Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry
This “day in the life of” is an actual record. Here is your chance to see the world from behind the eyes of a survivor. Chronic Major Depression creeps in and out. It causes cognitive difficulty, perception issues, and a sense of hopelessness. This is a battle of the mind and heart…
The morning starts out normally with your routine of medications, breakfast, and going to the office. One look at your desk, and too much, too busy pass through your mind. Years of practice managing your recurring depression no longer allow you to wallow in defeatism without hesitation. it is an automatic reaction to challenge old thought processes. I have faced big to-do piles before and won.
I can’t. I’ll never make it. Why am I trying? flow through your mind seemingly unhindered as if every part of your being is in agreement. You feel guilty at how comfortable you are with negative thoughts. You know it is your responsibility to move past them. The one-hundred-times-per-day decision faces you again. Do I care? Will I slip into the ease of depression or fight it?
What may seem a no-brainer from the outside is not one. In fact, this daily choice is always about the brain. Your mental illness has grown stronger the last two months and the ongoing battle is leaving you tired. Physically, your energy is near dead-stop. Pushing through a day’s obligations is like straining against a chain hooked to the wall. Mentally, you are in a fog. Decisions are difficult. You feel fear, discouragement, and an indescribable numbness. Your body and mind actually do agree with the “cannot.”
It’s as if you are holding tender reeds against a storm surge. So what if the river of major depression grabs onto your fragile mental health and carries broken pieces downstream? The view is good from the sand for watching them gather speed – lack of self-care, relentless tears, isolation, and a growing hopelessness. You knew the risks this morning, and know them now. If you let go of one, it is easier to do so the next time which is likely only a few minutes away.
A feeling of caring about all that is a luxury; it does not come naturally very often. This morning you remember a work-related deadline and make your decision based on obligation.
An old lesson crosses your mind. “The treatment that gets you well keeps you well.” In the spirit of obligation, finally, you force yourself to attend a depression support group. You cannot afford to go to the hospital again. You notice your self-care is about the money troubles you want to avoid for your family, not your life.
You hide your wet eyes in the group meeting because you are new. You’ve been telling yourself you do not have time for this sort of thing – that you will find support among your friends. In reality, people close to you get scared at the nuances of your struggle.
In this room are survivors of the same ongoing battle. Here are the warriors whose hands tightly grasp thousands of their own tender reeds, holding them above the floodwaters of mental illness. When one person’s arm grows weak, other members help to hold it up. You admit your need for this with a sigh.
Surprisingly, you learn of two opportunities that will benefit your knowledge base and income. Briefly, the ache subsides but reappears with your next breath. You decide to allow for excitement. You had to contemplate it because a lack of restraint generally leaves you vulnerable to crashing. You think about sharing the news. Who is a listener? Who will be excited with you? One telling is all there is emotional energy to do.
Your friend is glad for your news, but the phone sporadically cuts out. You call her back, hoping that this time will be different, that you will conjure up the same level of enthusiasm. You cannot. Joy and wonder disappeared with the broken call. You inform others by text, using the appropriate smiling faces.
Major Depression has not wavered. There is a deadness in your movements, thinking, and spirit. Unexpected stresses such as untimely Windows updates and the ensuing loss of connection to WiFi, roll in one after the other. You miss a conference call, an important email, and the evening’s plans fall apart. You feel unproductive and ugly and stupid because somehow it makes sense that it’s all connected. When healthy, these temporary setbacks are met with more patience and calm. Today, they push you out of the game.
Describing these sensations is a challenge. Dark. Rocks in your middle yet empty. So much more than sad. Cavernous and ocean-deep. Depression is not your attitude, it is your reality. You wish you were functional. There is a barely controllable urge to escape into food, TV, and vices you typically avoid. Tears roll down your cheeks. How will you get this episode in check? Black mood wraps around you like an iron shawl, pulling you under deep waters.
Eventually, you force your night routine by taking your medications and going to bed. Maybe you’ll be stronger tomorrow. You will face another day and another and so on just because.
Because you do not want to disappoint people whose opinions matter to you.
Because you want to fulfill God’s plan for your life.
Because it is not your time to die.
Because you hope to, one day, care.
Today’s Helpful Word
Psalm 88:9-13 NIV
I call to you, Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion? But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. -A song
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NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.