I have been feeling off for a few weeks. Finally I went to the doctor on Tuesday morning. OK, full-disclosure, I went to a psychiatrist. I've been to my family physician a few times since Polly's stroke, but I need more help then she could offer.
I struggle with depression. Major Depressive Disorder.
I don't talk about it a lot, partly because it comes and goes. There are plenty of times in my life when I'm doing fine. I function. I'm a riot, actually! People love me :). My biggest times of depression have typically been connected with birthing babies.
Also, I can't stand the commercials about depression. "Depression hurts, Cymbalta can help." And there's a scene with a lady slumped on the couch or a man outside looking off into the distance. Yea, that's how I want you to think of me.
But mostly I don't talk about it, even when I am struggling, because there is a major stigma attached to depression. Especially if you are a Christian. How can a person be sad if she has Jesus in her heart?
Well, I'm a Christian, a former missionary, a pastor's wife, an active member of my church family, a MOPS Coordinator, a Children's Ministry Director and I get depressed. I pray, I read scripture, I seek help. I eat protein. I try to exercise. I've taken medication and I've been to a therapist. And I still get depressed.
The Bible is full of depressed people. Have you read the Psalms lately?
"You're sad? Why? Why can't you get over it? What do you have to be sad about? You have a great husband, awesome kids, enough food, etc..." That's what I feel like people would say to me if they know.
But here's the thing. I don't try to get sad. In fact, I fight to feel OK. Sergei and I know my triggers. If I'm starting to feel low, I get up, go for a walk, take a shower, pray. And sometimes, I still get depressed. My typical mood line, my starting point, if you will, is lower then people who aren't depressed, even if I am well.
One of the things the doctor said to me Tuesday was this. "Gillian, you are sitting here smiling through this session. And the questions you answer score you quite high for Major Depressive Disorder."
"Why are you smiling?"
Well, here's why. I've learned how to pull through. I've learned to smile when I feel like crying. I've learned how to fake emotion (thank you very much Mr. Keech and the rest of the Watervliet Fine Arts Department). Part of it goes with the job. If you a spiritual leader than people want you to be solid. If you are a missionary, you probably can't lie in bed for two weeks. If you are a mom to kids with special needs, you can't ignore important doctor appointments because you don't have the energy to go.
I'm not alone. There are 14.8 million Americans struggling with depression today. And most of them probably feel guilty that they just can't magically feel better like I do. So I decided to come clean. Because today I am sad. Yesterday I was sad. I may be sad tomorrow. And it hurts more and is helping less (both myself and others) to keep quiet about it.
Annie Dillard has this wonderful quote about writing that I think fits in with this post beautifully.
“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all. Shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things will fill from behind, from beneath, like water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” The Writing Life, pages 78&79
That's kind of my philosophy for life. I should shoot it, play it, spend it all, right away, every time. I can pretend I'm alright. I can pretend I'm someone else. But I know better. God knows better. 1 Chronicles 28:9 says, "The Lord searches every mind and understands every plan and thought." So what good does it do to pretend I'm OK when I'm not? It just extinguishes whatever little energy I have left trying so hard to hide how I feel.
I truly believe that.
"The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."
I am a Christian, a wife, a mother, a writer, a friend, a missionary, a church-goer, and I am also a person who struggles with depression.
I offer this unsavory, unpolished, raw part of myself to you. I have to believe there is purpose in it, something more useful than hoarding ashes.