An Education on Depression: It doesn’t have a look

Depression

I know by now you have probably heard about the death of Robin Williams. Coincidentally this happened the very night that I decided to take a break from social media and blogging. In a sense I struggled with my resolve, because his death brings talking about depression to the front of people’s minds. This gives me an opportunity to share. Yet I stuck to my commitment to fast. So I have resorted to writing this post old school style and I will post it on my return.

Like always hearing of someone losing their battle with depression gets me to thinking, sometimes this is a good thing and other times not such a good thing. I was thinking what an opportunity for the church to begin to educate people on depression and how it is okay to seek help. While I pondered different ways for someone else to do this, it occurred to me that there is a lot of people who just don’t know about depression.  I will not present a list of signs and symptoms, because you can Google that, instead I want to share based on my personal experiences.

Depression

For people who have never experienced depression, many of you probably have the worst case scenario in your heads. I know that growing up and being totally uneducated on depression I thought it described the person who was always sad, crying, no control over their emotions, the one who was always in the counselors office and always had massive drama. I never realized that depression does not have a look, and it could happen to anybody.

I want to share something a little closer to what I have seen to be the truth.

  1. Depression does not always look like what you see on TV
  2. Depression is no respecter of persons
  3. Depression rarely comes on you all at once. In fact, I would have to compare depression to sin. Often when we begin to sin, it is not something we set out to do. Instead it is more like a slow fade from what we know to do, and before you know it you wonder how you got so far off course. In many ways depression is the same you don’t see it coming, it sneaks up on you and sometimes you fail to see it until it is too late.
  4. Not every case of depression equals a crisis

My Past

For each person the signs and symptoms may vary. But, reflecting on my past I have to admit I never thought I was depressed. Many people labelled me as a happy child, and I would have not said otherwise. In the early days of what I now know was depression, I would not have said that I was upset or sad about anything.

As a child I was always different kind of did my thing. Over time though I would often notice a nagging sense of dissatisfaction yet I could never pinpoint a reason. It just felt like there had to be more than this. You would not have known it to see me though. I wore a smile like most women wear makeup and even today that remains mostly true.

As I aged this sense of dissatisfaction was not the only sign though, although I didn’t know enough to notice. I got up and did as I was expected to do, followed my routine, but often it felt like I was going through the motions. I wasn’t really happy, yet I was not unhappy either. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I started to notice problems with not being happy, dissatisfaction that would not go away, isolating from others, problems being around others, and right before I sought help problems with comprehension, feeling worthless, irritable, feeling nothing has meaning, no motivation.

Initially I wanted help because I couldn’t handle being around people without being nervous and shaky, I thought it would be social anxiety disorder but they insisted that I had depression. Even now after battling depression for years, a person must remain ever alert to your personal warning signs or you can be caught unaware by an episode of depression.

The thing is many symptoms are things everyone experiences at some time or another. The problems arise when it is uncontrolled and persistent symptoms. Some common symptoms that I know everyone has sometimes are:

  • Feeling oversensitive
  • Irrational responses
  • Being needy
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Negativity

As you can see some symptoms are pretty common, while others like thoughts of suicide are not something someone who is not depressed, or in that stage of depression would face. Some people still argue about whether medications are necessary in really treating depression. I can’t speak for everybody, but I know that they made a huge difference towards getting me to a place where I could function or be happy.

I shared recently that I had come off of my medications. I made it 11 weeks without medications before I began to see warning signs, so I chose to go back on the medication. There is no shame in being on medications and there is no shame in seeking professional counseling.

If you feel like you could be suffering from depression or another mental health problem, please seek help so that you can get back to living the life you were meant to live.

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Removing the Masks

Where I work now we are not able to wear any kind of jewelry, makeup, hair products or perfume.  It has a lot to do with the nature of the job, and for me this is not a big problem.  As a rule I don’t wear any of this stuff anyway…but I realize this is not the case for most of the people in the world.  So often people spend a lot of time on what they look like, and some even refuse to leave the house without makeup and hair perfectly done.  At 5’4″ I have to admit that I am overweight.  But I have found a place of acceptance about where I am today.  I’m not so worried about the numbers on the scale, or what I look like most of the time.  I have finally decided that I needed to know who I really am, outside of what other people expect of me.

Deanna

As I look around work I can’t help but notice all these women who are walking around without what has become the standard of what is expected out of women.  It has me thinking about how much we feel the need to hide behind these masks that we all carry.  Everyone has one, and yet every mask is a bit unique.  These masks are not just something we women carry around, men also have them.  For some it can be in the job title, the briefcase, the hair and clothes perfect, for others it is the makeup, perfectly clean house, perfectly dressed kids, or perfectionist tendencies.

As I watch these women at work (mostly in the break room, the one place we are not covered in hair nets and lab coats) I can’t help but notice how very brave they have become in letting down their guards and simply being who they are.  It is not something that you see everyday, they don’t worry about how to compare or compete with one another, they just share life together.

All of this really hit me the other day and made me wonder what it would look like if we would dare to drop the masks we hide behind and simply become who God created us to be.  Could we dare to be brave and for once instead of worrying about what others expect from us, just be the unique person that God created us to be.

Wouldn’t it be an amazing change if people could begin to accept who they are created to be instead of constantly hiding behind their masks and comparing and finding them-selves lacking in some way?  Could we dare for even a couple of days a week to drop our guards, and drop the masks and figure out who we are really created to be.  For some women it could be as easy as not applying makeup and daring to see the beauty that God has given them naturally.  For others it may be pursuing a hobby that you have thought about but neglected to make time for.  Will you dare to explore who you really are?

I want to say that I have no problems with makeup or any of the other things I have written about today, it was simply the thing that inspired this line of thought.  I found that makeup was more time-consuming than I wanted to do, but that was personal preference.  I am not bashing it in any form, it just makes me sad at times that other people feel like they must have it always to even leave the house.  This is not the way it should be, should we really feel like we have to hide ourselves, or even add to the beauty that God has created us with?

I’ll be honest for many years my mask was my smile, it was not authentic and often just hid how miserable I was inside…but I had to seem happy.  It was so freeing to learn that it was OK to have whatever feelings that I had and it was not necessary to pretend to be someone I am not.  What do you think would help you to drop your masks?  Pray about it and see where God would have you to let go of your masks.

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Talking About Writing and A Praise Report

Today’s post is a little different.  I have witnessed in the blogging community lately a fun little blog hop, and I halfway wondered if I would be asked, while at the same time not really giving it a lot of thought because I was on a blogging break.  But before I get into that I want to share a song I heard again the other day that resonated with my heart as I declared this is really all I want.

The the other week a dear friend that I met through #FMFparty asked me if I would be willing to take part in the blog hop I mentioned above.  I have not known Marie long, but I have fallen in love with her writing and her honesty.  I have also found a lot of common ground between us.  I was pleasantly surprised when she invited me to take part.  Check out her blog and her answers to these questions.

The Blog Hop

The purpose behind this blog hop is to talk about my writing and to introduce some friends that bless me.  However I am breaking the rules just a bit.  You see we are to ask 3 people to join in on the hop and have them to answer the questions below, but everyone I asked or wanted to ask had either already participated or for personal reasons was not able to do so at this time.  So since I did want to share with you from the blogs I read I am going to simply link you back to their blog posts below.

What Am I Writing or Working On?

Well since I have just returned from a blogging break I have to admit that I am not actively working on anything right now.  I am adjusting to being back to work full-time and have not found much time to write.

However there are two projects that I am supposed to be working on, that simply have lain neglected.  The most recent project was that I was supposed to be writing a devotional for people who suffered from depression and other mental health issues.  I’ve barely started it though because I failed to make it as much of a priority as I should have, and because I got tripped up on how writing for that is so different from writing on this blog.  Also this year I have been in the process of really finding my writing voice, so that would help me to do that before trying to finish the devotional first….as I am finding now that even things I wrote a couple of months ago I no longer write the same.

The other project I am working on is the novel that I started in NaNoWriMo 2012.  I worked on it like crazy until January 2013 when I began to get more intentional about blogging and then haven’t found the time to finish although I want to.

My story is a fictional one, where the characters are learning about themselves.  I started this story with no ideas, no plans, and it kind of formed itself.  It starts out when my main character is forced to escape life as she knows it and embarks on an adventure to learn herself and meets various characters along the way.  But I found as I continued to write that really all of my characters are on a similar journey of learning who they are and what they have to offer.  The story now sits at 65000 words and I wrote myself into a mess and am going back from the beginning and fixing major discrepancies before trying to finish the story.

A small glimpse at my story…

She walks through the dark house, slips through the door, and sees him lying in the moonlight, under the powder blue blanket.  Looking so innocent in sleep.  Her hands long to touch his hair and she wants to whisper her love to him, but she can’t.  She is taking a chance as it is that she would wake him, just watching him here.
Tears flood her eyes, her arms slack at her sides, her chin trembling she can’t believe that she is doing this, that she may never see him again.  She hates that she has to leave him behind, at 4 years old, he will never understand.  
She clenches her jaw, and glances at the clock again.  She can’t take it anymore, she has to leave.  She wipes the tears away, feeling the heaviness settle in her chest and gives one more longing glance and tip toes back out the door, pulling it closed behind her.
Being careful not to bump the furniture, she goes to the front door.  Looking quickly around behind her, taking a deep breath she walks out the door, hopefully never to return.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

I think my writing is as unique as I am, and I am still finding my writing voice.  That said though at this point the thing that stands out to me about my writing is that I tend to write, much like I think…which means that I focus more on the harder and deeper things of life.  I have not yet managed to find a balance in my voice for writing about the fun things also.

I am a Christian and I am a blogger, but I don’t always feel like I fit in under the Christian blogger niche, because I don’t always encourage in a light-hearted way as many of them do.  I’m not always looking to make someone feel better about where they find themselves.  While I am an encourager and I believe that has its place, often instead I find that I am looking at why we behave the way we do, or what is it that God is calling us to change in our lives.  Sometimes those things are not easy to discuss and well they do not always win readers.  At the same time I can’t simply ignore that part of who I am to write what others may enjoy reading more.

Why do I write what I write?

When I started blogging it was as a way to share my then new faith in Jesus.  I did not grow up in a Christian home and therefore I did not know a lot about being a Christian.  It became my desire to share with others…although my initial attempts were pretty bad.  I continue to write to share my faith even today because it just feels like the right thing to do.  I want people to know what Jesus is doing in my life and what He can do for them.  While my personal life is not important (in my mind) to my writing, lately I have tried to be more authentic and honest about the seasons that I find myself in.  This is really scary, because I am seeing the power of story, yet I have a hard time writing vulnerable and waiting to see how it is received.  Although the more I share, the more I find that you my loyal readers are receptive and encouraging.

As for the why I write (link), well writing is just my most natural form of expressing myself.  I feel like I get more to the heart of who I am and what I am feeling when I write.

How does my writing process work?

I am not sure that I have an official writing process.  Mostly I write without planning a lot.  I usually write about some verse or piece of scripture that I feel the Lord has shown me something and I want to share with others.  Or like when I blogged through the Book of Matthew, I wrote the things that stood out to me and my understanding of them.  I am also trying to work more into my writing about my past struggles with depression and trying to educate the church a little on the stigma that still exists around that.

I have enjoyed when I can be more intentional and use a calendar to plan out when I would post, and on what topic.  But honestly that is about as far as I have ever gotten on planning out a post in advance, unless you have the thoughts I think as I lay down at night or wake in the morning about something that I should write.  Everything is inspiration and can inspire ideas for a post.

My Friends

As I said earlier I am breaking the rules a bit with this because I really want you to meet some amazing people who I love and well I didn’t want to force someone to be a part, but I did want to share them with you.  These precious women I all met through this amazing community of bloggers that gather for #fmfparty.

Jenn

Jenn is a friend whose writing blesses and I just love reading her words.  She is such an encouragement and I just love seeing her on Social Media.  Please go visit and enjoy her fresh words.

Jen

Jen is an amazing person and I have enjoyed getting to know her online and chatting with her in emails.  She is totally going to do amazing things for the Kingdom of God and I just love her perspectives on things.  Still a young’un in many ways yet she has already done more with her life than many other people have done at a much older age.  Honestly it’s amazing to see how God doesn’t need age or qualifications that the world would use.  I can’t wait to one day meet her in real life.  Please take a few minutes and check her out at Growing in Faith, and read about her responses to the questions on writing.

Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn is another one who I have not known overly long, but I love her writing and I know that she has a way of changing things around her.  I love her heart and her willingness to be open and vulnerable and share her story.  Please visit Kaitlyn at It Just Takes One.

 

Praise Report

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time you have heard me talk about my struggles with depression, or at least about my thoughts on the church and depression.  I have shared also about how I have done better in recent years.  What I don’t think I have shared yet (although I may have just forgotten) is that I have stopped taking my medications with my doctor’s permission, to see if I have improved to the point that they are not necessary.  Today marks two months of being medication free!!!  During this time in my life as I have shared before I have faced many changes and challenges, and nothing ever stays the same long.  But God, has helped me to grow and change, and even in the midst of everything, and starting a new job I have been perfectly able to enjoy life without the depression coming back.  God is so very good!!!!!!!!  He has also helped me to control my thought life so that I am not thinking myself into a mess.