I’m awake but I don’t want to be. Exhaustion weighs my eyelids down, and there’s a heavy sadness as well. The sheets and stresses tangle around me, pulling me further into weary sleep. As soon as my eyes open, they fill with tears and hopelessness drowns me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this. For as long as I can remember, the cooler fall weather has triggered my depression.

I manage to drag myself out of bed as my alarm rings again, telling me I have an hour to get to work. My aunt comes in to chat but our talk just ends up making me feel empty and I fight tears as I pull on clothes and rush out the door.

I’m late, of course, and I creep into the bathroom to change, hoping my boss doesn’t talk with me about my tardiness because I know it will end with me sobbing. Why am I late again? I fight back tears that emerge from the thought, inhaling deep breaths before pasting on a weary smile and clocking in.

The morning drifts by. I almost lose it after a stranger looks at me and asks, “Are you OK?”

This cycle continues throughout the day, and I’m exhausted after a few hours. I know what’s happening yet can’t seem to stop it. Depression and anxiety are a real struggle for me, sometimes daily.


But I’m an Adventist, so I’m not supposed to struggle with sadness.

I’m not supposed to struggle with worry.

I’m not supposed to struggle with rage, disbelief, or any other negative emotion or thought process.

I’m supposed to “be joyful always” (1 Thes. 5) and continually feel a “peace that passes understanding” (Phil. 4).

I’m supposed to be able to pray all this away.

I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t perfectly fit the Adventist ideal. I’m an Adventist who struggles with depression and anxiety and I have Adventist family and friends who struggle with anger and doubt. I find that whenever I really get to know the people sitting beside me in church, I realize they’re living with and fighting against their own set of flaws.

But instead of seeing Adventism as an unreachable ideal, it’s best to see us as a puzzle that fits together imperfectly because it’s made up of people with rough edges and missing pieces. Too often we think church members, pastors, and leaders are supposed to always be healthy and happy—but healthy people aren’t the ones in need of a Doctor. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. Jesus said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2). It’s the troubled who need healing, the lost who need finding, the lonely who need company—and that’s all of us.

Sometimes I feel I’m inadequate because I struggle, as though I haven’t prayed enough or don’t have enough faith to be instantly and permanently healed. But in reality, God gives us a number of tools and tactics to deal with mental duress and illness. So even though my Seasonal Affective Disorder is triggered each fall, I’ve found some practical ways to cope with it.

Mentally Healthy Habits

Maybe you’ve experienced times when disabling struggles didn’t miraculously disappear. Instead of shaming ourselves when that happens, we need to find practical ways to work through, heal from, and cope with our emotions and thoughts. Here are some tips to living a healthy life in the midst of mental struggle:

  1. Talk about it. The emotions you’re experiencing are real. Find a safe, compassionate person and tell them what you’re feeling.
  2. Seek professional help. This help is especially important if your depression, anxiety, anger, or doubt has been triggered by personal loss, trauma, or if you have been experiencing it for weeks without reprieve.
  3. Dim the screen on social media. As Theodore Roosevelt observed, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” A constant connection to Facebook and Instagram can deepen our dissatisfaction when we compare ourselves to the edited pictures of other people’s lives.
  4. Remember: You are not the only one struggling. Let go of any shame that comes from feeling like you are alone. Offer yourself grace, and seek the help you need.

Grace Escobar from Lincoln, Nebraska is a junior English major at Union College. Sarah Ventura from Kasson, Minnesota graduated from Union College in December 2015 with English. This story is part of a series called “Who are we?” from the February 2016 print edition of OUTLOOK, our annual special issue produced by Union College students.