Monday, March 4, 2013

Trouble in this World

The weeks surrounding my 40th birthday are memories I will cherish forever. I received the most wonderful, thoughtful gifts and sentiments from my family and friends, a surprise trip to Florida that became a surprise trip to the Keys, and massive and overwhelming amounts of love. In fact, I've never felt so loved.

When things started to return to normal, I remained enamored with a magic new age that held so much promise and basked in the afterglow of all the love. Last week, I crashed. Although, I've never used cocaine, I've heard you experience a super elated feeling and when the drug wears off, that feeling is replaced by intense despondency.

Well, I was high on love and adoration, and when things went back to normal, I let my guard down, the anniversary of my dad's death crept up on me, and before I could grab a lifeline, depression had me in its unrelenting grip. Granted, I've dealt with bipolar-ish disorder for most of my life, I self-diagnosed it in grad school, and then a doctor confirmed a few years ago. I say, bipolar-ish because I have depressive episodes and manic episodes but they are not usually long enough to meet the diagnostic criteria.

One time I actually had to be medicated out of it. Technically that was too close to my dad's death to be a major depressive episode. Since it doesn't happen that often, I mostly just deal with it.

I explained, again, to my darling husband that depression is different than sadness or the blues. He has witnessed these episodes many times over 22 years and encourages and hugs and walks on eggshells around me reminding me to pray and count my blessings. For me, it's as if someone throws a wet, black, blanket over my head, which I can't lift no matter how hard I try. So, I quit struggling and just give in to the darkness. I pray so much. I am overwhelmingly grateful for my blessings. No amount of prayer and blessing counting changes it.

Last week brought a really discouraging realization. I honestly felt that as I drew nearer to God, as I made myself smaller so that He could be bigger, as I focused on using the gifts He gave me for His purpose and His good, I never questioned that I would suffer, but I didn't think it would be from depression.

I was blindsided. Why is this happening again? Am I not following You? Am I not doing Your will? Have I not fasted and prayed and sacrificed as You wanted? I didn't feel as if God had left me, but I did feel confused. In the past I viewed my depression as caused by emptiness, and I thought that once I was filled with God's love, filled with the Holy Spirit, I wouldn't suffer from it anymore. I was wrong. I thought my depression was situational. I was wrong about that too.

It just happens. Sometimes bad things happen, and we can't understand why. God wasn't punishing me or using this to show me that I was on the wrong path, I fully believe that now.  In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Fortunately, I don't have to have to figure out or overcome this world because Jesus all ready did. Fortunately, I am surrounded by amazing people--many of them mental health professionals, go figure that. Fortunately, I recognize the symptoms and the onset even though I am powerless to control them. Fortunately, this time, it lasted only days rather than months. Fortunately, I was rewarded with a day of manic cleaning energy to make up for the days that I wandered around in a stupor managing only to work and nothing else.

I am not a mental health professional just someone who has dealt with this for many years. If you suffer or have suffered from depression: You aren't alone. You aren't crazy. You aren't being punished. If people tell you to cheer up and get over it, they might be trying to help, but they aren't the right people to help. Find a doctor, counselor, friend, pastor or someone with knowledge about depression. Don't suffer alone.

6 comments:

  1. Depression can be overwhelming, and when doubt and guilt are part of the symptoms, it becomes extremely difficult to overcome by just the force of your will. Your final paragraph sums it up nicely - seek help because it is a malady that can be treated... As one of those mental health professionals, thank you very much for this post...

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    1. Thank you for reading...and for being :)

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  2. Depression can be overwhelming, and when doubt and guilt are part of the symptoms, it becomes extremely difficult to overcome by just the force of your will. Your final paragraph sums it up nicely - seek help because it is a malady that can be treated... As one of those mental health professionals, thank you very much for this post...

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  3. This moved me. I saw it Monday and I tried to reply on my ipad but it didn't go through. I don't know anything from personal experience about depression; I have witnessed it. I love that in this day and age we can talk about such things and connect with others and receive thoughts from afar and sentiments of hope, to wit: I hope you don't feel shame, Mary. I hope you feel the feelings. It's so simple to say, but my mom never addressed any of this and now ... sigh ... it's so sad. I don't know if I ever knew her. I hope you are doing better -- keep in touch, ok?

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    1. Aw, thank you so much, Molly. I am sorry for your experience witnessing it. My daughter wrote an essay about watching me sink into depression and its effect on my husband and kids; it broke my heart. For a long time (I usually experience this depression in January/February and then recover), I was so caught up in my own pain that I didn't notice how hard it was for the people who loved me to watch...helpless. I don't feel shame anymore. I know it's something I have to deal with sometimes, but I have lots of options and lifelines. Thank you for offering another one. You are a beautiful soul.

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  4. How the fuck did I miss this? Just so you know, I was not intentionally ignoring this post. The cocaine thing depends on how pure the coke is. ;-)

    It irks me sometimes that after all the times I bury you with my own issues that you never come to me. But that's, I guess, how we are unique since we do share so many other qualities.

    Someone just asked me recently about some maddeningly foolish Quixotic quest, "Have you talked to your sister about that yet?"

    I replied, "No, I think she needs a bit of a break from my madness for a while."

    Maybe I just knew this was happening in some weirdly instinctual sibling-y but not twin-sy way and knew that it was not the right tome to rush in with another plate and stick for your spinning act.

    I wish I had words of wisdom and sage advice and it really bothers me that I don't - being the most well-informed man you know! But your self-awareness affords you the best window on this and, like you say, you're surrounded by love which is a huge help. So instead, I'll just remind you that I love you just the way you are and always have been.

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