Chutes and Ladders, Anyone?

When I was very little, my mom fished out a game I came to know as “Shoots and Ladders.” I didn’t understand the “shoots” part for awhile, until I learned that those playground-esque slides on the gameboard were referred to as “chutes.” Why they couldn’t spell the word correctly was beyond me. defines “chute” as this: an inclined channel, as a trough, tube, or shaft, for conveying water, grain, coal, etc., to a lower level.

Living with depression is like being sucked into a game of Chutes and Ladders that you hadn’t requested an invite to. All your energy is spending trying to climb out, or stay out, of the lowest level–and then suddenly falling back in. Sometimes your brain is as capricious as a roll of the dice.

In real life, though, no one can tell if you’re climbing or if you’re chuting.

My last post, “How Do I Tell You I’m Drowning,” received more feedback than I had expected. When I sat down to write it, it was just supposed to be a mildly-informative post while I practiced blogging again. Apparently more people in my circle are struggling than I realized.

And apparently we have a really, really hard time asking for help when we need it.

Because depression shrouds us in isolation, if even a false isolation, we need to be proactive in creating a support system. One friend mentioned how offers for help, such as “Hey, let me know if you need anything” or “Reach out any time” will always be ignored in a crisis. It’s not intentional–and it’s not anyone’s fault–but it happens. If you’re in a downward spiral of feeling like you don’t matter, it’s hard to convince yourself that someone else might think you matter–or will at least be willing to help without indicating annoyance. Why risk someone else hating you when you already hate yourself? (I realize this sounds overly dramatic, but depression is not a mellow fellow.)

So before you go on a walk and drink your body weight in water (with some multiplication or division conversion sequence) and before you stand in front of a mirror to speak inflated affirmations over yourself…

Text someone. Anyone.

Ask if they would mind coming over and chatting with you. “Hey, do you mind coming over and being my sounding board? I need someone to help me get out of my head for a bit.” If your house is a mess and you’re mortified to have company, ask if you can meet up somewhere local, or if you could go for a drive together.

(If they’re a reaaaaally good friend and they come over and bring you coffee and help you clean your house…definitely keep them. Those are the special ones.)

Depression isn’t anything to be ashamed of. You didn’t sign up for it, and you can’t opt-out, but you can set up strategies to get through it better each time. It’s going to look a little different than the self-help articles online, though. You know, the ones that just regurgitate their advice from Nike:

“Just do it.”

(There might not be a sacred swoop emblazoned across the page, but the message is the same.)

“Just do this.”

“Just do that.”

“Just do these ten simple things…”

And by the third article you’re like, OKAY SUSAN, if I could “just do” these simple things, I wouldn’t be here, would I?

The key to fighting depression is that you don’t have to do it all by yourself. You need help–I need help. It probably won’t be a one-time event, and so we plan accordingly. If we’re gonna be stuck in this game of Chutes and Ladders, we might as well play it with the people we love.

When you’re climbing up the ladder and doing okay, invest in your friends. Tell them how much you appreciate them and learn how to love them the way they want to be loved.

When you’re slipping and sliding and suffocating down the chute, lean into those friends. Don’t worry about what you can “contribute” at this particular moment, just soak in their friendship. You’ll be healthy again, and you can give back then.

God created us for community. Serve when you can, be loved when you can’t.

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
– Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV

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