Whenever I went to amusement parks, I was never interested in the rides. Instead, I always gravitated towards the games where you win tickets to get prizes. Except the only problem was that there were always so many wonderful prizes and I was never skilled enough at the games to win very many tickets. I always ended up having to choose between my favorites (and by that I mean my favorites among the mini prize selection since I never had enough for what I truly wanted). I remember one time however, that was drastically different. We were at Chuckee Cheese’s for my birthday, and I was running around trying to find a game I was good enough at so I could get as many tickets as possible. Then, the guy behind the prize counter called me over to him. When I went over, he asked me if I was the birthday girl. When I said yes, he held out a bucket full of orange ping pong balls and asked me to pick one. I was puzzled, but obediently took out a ball. When I rolled it over in my hand, the number 100 was printed on it. The guy behind the counter smiled and said, “Happy Birthday, you just got an extra 100 tickets!” I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself. All I could think of was, “I can have it all! I don’t have to choose between the mini prizes, I can have what I really want and then have some left over for several mini prizes too!” I do not remember what “big prize” I picked, but I remember vividly how the guy who gave me the ping pong ball made it possible for me to have it all.
For the past twenty-two years of my life, I had been dejectedly walking around with mini prizes. Please allow me to explain. Due mostly to a traumatic experience that began when I was five, a dark, heavy cloud settled over my life and stayed throughout my childhood and adolescent years. Since I was taught to mask negative emotions, I pretended I was happy whenever I was around people. Soon, I started having bouts of extreme giddiness and high levels of productivity and excitement followed by sudden crashes into the depths of despair. Since the despair was often longer and more painful, it was all that I talked about. Besides, the highs seemed like a breath of fresh air in the midst of the lows. That’s why it wasn’t until recently that my diagnosis changed from major depression to bipolar. However, whatever name they gave it didn’t make my pain any easier. I really didn’t know if it was truly bipolar, or depression, or insanity, or all of the above. I just wanted the pain to go away.
Well, actually, I didn’t really. You see, the pain was horrible and brutal, but whenever I talked about it with other people, they almost always seemed concerned for me and when I heard the concern in their voice and saw it in their actions, I thought, “Wow, they must really care about me!” When I was in pain, people prayed for me, they talked with me, they came over to spend the night with me, they invited me to hang out with them. However, when I felt better, while people still hung out with me at times, no one seemed to want to have meaningful conversations with me or seemed to sense the need to pray for me anymore. Since I wasn’t being prayed for or talked to, I thought, “Oh, people must think I don’t need them to care about me anymore.” Soon whenever I was starved for affirmation and love, I would work myself up into a depression (which wasn’t hard to do). Then when I’m sufficiently in pain, I would finally think, “Ok, now this merits a call to a friend.” I would call them, they would be concerned, I would be assured that once again that people cared about me. Then I would hang up and wait for the pain to stop so I could have some good times until I needed to know that people cared about me again.
Except it didn’t always work that way. As much as I tried to manipulate the people and situations around me, I found that I was powerless just like I was in the arcade. Some people eventually got tired of me being a sad sack all the time and broke all ties with me. Even worse, the depression soon took on a life of its own and attacked when I least expected it and stayed a lot longer than I knew what to do with. Now this thing was getting out of control, and the mini prize I had won didn’t seem so fun anymore as I battled this huge monster. Still, I so craved the love I received when I was in pain that I tried my best to put up with it.
On Monday night however, I could bear it no more. It hurt so much I wanted to pass out. Yet that night, I fell asleep soundly and woke up refreshed. What shocked me however, was that the next day, when I woke up and felt better, I was trying to get some of the depression back, just so the people who cared about me the night before when I talked to them wouldn’t stop caring about me because I felt better. When I went to my nannying job, I took my e-reader along with me to pass the time while the girl was in her music lessons. I was in the middle of a physical fitness book called Every Body Matters. The author was making a case about being healthy and he said that being unhealthy is being selfish while being healthy is being loving. Of course he was talking about health that we can control, not illnesses that we didn’t cause nor are able to do anything about. At that moment a light bulb turned on. I thought about the people in my life whom I turn to when I’m in trouble and how I love them too. I then realized that people who truly care about me care about me during good times and the bad times. Not only that, because they care about me, they genuinely hurt with me when I hurt. God had been showing me in the last couple of weeks that the depression is there because I want it and let it stay. Well, it suddenly dawned on me that by letting myself be in pain, I was causing pain to those whom I loved. Furthermore, I remembered the good times I’ve shared with those people and realized that they didn’t love me any less when I was happy then when I was sad. After the Lord showed me how I had been deceived into thinking that I had to give up a life of peace and joy in order to receive love, I got disgusted with the monster of depression just like I did with the monster of suicide. I got right down to business and commanded it to leave in the name of Jesus. Immediately joy flooded my heart as I was set free from this life-long bondage. Excitedly, I thought to myself, “I don’t have to choose between love and joy. I can have it all because my Savior has given me the ping pong ball containing the power to enjoy all of the blessings he has for me, including life more abundantly!”