Monday, February 29, 2016

The Elephant in the Room Part Two

Let me begin by expressing my heart-felt gratitude to you good people.Your kindness and concern and especially your sensitivity have been beautiful to behold. Thank you.

The dense fog of this depression lifted on Sunday afternoon. My overwhelming desire is to dissect the experience and name a cause, but I simply can't. All I know is that in the middle of making lunch on Sunday afternoon, I stood in the middle of my kitchen and realized that whatever had been pressing down on me and confusing my heart and mind had gone. I was thinking clearly again, seeing clearly, feeling clearly.

I think the fog started to lift Sunday morning. I attended two worship services that morning, at two different churches, and each seemed as though it was tailor-made just for me, right where I was. The tenderness and intimacy and graciousness of this gesture on the part of my Father touched my heart. It was the first time I had really felt in about four weeks.

Today has been really good. It felt so good to smile and mean it. There was such a freedom, a lightness, in not having to force myself to go through the motions of living. It was the first morning in ages that I wasn't wading through a thick, mucky swamp of exhaustion, completely overwhelmed by a simple task like deciding what to serve for breakfast. My husband said to me, "It's so good to have you back."

Now I'm faced with the temptation to live in fear of when the shadow might fall on me again - because it very likely will. I resolve here and now not to ruin these good days, however few or plentiful they happen to be.

I came across an incredibly insightful quote on Facebook last night. It addresses depression with the distinct clarity of one who has been there. Stephen Fry said this:

If you know someone who's depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. 
Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, 
like the weather. It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it is 
one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.

Thank you, Friends, for journeying with me. You bless me in ways you can't even imagine.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

I'm not at all sure I should be writing in the middle of whatever it is I'm in - I usually wait until I can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel before attempting to put it all into words.

But I feel the need to write. Whether or not I'll hit "publish" remains to be seen. (If you're reading this, I guess I did...)

I feel like I'm at the bottom of a deep, dark hole that keeps getting deeper and darker with every passing day, too exhausted to even consider clawing my way back up. But it's a dim, faded feeling - I hardly feel capable of feeling at all. It's like I've been split into two parts - one acutely suffering, suffocating at the bottom of this bottomless pit, and one that's separate, apart, observing the first part with only the vaguest interest.

I'm going through the motions of living - I get up every morning, see my family off to school and work, and then I just sit - sometimes for hours at a time - staring at my screensaver, or out the window, or at a candle flame, or at the ceiling...Sometime I'll get a burst of energy and do some dishes or laundry, or go for a walk or look at Facebook. Sometimes I'll escape the agony by medicating myself with a good book and a snack.

In the evenings, I cook supper, interact with my family, put the kids to bed and surrender to the lure of sleep. But even there, I find no respite - my dreams are deeply troubled and disorienting. I often wake in the night with a gasp and a wide-eyed "was that real?" whisper on my lips before turning over and delving back into that tumultuous land of dreams.

I feel stuck, trapped, like someone pushed the "pause" button on my remote - I can't seem to look to the future at all, to make any plans or pursue any goals. And yet I can hardly bring myself to care.

On the bright side, I'm not remotely suicidal. I want to live; there seems to be, buried deep within, a weak hope that things will change someday, that my life will resume, that someone will push "play" again.

Some moments are even beautiful - sweet snuggles with my kids, shared laughs with my husband, sun and sky and wild winds... but even the beautiful can't seem to penetrate for long this fog that is my current reality.

I've been avoiding close contact with people who care about me. One of my dearest friends was in town for a week, and I only saw her for about twenty minutes on the day she arrived. Granted, I have actually been quite sick with a violent cough and various other cold/flu symptoms that have passed through the family this winter, so I did have a valid reason to cancel our plans. But even though part of me was incredibly sad about missing out on spending time with her, that other part of me was beyond relieved to not have to be cared about and questioned.

On the other hand, I recently spent a fairly enjoyable day working at an event that had drawn a large crowd. My main job ended up being emptying garbage cans and restocking washrooms. There was lots of interaction throughout the day, but it was very much of the small-talk variety. It was easy, even pleasant, to pretend to be joyful and helpful and humble with the kindly strangers who stopped and thanked me for my efforts.

It struck me as rather strange, at first, that I had so enjoyed the day. In general, being with people these days has been excruciating. But it was the stranger aspect of the crowd that was my sword and shield - I could be anyone I wanted to be with these people; it was just a different form of escapism. And there was a vague pleasure in serving, in doing something useful with my time.

In contrast to the pleasant anonymity of being in the midst of a crowd, the thought of a one-on-one, beyond the surface, me-focused conversation...I can't even go there in my mind right now. It's too heavy, too immense, too much like being thrown into the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, armed only with little arm floaties and not knowing how to swim...

Interestingly, God has been remarkably present throughout this ordeal. My prayers have changed drastically, however; much more simple and direct, less grand and wordy. I think this is a good thing.

I guess I wanted to write in the middle of all this to preserve a record of what depression looks like, feels like...I've experienced valleys of depression in the past, but never have I been so aware of it, and at the same time so powerless to move beyond it.

Dear friends, I have not written this to cause you to worry, or to fish for affirmations, or to get advice or sympathy or a quick fix. (Please don't give me advice or solutions - I just can't handle it right now.) But if someone out there is in a similar place, know that you're not alone. And if you're a friend of someone who suffers from depression (and you probably are, it's sadly common), may this help you understand a bit of what they might be going through. Depression is ugly, but it needs to be acknowledged and accepted.

(If you see me sometime after reading this, please just act normally. I may want to talk, I may not - and you'll know :)  Just know that I value your friendship and your presence. Thanks.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Stir the Soil

Here we are, poised on the cusp of yet another Lenten season... Ash Wednesday is tomorrow! (Lent is simply the forty days before Easter, traditionally characterized by fasting, confession, reflection and preparation; Lent is not "in the Bible" per se, but it's kind of modeled after Jesus' forty days in the desert. There - Lent in a nutshell.) 

I have never felt more in need of a quiet, contemplative time in all my life. I'm just coming out of one of the best times of my life. Up until ten days ago, I was gainfully employed at a job that made good use of my gifts; working with encouraging, wise, intentional, life-giving, fun colleagues and a congregation whom I adore; making a difference in people's lives (I hope) by pointing them to Jesus. 

Bliss, people - pure bliss. Sure, there were challenges to be faced and overcome, questions to be answered, difficulties to be endured. There were times when my weaknesses and short-comings (yep, pun totally intended) became painfully evident. But overall, it was such a satisfying time. 

I knew it was temporary. That was a given from the get-go. I was pretty tempted to hold myself just a teeny bit aloof, to not give myself whole-heartedly to the endeavour. But I decided against that, figuring that the joy of jumping in with both feet, of being fully immersed in the give-and-take of community for a time would more than compensate for whatever pain might be involved when it came to a close. 

I'm still trying to determine if that has indeed been the case. Maybe I need to allow more time to pass before I can be sure? But no - it was absolutely, totally, one-hundred-per-cent worth it! These past ten days have been pretty rough, though, to state it mildly. I feel adrift on a vast sea of uncertainty. The plans and projects that seemed so sure before I entered into this look differently to me now, somehow. I just don't know where to go from here.

Enter Lent. A time to seek, to search, to question, to consider, to clear away the mind-clutter and get quiet and still before my God. I am beyond grateful for God's perfect timing.

A prayer "randomly" came across my screen a few weeks ago (thanks, PB) - and something about it really resonated with me. I've determined to pray it, and mean it, daily - or even more often - during Lent. Join me? And watch and see what God will do?

God, stir the soil,
Run the ploughshare deep,
Cut the furrows round and round,
Overturn the hard, dr
y ground,
Spare no strength nor toil,
Even though I weep.
In the loose, fresh mangled earth
Sow new seed.
Free of withered vine and weed
Bring fair flowers to birth.

(Prayer from Singapore, Church Mission Society)