Over the past few weeks, I have undertaken significant periods of self-reflection, both alone and with others. The more I dwelt on my past experiences, the more I noticed the seeds of depression and anxiety being sown earlier and earlier in my life. And yet it was only during my time at Oxford that depression and anxiety fully manifested themselves in my life, and while there must be a number of contributing factors, I believe one of the main exacerbators was the ease of isolation at university.
Recently, I was playing a game of Bananagrams Snatch with some friends at a student retreat. Though I did not let it show, I remember walking away from that game extremely down and dispirited: throughout the course of the game, I had failed to 'snatch' a single word for myself. At that moment, I realised how much my mind had been affected by depression. And as someone who heavily prizes my own intellectual capability, it has been a real blow to my sense of self-worth.
Often, when I am experiencing the lowest moments of my depression, I wonder whether God is there or not. It certainly feels like He has abandoned me. There seems to be no joy, no hope, no future. In those moments, it can be really difficult for me to pray and read my Bible. Why bother to speak and listen to a God who appears to be distant and apathetic? And yet, on this Good Friday, I was reminded of how vast and almost beyond comprehension is God's care, for He sent His only Son to die on a cross.
No one likes to show weakness: it is a sign of failure, a cause for shame. Or so we are told. With notions of independence and success drummed into our minds from a young age, it is often very difficult to admit, to others and to oneself, that life may not match up to the ideal picturesque scene. The rotting timbers are strategically plastered over. The polluted river is deemed unworthy of attention. The dark cloud is dismissed as a passing phase. And so the classic reply to "How are you?" prevails.