If you were to ask me “How are you doing?” I can now say “I am not always reliably or robustly well but I'm doing well." To elaborate this means the development of an ability to thrive and function well is progressing, whilst simultaneously being able to live comfortably with depression and a brain dealing with trauma. Steadfast baby steps.
You see, I had previously had an episode of Major Depressive Disorder and truly thought I had recovered. Then again I became a casualty of another catastrophic train wreck struggling with the suffocating darkness that an emotional and mental breakdown brings. Except as brutal and grim as this time has been, finally it seems this fatberg of an illness that has clogged the artery of my soul for the past 7 years is slowly losing its gruesome grip. I have spent time with my GP and psychologist as they help me process to bring healing of childhood events.
These events have disrupted my neurological chemistry releasing an all-consuming cluster of symptoms that made me fall into a deep dark pit of mud and mire. Bringing the truth and memories to light has taken 7 years. There has now been deep healing but it has been a long painful process where the past interrupted my present. I had to face the grim reality that this illness was going to be around for much longer than I thought.
Yet 18 months after the start of the relapse here I am responding with self-care rather than self-destruction. I am in a more predictable functioning state. Of course there have been moments where the brain gremlins have stolen my stable emotions and I have been unsure of how much endurance is left in the tank. My days can still be unpredictable and exhausting where I constantly ache for a quick fix to make it all go away.
I found the re-introduction of medication for a time led to me feeling as if I was bumbling along in a partially awake state. The meds hobbled my functioning making me always nervous that I was being flaky whilst in the company of others. There has also been some comedy moments such as, leaving the cooker on for hours whilst cooking nothing, forgetting to portion food for one of my hungry children, and almost getting garlic and tahini mixed up in a biscuit recipe (to be fair, they do look pretty similar!) Yet I’m glad I persevered as they have really helped establish some stable brain chemistry enabling me to deal with difficult issues with my psychologist.
By embarking on this season of accepting I can say with courage and clarity the reality is part of me. The diagnosis is major depressive disorder and a brain function that has been affected by trauma in childhood causing deep distress. With new found clarity I am able to express my thoughts with various methods - the painting of my brain displaying how well I use each area – for example how good I am at reverse parking (many a middle aged man has commented so it must be true), or recognising 80s songs at the first chord. Every morning on wakening, studying the painting helps to develop the perspective that ‘depression’ just takes up a small area of the brain. Finally I realise there is so much more to me! This has significantly decreased the classic self-loathing symptom of depression, making it possible to deal with deeply difficult and painful memories and emotions. I am astounded and overwhelmed with relief and thankfulness discovering that it is truly possible to reach a place where I realise I am a strong, capable women who can care well for family and use my broken brain for many different blessings and benefits to others.
I have also discovered I am able to use the strength found in imagination to help aid healing. For instance using the ability to imagine screaming out angst and hurt which bubble like a volcano eruption. Of course in amongst the brokenness and pain when I rage at God and the world I keep reading Psalm 77 to help express emotions where there are no words. Although it’s not always possible to have wings to truly soar above all the pain and processing; I simply rest in the peace of the secure embrace of God’s love amongst the gunk and bleakness. Knowing that the best days are not behind but seeing hope for the future I enjoy moments when I can dance in the light.
There are other practical ways to aid the recovery. Swimming in the ocean, running, or chatting with a friend about what’s polluting my mind. The simple routine of time outdoors, playing sport with my children, not eating food with refined sugar, and laughing a lot also are a big part of helping me in my recovery.
I have a wonderful GP who cares deeply about my health and a wise psychologist who yearns to see me function healthily. I am thankful for a gracious, fun family who daily cajole me along and show me much care and kindness. I have wonderful, faithful friends who accept me with all my brokenness knowing that my depression is not all of me. These relationships are all undergird by a loving God who carries me along. I know not how long it will be until my weary heart and mind will be able to say - “I am finally free.” There is no need to dwell in despair, but instead to celebrate that I am a work in progress.
Please know that the desperate situation you are in presently is not the complete story of your whole life. This is not a single defining narrative - just a different season. I hope you find the nourishing support of others to help you keep on keeping on in these dark days.