It was my favorite time of the year. Christmas carols filled the airwaves, the smells of baking cookies filled the air and laughter filled the eyes of everyone around me. But although I could see the holiday lights sparkling, nothing lifted the darkness that cloaked my soul.
Depression had wrested control from me, taking the joy out of the Christmas—and the light out of life. Sure, I went through the motions, decorating the tree, sending out holiday cards, and taking part in the retail frenzy that marks the season.
But none of it touched me.
I sent out silent signals of distress. Signals unintelligible to anyone but me. The lights decorating our house that year were blue. The cards sent out were absolutely generic, lacking my usual warm chattiness. The presents? Were bought with a minimum of thought, and I really didn’t care whether anyone liked them or not.
I trudged through the season, shoulders bowed under the weight of my pain. I hated everyone. Questioned everything.
What was I doing with my life? Was I really supposed to be here, doing this? Would anyone notice if I simply stopped existing? Would they be better off without me?
But the universe refused to answer.
Finally, it was Christmas Eve. I headed to church with my husband and his family for the holiday service. We sat shoulder to shoulder in the crowded church, the packed pews necessitating almost claustrophobic closeness.
But I still felt utterly alone.
I closed my eyes, fighting back tears, and did something I never do. I prayed. “God,” I said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to go on living. I want to give up. Is that what I should do? Help me, please.”
Suddenly, a deep calm overtook me and a series of pictures flashed through my mind. My husband kissing me on our wedding day. Us laughing as we swam in the lake. Him with a befuddled expression on his face, holding our puppy at arm’s length as he peed all over the kitchen floor.
My beautiful life was laid out in front of me, and I knew that I was supposed to stay put. That I was on the right path. That I just had to hold on.
Then, as suddenly as it had come, the presence was gone. My husband squeezed my hand and the outside world returned. “Are you okay,” he asked.
I nodded, tears shining in my eyes, and for the first time in months, it wasn’t a lie.
I am not a religious woman. I don’t go to church. I’m not even always sure that I believe in an afterlife. But I firmly believe that God spoke to me that day. God spoke to me, and gave me something to hold on to.
He gave me Hope.
That was not the end of my depression. In fact, it worsened, and the months that followed were full of confusion, anger and pain. But through it all, I cradled that nugget of Hope close to my heart. It was proof. Proof that I could survive. That I would survive. All I had to do was have a little faith.
Eventually, light returned to my life, along with laughter and joy. But the memory of that moment took up residence in my core and continues to shine—my own personal beacon of Hope.