Helen Ho: The Invisibility of Depression

A guest post from a dear friend of mine, Helen Ho. Helen, I wish you all the best, and pray for God’s guidance and comfort as you continue on your journey. 

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When I talk to counselors, they would ask me when the depression started. I remember vividly: it was the spring quarter of my third year in college. There was a particular day, actually. I came back home from a really great fellowship to an empty apartment. It was as if I came face to face with the loneliness that haunted me in the shadows. I think I went to bed crying that night and the crying continued from that day onward, with me in my room, sobbing over my life, carrying pain inextricably deep in my soul. I didn’t understand what was wrong–I simply tried to keep on living. I thought I was simply burned out from school, needed a break and to change my living situation. I held on tightly to the hope that the school year would end soon.

Fourth year came along and I decided I would toughen up. I would no longer play games with sadness and get on with it. Maybe if I ran fast enough, I could outrun my feelings. I wanted to live excellently and honor God in every aspect of my life. So, I didn’t sleep much, and studied, worked, and strove hard against my depression. The whole time, I thought there was something wrong with me: I was simply lazy, was simply romanticizing sadness, was this and was that. The tears came anyways and, due to the work and stress load, my anxiety increased to the point where I was not able to sleep well at night.

At the end of Autumn quarter, during finals week, I sat in my room and words I didn’t plan to speak came out of my mouth, “I hate myself.” It continued: “I hate my life” and “I don’t want to live.” Then, I cried a little, grabbed my backpack and biked over to the library to study for the GREs. I didn’t know what to do and still had applications to fill out. At the end of 2015, I went to a conference for Christian students called Urbana, and upon praying with someone and opening up to my roommates, I realized I was actually depressed. I wasn’t making it all up in my head.

I wanted to attack my depression with gusto. During Winter quarter, I started to meet with a therapist, told my friends about what was going on to ask them for support, and was ready to get rid of this emotional issue within the next month or so. But it wasn’t so easy. I saw my therapist downtown and it was tiring to get there every week, the process was slow, and some weeks felt even worse than before I started to tackle the whole thing. I had a hard time explaining to my friends what was going on with me, had a hard time getting some to even believe me, and then had a hard time getting myself to believe that I wasn’t okay.

I wonder why God didn’t just heal me if He had the power to. Why did it have to be such a grueling process? Why couldn’t I just be okay? My life felt like such a mess, I couldn’t do anything–doing dishes, my laundry and getting out of bed was a struggle.

And the journey continues even until now. Things have gotten better. I’ve made some good friends along the way, resolved a variety of emotional issues that had plagued me, learn to give myself more grace and perhaps like myself a little more than before. But the emotional difficulties remain a constant.

Depression is difficult to deal with. Everything happens inside. Externally, my life is fairly swell–there’s not much for concern. People have a hard time understanding why I’m depressed because of this I think…and sometimes I have a hard time understanding it myself. I try counting my blessings on my fingers, holding up all the good that I have in my hand. I end up feeling guilty that I’m not enjoying my life more.

This may all seem very pessimistic but depression is a sobering reality which plagues a large number of our generation. However, I do have hope that I will one day be a very happy camper because God is good. And I have hope that my own experiences will be able to help me help others because, again, God is good.

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