I’ve had a couple of discussions about it in the past couple days. I saw several posts and vlogs about it lately. I know many people who suffer with, from and through it. Heaven knows I have dealt with it enough myself.
So let’s just discuss it. I feel like maybe I’m supposed to speak about it.
Maybe you’ve figured out by now I’m talking about depression. Sadly, even in the 21st century, it’s still a taboo subject. It’s still cause for shame or at least embarrassment in America.
I’ve shared here and other places online about my own struggles with depression. I have had discussions publicly and via private message with people about it.
[DISCLAIMER: I’m not dispensing clinical advice to you or recommending you do a particular thing. I am just sharing MY experiences, MY “what works for me”, MY findings while researching the problem. You do what’s best for you, seek professional advice first and BE WELL!]
My motives are pretty simple and very straightforward. I think it’s important for people to be aware of depression…of the signs and symptoms, of the treatments, of the facts that there are many of us who suffer with it and how it would surprise you to find out how many of your friends, family and acquaintances are living with it right now.
First let’s look at what depression actually is and what it isn’t. What I have is referred to as “clinical depression” and it’s what many of the folks who have reached out to me also deal with.
[NOTE: Please make use of the many links I have put in this post. (the first one is in the previous paragraph!) If you don’t live with depression yourself, at least be educated enough to understand and help those around you who are living with it. I guarantee you there are more than you’d think.]
Clinical depression is that “black cloud” that sticks with you. It’s a “sadness” that you can’t explain or shake. I find that the best way to explain it to those who don’t understand is that I KNOW without a doubt I have MUCH to be thankful for,
I K-N-O-W it. But I can’t make myself be happy. And it’s not that I’m overtly sad or anxious. It’s just an indescribable inertness, if you will. A complete lack of energy, or perhaps an inability, to feel joy.
If you read all through the link for clinical (or major) depression (and I urge you to!) then you’ll see it lists the symptoms and then states “when it’s not caused by a medical condition or medication” and that’s where I depart from the medical book, as I usually do. (ha) I DO have medical conditions that can cause those symptoms. I even have a chronic disease which makes me much more susceptible to being depressed. (diabetes, to name just one) so I don’t fit “neatly” into a particular diagnosis. Lots of us don’t and that’s okay as long as you have a medical professional who can deal with that.
There are currently several types of depression recognized by the medical community. Some of these you’ve probably heard of, like “clinical depression”, “major depression”, “postpartum depression”, even PMS has its own depression called “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder”! That last link will take you to webmd.com’s list of these with links to more info on each of them. I’m not sure how valid some of these are, but perhaps medicine is just trying to give a name to the things we deal with all the time but never know what to call it. (for instance, on the list is “situational depression”…who on this earth hasn’t experienced that before? I’m not sure the emotions tied to various temporary events deserves a medical diagnosis, but that’s fodder for another post, right?–HA!)
Let me say that I don’t want to “push” depression and make it like so many things these days, cool or in any way desirable or something to be envied. That doesn’t make much sense I guess, but stick with me while I try to explain… Like so many things in our society, people try to put labels on various people and behaviors. Sometimes to make them ‘hip’ or whatever, sometimes to make them seem acceptable. (first thing that comes to mind is how ADD became a buzz-diagnosis so quickly and then, even though it can be a genuine problem for some people, it soon became the go-to excuse for not doing your work, not being dependable or responsible, etc., etc.) I don’t want to do that here. Depression is serious. It can be life-threatening at its worst, debilitating or at its very best, it can make living feel like a burden. So it’s not something to be trifled with in any way. I guess I just don’t want to come across as if I’m just tossing the word around and diminish the real significance of the disease.
Okay, so here, I want to share with you a video by a pastor I’ve met a time or two that I really admire. For one, he’s now an avid cyclist. (Seriously, the man’s a beast on a bike!) For two, he’s an honest-to-goodness Bible-believing man of God who isn’t afraid to speak truth. For three, he’s a loving husband and father and he also suffers from depression. I already like him, but after he posted this video on Facebook, I admired him even more. See for yourself as someone with a position of leadership and somewhat notoriety goes very public with how he struggled with and then overcame the monster that is depression: Pastor Greg Locke on Overcoming Depression
As you might guess, one of the reasons I so love this video is that he says cycling helped with his depression. Of course, not everyone can jump into this the way he did. Since I’ve been watching him for years now, I can tell you that he first got “into” bike riding when he went to the Goodwill and got a bike to ride in a charity ride. From there, apparently, he was hooked. He has since done a 3,000+ mile ride (IN TEN, that’s 10, one-zero, T-E-N DAYS!!) to the Pacific shore and also the Tour Divide, an unsupported mountain bike ride from Canada to Mexico! He’s a beast, I tell you!
I don’t foresee myself ever doing such amazing bike rides, and that’s okay. I have impressed myself enough with the longer rides I have been able to do. I’m just happy to be getting out and being active because before cycling, I was pretty much a couch potato. A long day of errands was about as much activity as this ol’ gal ever got! So, praise God that I have this activity to get me moving and inching toward better health!
Okay, back to the topic at hand. I hope you watched Greg’s video. Part of what was SO encouraging to me was the discovery that someone who seemed so alive, so interactive, so “with it” would have a problem with depression. It was like LIFE-GIVING to realize that he KNEW what it felt like, knew how it felt when someone says to you, “Just snap out of it. Just trust the Lord. Just read your Bible more.” When it was all you could do just to get out of bed in the morning, IF you even did that!
And I guess that’s the most important thing I want to do with this post. I want YOU to know that *I* KNOW. If you never meet another soul who understands depression, know this… you’ve stumbled across this minuscule spot on the web, this unknown web address to this post because God wanted you to know that you are not alone. Let’s face it, that’s the only way you’d have ended up here! Ha!
Maybe, if you happen to know me in real-life or you’ve read other posts here, maybe you never imagined that I have depression. Once you start being open about it, researching and talking to others, you will find that many of us who suffer from chronic clinical depression can be the funniest, goofiest, seemingly-up-beatest (Ha!) people you know. Here’s the thing.. it’s easy to fake it for a few hours. At least most of the time. So don’t assume that someone who’s always cracking jokes and smiling could never understand depression. Often, it’s a way to cope. That doesn’t mean we’re not genuinely funny or goofy, it’s just that that part of us isn’t the strongest during the dark-cloud times and so we relish our time of being able to laugh and make others laugh, because once that’s over, the cloud is back. At least that’s how depression is for me.
Y’know, you’d think that for those of us who cope that way, since it does feel so much better to be with a few people laughing it up we would seek that out, but in reality it finally becomes too hard. It gets to be too much effort to drag myself out to be with people, to even want to be with people. The devil and my own dark place will start to tell me no one really wants to be with me. They will just wonder what’s wrong with me…why am I so pale, why don’t I have any makeup on, why am I not talking as much, etc. Then there’s the whole monologue that goes, “You’d need to shower and fix your hair. You don’t have the energy for that. It’ll be too hard to smile enough or to ‘be your usual self’ and they’ll know something’s wrong. They will think you’re weird or sick or they’ll just wish you hadn’t come. What if it gets too hard to try and you burst out in tears. You can’t let them see you cry, and you’ll probably cry. No, just stay home. It’s easier that way.”
Only a few short months ago, that conversation played routinely in my head. I stopped going to the get-togethers with some of the most dear friends I have. I’m sure they knew something was up, but I couldn’t bring myself to just say, “Hey guys? I’m hurting. I’m in a bad spot. Nothing physical, no one in my family is terminal or has died, I just feel like crud and I can’t smile anymore. Pray for me. Tolerate me if I come around– encourage me to come around because it’s entirely too easy to convince myself not to!!”
I finally just had to come clean with them. Some of the reasons were deeply personal, so it was hard to even speak them out loud. Secrets in my marriage that were decades old, but they had contributed hugely to the massive black hole I was in and at that time, I had decided to confront and seek help for that and it had stirred up all kinds of ugly. It was HARD to tell my closest friends where I was and how bad I was hurting. They still probably don’t entirely understand, but at least they have an idea now and when I say that I’m feeling “dark” and need some prayer, they are on it. They don’t hesitate to check on me and encourage me, to ask questions which are not comfortable, not convenient to ask.
So I guess my next suggestion or bit of advice for you is this…get, find or make yourself some good friends. At least one. They don’t have to be people you talk to every day or even every week. It doesn’t have to be the person you do everything with (when you DO go do something)… It just needs to be someone you can count on to see through your hiding, your coping methods. Someone who will confront you when you have slipped into dark mode.
One last thing, there’s something even more taboo than depression and that’s suicide and having suicidal thoughts during a deeply depressed cycle. I won’t lie to you. I have been there. I’ve said before, I’m thankful to have my faith in God because I truly believe that’s the only thing that kept me from attempting to end myself years ago when the idea came to me often.
I now know that a permanent solution to a temporary problem is never the answer. It took growing in my faith and becoming solidly convinced that I am worth something to God and even when I feel I’m not worth anything to anyone, not even myself, I have to trust that God’s got a purpose for me being here. A lot of the lies I tell myself are that my family would be better off, my husband could find someone without my problems, who he wouldn’t have to worry about or care for, take to countless doctors or wake from a dead sleep to feed through a low blood sugar, who wasn’t so self-doubting that I paralyze myself and need him to make the simplest decisions… I think my kids could live without wondering if their mother is crazy, without her words that come out so carelessly unintentionally causing pain to them and the ones they love. Even when those quite loud thoughts are going through my mind every single day repeatedly, I can remind myself that God has a purpose. I don’t have to know what it is because He does. I just have to trust Him.
That kinda takes the pressure off me. *ha* So if you don’t know Jesus, I urge you to learn about Him and trust Him with your life. He will keep you safe if you will just trust Him. He’s the best friend and ally against depression I can recommend to you. He may not choose to deliver you out of the dark hole, but He will be with you in it and make you strong enough to endure it.
Hebrews 13:5 – “…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.””
So I don’t know what to say. I’m feeling really yucky today. Mostly because tomorrow is payday and our auto insurance hit the bank today, leaving us in the red.
I’m so tired of dealing with money…or rather, the lack thereof. I try so hard to not let money rule my emotions, to not determine if I’m up or down, but when we get in this shape, I feel frozen. It’s like I can’t move, when we need a few groceries but we can’t get them, we need to buy meds or pay a bill, but we can’t. I don’t want to do anything. I start thinking I need to turn off everything in the house, like that’s going to save us money somehow. And it’s not like we are normally loose with money or our resources. I feel horrible when I feel like somehow Hubby doesn’t make enough money. I feel like a terrible person knowing I am not bringing in any money, but only requiring it for all my medical crap. Add to that the way our intimacy issues torture me and I am again undone.
I lost it big time Monday afternoon. I felt so completely useless, worthless and miserable. Usually, no one is around to witness this, but of course, Hubby was home. I’m not sure what he thinks of me now, but he was very gracious and kind to me. Even in his pain, he tried to help me feel better.
Yesterday was so much better. We spent time together and got outside in the sunshine. And now today, he’s gone back to work… not that I was totally in favor of that. He’s probably really pushing it, but he’s not doing anything there that he wasn’t here, at least I hope not. (ha) And hopefully he’s feeling less a victim or less a man, ya know? He feels productive and isn’t worrying about using his sick time and all that.
But here I am, discovering the negative balance at the bank and feeling paralyzed. I’m thanking God that I don’t feel as bad as Monday. Monday? That was a bad mental place for me. Bad.
There’s this good thing we found out early Monday. We will be getting a sizable refund this year. And God knows we needed it desperately. That’s why Hubby was ordering tires for the truck. We’ve needed them for months, so this is a big load off my mind. I was so worried about them that I would avoid driving in the rain. Then there’s my glasses we’ll be able to get, which will be a huge relief! I need them so bad! And some dental work… some I HAVE to get done & possibly some other stuff that needs doing. I don’t know that we’ll have enough money to do that, though. We also need to get Hubby some shoes..some work shoes and some casual ones too. I can’t do that for him because he’s so picky about them. And really, you can’t expect to do great buying shoes for someone else. At least that’s how it is for me. I have to try mine on, but that’ll be around $200 for those. Then we want to get ahead on the house & truck payments, so that’s a big amount of money. We also want to give about $500 to the church to help with the expansion project going on. Not expansion of the building, but for other campuses in the state, and upgrading the media so we can broadcast nationally…it’s exciting and is going to take about 5 million over the next 5-10 years, all while ending up completely debt free. They are asking people to commit to tithing and if you are already a regular tither, they are asking people to prayerfully consider giving above that. This way they know what they can plan to work with money-wise. It’s exciting and we are thankful to be able to give some extra to that because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to. We are behind on our tithing as it is.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, money, rather lack of, is such an awful thing to me. It just makes me feel so helpless and with my depression, it’s not a good thing at all and I don’t know how to make that part any better.
I can work on thinking more positively and getting myself to a better place emotionally, but when it comes to this money stuff, there’s just nothing I can do about it. Which all adds to the feeling of being paralyzed.
It all just sucks. And wow, I know this scripture isn’t really in context, but this so fits me right now…
2 Samuel 17:2 – “I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged and throw him into a panic, and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king,”
I saw this little thing on Facebook today. It’s one of those gooshy bits of prose about one’s love and devotion to a particular person. This particular one was about sisters. It went like this:
Your sister is always the first female friend you will have in your life.
Nobody will ever be able to understand your craziness like your sister and although you don’t see each other as much as you’d like, she will always remain your friend and be there for you when you need her the most.
While people will come and go in your life, your sister will be in your heart for a lifetime.
Then it goes on to say “If you have a sister you love with all your heart, share this on your wall and tag your sister.”
That doesn’t describe my sister or the relationship we have had for years in the least.
My sister is four years younger than me. Most anyone who meets us though thinks she’s older. I don’t know if it’s the cane she likes to carry (but sometimes doesn’t need or use) or the fact that she does appear to be somewhat older than me. I’m sure her being married to a man who is 10 years older than her doesn’t help her acting older. He’s not that much older than me, but he also acts a lot older than he is too. He’s not all that adventurous and it’s hard to get him to participate in any gathering or games. I wonder sometimes if he even likes to laugh although he has his moments when he’s sort of talkative and sociable. Honestly, he’s just a very solemn dude and it’s hard for any of us to really relax around him, but we try. He’s just a very introverted person and that makes it hard to relate to him.
So yeah, my sister and I have really nothing in common other than blood, ya know? And I don’t know if our disconnect isn’t more due to how we were raised. I’ve mentioned this in another post but I didn’t expound on the way things stand today.
As I said in that post, as an adult, she made one particular really bad decision that I didn’t even know about til her friend called me all distraught and wondering what to do about it. She wondered if she should call and tell my mother. I knew my sister wouldn’t listen to me, so I told the friend, yes, she should tell Mom.
Looking back, I admire this lady for being willing to do this. I don’t have a friend that I’d be willing to call her mother to say, “Hey, I’m worried about what your daughter, my friend, is doing and wanted you to know.” But she did call my mother and next thing I knew, all heck broke loose….. on me.
I got a furious, frantic call from Mom and later, Dad got on the phone and said the words that have stuck with me for all these years since… “If you’d been a better sister, none of this would’ve happened.” Nothing was said about it for years… I just took it and stewed on it, and it came screaming back at me repeatedly. It so completely summed up how they treated me and my sister ever since I can remember. She did whatever and I got the blame for it.
Yes, even as children this was true. The older sister was blamed for the younger’s actions or inaction or complete disregard for anything. And keep in mind here… she’s thirty-some years old at this time. I’ve been married for 10 or so years and have a husband and two young children I’m busy being a stay-at-home mother to…and I get the entire blame for this idiot situation she got herself into?!?!
You see, both of us were diagnosed with chronic diseases as children. She began having grand mal and petite mal seizures when she was about 3 years old. I would have been 7 at that time. In 1975, 8 months before my 8th birthday, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. After I was grown and married, then as I had children, I have often wondered, in awe really, of how my mother coped with all that. Within a year, both her children were diagnosed with awful diseases. I think it was maybe another year of seizures, doctors and tests before they diagnosed my sister with epilepsy. I don’t know how Mom did it. I’ve always said I would much rather me be the one with an illness than my boys, so I now understand the times my mother cried bitter tears telling me she wished she could take my diabetes. *sob* And every time she said that, in my mind was a fierce “NO!” because I would never EVER wish that on my little mother.
But I digress… (shocking, I know! ha!)
So now here we are, both in our 40’s and living next door to each other, and we rarely see one another. I find that really sad, but at the same time, I don’t know what to do about it. I mean, she has over the years been really vocal about feeling like I don’t treat her like my sister or whatever. She’s sent me letters (the last one came on my birthday… nice, right?) telling me to just “stay away” from her (as if I’m down there banging on her door or something?) since I treat my friends more like sisters than I do her.
First of all, she doesn’t treat me like a sister either. The road goes both ways. Second, she doesn’t know my friends let alone how I treat them. I have much more in common with them, and so I occasionally get together with them for no particular reason. (not very often though considering the way I have isolated myself in this more recent phase of depression) If I would go down there to my sister’s house and sit around listening to her talk about her cats and her various medical conditions or how she is frustrated with Mom or how many medicines she’s taking now, she would think I was the best “sister” on earth.
I don’t want to do that, though. I mean, if she needs me to come sit with her when she’s having a hard time with the seizures, I do that. And I listen politely. But she’s not interested in the least in hearing about my life or what interests me. If she disagrees with whatever I try to talk about, she’s quite vocal about that. But I don’t start telling her I think she’s lazy or sad for just allowing her medical stuff (and our mother) to turn her into an invalid. I don’t insist that she conform to every interest and opinion I have, so why is it that unless I do so for her, I am not treating her “like a sister”??
I have tried hard not to allow my mother’s wishes, although her intentions are good, to turn me into an incapable, invalid person. Because my mom SO wishes that her children didn’t suffer from various medical problems, she has always tried to make it so that we had to struggle as little as possible. For the most part, that is. And if I didn’t have the kind of man I do for a husband, one who pushes me to do more and be more and go further, I would probably not be able to get around myself today. That’s the God’s honest truth. She’s tried for years to get me to use a wheelchair when diabetic neuropathy gave me such severe pain in my feet that walking was a major effort. I know she means well, but how does one not understand that anything we accomplish involves some amount of struggle and hard work. Sure, it’s not “fair” that I have diabetes and my sister has epilepsy. If my boys had medical issues like these?? I would try to help them all I could.. but I wouldn’t try to limit them the way my mom has done. I like to think I would try to help them achieve anything they really wanted to do as much as possible.
I realize that my sister’s husband isn’t that kind of person…he’s not really ambitious or competitive or one to set personal goals, therefore, he doesn’t encourage his wife in that way. So it’s not so much that it bugs me that she won’t “try”, but it DOES bug me that she allows Mom to buy and do for her to the extreme. My parents bought a car for me in high school. Note that I did NOT say they bought me a car. They bought a car for me to use. It was NOT new nor was it “cool” and neither was it ‘mine’, but it functioned and I was happy to have it. After I got married (right out of high school) the car stayed with them. My hubby and I struggled and worked and saved and bought ALL our own vehicles. My sister’s car (and yeah, the truck her husband drives too) have been purchased by my parents. ALL her cars. They aren’t Cadillacs or anything, but a car is not cheap no matter what kind it is. The cars are also NOT rust buckets or antique junk heaps. And all of them have been purchased by Mom and Dad.
Then there’s her house. Built and mostly paid for by my parents as well. It has a two-car garage and a blacktopped driveway. It’s in my parents’ names because they don’t trust that the husband wouldn’t maybe divorce my sister and the house would be tied up in the legal mess. My sister did use the retirement amount she got from working 15 years in retail, but this is a house that would probably be valued at $100,000. It’s not a cheap home.
Lest you even wonder, my parents didn’t pay a dime for our home. My husband did most of the work himself, actually, other than framing, drywall and such. He wired and plumbed it himself as well as doing much of the framing. We were given the 3/4 of an acre that it sits on, but that’s it. My sister’s plot is, of course, larger than mine.
When I start thinking about all this stuff, it makes me so sad, so angry. And I wonder, WHAT did I do that I’m thought so little of? Why am I treated like some step child who is never going to measure up or be worth as much? I just can’t understand. I just don’t know why things are this way.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe my parents love me, but the differences made between us are unmistakable and impossible not to notice. I don’t advertise them to people. Only a few of my friends even know about them paying for such major items for my sister. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to let people know how different they treat us. It’s embarrassing to me that anyone would know that my parents seem to think so much more highly of her than they do me.
I guess maybe I think they will figure that I MUST have been a horrible child? Or that I must somehow deserve to be treated that way… or else that they think I’m stupid for putting up with it. I dunno, but I don’t tell people. It embarrasses me that my parents show such preference to my sister.
And understand me, I don’t really blame her or am not mad at her because they’ve bought her all these things. It does irk me to no end that she is so comfortable with it, and of course, as a forty-some year old woman now, it’s expected. And it really ticks me off that my parents will make comments about how they can’t count on me to “take care of” her when they are gone and stuff like that. I am so sick of that stuff.
I would make sure she wasn’t destitute or without food or medicine and that she got to a doctor if needed, but would I wipe her butt the way they do? Nope. Not on your life. I have tried for years to get Mom to back off and let her make her own mistakes. But she won’t hear of it. And I… I am uncaring for even suggesting such a thing.
And so, in case anyone wondered about the situation between my sister and I, there it is. Once in a great while, I will see her come out her back door while I’m out in the yard. She will throw up a hand and we’ll wave at each other. That’s about the extent of our interactions.
I realize and agree that that’s extremely sad, but again, I don’t really know what to do about it. Sometimes it’s all I can do to keep myself going, to push myself to get out, to be active, to keep doing what it takes to keep myself halfway healthy. I feel like I don’t have the energy left over to either push her OR to listen to her “stuff”, most of which leaves me feeling depressed and defeated. If she could at least come half way and show a little encouragement for what I am doing, ya know? But mostly she is disapproving, critical (“Why in the world do you push yourself that way? Why make yourself tired/sore/etc?”) so I just feel like why even try.
Proverbs 18:24 – “….there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”
UPDATE: After my sister agreeing to attend an Emmaus Walk in the fall of 2015 when I offered to pay her way, she really became almost a different person. We get along a lot better now so I am thankful that we finally have a relationship to where I don’t feel pain and avoidance when I think of her. Thank God for His mercy!!