the downness that seems drowning

20 08 2013

This is not the fun blog post, the one that deals with great outings on lakes, or creatures in the veld, or lovely delightfuls. 

But it is a real thing, that I live with every day. I have been fighting for about 15 years.  Most days are pretty okay and well handled.  But the last few weeks it has run riot through my body, affecting every relationship around me and seeking to shake my world apart completely.

There are those who do not believe it exists. It is just a phase, it can be cheered through, chanted through or cast out, even.  But it IS real. 

It is also not just a way to get attention. You would not want to go to these lengths for attention, truly.

This is my reality and my challenge: clinical depression. With a bit of anxiety thrown in to make the ride more exciting at times.

So how do I know when it is really getting to me, and beyond the usual controlled form?

When there are no posts for days on end on facebook… it could be a good indication that something is wrong. (We might just be deep in the bush away from internet signal too!) Withdrawing from everybody and everything is a typical indicator for me.

One reason for withdrawal is the great difficulty we have in fronting up to all the niceties expected of living in civilisation.  A simple “How are you?” is a very complex and difficult thing to answer for somebody in the throes of a depression phase.  We know you really want to hear “okay”. So we say it.  But really, the answer could be “I have absolutely no idea how I really am” or “Who are YOU to ask how I am?” or “I am deeply morbid with tinges of suicidal tendencies and feeling completely overwhelmed at the energy required to proceed with this living challenge from day to day.” Or, at the moment, my favourite is simply to start seeping tears.

That, for me, is another clear indicator the deppro is not under control.   I am not one of those ladies with a displaced bladder.  If things are normal, I may get in a bit of a sniffle every six months or so.  Deon had probably only seen me cry about 3 times since we got married before July this year.  But since then… the poor guy needs a wetsuit in my presence.  I cry for everything. Through everything.

I walked out of an art store blubbering on Sunday. Through the fancy mall, tears streaming down my face. And the fallout was not pretty.  Protein-dude-in-the-health-store, it was not you.  Really.  The reason for tears: a sense of loss at my art studio in Tanzania having to be ended. What good would buying art materials do for anybody now?

A challenge that I have to fight through fairly often is the tendency to think that ending it all would be the best way to treat the challenges of life.  It is a consistent thought that I have to fight off rather often in ‘regular’ times. But when a real deppro comes along, the suicidal thoughts have to be fought off as if I were a gladiator in the middle of a menacing, life-threatening combat. The argument in my head looks something like this: “You dropped the sugar bowl. What an idiot.  You may as well kill yourself.” Or if Deon says something even slightly disagreeable, the thoughts will be those of just ending it all.  Fighting off a barrage of thoughts like this is tiresome and even more depressing.

Why I wrote this blog is not to garner pity. We do not want that. (well, perhaps at times we do.) But I am hoping to spread a little understanding about what this disease/ condition is.

It goes beyond nice Joyce Meyer books or a strong prayer session. It is not solved by thinking happy thoughts.  Butterflies and birdies in your head  just do not overwhelm the raging thoughts of deep holes, suicide and escape.

I believe in medicine. God has allowed people to develop some great ways to deal with the imbalances and systems that are out of sync. Just as one would not suggest only prayer or happy thoughts for cancer, or heart troubles, so one should take the medical aspects of Depression seriously. It is as much of a killer, and some fine lives have been lost to this medically challenging dilemma.   I know when the meds are not working and need to be tweaked and am so grateful for a good doctor who understands this aspect.

A good therapist / counselor is also so helpful.  Just as one does not simply give medicine for several disorders, but a person needs to go for physical/ other kinds of therapies, depression can be helped by speaking things through and learning new patterns of thought and behaviour.

Surrounding myself with SA newspapers all day long is not good for me! When there are just too many heart-wrenchingly bad stories that I hear of within a short space of time it does lead me to thoughts of overwhelming negativity.  So finding some good things to do to keep my mind busy with positive thoughts helps.  Also, taking my mind off my issues and making something good for another person is a useful practice. I just helped put things together for a kitchen tea; this was fun, positive and helped me feel good.  I know that I should not be helping everyday in an environment that is not very hopeful – right now a hospice or serving people on death row would not be good for my well-being. 

Being part of  support groups or forums is a wonderful tool. There are several online groups to suit a variety of personal choices. This is a great reminder I am not alone in my sadness, and there are others to reassure and to help. It is a great thing to encourage another sufferer and to know they cheer me on when I have rough days.

It is not yet perfectly acceptable in society to openly admit to illnesses which are not of the bodily type. And especially in Christian circles, a mental illness is just not acceptable. This is a terrible lie and I so wish we could all just accept the truth so that lives can be saved and that people can be a bit more honest with each other. 

“Would you let me see beneath your beautiful tonight…” The words of the song speak to letting go of the forced prettiness masks we feel we need to grip to our faces. 

It is impossible to be the pretty one everyday. Unfortunately, my not-so-pretty face is REALLY a challenging one. (And Deon loves me even with this tear-stained, beneath-the-beautiful. That helps, a lot!)  But if I can encourage one person staring depression in the face everyday, then I am thrilled.  It is possible to have many wonderful days. It is possible to climb out of the pit, knuckles gripped to the edge, and take steps forward. If it is not going to happen today, then give it time. 

Another motivator for me when the relentless thoughts of suicide come my way is that if the lies of the enemy seek to destroy my life so persistently then obviously there is yet good that God seeks me to do. I will NOT give the enemy the victory so easily!  I will grimly hold on through the day, until a better day comes.

And I am convinced that Jesus understands the suffering of a depressed heart.  If He was touched by ALL our infirmities, He knows these thoughts. And He does not let me go, even if I feel my grip of Him is loosening.  He is the faithful one, and my name is written on God’s hands. 

Please do not keep depression to yourself.  See a doctor. Seek an online group. Or send a message on this blog with your personal address, and I will do my best to reply when I can.  The battle is not easy everyday, but the good days in between make it worthwhile keeping on… you can do it.

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