This entire year I’ve struggled to determine what part of my life is clinical depression and what part is situational. Bluntly, what part of my sadness is my jacked up brain and what part is my disappointing life? Most days I can’t determine the source of the pain. I just know I feel horrible and want to die. It usually doesn’t matter what caused it all. Pain is pain.
I could just chalk this all up to clinical depression, and nobody would fault me. After all, clinical depression is the root of my pain and my biggest obstacle. But I can’t just leave it at that. I’m a Sad Runner. And, like all Sad Runners, I look to improve the things I have control over even if my mental illness remains elusive and seemingly insurmountable.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr
I can’t control whether I have depression, but I can control how I live between those horrible episodes. And, even more, I know full well that a lot of what I do will improve my chances of survival when things get dark again.
So, for months, I’ve reflected and prayed to determine what parts of my life I can work to improve. I thought I wasn’t going to find an answer and then it finally hit me.
A man with a plan
I don’t think you can complain about being lost in life if you never decided where you wanted to go in the first place. I’ve felt lost this year. My career has been predominately reactive. Not something I’m particularly fond of. The things I do, the projects I have, they lack intention. I’m just doing the things I think I should do. I’m not doing the things that propel me toward my goals.
In my life, when I realize that my work is just a means to an end, then I know there’s something wrong. I need passion, drive, challenges to keep me going and this year hasn’t had much of that at all. I’ve been distracted both by my depression and the people around me who are dictating my direction.
“Do I really look like a man with a plan, Harvey? I don’t have a plan.” – The Joker (Heath Ledger), ‘The Dark Knight.’
In my quiet study time the other day, it occurred to me that I spend so much of my life fighting my mental illness that it’s been years since I actually made a plan for my future. In my attempt to survive my depression and thus continue living, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a sense of direction, a vision for my life. As a result, I often find myself reacting to the world around me instead of charging onward toward my goals.
I’ve lived the last four years hour-by-hour never making long-term plans or committing to anything. Why would I? Depression has ruined every plan I made, and so I stopped making them. Depression will just wipe it off the calendar or crush my spirit, so there’s no point.
But then, maybe, that’s why I’m where I am now, dissatisfied with life and trying to figure out what sadness is situational and what’s clinical.
I’m working for other people, not for my goals. God has a plan for my life (and your life too by the way), and depression doesn’t change that. So I need to get back in touch with the plan, stop doing what others expect of me (or don’t expect of me because of my depression) and do the things that drive me toward my goals.
I need to be a man with a plan or else I can’t be surprised when I’m stuck in the dark and wondering where the heck to go.
So, where do you want to go?
If you think about it, ‘Where do you want to go?’ is a pretty dangerous question to ask. The world changes when powerful people ask that question of themselves.
I’ve been staring at that question for awhile now. When I look at the graphic I made for myself (shared above) it gives me chills.
“Where do you want to go, Adam?”
I’m sitting here consumed by depression, yet filled with hope and motivation. For the first time all year, I feel like things are going to get better.
Why? Because I uncovered another piece that was missing in my puzzle. My sense of direction, my purpose. I’ve been slugging it out with my depression for so long that I forgot what I was fighting for in the first place. I’ve just been struggling to win against my depression. To not die as my brain would prefer.
But I forgot one of the biggest messages of this website:
To get to the end of life and only survive, is not what we want. We want to thrive despite our illness.
I have no fewer dreams, aspirations or callings from God. I have even more now. So I need to get to work, planning where I’m supposed to go. I need to stop looking down at my opponent, my depression, and instead look up to see where I want to run to next.
Survival is not my goal. Surviving my depression is just what I must do to still achieve the goals I have.
This past month has been a truly enlightening one. My reflection, my study, my meditation, my prayer time have all come together to shed light on a question that, I believe, is near the source of my situational depression.
I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a trail. I could choose not to run it. After all, staying home is less work. Or I could put one foot in front of the other and take it head on, keep moving forward, and don’t stop until I reach my goals. I’m anxious and pumped all at the same time. My depression is no less intense. However, the fire inside me burns hotter now.
I know something that’s missing, but not for long. It’s time to find my goals again; it’s time to lace up and run toward the next turn, the next hill, the next mile.
Why, because that’s what I do. That’s what WE do. We’re Sad Runners. We punch back at our depression and then continue running toward our goals. Nothing will stop us if we just keep going.
But we have to have a goal and direction to run. And I’ve learned this year, just how important that is.
Start reflecting, ask yourself the question I’m asking every day. “Where do you want to go?” Decide the direction and then make a commitment to run toward it no matter what. Screw your mental illness; it’s not tougher than us. We’re Sad Runners. We’re just getting warmed up when everyone else quits.
So pick a goal, choose a direction, commit to running toward it at 110% and feel free to flip-off your depression while you do it.
After all, it can’t stop you. You’re too tough.
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