Today’s blog is an attempt at a personal breakthrough. I’ve mentioned previously that clinical depression is a subject very close to my heart. Right now, as I write this blog, I’m feeling a bit down. Not because anything’s happened. No, just feeling down, with the accompanying lump in the throat, I don’t know why that happens but it does, the lump stays there, uncomfortable and almost painful.
I know what you might be thinking, a bit down, we all do from time to time, so what’s special about your feeling down? Come on, get over it? Just think positively, say a few affirmations/confessions and all will be well. I’m afraid to disappoint you, I know how valuable I am to my family and others, I know God made me fearfully and wonderfully, believe it or not, I’m trying really hard to think positive. The lump just seems to grow bigger, the mood darker. Like I’m fighting myself.
The difference between what I’m feeling and what everybody else might feel on their ‘down’ day is they may actually think themselves out of it, they probably have a reason for their down, someone DID or SAID something to get them feeling that way. But I just simply went into this ‘mood’ if you want to call it that. All by myself.
A few years ago before I knew what it was, this slight mood change would probably have led to the start of a downward spiral into a really dark place, truly resenting everyone and everything around me. I would start thinking about how things are looking so bad in my life. How I have failed myself and others. And yes, I mean, is it really worth it? This life thing, I mean.
That might sound just like some sort of emotional weakness or imbalance. Some people can just sleep it off and wake up feeling a whole lot better. You may even give yourself a little pep talk, one or two affirmations and you’re on your way. Back to your good old self. Well, not me. Or anyone suffering from clinical depression for that matter. If I attempted to sleep it off, I’d wake up where I was or even worse.
Just opening your eyes causes you to regret the day before it even starts. The heaviness becomes physical. It takes a real effort to be pleasant to anyone, even your wife and kids, my reasons for being alive. In fact, let me just wait till they’ve left for school before venturing out of the bedroom. The shoulders feel heavy, so you feel slumped and in your attempt not to give your mood away you make a real effort to not look hunched or defeated, and a sense of fear about anything you do or think of prevails. But you try, a joke on the car radio might elicit a little laugh from you. And do you notice how everybody just wants to cut in front of you in the traffic, I mean really now?
Someone’s indicating to change lanes just a little ahead of you. Indicate all you like but I’m not giving way, no, never! Oops, I didn’t say my morning prayers, maybe that’s why. What difference will it make anyway, I’m so far down the road a prayer won’t make a difference, I mean I just swore back at that terrible driver a few seconds ago, I cannot be talking to God in the same breath. So no, I won’t pray, not right now. Let me just get through this horrible day, maybe a little TV in the evening will do the trick, a soccer game maybe, yeah, that’s a good idea, only, I have these twelve hours to kill before then. Why do I feel so afraid?
Everyone one at work is just on my case. Why won’t people just do simple logical things, what’s wrong with everybody today ? “You look so sad today, you stressed?”, somebody asks with a little chuckle. “None of your business!” I retort,though I don’t say it out loud. “Ag, just a little headache”, I lie without flinching. Stress? What does he know about stress, the next person to say that to me is gonna get it, I swear. “Why are you so slow in serving us, don’t you know about customer service?” says some gum-chewing, headphone wearing, little teenager who’s just discovered all about “my rights”. No you didn’t just say that, No. Before you know it it’s a screaming match, you are aware you are overreacting but you feel justified, she started this after all. What a nerve! And it’s only nine o’clock in the morning.
You know what, that’s it, I’m not doing anything I don’t want to do today! I’m not. Trouble is, there is nothing you want to do. Nothing! Won’t the day just end already. I hope I’ll be able to watch the game in peace today, I mean it’s the Champion’s League final. They don’t come any bigger than this but I have this feeling of fear that won’t go away, even my gut feels upset, and this lump, this damn lump in my throat won’t go away. Maybe some gospel music will lift me, if I could just get a little lift. But what, I don’t drink anymore so what now! At least I made it home.
“We need to talk”, she says in a playful way, unaware of the turbulence that you’ve had to keep a lid on the whole day. Your little piece of salvation is TV and now this! The Champions League final gets underway in three minutes, you just nod and nod and agree to make it all go away. I’m missing the game, what have I done to anybody, someone please tell me! My team’s losing already, see if only I had watched the first half, like that would have made a difference!
Take those feelings and multiply them by a week, two weeks, a month, add regret about perceived past failures, financial instability and failing to connect spiritually. That’s what it used to be like.
BUT THAT WAS THEN…
Now I know the lump in my throat signals a mood change for the negative. I listen out or look out for possible triggers. Am I anxious about my child, am I worried about slow business? What exactly is causing this? Half the time I can’t pinpoint the trigger. But Now I know, it’s not who I am, it’s simply a mood change. The fear is a result of that change in my body and mind, have I taken my little pills? I have, ok, this isn’t the end of the road.
I don’t need to listen to the radio when I drive home tonight, that kind of bad news I cannot handle, how about a Crefflo Dollar or Joyce Meyer podcast. That sounds ok. Oh, and because I know it’s not me, I don’t have to worry about the future or tomorrow. My mood tomorrow will probably be different, if it persists I’ll see if I can’t call a friend. Yes, that’s a brilliant idea. In fact how about a run, damn I’m already looking forward to this evening, the TV can wait, I want to pound that tarred road, and I’m looking forward to reading that new book I bought… I can also spend a few minutes catching up with friends on Facebook.
And if that doesn’t work I’ll ask my clinical psychologist why, she just seems to have it all figured out, or at least she helps me figure it all out. She helps me to live. Yes, I’ll ask her why when I see her, but I may already be ok and writing about it before I see her. I need my church cell group so much, to hear the Word. Oh, I’ve been asked to share the Word, my cell group leader thinks I can share. Isn’t God wonderful? I see a broken me and he sees an instrument he can use. I’m looking forward to more of this, when I share, there’s this confidence that I know doesn’t come from me, but it’s there, it makes me feel like I’m not a depression sufferer, no I’m not, I’m a survivor. I’ve survived it and lived to tell the story, and so can you.
And my personal breakthrough? Did I achieve it? I would like to think so. I just wrote a blog when every inch of me screamed No you can’t do it. I’ve never done it before, writing when I’m down, but I’ve done it now. Hopefully my run this evening and some Word will set me right. I look forward to tomorrow.
There is a “shame” that comes with knowing that you are not like everybody else, that you need a little pill or pills to be the best you you can be. It shouldn’t be the case. That shame seems almost built-in. It stops you from doing something about your situation, it stops you from seeking help. It also stops you from talking to others about it. I suppose it’s a bit of a stigma, like people will ask, you need a psychologist to survive, pills, you can’t handle your own emotions! And a whole lot more, “you are stressed”!
Once overcome though, you know you need to share to help others.
It took a little miracle for me to realize what this condition was, I still wish the miracle had come many years earlier. God works to his timings not ours. I share my thoughts and feelings so you don’t have to wait for a miracle, get help.
Below I share some of the telltale signs that you may be depressed: I ignored mine for years, learnt to live with them. Sometimes I think part of the devastation one feels from depression comes from all the energy spent trying to look and sound ok for those around you. The British comedian Stephen Fry says he did a TV show once and was laughing with everybody but inside he felt, I just want kill myself. Here’s that list:
DEPRESSION HATES THE FUTURE, with a passion. I think because one is in a depressed state, planning for the future becomes painful, a trigger even. Where do you think you’ll be in 10 years time? A popular “motivational” question becomes a taunt. If I could answer that when depressed I would tell you I can’t see past today and you want me to play Nostradamus? A depressed person literally lives one day at a time.
DEPRESSION LOVES DARKNESS, Literally. You just want to keep the curtains drawn, windows closed. With a reasonable supply of food, you don’t want to even venture outside. The retired British footballer, Stan Collymore, became an instant object of derision on the internet when he said he would spend a couple of days indoors(curtains drawn) when depressed. Ignorant people think money solves everything and as a well-to-do personality he had no reason to be suffering from clinical depression.
DEPRESSION HATES POSITIVE TALK, when depressed, every inch of you feels like a failure. A friend or family member might give a suggestion that you try something, change your job and all you feel is so they already see that I’m a failure. You resent them. Positive suggestions feel like pity, which in my case, I couldn’t stand.
DEPRESSION HURTS, emotionally that it is. I’ve said to people that half the the time I walked around with and unending sense of loss. So you just feel emotionally hurt and drained all the time.
DEPRESSION HAS A VERY SHORT FUSE. Like me you may have built a very solid outward defense, a look that covers the turbulence you have inside. You are always on edge but you work so hard to let it not show, what helps you is you withdraw from people unconsciously so your underlying anger at everything and everyone keeps hidden. People bother you. But when you do lose it, even you know it’s beyond your control. You see red, literally, and you shout down or even bully the poor shop attendant and demand to see their manager’s manager. Thing is, when calm, you always feel remorseful.
DEPRESSION LOVES RISKY BEHAVIOUR , Anything to feel just a little better than you currently feel. I’ve always had a soft spot for drug addicts and alcoholics. Not because I was ever one, but because I believe half of them got hooked onto their substance trying to escape their depressive state. Like I said it hurts and you are tempted to drown out the pain. My ‘anti-depressant’ of choice was alcohol. Had tragedy not intervened I shudder to think where I would be(the pain of a death in the family gave me the crisis I needed to make a change). If after taking your ‘anti-depressant’ you always engage in risky behaviour that you regret later, then your anti-depressant is masking something else, depression maybe. I don’t know who said but I thought it’s a wise observation: if you find you have a reason to drink then don’t. Deal with the reason first.
DEPRESSION, LOW SELF-ESTEEM AND LACK OF SELF-CONFIDENCE THRIVE TOGETHER. I don’t really know which leads to which but I know that where they occur together any sense of self-worth is eroded. You feel you know nothing, are worth nothing and can do nothing about it. Except maybe end it all. I’m not a psychologist but I would bet my bottom dollar(or Rand) that all these stories of people wiping out their whole families and then themselves have all these three at the same time. Remember, desperate people do desperate things.
There are many things that depression does to people, but the worst of them all is the inability to connect with your Maker,a spiritual drought. When your whole being knows that you have a caring God who wants only the best for you , it’s easy to identify Depression as an illness apart from your being. But when you don’t, depression can take away your last way out of your emotional hell, spiritual connectedness. So Now, unlike back then, when I feel far away from the Most High, I know it’s time to start living each minute consciously, paying attention to the smallest detail, ensuring that tomorrow is different from today.