I have been told ( by my Dr) that I am a high functioning depressive, what a great label that is! What it means is that I might not notice depression creeping up on me, and it often does not stop me from getting out of bed, going to work and achieving things. The problem with that is that neither I not those around me are aware of the subtle changes of energy and mood that slowly begin to sap the joy out of my life.
For a few years now I have been working on noticing these things, of listening to my life and understanding it. On the whole I am what I would call a people person, I enjoy company and really do like being with people, but that is not where I draw my energy from, I draw energy through contemplation and silence, from long walks on my own and from nature.
That said alarm bells should ring when I don’t want to go out, but sometimes they don’t, and sometimes the rhythm of my work allows me to spend days at home which depending on the level of depression I am experiencing may or may not be good for me!
Most of the time I am OK, but I need to be vigilant in looking after myself and noting within myself the tendency to resist things, today for example I have found it really hard to think about eating healthily, in fact until lunchtime eating at all, and when I stop to think about it that is true for yesterday too!
Another thing I need to be aware of is smiling, yes that might sound bonkers but it is true, my counsellor once asked me why I was smiling as I described a pretty traumatic event to her. I honestly did not know the answer, and when we delved into that a bit the truth was that I was trying somehow to make it okay for her to hear, which meant I was not truly engaging with the emotion of it! So there are times when I have to watch my smile because sometimes it means that I am hiding pain from myself.
So why am I writing this down to post in a public place, the answer is that I am doing it for me, and possibly for you. There are many people like me, and many who may walk through life getting on with things, and even achieving significant success and yet they drag around with them the weight of the black-dog of depression.
It’s easy to put depression into a box of symptoms, and though we as a society are constantly told mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, we are stuck with a mental health stock image in our heads that many people don’t match, and no matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous. It is dangerous to the individual and possibly to those for whom they are responsible.
Today then I am grateful for the label that I will wear neatly tucked into my collar because it helps me to understand, love and care for myself. I am not however going to put it on as a badge to draw attention to ( even though I am blogging this), instead I have a few trusted friends who will notice and listen to my life with me, and who will learn with me to notice my reactions and possibly ask why I haven’t been out and about for a while.
I would like to say that this does not have an effect on my faith, but I must admit that there are times when it does, not in questioning God but in my desire to be in the divine presence openly and expectantly. It is then that I must return to Jesus invitation that along with counselling and medication, and there is no shame in needing those, has grounded me again and again:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Or from in my favourite rendition from The Message:
“Are you tired? Worn out? ………Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Lord I come to you by your grace help me to see my need! AMEN