I’ve always loved the rain.
I don’t really know when it started. Maybe when I was a little child, singing songs at church every Sunday. Songs about being cleansed from sin, just like the earth is cleansed after rain. Or maybe it was the hours spent splashing in the gutter whenever a heavy storm rolled through. Or the times I was caught without an umbrella, hurrying home to avoid getting wet but loving the feeling the rain on my face.
Now I find myself living in the prototypical rainy city: Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
Summer is coming to a close, which means rainy days are sneaking back into my life, almost as if they never left. Tonight is one of those nights, where the evening rain steals the bright hours from the afternoon.
It’s comforting; the rain. Things are quieter. Colors are muted and the world grows dim. People stay inside, snuggling blankets, pets, and significant others while they do “indoor activities”, the kind you’re only supposed to do in poor weather. Things like reading, gaming, and cooking. Deep conversations. Snuggling with a hot beverage.
My most beloved hobbies happen to be indoor activities. Maybe that’s why I love the rain. It covers for me. Rainy weekends give me a legitimate excuse to say I did nothing but read a book for two days straight. Do that on a sunny day and people think you’re crazy. But sprinkle a little water from the sky and you’re right as rain.
But lately, I’ve started thinking that I love the rain for an entirely different reason.
I was diagnosed with depression this summer, at 28 years old. Growing up I knew I had some anxiety, but every time I saw ads for depression medicine I thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t depressed like those poor souls in the ads.
You see, I was sort of an asshole. (Still am, if I’m being honest. But I’m getting better! I think…)
I believed that bad things didn’t happen to good people. It was impossible for me to be depressed. I was good Mormon boy, for crying out loud! My challenges in life were supposed to be fighting off the temptation to masturbate, not drink coffee, and avoid saying bad words. I clearly was not supposed to face the debilitating challenge of depression! That was only for people who sinned and did not have the light of the Gospel in their life.
In my young mind, depression was never a possibility for me. That denial came back to haunt me.
I was always a pretty happy, hard-working, social guy. While I was never anywhere close to popular, I had a really great group of friends. My life was fantastic. The hardest things I faced in life was getting good grades, not sinning (i.e. not masturbating), and wondering if I would make the varsity soccer team. I had hard times, just like anyone does, but by most metrics I had a good childhood.
I never thought I would be someone who has depression.
So when I moved to Ecuador to be a Mormon missionary, I had no idea what hell would be unleashed on my mind. For the first time in my life, I struggled. I found myself in a far-away country, learning a new language, with no friends or family to help me out. It was an incredible culture shock, and I did not adjust well.
During my nine months in Ecuador, something inside me started to break open, like a slumbering evil hatching after decades of incubation.
I don’t know if it was the cult-like rules that missionaries are forced to follow, the separation from my friends, family, and normal way of life, or something else entirely. All I know is that my body started a revolt. Aches and pains exploded at random, sometimes bad enough that I couldn’t even get out of bed. At one point I hurt so badly that another missionary blessed me and cast out whatever evil spirit was trying to take over my body.
Little did I know, the demons were coming from inside my body.
One night during the rainy Ecuadorian summers, a huge storm hit. The power was knocked out, so me and the other missionaries would gather around a few candles, reading whatever church-approved literature we had lying around.
I think this is where my love of indoor activities blossomed. It was one of the few times on my mission where I had more than thirty minutes to spend how I saw fit. Missionary schedules are generally quite busy, and you’re never supposed to be out of sight from your companion. But on rainy nights with no power, we had a couple hours to ourselves to read, pray, study, plan, or think.
During those precious few moments, I would diligently read the missionary handbooks and rules. I would memorize my favorite scriptures in Spanish. I would think about what life would be like after my mission. How I would come home, go to Brigham Young University, find a beautiful wife, and have a boatload of children.
Rainy nights like that were for daydreaming of the amazing life I was bound to have. They were also a rare moment where I could lay down and rest, with no pressure to be a missionary. Time where I could massage my screaming calves and try to relax my rock-hard shoulders.
I loved the rain for that. It gave an introvert some very needed rest from the extroverted work of a Mormon missionary.
But those nights of partial recovery were few and far between. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. So after just nine months in Ecuador, I was sent home to Idaho to rest and recover.
The monster of depression and anxiety had won its first major victory in the fight for my happiness.
Since then, it’s won quite a few more fights.
Depression is a sneaky opponent. Until you realize it’s there, you spent countless nights wondering what the hell is wrong with your brain. If you don’t ever realize you’re under attack, it will tear you apart.
I was horrified of even the thought that I had depression, so I spent years in denial. Only after my depression threatened my job did I even start to think that something was amiss.
It took me three years after realizing I had mental health issues before I found a therapist. It didn’t take him long to diagnose me with depression. I regret waiting those three years to get help. During that time, my depression did a lot of damage. I thought I was worthless. That I would never amount to anything. At times I thought that life wasn’t worth living. Depression was a huge factor in my marriage falling apart, and it’s caused me to live with constant body aches and pains that I now accept might just hang around forever. The pain, both physical and emotional, tints my vision, casting a dull gray cloud over every aspect of my life.
For years, my world has been gloomy.
And that’s why I love the rain. It makes the world look more like how I see it every day.
Rain gives me an excuse to lean into myself. To do those indoor activities that I love. To write. To feel. To be me, depression and all.
I’ve spent a lot of time not being me.
I’ve tried running from it, denying the reality of my situation. I was too terrified to face the truth: That I have depression.
I finally wised up after far too many years of suffering. I’ve accepted that I’m broken. Depression is a bitch, but now that I know what I’m fighting, it’s a hell of a lot easier to punch back.
Things have gotten better lately. I’m winning that fight, at least for now. I’m doing all the things they tell you to do to keep depression at bay, and it seems to be working.
I mean, if I can get through marital separation and an impending divorce without falling into a depression, I must be doing something right.
Because I’m finally taking action, I’m starting to realize that I don’t have to be depressed forever. I don’t always have to see the world through a rainy haze.
Ah right, the rain. That’s what I was talking about.
Rain is an interesting natural phenomenon. Sad, gut-wrenching moments in movies are often accompanied by rain. Nothing screams “I AM DEVASTATED BY THIS MOMENT” as much the image of someone collapsed and sobbing in the pouring rain.
But rain is more than sadness. It’s hope and renewal. It’s nourishment and peace. It’s comfort. It’s life. Each individual raindrop is a different feeling, all mixing together to drench the world with a great symphony of emotions emotions.
We couldn’t survive without the rain, just as we can’t live without our feelings. All of them.
And for that, I love it.
Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant living in Seattle, WA. He likes to write novels and articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project or tackling a fun video game. You can find out more about him on his website.