I am feeble and sore broken.
My strength fails me.
Darkness covers my days.
My soul abandons me.
I am rereading Undercurrents by Martha Manning, one of my favorite books. Published in 1994, the book chronicles her decent into suicidal depression. She quotes Psalm 38 as her depression worsens. Her description of how she feels as she descends into the darkness is the most honest and illustrative of any I’ve ever read.
“I am afraid,” she writes. “Afraid of managing the desolation of each second.”
Manning is a psychologist in private practice, who also teaches psychology graduate students, when her depression starts. Her life is good. She is busy and well-respected. She has a good marriage and a happy child. There is no precipitating event. She simply slowly and inexorably becomes more and more depressed. Her stamina fails until she can barley get out of bed. She is interested in nothing. She dreads being with other people because she has to “cover,” which drains what little strength she has. Everything overwhelms her, even the simplest tasks. Trying talk therapy and antidepressant after antidepressant, her mood continues to plummet until she wishes for death.
“I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t read or talk or concentrate for more than several seconds. The force of gravity around me has tripled. It takes so much effort just to lift an arm or take a step.” Describing her medications, she says, “All these potions make me big for a while, but the sweetness of their promises melts like kisses somewhere inside myself. And I become small again. So small that I can’t find myself. All I can find is my fear. The fear that my daylight is truly past and I am destined only for night.”