Can I share what I feel is one of the greatest lessons I have learned from experiencing depression?
Everyone is fighting a hard battle. This includes the grumpy cashier at the grocery store, the driver who cuts you off on the road, and the stranger who doesn't smile back at you when you say "hello."
The more I share my story, the more I learn about other people's stories, and the more I learn about the challenges and trials others have experienced, the more I am filled with compassion and love. You just never know what someone is going through that is influencing how they are acting. This reminds me of something that happened not very long ago.
Once upon a time, I was having a hard day. Like really hard. I was on the verge of tears again (it was only the 100th time I had cried that day), and I was finally on the road going to the grocery store after spending nearly an hour trying to motivate myself to get out the door. I was feeling so weak and exhausted from my emotions, but I was determined to go out and make the best of my time, instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself (yes, I throw pity parties occasionally). As I was pulling out of my neighborhood, I had the awkward moment of pulling out in front of a truck closer than what I should have, but definitely not close enough to get in an accident. I guess you could say it was a lapse in judgment from my already foggy, unfocused brain. I waved my hand, made an apologetic face, and mouthed, "Sorry!" I hoped he would understand that I knew I had made a mistake and that I would try harder to keep my scattered brain on task. Unfortunately, this man, who was probably having a difficult day himself, laid on his horn, made some hand gestures that suggested that I was stupid for what I had done, and yelled some words that were incomprehensible with the noise of the road, but that relayed his frustration and annoyance with me. Immediately, I started sobbing. I was already in the depths of despair, trying to pull myself up out of the darkness that surrounded me, and this quick moment opened the floodgates to my tears and let them spill freely. I don't remember if I ended up going to the store after that or not, but I do remember that it took a few days before I could pull myself up out of the darkness. All because of one man's actions.
I don't tell this story to suggest that I was not at fault. I mean, I was the one who pulled out too quickly and too closely. But I am telling this story to convey the point that I was fighting a hard battle, and this man's lack of kindness made my day much worse than it already was. He didn't know that I could hardly focus at all and that getting out of the house that day was a huge accomplishment. He didn't know that I had been thinking for the 5 months before that I wasn't sure if my life was worth living. He didn't know, so he reacted the way I might have reacted if someone around me had done something irresponsible.
That is, unless I knew about their battle. Unless I knew that the person who pulled out in front of me was battling her own brain, her own confusion, her own deep sorrow. If I would have known, I surely would have mouthed back, "It's ok!" I would have smiled and wondered what I could have done to make her feel better. I would have let the mistake pass without making a big deal out of it at all.
The problem is that we rarely know about each other's battles. We don't know who just lost a loved one unexpectedly, who just found out that their child was diagnosed with cancer, or who just lost their job and doesn't know how they will provide for their family. We don't know.
So it's our job to be kind. We don't have to know the details of other people's battles to show compassion and love. We can just be kind no matter what and choose to use words that build instead of tear down.
I have had so many more times than I can count, when a person has lifted me up, not knowing that I was trying to hurry home so I could cry or that I was feeling the overwhelming effects of depression. They didn't know, but they were kind anyway, and their kindness helped pull me up out of my darkness.
PLEASE be kind! You will never be doing the wrong thing when you are offering compassion, love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and kindness to another. And just imagine how you will feel someday to find out all the people you helped through your kindness. I hope that will be an overwhelmingly good day!