Struggle With, Not Victory Over


It’s tempting for anyone who writes about depression and anxiety to preach from hindsight, after he has “recovered” from his mood disorder: “This is what I did to free myself from addiction” … “Here are five steps to instant weight loss” … “These are eight techniques to cure anxiety.”

If you look at the list of New York Times bestseller advice books, such simple directives fill slots 1 through 20. Because no one wants to read the secrets of a person still struggling with her diet and exercise. After fifteen bloody weeks, she is still grossed out by sweat. Few people want to read a depression memoir that ends in a psych ward, with ECT.

Awhile back a friend sent me a great article called “Victory Over or Struggle With?” about the temptation for preachers to speak from a “victory over” perspective versus a more reflective, introspective “struggling with” point of view. Bob Kellemen, the author of the article, writes:

How often are we writing about our current struggles or our ongoing struggles with issues such as depression, anxiety … envy, jealousy, anger, and the like? How often do we preach about our current and ongoing struggles?

Stop for a moment before you say, “Oh, I just talked about how last year I battled …..” That’s part of our problem. We write and preach about the battle after we have won it. We talk about the valley once we are back on the mountaintop.

What effect might it have on our fellow strugglers if we talked about the battle during the battle—while we are still in the valley? How might it connect truth to life if we were honest enough to admit that we have lifelong, ongoing battles that we struggle with rather than that we always have “victory” over?

I am guilty of this myself. I am tempted to tie up all my struggles and angst with a lovely pink ribbon, indicating all the hard stuff is over. My archives are filled with “6 ways to ….” articles. However, whenever I have followed the advice of a former editor and written from where I am, not from where I want to be, I am always amazed at the response from readers.

It’s much harder to write from that place. Because it’s filled with ambiguity, uncertainty, restlessness, confusion, and embarrassment–for not having figured everything out. Most of us would like to present ourselves with much more direction, clarity, and single-mindedness because those traits are lumped in with success.

When I read an honest piece of writing or hear someone speak her truth with all the gray mixed in, I am always reassured to know that there is someone else out there who is wrestling with the questions, navigating life’s crooked lines, and trying to put one foot in front of another in pursuit of a little sanity.

Being vulnerable with each other builds a solidarity that is healing and hopeful. Grace lurks in those moments where we can be imperfect together. In exposing our darker sides, we access the light. In facing our weaknesses with others, we find the strength and resiliency to forge ahead.

Our victory isn’t the moment we stop struggling. It’s in grittiness of the struggle.


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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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14 Responses
  1. MK Owens

    Therese – Pink ribbons not required. The truth is never that tidy, I agree completely. But writing about the struggle is hard too; climbing up out of the hole is all-consuming and I don’t have the wherewithal to write too. Just trying to remember with gratitude rather than dread, the times I have struggled, once I am better. Thanks for posting this piece.

    1. Leslie

      I feel unable to communicate when in the dark depths. I could list strategies that might be helpful, but am totally incapable of implementing them. It’s almost like an out of body experience. My most recent episode was the longest in duration (18 1/2 months) that I have ever experienced and was also the darkest time ever.

      Has anyone else ever experienced what I’ll call this “Rip Van Winkle effect?” I know that I was ‘gone’ for just over a year and a half. I have gradually begun resuming living. When I’ve gotten together with people it feels like my absence was only 6-8 wks in duration vs the reality of it having been 18 1/2 months.

  2. You are so right Therese- being human means vulnerability and to hear that others are right there with you struggling brings great hope. However, being able to admit this as the author of many helpful articles must take great courage too- so thank you for this. Once again your work has encouraged me❤️

  3. Jeff Duggan

    Very good advise on all of the quick-step programs addressing our ills.
    You are always so real and true. Keep up the great work.

  4. Leah

    LOVE YOU, my sister in the world, who I don’t know in a togetherness knowing, but in appreciation of you and your open windows!!
    He is Risen, just as He said!! Marvelous miracle…. but not neat and tidy. The greatest destruction of Jerusalem happened within years of this, and prior to that most of the early Jewish Believers left in persecution. Some are physically persecuted for faith or moral stands even today, and others of us are just sick and in pain…. it is all an example of being in that in between place. Moments of victory now I believe comprise those tic-tocs when our faith unifies with hope and somehow we really know HE IS RISEN. It will be worth it. LOVE came and redeemed me in a Person and in a personal way!!! And someday we will put on immortality and see true, unending victory. Woo-hoo! Till then, we breath and walk in the midst of struggle and pain…. with our eyes and heart looking up! Behold the Lamb!!

  5. Dawn

    Thank you so much, Therese, for this very honest post. So very healing to hear the truth from the trenches and not the mountaintop. Bless you!

  6. Renata


    Just minutes before reading this new post, I read the one above! Depression is a mental and spiritual struggle, but we continue to prevail! Therese, your insight and honesty are like a lighthouse to us. Thank you so much, always!

  7. John

    This is not a quick step guide or similar.

    If you really want to stop the struggling it can be done. Not easy but simpler than it looks.

    Search for the psychotropical site and follow Dr. Ken Gillman´s advice.

    And no, he is not a snake oil seller. He does not sell anything indeed.

    Read patient stories if you want. Then do read the full site to have the full perspective.

    I bet you have never tried a MAOI (or done it properly). Welcome back to life.

    1. Jane

      Thank you for your comment. I contacted him and
      he was very helpful in giving me the name of a
      doctor in Chicago who prescribed Parnate for
      TR unipolar depression. Have you found it to
      be helpful for you?
      Appreciate your feedback.

      1. John

        Yes, however *helpful* would be an understatement, lifesaver is more apt.

        Just remember to follow the simple diet guidelines. Its is important to be aware that spoiled food can have a higher tyramine content than anything, cheese included. Check for interactions with other drugs, especially some over the counter remedies. And that´s it.

        Take into account that most, if not all, secondary effects will wane and disappear with time so do not give up.


  8. Thank you for sharing. I find that I am not so full of answers, but far more compassionate, when I am struggling myself.

  9. Jackie

    I am smack in the middle of a long depression and a financial crisis with work issues-finding work. This morning I just lost my job- it was a horrendous workplace, I took the job out of desperation from a job loss last fall. I am just raw from stress and am tired of telling myself it will be all right. I think we are allowed to just say at some point that we are doing the hard work of getting through and it is NOT all right.
    The work place I just left was one of the worst places I have ever been in- would take a chapter to describe the low quality of the workplace.
    I know it was not me. I just got off the phone with my therapist- her response was that she was glad I was out and we need to just find a better work situation.
    The writing above is very good- depression is like a river to me- sometimes I can wade, today, I am working on not drowning.

  10. Anne

    Like Jackie I’m struggling to find sanity in the workplace but cannot, will not, accept the abuse I’ve experienced there in the past. Writing about it daily has helped, and made it worse, because there it all is in black and white, not free floating in and out of my senses, and I can’t make myself play dumb through the bullying and manipulations like I did when I was younger.

    I write like a manic truth monger when I’m in the depths of angst and depression. It’s so honest I cringe when I re-read later in a different time and place. “If I can just accept all that I am” , is my goal, and to do that I need to express and see all of it, not necessarily understand why I feel so crazy. My little victory of today; getting the point of not having to know all the answers but feeling the feelings. Numbing them feels like a horrible betrayal at this point in my own personal journey, but it is part of the struggle, and I guess necessary or I wouldn’t do it!