Hello everyone, long time no chat right? Well, maybe just over a month ago at least.
I think I’ve actually written this blog post a few times already and then deleted the contents because none of the words ever felt quite right. I wasn’t quite sure how, or if, there was a right way to write it. Don’t worry, I’m not about to declare I’ve committed some horrendous crime and spill the details (I haven’t, by the way – just so we’re clear!). This is just a simple reminder that, just like all of us, I have the potential to mess things up, I have the ability to be unkind or unjust, I have the tendency to get stressed or angry or – dare I say it – depressed. The last year or so of my life has led me to this current place, where rather than moving forward with things (as it may well look like from the outside), I feel like I’m taking some huge steps backwards. For those of you that don’t know (and don’t be offended if you feel like you should’ve found out another way, it’s not a big deal or personal), I’m back in counselling after having finished a lengthy sesh just over a year ago now.
The thing is, what I’ve come to realise is that depression is a journey, just as any kind of mental health problem is. I don’t ever think it’s fully “dealt with” or “resolved”. It’s not an infection that antibiotics can fix over a period of time, or something that an operation can remove. It’s not an exterior condition that everyone can see and would rather not talk about, but unfortunately (and thankfully this hasn’t been my experience entirely), it’s an internal one that everyone seems to have an opinion about: maybe you’d feel better if you made some new friends. Maybe you’d be happier if you lost weight. Maybe you’d be in a better place if you just stopped worrying about things so much. Cheer up, chin up, head up. It’ll get better if you just stop thinking about.
I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking. It’s a bit like someone is playing a never-ending game of snap with me and I’m super tense waiting for the next card to be put down, and then it suddenly feels like I don’t have any cards at all and even lifting my hand to place one feels like the most difficult thing in the world (I know a lot of people experiencing anxiety probably get that one too, so a massive shoutout to you guys). Depression is an ongoing part of my life – it’s like having a friend I don’t get on with very much but she hasn’t taken the hint and gone away just yet. Sometimes she does – she picks up the signals that she’s not welcome and takes a little trip somewhere else for a while, and other times, it’s like it’s me who has taken a holiday and I’m not really sure when I’ll be back. Recently, it’s been the latter. So if you’ve been on the receiving end of any difficulty, then I’m genuinely deeply sorry. It isn’t personal and it doesn’t mean I love any of you less. To all of my family and my friends who daily take the time and make the effort with me to tell me you love me, or to show me that in some way practically – thank you, and I love you. I’m just sorry I’m not always the best at showing that.
As with all of these things, I always feel like I need to bring the God-perspective into my line of sight – which again, I don’t always feel like I’m the best at but I’ll do what I can on this one. I’m not sure if anyone else has experienced this, but being a Christian and suffering from depression can feel like the most juxtaposed and unbelievable combination there is out there. But why are you depressed? How could you possibly be sad when you believe someone loved you enough to die for you? Do you think Jesus appreciates that?
Being a Christian and suffering from any kind of mental health issue can feel pretty lonely. It begs many more questions that it does answers most of the time. Recently I’ve found it tricky to reconcile, once again, that I feel depressed and happened to have experienced the love of God. As Christians, we all go through periods of “desert time” – that really naff Christian phrase that sums up the super naff experience of feeling like God isn’t nearby or listening to us. The thing is though, team, I do feel like God is present and nearby. I just have difficulty in understanding why on earth he’d want to be when really it all just feels a bit dark and gloomy. To all of you readers who maybe understand this feeling a bit better than most, not only do I stand with you, but I also need to say that I don’t have the factual proof to prove that God does care. It’s just an overpowering feeling of peace and grace that I just can’t shake off.
If I say, “surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you // Psalm 139: 11-12
In truth, I don’t know why a lofty God who is all perfect and all consuming would want to engage with someone who feels so depressed sometimes that there doesn’t seem to be a chink of light anywhere, who gets distracted and stressed, who doesn’t sleep or eat properly all of the time, who can be quite needy, confused and even completely standoffish. I don’t have the answer for that, because it doesn’t make sense. And if you’re reading this and thought you were the only who possessed flaws like these, then I hate to disappoint you. But, and this is the greatest but there is, God just isn’t like that. God isn’t a lofty, separate being who couldn’t possibly engage with me. Whilst I believe that he is perfect, I also believe – and know through the actions of Jesus – that he meets me in all of my imperfections, including my depression. Thankfully, he sees more than the Annie who cries a lot and has on occasion wasted time putting on perfectly decent mascara only to cry it off minutes later. He sees a daughter; he sees an Annie with infinite worth and an Annie that he loves enough to die for. Even when I don’t recognise that fully, his arms are always open, and his love is unfailing.
Because that’s what grace is, right?
One thing us Christians love to go on about is how we need to respond to God’s grace and his love for us. The hope is that we’ll respond positively and that we’ll accept that grace and love, but that might not quite be the case for you at the moment. I’ve come to realise, and one of the main drivers towards me making a decision to go back into counselling, is that God is asking me to do this.
Of course it’s enough for me to know that Jesus accepts me in my depression and my anxiety, but it’s not enough for it to just stay that way. Recognising I needed to reach out and get some support came from a place of realising that Jesus loves me all over again. It came from a place of realising that, for me, I deserve better because I am a daughter of the Most High, and stepping out to get help is part of living that. Is it easy? Absolutely not. It’s super difficult trying to unravel all of my thoughts and worries an hour a week and has at times made me feel super uncomfortable during the process. But will it be worth it? Absolutely.
So here I am. Starting again, just over a year later, in unravelling and rebuilding. I’ve decided that going back to counselling isn’t a step backwards but rather a huge step forwards. It wasn’t an easy decision, and I hope that’s been heard as you read this. But it was the right one – it was a God one. It does get better. There is light. There is hope. For me, that light and hope and better-ness is Jesus – but I also hope you know that I’m coming to realise that in the darkness and despair and worse-ness of it all, Jesus is still fully present with me and in it with me, and I believe He can and is for you too.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”… Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses… for when I am weak, then I am strong // 2 Corinthians 12 9, 10
Counselling might not quite be the answer you need right now – at least, not in the form of going to see someone separate to your situation. It might mean going to visit the doctor to try and get the process rolling, or it might mean going for a coffee with someone you trust to just get some of those thoughts and worries out. It might even be starting to accept you and all of your ‘stuff’. But if you feel like you’d benefit from some counselling, here’s a few links to help you find someone – if you’d prefer working with someone who’s a Christian, try looking here, but if you’d rather work with someone who isn’t, try here instead.
You are not weak. You are YOU, and you is so, so dearly loved.
Pick it up, pick it all up, and start again // Daughter – Medicine
Peace and blessings x