A continued series exploring my experience with depression as a Christian. Part 2 of 4 part series.
During my spring break from college in 2007, I went to visit a good friend, He was a native of Rochester, NY and had recently moved from Rochester to Florida. The smell of Florida is so distinct. It smelled great; the vegetation, the palm trees, the grass. I wondered: “Could I ever live in a place like this as an adult? I lived there as a child. In fact, I was born in Eustis, Florida and spent some of my Childhood in Leesburg, Florida. Florida always seemed like a dualism to me. At times it seemed like the very garden of God and home. Other times, it seemed so worldly, glitzy, and appeared to me as a stumbling block, set up to tempt me to the with desires of riches and to fulfill all manner of lusts.
As lovely as Florida was, while there, I felt empty. I knew I should be having fun, but I wasn’t. The depression was robbing me every ounce of enjoyment. There were moments where I felt like God was with me, but at other times I felt he was distant. For example, I felt He was there when favorable things would happen, like me losing my wallet at the movie theater and then finding it shortly after. He felt close when upon waking up early one morning, and reading about how Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, He gave me peace to praise Him for being such a special Person. Then there were the times when the joy was just gone. Sitting next to a beautiful pool and hot tub couldn’t bring the feelings back. I think my friend could perceive that I wasn’t the same and he said “I miss the old Carl who was on ﬁre for Jesus”. That didn’t help matters much. It made me feel more depressed. I couldn’t seem to change it. I listened to worship music in hope of changing my mood. I even prayed with my friend. Nothing happened. Often times, in these depressed episodes, I would wonder: “When I think of you Lord, I say, how can I love you by obeying You if I don’t feel personal love from You?". There was a mounting offensive to abandon God within my heart. I kept thinking, "if you truly love me, you will come after me, because I can't take this anymore". These urges became even stronger when I saw non Christians seeming to have more joy and fun than me. I thought: “Why not just go all out and leave Him? Go party go have fun again. He has left you.”
After I returned home from Florida, the darkness continued all throughout my time in college. I had dark thoughts and feelings more and more frequently. My mind felt cloudy. I thought that maybe a change of scenery would be helpful. I knew some really good friends of mine who lived in the Delaware area, so it seemed like a logical landing spot after graduating. Therefore, around the middle of August 2007, I decided to make the move to Delaware.
While I was in Delaware, I was staying with my good friend, his wife, and their little son. From the middle of August to about the middle of September had to be the worse stretch of depression for me. I had thought a change of scenery would change my feelings of depression. I thought being around Christians, who I had grown in the faith with and loved dearly, would be enough to smother any melancholy. But things only seemed to get worse.
With the depression I was experiencing, moving to Delaware was a greater adjustment to make than I had imagined. I took a job at a very small alternative high school where I had to occasionally perform multiple restraints on teenagers who had learning delays and behavioral challenges. On top of this, my sleep was starting to become disturbed. I was starting to sleep a couple of hours per night, waking up so often that it felt like I was awake every 5 minutes. I would go into work unbelievably drained the next day to face the stressors of a student acting out, while at the same time dreading my existence. constantly questioning if God loved me anymore. There were close to zero positive feelings about anything in life at this point, and reading my bible only brought me more dread and seemed to conﬁrm that I was no longer a child in God's kingdom. I felt my mind saying, “Just get high and drunk. You should start sleeping around again. This Jesus thing is a hoax. It was good while it lasted.” My brothers around me tried to encourage me in the faith, but to no avail. I didn’t believe their words. I even entertained the thought that they were lying to me just to help me feel better, and thought in my mind that they believed that, deep down, I was a reprobate.
I did, however, experience some very light encouragement in the form of some email exchanges I had with a friend that I worked with back in Rochester. She was a Christian and was also dealing with severe depression. I was somewhat delighted that I wasn’t alone in the world and that maybe, just maybe, I could still be a child of God and be dealing with depression at the same time. This delight would only come in very, very small waves. These were countered by waves of darkness that just seemed to keep getting larger.
While in Delaware, I drove a 95 SAAB. It was starting to emit smoke from the hood of the car each time I stopped at a red light. Under normal circumstances I would have cared enough to get the car repaired, but now, I didn’t care if the car exploded with me in it. Now, there were far fewer good days and far more days of feelings of dread and horror. These were some of my most consistently dark days. The darkness was so bad that I ended up visiting home after 3 weeks of being down in Delaware. After coming back to Delaware for about a week, I would eventually be moving back home to Rochester to stay for good. I moved back to Rochester literally a month after packing up to move to Delaware. But before then I had a weird dream that planted a thought in my mind that was not previously there.