Sometimes I struggle with depression, sometimes I don’t. I give up the struggle and let the depression envelop me with all the comfort of a wet blanket. Those of you who have personally experienced clinical depression know what I mean, because maybe you have tired of the fight a time or two and sank down into its darkness.
There are treatments for depression, as well as various depths and lengths of depression. But depression is not sadness, so please don’t tell us to “shake it off” or “cheer up.” It’s not that simple. Sadness is an emotion – everyone experiences sadness in their lives. Sadness is a normal response to normal life events, and can come and go. Sadness can still give way to laughter. Depression is an illness, a mental state that”sadness” does not come close to describing, and requires medical treatment. Depression can take over your life, stealing your joy, and sometimes cost you life itself.
Yes, I am a Christian, so please don’t tell me that depression is sin, and if I only had enough faith… I have faith in God’s ability to heal, and have personally experienced it. But I would not tell a cancer patient to ignore medical treatment available to them. I have worked in an Emergency Room, and never once heard a nurse or physician tell a patient to stop bleeding. Labeling mental illness as taboo results in resistance to seek care, feelings of exclusion, and hiding behind a facade of happiness.
For today, however, I am going to take steps to get my life back in order. I have been seeing a psychologist for years who is also a Christian. Today we talked again about where my mental status was when I first came to see her, and how eventually I was able to hold down a full-time job. Then along came a physical illness, the loss of my job, and the downward spiral of depression starts creeping in. She challenged me today to plan something every day to give me a reason to get out of bed – whether it’s a ride around town, working on a hobby, or organizing a kitchen drawer – big or small, something written down to do that day.
That idea gives me hope. I can do one thing each day. And if it’s written down, then I have to do it, right? I am a planner nut, so for many years I have bought a new planner only to go months without putting anything in it. For 2015, I have made my own planner, with extra place for writing notes. One that does not include times, but just open days which suits me better. I will begin today filling out this week with my goals for each day, and try to make it a habit.
Granted, it’s baby steps, and there will be days or weeks I might not plan something to do, but I hope I don’t give up. With prayers, a wonderful counselor working in conjunction with my PCP, and supportive family and friends, I know I can start the climb back up.