An elephant in the house

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There’s an elephant in this house. It (I will not dignify it with gender!) is huge, gray, and impervious to all my efforts to show it the door. It took up residence ten years ago, but we, through the grace of God and expert medical help, were able to relegate it to the attic, where it slept and, unfortunately, appears to have gathered strength, for its next foray into our world. And, crash back in, irrespective of the hearts and minds and emotions it was devastating, it did, and took up residence, which I do hope and pray is temporary.

That elephant, you see, is depression, and a stronger, more persistent interloper is hard to find. It took up residence with a dearly beloved child. But never think that depression is a respecter of persons. Once it enters the house, its presence is felt by all. Each individual experiences it uniquely, but no one is unscathed. There is no swifter road to a personal battle with depression than seeing one’s child sucked into the dark void of its depths. There is no more certain road to a personal experience with depression than grieving over a child’s helplessness and hopelessness and, again unfortunately, observing that child’s sometimes tragic efforts to escape from its pit of darkness.

The other salient point to recognize about depression is its cloak of invisibility. Everyone knows the elephant is in the house, sitting or standing in the corner, rather lonely in its isolation. Because, though everyone is thinking about it, feeling it, hating it, no one is talking about it!! There seems to be an inherent human tendency to believe that, if it’s ignored long enough, it will just go away. WRONG!! The only way to weaken, and ultimately defeat, the elephant, is to acknowledge its presence. That which we fear can defeat us. Envision the big gray elephant as simply a bully who needs only to be confronted to be defeated.

The psalmist gives life to depression’s form and substance in Psalm 77:1-2:

“I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the
Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring
hands
and my soul refused to be
comforted.”

Yet the writer of Lamentations (?the prophet Jeremiah) speaks a message of hope in chapter 22, verses 22 through 24:

“Because of the Lord’s great love we
are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my
portion;
therefore I will wait for him.'”

It is my experience that the only way to deal with the elephant is through faith. It is only through the grace of God that we can push that big gray elephant back into the attic (or basement or cellar or wherever we can relegate it to). But when faith falters, and the elephant is treading roughshod on the hopes and dreams of a loved one (or our own hopes and dreams), what are we to do? My top ten strategies:

1. Pray.
2. Enlist other prayer warriors.
3. Demonstrate unconditional love to the elephant’s prey (so, if you are the prey, that means loving oneself unconditionally!).
4. Maintain as much normalcy as possible.
5. Talk about the elephant. Recognize its presence, the reality of its influence, and don’t be afraid to call it by its real name.
6. Pray some more.
7. Share your hurts, worries, and fears with trusted family and friends.
8. Read the Bible–it is rich in messages of comfort.
9. Do whatever you do to escape from the elephant’s attack–read, write, cook, sew, train for a marathon, go dancing–you fill in the blank. (Guess which one I chose!)
10. Pray without ceasing.

Please don’t leave with the impression that I am writing as an expert. This is not an instructional piece, but more of a catharsis for me. I am tired of the elephant cohabiting with my family. I am ready for it to leave. And I am going to do all of the above (and anything else I can think of) to relegate it to the far corner of our world with the stated intent that it should, “Go away, you big bully, and don’t you ever, ever come back!” I hope and pray it works this time.

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