I have dark days. My husband can sometimes detect that something is off with me, but, more likely, I have to tell him that I am having a bad day, and that I need to be left alone to deal with it. I still shop, clean, and do my job. I just feel like I am walking through a different world than the rest of you, a world that only I can access, but also one that I do not understand. I know that depression occurs from an imbalance in the chemicals of the brain caused by stress and other triggers, but knowing that doesn’t help me find my way back to normalcy.
You look perfectly normal to others, but you feel as though you are disconnected from yourself. Even though you see the light of day, it still feels like you are walking in an abyss of darkness, with not one pinprick of light to help you find your center. Depression robs us of joy and the ability to feel at peace, no matter how hard we try. Whether we use alcohol, drugs, food, or other addictive substances or acts, depression just takes us deeper into the darkness, filling us with shame and degradation. But, this post is about overcoming the darkness and finding the Light of the world.
The first time I noticed that disassociative state, it scared me, mainly because I thought that something in my soul or body had died and left me was watching myself live my day. I was in college, and I was still able to write notes and pass tests, but it felt so strange that I asked somebody if I looked normal. They answered that if I kept asking questions like that, I would find myself in Moccasin Bend, the psychiatric hospital near my hometown. So, I learned that these times were solo-experience events that are not shared with others.
I remember being alone and just crying, so many tears that it was like I could sail down a river of despair and despondency away from the normalcy of life and to a place that was not on any map, a place in my brain where others simply cannot reside. The tears threaten to overwhelm you around others, so, to protect yourself, you overcompensate and start to do things that are unhealthy for mind, body, and spirit. That is what depression was like for me.
Then, one day, as the darkness descended, I started to pray to God for help, not knowing if He could see me in the thick blackness of the land of mental illness. But, I remembered that David had said in Psalm 139 that to God, darkness is like light. Indeed, in verses 11-12, the psalmist wrote, “I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.” So, I kept calling out to Him as I traveled down the road to no return, hoping that He would hear and answer.
I was at home one day not long afterwards, having decided not to take the strong prescription medicines and too sick to get up and work up a sweat for 45 minutes, as prescribed by the doctor after my refusal of Prozac. I felt in my spirit the overwhelming compulsion to get up and move my body. I could not explain it, but the words to the Frank Sinatra song started to play in my ears, and I got to my feet, singing, “You have to pick yourself up and get back in the race, cause that’s life.” Mr. Sinatra sung, “I have been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a prawn, and a king. I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race, cause that’s life.”
I sung the same words over and over, laughing gleefully and uninhibitedly because they are the only words I know of the song. And I danced in my own non-rhythmic way. Contrary to the stereotypes, not all blacks have rhythm. Once my aunt told me as she watched me trying to keep time with the song that was playing on the radio that I must have been absent the day that God gave out rhythm. Unfortunate for our fully embarrassed kids at parties, Douglas also does not have rhythm, but I do not believe it is because he is white. We just missed out on that quality.
So, I just throw my hands in the air, sway my hips, and shuffle my feet in no discernible dance and just keep moving until the joy starts to bubble up from deep in my soul, and, all of a sudden, peace and love floods my heart, my mind, and my soul. Then, I know that I am in the presence of the Light of the world, for joy, peace, and love are fruit of the Holy Spirit.
These days when darkness descends out of nowhere, I recognize it for what it is, a joy-stealing attempt to devour me, and I get up and put on Vickie Winans’ song, “Shake Loose.” In it she sings, ” (So here’s what you gotta do) Shake loose everything that binds you up. Who told you that you can’t make it When God says that you can shake it. Shake loose everything that binds you up. Praise Him like its your last chance. Get up and do the David dance… ” And I do! I shake everything, hands, backside, and feet, until my back reminds me of my age. Then, I kind of slow it down a little, but keep on moving, just like King David.
In 2 Samuel 6:14, David danced unashamedly before his God with every ounce of his being. That’s what I do, uncaring who sees me or disapproves of a grey-haired lady singing off-tune and loud with the door wide open in the summer months, just getting my soul and mind aligned to the Creator of the universe. Music and movement have been used to bring joy and to praise God forever. So many of the psalms remind us to praise God with musical instruments and dance. It is healthy for us.
When I dance in the dark days, the abyss recedes and light filters into my uttermost being, and I find myself once again. Regina comes to back to life, full of hope and possibilities for goodness and godliness. I can be used again! I don’t boast that I can sing, because if you stand me next to the sopranos, I will sing such a high note that you would think that someone had just stuck a pin in my backside. If you put me next to the men, I will put the deepest bass to shame. I may be an alto, but I would not bank on it. But, it does not matter when I am singing to beat the band and find my equilibrium once again.
It makes sense, for there are few things in life more joyful that watching people of all races, genders, ages, national origins, and social classes dancing together and making music together. Barriers fall and joy overwhelms each heart, as we just, without any self-consciousness, simply dance to the music. Hearts, minds, and souls unite, as we celebrate each other’s efforts, often laughing with the two-left-feet person beside us and they laugh back with us. It’s why we must keep dance and music in schools in America, which, today, are some of the darkest places on the planet, due to bullying and all manner of “isms.”
We must give children those moments to let their whole being revel in the humanity of the people around them, especially the ones they have been taught to view as different from themselves. The music will unite their hearts, and the movement will bring unity and appreciation. When I travel, I love seeing the dances and hearing the music of other places, and I marvel in our similarities when it comes to mending broken hearts and minds and souls through movement and music. People so unashamedly get up and start to move to the rhythm of the music, not knowing one word of the songs being played, and everyone claps with these brave souls.
I can’t say that it will work for you. I believe that all the movement and music stirs the chemicals in our brains and brings joy again. But, then trying to explain God is like trying to tell you what makes the wind blow or how deep is the Pacific Ocean. It’s impossible! But, for me, when the darkness seeks to devour all of my joy and sense of self-worth and value, the music and the movement heals me and I feel hopeful. I put away the boat, as the tears stop, and the Light of heaven shines on me. I then know that my Redeemer lives and that He is with me even in my darkest moments.
Until we can learn in our churches and religious communities to accept that mental illness does not mean demon-possession, and until we give men and boys the ability and permission to speak of the darkness in their lives, with tears of need and desperation, depression will continue to rob us of the best and brightest among us. Let people move to the music in our congregations, for they are trying to come out of the dark and into God’s marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9), and shouldn’t that be part of the mission of the God’s house? We can climb out of the darkness, with each other’s blessings and understanding. Get up and move them feet, you all!