I never thought of myself as having a mental health issue. Although I had been depressed over 20 years and often felt the overwhelming sadness that you can understand only if you have felt it, it didn’t seem like there was anything unusual about what I was experiencing. I guess I had “learned” to feel bad and had not unlearned it or had not learned to feel good. It was my normal and all I knew—most days—so there was no reason to believe otherwise. I was doing all of the prescriptive things to feel whole and yet I didn’t feel any better:
Pray = check,
Mental health assessment = check,
Attend Therapy = check,
Take anti-depressant medication = check,
Confess, repent and go through a holy deliverance service at the church = check,
Maintain my stress levels = check,
Cut out toxic people, places and things = check,
Accept this as your lot in life = check.
When I talk about depression in these terms and what I did about it, it almost seems like I had some control over what I felt or didn’t feel. At least that’s what I had always heard. “Mental issues are controlled by the mind.” “Why can’t you just get over it?’ So, I masked things to keep from having to face the labels, stigmas, and blank-faced stares (I still get these even today) when I occasionally took the risk to tell someone, ‘I am battling depression.” They were shocked that I was facing something that I should have been able to control. I saw looks of disappointment on their faces and confusion and surprise…so I masked it, but I called it managing it; Funny when I think about it now, how I did everything but manage my depression. It seems like i was so busy managing the expectations of people that I didn’t manage what mattered. It’s time to manage what matters!
In hindsight, there were two very important things I had not checked off my check list of prescriptive remedies that are today the most important aspects of all, and notions that I keep at the forefront as I push this illness behind me. First, I did not check off the fact that I had not been healed on the inside from the many things that had happened to me. The lack of healing hindered my body and my mind’s ability to gain the wholeness needed to fight the feelings of hopelessness. The more I healed on the inside, the more steps I took outside of the depression cave. Its time to come all the way out of the cave!
The other thing I had not considered were the hard, painful, traumatic things that would come my way that I had no control over (like the death of my mother), but that I still had to somehow endure and survive. As I began to heal from past hurts, the new hurts had a place to heal in–a tried by fire place, a proven place, instead of being stacked together on top of the unresolved pain in one unhealed pile. It’s time to scatter your pile!
I like where this conversation is going. So, let’s keep talking so that we can unmask and keep healing… together.
Until then, keep living. You’re free to do so = check.