Good Girls Don’t Get Depressed – Cara Strickland


Cara Strickland is one of the friendliest people on the internet. Her writing makes spiritual things sound delicious and food feel like a spiritual experience. I’m so excited to have her kicking off 2015’s God and Suffering series:
 

Photo Credit: Send Me Adrift (creative commons)

Photo Credit: Send Me Adrift (creative commons)


 
“I must be such a disappointment to God.”
 
That was my first though when I began to seriously consider that the dark clouds in my mind might not be circumstantial, but depression.
 
I was raised in a Christian tradition that suggested that therapy was for people who didn’t have friends, and that those suffering from anything resembling mental illness needed to pray for the sin in their lives to be revealed. No one ever said it, but I heard it loud and clear: Good girls don’t get depressed.
 
And I was a good girl, make no mistake. I knew all the memory verses by heart, only allowed myself to consider dating youth group boys, and did my daily quiet time like clockwork. Unlike many I’d known who questioned and released their faith in college, mine had held fast. How could I be here, now, several years post-grad, trying to think of escape hatches from my life?
 
But the thing about being a good girl, is that I’m very skilled at seeming fine. I pull out my customer service smile and offer polite greetings to those I meet. When my undiagnosed depression was at its worst, I would drive to a large parking lot on my lunch break, cry until I couldn’t breathe, and return to work without even a trace of tears.
 
I’m a bit lonely by nature. I have so much desire to be in relationship with people (and I’m still learning not to be co-dependent in order to get it). Naturally, I couldn’t tip my hand and let the people in my life see what I was feeling. I was the strong one, the together one. So I talked about “difficult weeks” and “challenging seasons” and didn’t tell anyone that I had regular urges to crash my car into something hard and fast.
 
But it got worse. I was feeling so trapped in my life, and in my mind. I’ll never forget the day that I began to fantasize about the knives at work, while I was at my desk. I was terrified.
 
I lurched through the next few steps toward a breakdown, finally losing grip of my facade completely in front of a church small group. They didn’t judge me, as I had thought they might. They helped me take the first steps toward help. I went to the doctor, and a counselor. I quit my job and began to heal.
 
But then the support stopped.
 
As I thought about suffering, it became clear that what hurts the most in my memories of hard times is this pattern: I am vulnerable, people respond, and then they drift away.
 
“This is as bad as it gets,” I remember saying to my mother. “If people don’t see the urgency now, how can I ever expect them to be there for me?”
 
It’s a question I still wonder about, sometimes.
 
But something wonderful happened in that place. I learned a secret about so many of the people I considered my friends: we weren’t friends. I was the one who called, maintained, and showed up. I had never asked them to be there for me before. I opened my hands and let those relationships move of their own accord.
 
At first, it was wrenching. But like so many moments when I’ve released control, it was freeing, too.
 
It’s easy to think that God was punishing me. That’s certainly the sort of theology that permeated my childhood. My depression, and the scattering of people from my life were one big judgement. I found a home in the wailing language of the Psalms.
 
Slowly, painfully slowly, other people began to float into my life. It takes a while before anyone can know what another is made of. It was in those days that I began to relearn friendship with God. Not worrying about whether or not He was disappointed in me (mostly because I didn’t have the energy), but simply sitting, mindful of His presence. Allowing myself to believe that He wasn’t disappointed in me after all.
 
But I’m not the same masked good girl that I was before all of this. I have learned to admit my needs up front, and I’m speaking the word depression out loud (even though my knees knock). I’m listening to what new people say with their words, their bodies, their silence. I am becoming secure in my brokenness. I am radiant in my flaws.
 

Cara Strickland is a writer, editor, and food critic in Spokane, Washington. She writes about singleness, food, feminism, and the way faith intersects life (among other things) on her blog Little Did She Know. 
Come say hi to her on Twitter. She likes making new friends.
CaraStricklandAuthorlittle_did_she_know

 
Tweetables:
 
[tweetit]Good girls don’t get depressed – @littledidcknow tells her God and Suffering Story for @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”I am vulnerable, people respond, and then they drift away.” – @littledidcknow on depression for @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”It’s easy to think that God was punishing me.” – @littledidcknow tells her God and Suffering story for @Tanya_Marlow[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”The thing about being a good girl is that I’m very skilled at seeming fine” – @littledidcknow on depression[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]”I found a home in the wailing language of the Psalms.” – @littledidcknow talks depression for @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
 
[tweetit]“I began to relearn friendship with God” – @littledidcknow tells her God and Suffering Story for @Tanya_Marlow:[/tweetit]
 
Over to you:

  • If you’ve ever experienced depression, how did other Christians respond to you?
  • What masks are you tempted to wear when you’re with other Christians?
  • “I found a home in the wailing language of the Psalms” – when has this been true for you?

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30 Responses to Good Girls Don’t Get Depressed – Cara Strickland

  1. Lizzie Goldsmith 30th January, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    Thank you so much for letting us in to this painful part of your journey. I relate so much, and I know I’m not the only one. Awhile back, I wrote in my journal: “I’m always afraid that people will forget me before I forget them.” I’m getting better at being myself, at not feeling like I have to appear fine all the time, at not clinging to friendships that aren’t real friendships, but I still have a long way to go.

    • Cara Strickland 15th February, 2015 at 1:20 am #

      That line from your journal, Liz, oh my heart.
      I could have written those words. It’s a hard road, but I’m so glad we’re on it together.
      So much love to you.

  2. Traci@tracesoffaith 30th January, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    Beautiful Cara! Radiant in your flaws… we all are! I have a friend who is battling this RIGHT NOW. One of the strongest Christian families I know. We never saw it coming. She’s checked herself into a hospital and is under intense counseling and medication. We’re scared and praying our brains out for her. Thank you for the hope that I found in your sharing.

    • Cara Strickland 15th February, 2015 at 1:35 am #

      Thank you for this, Traci.
      I never saw it coming in myself either.
      I’m hoping for healing for your friend, and for the strength to be present, for you.

  3. James Taylor 30th January, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    “I learned a secret about so many of the people I considered my friends: we weren’t friends. I was the one who called, maintained, and showed up. I had never asked them to be there for me before. I opened my hands and let those relationships move of their own accord.”

    This is what I would call ‘disillusionment in a positive sense’. Thank you for continuing to share your reflections on the realities of friendship, Cara.

    • Cara Strickland 15th February, 2015 at 1:36 am #

      I love that, James. I’m doing my best to stay open to disillusionment. Thanks so much for being here.

  4. Rebecka 21st January, 2015 at 7:34 pm #

    Cara, thank you for this beautifully honest post.
    “Simply sitting, mindful of His presence. Allowing myself to believe that He wasn’t disappointed in me after all.” This is exactly what I’m trying to learn to do at the moment. Thank you for reminding me! There is a lot more I would like to say, but my tired ME-brain won’t let me, so I’ll just say thank you one more time.

    • Cara Strickland 26th January, 2015 at 6:06 am #

      Oh Rebecka,

      I’m so glad this piece meant something to you. You have no idea (or perhaps you do), how often I have to return to that place of just being (and how firmly I resist it).
      Truth is often hard to believe, isn’t it? I’m so glad this served as a reminder for you of how very loved you are, all on your own.
      Thank you so much for commenting.

    • Cara Strickland 15th February, 2015 at 1:38 am #

      Thanks so much for being here, Rebecka. I’m so glad this was encouraging for you, and I hope you continue to learn to rest in how very loved you are.

  5. sandra hughes 21st January, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    Thank you for this. I am spending the day in bed and my room, and do not want to leave it, and was struggling. Reading this has helped greatly. Only this Sunday I was able to preach, which I can do rarely because of having ME, and wondered why today I feel as I do.

    • Cara Strickland 26th January, 2015 at 6:07 am #

      Sandra,

      I’m glad to hear that this piece helped you. That is such a gift to me, as a writer. I’m so glad that you were able to preach, and I’m hoping that this week has been a bit better for you. Thank you so much for being here.

  6. lulu 20th January, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

    Hi cara I’m 13 and was diagnosed with depression 3 months ago. Since I don’t drive I’ve never had the urge to crash a car but I do have the urge to jump in front of one. I’m very good at hiding my feelings too. I throw up and cry my eyes out to the point where I’m so exhausted I can’t move. I’ve been a christian for 3 years but I’ve known God my whole life but these past few months I’ve pushed him away. The closer I get to Him the more I hurt. My parents are divorced and they don’t give out to each other they give out to me about each other which makes my life a lot harder. I experience everything you’ve said just as a younger person. In these last few months I’ve realised something. Its a lot easier to suffer and not know God than it is to know him and know he has the power to stop you’re pain but chooses not to. 🙁

    • Cara Strickland 21st January, 2015 at 6:37 am #

      Dear Lulu,

      I cried reading your comment. I know those feelings, and I know the ache. I am so sorry that you are experiencing this.
      I’ve thought a lot about suffering and how God fits into it. I’ve certainly considered walking away from God. It’s a path you’ll have to walk, and those are questions you’ll have to ask. But I’ll just say that it was during the times when I gave up on God, and the times where I really didn’t have the energy to reach out at all, that I began to have faith again. He moved, and I couldn’t deny it.
      I will be keeping you and your continued treatment and path in my prayers, and I hope the same for you: that you will begin to notice God reaching for you, even when it’s pitch black.

      • lulu 21st January, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

        Thank you cara. It was really nice to see your reply. I would have replied earlier only I was at school. Today I had quite a bad lonely feeling so you have no idea how great it was to see your reply. I’m sure one day my relationship with God will be back to what it was but I also don’t think that’s gonna happen overnight. My name is actually Katie-Lou but Lulu’s my nickname and I prefer to be called that. I love to sing and I love worship music its one of the few things I have with God at the minute. A song that speaks to me a lot is ” Just Be Held ” by Casting Crowns I think you would like it so if you haven’t heard it look it up on YouTube. 😉 and once again thank you.

        • Cara Strickland 26th January, 2015 at 6:10 am #

          Lulu,

          I’m so glad my words meant something to you. My hope for you is that your relationship with God is never the same, but ever deeper and stronger, as you walk with Him through these hard things. But you’re right, none of that happens overnight. I’m glad that you have ways to connect with God at the moment. I’m learning lately to allow myself to rest in God, without effort, without trying to prove my worth. I hope and pray the same for you. Much love to you tonight, and always.

          • lulu 26th January, 2015 at 8:38 am #

            Thank you Cara for everything. Last night I spent an hour crying my eyes out and I’m on my way to school now so it was great to see this reply.

            • Cara Strickland 15th February, 2015 at 1:39 am #

              Just wanted you to know that I have been thinking of you and praying, Lulu. I’m hoping that your road soon grows smoother.

          • lulu 15th February, 2015 at 9:55 pm #

            Hi Cara nice to hear from you again. My road just got a hell of a lot bumpier. I just found out my Great Gran has cancer so yeah I don’t have words anymore and maybe that’s a good thing cause every time I talk to god he takes something from me. Thank you for your prayers though.

    • Mark Allman 21st January, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      Lulu,
      I live in USA and wanted you to know that I am praying for you for I know that the darkness can be overwhelming at times. I pray that you will have hope and that that hope will sustain you through the dark times and that you will be blessed.

      • lulu 21st January, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

        Hi Mark my name is Katie-Lou but lulu is my nickname and what I prefer to be called that’s why I post using that name. I’m from Ireland and I’m very thankful for your prayers and you know what I can’t wait to be out of the darkness and back in the light! Thank you Mark.

  7. Mark Allman 20th January, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    Cara,

    We all are wrought with flaws and brokenness. Most don’t notice nor do they really care. Rare are those that seek you out regardless of your flaws and shortcomings. Rare are those that are willing to work on your relationship and value it enough to come stand in the gap when you need them to. It is humbling knowing that God pursues us no matter how we treat Him.

    May we be a friend that stands in a gap, who offers their presence often, who follows up when time has past but the pain has not, who willingly walks beside when walking is damn difficult.

    May we also drop the mask for those that are willing to look at the good the bad and the ugly of our lives; willing to look without judgement and wiling to share theirs as well. For what better feeling is there than to be known and still loved.

    May God bless you Cara on your journey.

    • Cara Strickland 21st January, 2015 at 6:39 am #

      Mark,

      You’re so right. I’ve learned to be thankful for the ways that friends do reach out, and I’ve learned that those who are willing to stick around are often those who have also experienced deep pain. I hope that these things deepen me in that way.

      It’s uncomfortable to sit with someone in suffering and pain, and I understand why people don’t want to do it. I certainly don’t. But you’re right, God does that with us, and gives some people the strength to do so as well.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

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