When Willpower Fails | Choose Joy

I’ve been dealing with this depression thing for the last 20+ years, pretty much my entire life, and despite my vast experience, I’m always a little surprised by its power. During the good days—and I’m blessed to have mostly good days and somewhat darkish days that I can power through (thanks to a combination of faith in the Lord, a strong support network of family and friends, medication, and dedication to healthy habits)—I think that there’s nothing willpower and faith alone can’t overcome…and then I have a Dark Day, and all that defiance crumbles. You see, in the sunlight it’s hard to see the power of the shadows. I’m a strong believer in free agency, and so it’s always a shock that I just can’t will depression and anxiety and OCD away. But you can’t.

I’m here to tell you that being unable to “power through” or “get over” depression is not a weakness, not a lack of willpower or faith. Thinking that you can overcome it will cripple your efforts because you depend not on those that can help or that which can help, but on your lack. This is emotional illness; it is not our fault. You might as well blame yourself for big feet or hair loss or celiac disease; it’s the same thing. It’s worse actually, because depression is sneaky; there’s not a physical presence that a doctor can pinpoint and say, “You see that little lump by your heart? All we have to do is cut it out, and your depression will be gone!” It’s harder to pinpoint, to deal with, and to cure. Because there is no cure; it’s a chronic illness.

This doesn’t mean wallow in your depression and let it consume you. You (and I) might not be able to will depression away, but we can choose to react in positive ways:

  • Reach out for help.
  • Be open about your struggle (it is not easy for me to detail my struggles on this very public blog).
  • Bury yourself in service.
  • Smile when you don’t feel like it.
  • Laugh.
  • Exercise.
  • Fill up your soul with uplifting words or music (scriptures, books, piano playing for me).

You may not be able to do all this, but I can guarantee that you can do something. We can’t make the depression go away, but we sure as heck can try our darndest to not let it overcome us. When the darkness is closing in, cling to your free will; the human spirit is power, you are powerful. Do a few of those things that mean something to you, hold on to at least one thing that matters.

And yes, accept that Dark Days come (I just had one, so I’m in a position to know). Sometimes willpower alone isn’t enough; don’t beat yourself up. Take a break with the understanding that you’ll take advantage of the good days. But remember that the darkness won’t last. Keep on fighting the good fight, friends. I believe in you.

Choose Joy.

—A

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