Today’s post is a kind of poem about my experience of depression. Not everyone’s experience is the same. So I’m just going to share a little of mine. I’m not a poet but I find writing the truth can be hard. It’ll be easier to do it in a more creative way.
Depression is a funny thing, It does not make me laugh It used to make me cry, it used to stab me in the heart until the pain would make me angry, hungry, sending me for food, to make me feel the way I felt when I was small, and safe, and good
But now it doesn’t do that. This time I’m more stressed out In case somebody asks me to do, or say, or shout and tell them, “everything is fine, I’ll take care of that.” Cos it’s what I do, I sort things out. Except for age-old fat that I am trying trying to disrobe from but I cannot concentrate on every single thing that’s asked of me.
No one asked me? Oh wait
It was me who piled the stuff on? It was me who got it wrong? expectations, responsibilities more words, more songs I thought I had to do it all and carry all theweight while trying to lose it without losing it while not losing the faith
Does it look like I am losing any sense of sense right now? Well that is it, you’ve now seen how it works, it makes me feel that now, I must explain and say I’m sorry, that I don’t know where, why, how
See how it steals my peace?
So, I’ll stop and ask you just to wait, and let me find a way back to thinking, breathing, eating, normally (is the word normal okay?) You see, depression is a funny thing It does not make me laugh but the joke’s on me and will be while I travel on this path to God knows where and God knows when but that is good enough for me cos though I live with my depression, my God, He lives in me
Thank you so much to those who commented and messaged me about my last post. It’s great to know you’re still happy to read my witterings 🙂 Having completed the plan I mentioned in that post, I was quite daunted by a year’s worth of empty spaces. But already I have most of January filled, either done or preparing to do. It feels good, after a year of sitting around not doing much at all.
My experience of anxiety and depression doesn’t feel like any I’ve read or heard about. Maybe each journey is unique. I’ve come a long way, there are some days when I feel totally normal but others when I get a wave of anxiety every time the house phone rings or my mobile buzzes. Though why I’m worried about calls on the landline, I can’t tell you. My Amazon account is fine thank you very much.
I felt I’d levelled off in my recovery, the two main problems being headaches and not sleeping very well. So I arranged a chat with the doctor, and we tweaked my medication a bit. Already I can feel the benefits. If we weren’t in lockdown, the doc said she’d be advising me to get out and about. I’m sure it would aid my recovery to visit nice places. Meet with friends, have coffee and laughs. Maybe a couple of nights away with himself. None of that is possible at the moment.
But I have to do something. I was on the treadmill this morning for half an hour. After falling and really hurting myself last year AND the year before, I’m still very nervous about being outside. Especially in this snowy weather.
I need to move forward. I want to move forward. but I’m going to take my time and go at my own pace. I’m so grateful to God for the time and space that lockdown brought, but I feel ready to start making my way back in to regular face to face contact, that is NOT on a computer screen.
Continuing the theme of Light and Dark, I am delighted to welcome Liz Carter to the blog. She will be sharing today and tomorrow, and we’ll hear about her new book, Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting.
So, over to Liz…
With the clocks going back and the winter drawing in, many of us are living with a creeping sense of dread that coils around us like the fog on a chilly winter day. As the days grow colder and the nights darker, we often feel enveloped in gloom, and now more than ever, as we wonder when all this will come to an end. Winter seems to stretch ahead with no promise of hope, with no sparkles of joy to look towards and wait for with anticipation. Winter 2020 seems like a pit of nothingness, a black hole of rubbishness and sadness.
Perhaps, for some of you, it’s not just 2020 that feels that way to you. Perhaps you’ve lived through years where the nights are too dark and the air too frozen around you. Maybe you’ve been living with sickness, physically or mentally, or living with grief, or other burdens which have left you bruised and battered, unsure where to look for any signs of hope.
For me, this year has been tough, but my whole life has been lived in pain, to some degree, with a chronic lung condition from infancy. This year I went into shielding in March after receiving the letter that punched me in the gut with its words instilling more fear in me: I’d been identified, it told me, as someone with risk of severe illness if I caught Covid-19. I separated out from my family and lived in my room for almost five months, caged into a life without touch or the usual family interaction. It was tough. It sent me spiralling mentally, into restless, tearful nights and days that seemed to stretch too long at times.
But God kept sending me little reminders of his presence and his love. As I began to let go of some of my fear and pour out some of my restlessness into poetry and other forms of writing, God spoke peace into my heart, and even sparks of joy at times.
God reminded me that it is sometimes in the darkest places where we find unexpected treasure, where light is able to break through in even more splendour, puncturing the blackness and calling us on towards the hope we find in Jesus.
I wonder if you have ever felt that you should be happy at all times as a Christian. Perhaps you’ve even heard teaching encouraging you to claim prosperity and health in all areas of your life, that because God is a generous God he will give you these – you only need to ask. Perhaps you’ve felt unable to share honestly about tough times, because you have been led to feel that you are, in some way, failing God because of your struggle. You hear the great triumphant stories of healing and wholeness, of God coming through for people when they are suffering, of God’s great and miraculous provision. But when it doesn’t seem to happen like that in your life, you can be left sad and alone, hugging your suffering to yourself in the mistaken idea that you cannot share it with others, because it might put them off the idea of faith.
Yet the more I dig into Scripture, the more I find the most starkly honest writings there poured out for all to see, overflowings of emotion and anger and sorrow spilling onto the pages – most of the prophetic writings are like this and the Psalms are full of songs of lament as much as songs of praise. Tomorrow I will write more about that and share one of the poems from my book
Thank you Liz. It’s a blessing to read such refreshing honesty in difficult times.
I look forward to hearing more. In the mean time, Liz’s book Treasure in Dark Places: Stories and poems of hope in the hurting can be found here. Until tomorrow… A x
So many people love this time of year. Autumn colours, pumpkin spice lattes, snuggly scarves, warm fires, falling leaves etc. It’s not my favourite season. I prefer Spring. The hope of good weather and the promise of longer days and brighter evenings. The only thing I love about this time of year is that I can get all my hats out and start wearing them again. I have quite a few. In fact those of you who have been following this blog for a long time will remember it was originally called, Just Another Christian Woman… talking through her hat.
As a kid, I hated the dark. My bedroom door had a glass panel above it and when the landing light was on I got the benefit of it. But it was always turned off when the last person went to bed. I often felt vulnerable once the light was off.
If everyone was asleep, who would hear if someone broke in? A fear of my home being broken into stayed with me for years; even now I don’t like to stay on my own overnight.
In my teenage years dark evenings meant I had to be in. I wasn’t allowed out after dark until I was 16 or so. Even then I had to fight for it. Until that great liberation, in the winter months, I’d run home from school, change out of my uniform and meet my friend. We’d do a quick lap of Tallaght, stopping off in the Town Centre to look at the make-up stall or visit the record shop, then run home to be in before the dusk curfew. When we were finally allowed out after dark, it turned out it was too cold to be hanging around the streets, (unless the was a boy to meet), so we’d end up in her kitchen or mine.
Sounds like a bit of a contradiction doesn’t it? I didn’t want the dark as a small child, but was eager to be out and about on a dark evening when I was a teenager. On reflection, I think darkness was ok, as long as was with my friend. I didn’t want to be out in the dark on my own. It’s darkness when I’m alone that gave/gives me problems.
1 John 1:5 says “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” If John had been Irish, he might have said, “there’s no darkness at all, at all.” No darkness what so ever. The closer we get to him, the less darkness there is. In a time of social distancing, it is such a comfort to remember that God is not distant. He is always with us. Not two millimetres away, never mind two metres.
Two things come from this for me. 1. I am never alone, God is always with me 2. If he is with me, there is no darkness at all (at all) 🙂
Thanks so much for all your encouraging comments and messages about my last post. I really appreciate it. It’s great to be back writing again after a long dry spell.
I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now. Not sure what to say or how to say it. Searching for the words to describe the last year or more honestly, without sounding like I’m grasping at the sympathy vote. Before COVID was a familiar talking point, before lockdowns were a thing, before facemasks were commonplace, I was already heading into isolation. I knew it was coming, I could feel it creeping up on me. The stress, the anxiety, the fear, the weight of perceived responsibility, the exhaustion, the disappointment in myself and worst of all, the distance between myself and God.
At the end of December 2019, I shoved it all in a corner of my brain and we went to Ireland for Christmas. I had a fantastic time with my Irish family. I forgot about (well, ignored) my endless to do list, my inability to do my job properly and my lack of enthusiasm for church life. I was home and free and happy. But by the end of that trip I was ill; my usual winter lurgy, I thought. After we came home, I fell down a couple of steps hurting my already injured ribs. I went back to work for a few days, but after starting to cry when my boss asked me, “How are you doing?” I went home and rang the doctor’s surgery. In her treatment room I poured it all out. Sickness and pain, both inner and outer, which left me with no ability to pick up the load I had laid down before Christmas. The GP’s advice was to forget about even trying to go back to that life. “For how long?” I asked. “I’ve loads to do.” “You’ll know when you’re ready,” was her reply. I went home with my sick note, a prescription for the pain (both inner and outer), and sat down in an armchair. I sat in that chair every day for weeks. I didn’t cry again. I wasn’t pining for home. I didn’t want to binge eat. I wasn’t even sad. It didn’t feel like depression should feel. It didn’t feel like how it felt the last time. I was just empty.
It was clear that I could not return to the job I’d been doing, and should not return to all of the many calls on my time. It had never occurred to me that I could change things. I thought I was being lazy and selfish; a bad Christian and a BAD pastor’s WIFE (not a BAD PASTOR’S wife, you understand). But the doctor, and the pastor, and others I spoke to assured me that it was not only possible, but essential. I decided to give myself permission to only do what I could. I wanted to start running again but was worried colleagues might see me in the the park and think, she’s off sick, how comes she’s doing laps of the duck pond?
The Occupational Health doctor my employers put me in touch with, said I should get out there. He told me he’d prescribe it if he could. In his opinion, getting out doors and moving again is better than any pill he could give me. So I started an online couch to 2k, which went on to a 2 to 5k. I was running again and making good progress. This is me having just finished my first non-stop 5k. The elation I felt did indeed do more for me than the pills I’ve been taking (grateful as I am for them).
I’m officially finished work, but ‘under the doctor’ as they say in Wales. All this is just the start of my way back. I’m in no fit state to go job hunting. This is a time to reenergise, get my eating back on track, keep active, edit my book, and as from four weeks ago, venture back into church life. The irony is not lost on me, that I now wear an actual mask to church, at a time when I’m finally able to take the emotional one off.
I’m doing so so much better these days. Still have a way to go. But by God’s grace and love, I’m getting there.