shoulders when she whispered, “I think it’s at an eight, maybe nine.” And then I repeated the words to her what someone wisely once said me, “You’re a fighter. You can face this. You could’ve said ‘10’ but you didn’t.”
The thing is pain isn’t your enemy. It reminds you that you’re human, that you’re alive. Pain gives rich meaning to life experiences. It reminds you that you had experienced something good, amazing, joyful, but it sounds bells signaling something is not right. In my experience it forces you to places such as church, hospitals, in the arms of friends and a counselor’s office so healing can begin.
Without pain, there wouldn’t be an indication of healing to be made whole.
And if you’re that person who went to places like church, hospitals and counselors for help but found a solid door, try the next one and the next one.
How did I heal? I embraced the hurt instead of running from it. I shared my mess with a friend and took her advice to see a counselor.
It allowed me to heal as I stood my faith in Jesus and created a community of support. I had friends who opened their homes, their couches and their fridges to me. We laughed over our kids and cried over the seemingly shattered bits of life. We shared comfort foods, coffee and conversation as I healed from depression.
I was allowed to not be OK and I was embraced so I could heal.
It may be a long, salty season of asking yourself how you’re feeling on a scale of one to 10, but the moment you admit you’re not OK is the moment your healing begins.
(This post was originally published on the Kearney Hub and submitted to the Nebraska Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women. The column one first place in the state of Nebraska and third in the nation.).