Depression's Causes: Mid-Life Crisis
Depression lies to you. It says, “you’ve never been happy and never will be.”
My depression came at the meeting point of several forces. I want to look at them each separately.
The most boring and predictable force was mid-life. Midlife crises are predictable, cliché’ and can be pathetic. But they are real. Several factors come into play.
All of a sudden you feel unnecessary. At least you do with your kids. Raising children is hard but simple. If your son wakes you up in the middle of the night crying because his feet hurt, you know what to do. You get up, turn on Blue’s Clues, and rub his feet till he feels better. As your kids get older the problems get harder, and you feel helpless. When your 22-year-old son has trouble finding a job, you watch him hurt but can’t do anything. If your 22-year-old has a job and friends, he doesn’t need you. Feeling unnecessary comes out of nowhere and leaves you empty and kind of angry.
The surprising part of mid-life is how hard it hits you that you are only to the middle. You still have a lot of life in front of you. I probably have forty more years of this life, this body, these pains, this marriage, this home, these problems. Forty more years? I’m not sure I want to do that. I’m not sure I can do that.
You feel like you have been running a race and feel like you can only go a few more steps. Then someone comes along and cheerfully says, “congratulations, you are at the half-way point!” They are happy for you, but you want to choke them.
That is how depression gets into your head. It doesn’t let you think about how good today was, or how much you enjoyed the weekend. It just seizes on the sad, the boring, and the hopeless. Then it extends those feelings into the indefinite future. It just tells you that you can never complete this race.
That is a lie. You will probably need to change pace. But life is not a race, and no one has the gas today to go for the next forty years. God gives us the gas today to get through today. That is how he works.
Listen to how Eugene Peterson describes the faithful service of Jeremiah: He rose to be with his Lord. That is the secret of his persevering pilgrimage – not thinking with dread about the long road ahead but greeting the present moment, every present moment, with obedient delight, with expectant hope: “My heart is ready!”
Depression does not want you to think about today. It does not let you think about this moment right now, and the exciting truth that God is with you right now. It just focuses on the drudgery, and reminds you that you don’t have the gas to go that far.
Depression lies to you, and you need to learn to discern those lies. You don’t have to live out forty more hopeless, dreary years. You get to live today, and today is fine. Today is sufficient for its own troubles. It is also filled with its own pleasures. God is good that way. He calls us to be content with today.
And as for the next forty years. You are wiser. You are not the same person who made those mistakes. You have walked with the Lord and know him better. You have many reasons to assume you will be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with God forever in the next.