Sigh. I think I may have FINALLY come to terms with the fact I live with the burden of depression. What a whirlwind of emotions this day has been, but I am so grateful for how God has been working on my heart for the past 4 years since I was diagnosed.
Before talking about my day of self realization, I’d like to share with you what my journey has been like thus far.
Mid May 2011 my grandma died after having suffered from dementia. Up until this point, I had a tendency of feeling things very deeply and struggled with a sensation of overwhelming sadness. Her death triggered a lot in my heart because of how important she was to my family and I. After dealing with prolonged emotional turmoil, I eventually went to the doctor and was told that I may have depression. Hearing this brought on a huge sense of relief. For so long I felt like I carried an unbearably heavy load, which was finally being removed from my shoulders when treatment began (medication is a God send).
The battle didn’t end there. As time went on, I realized how my emotions seemed to be increasingly out of my control. I could wake up on any given day and feel totally disconnected from the world around me. As I interacted with people, I felt unable to be myself. In fact, it felt as though everything about who I thought I was disappeared when I was depressed. I couldn’t enjoy life or connect with my loved ones. My heart was filled with these burdensome anxieties and worries that I hadn’t experienced up until this point. The silly, fun, extroverted and Jesus loving Patty that most people knew me as seemed to fade away for days at a time. The worst part was (and continues to be) the fact that I felt nothing. My whole body, mind and soul felt absolutely numb. As a result, all I wanted to do was stay in my bed and sleep. In doing so, I could evade all feelings of responsibility for my un-Patty like behaviour and avoid feeling like a total failure. If I nestled myself far enough into my nest of blankets and closed my eyes, maybe I could finally wake up from this horrible nightmare that was my depression.
I wish I could say that I no longer experience these things but, after 4 years of struggling, this continues to be my reality at times. Nevertheless, I’m encouraged to say that it is getting better. Honestly, the only reason why I’m still alive and am living a full life is because of my relationship with God.
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
These scriptures have kept me anchored in my darkest moments. I have experienced extreme lows in my life as a result of my depression, but I am so grateful for the fact that God has strengthened me through it.
The reason why I chose this particular title for my post is in honour of the semi colon movement. The semicolon is a symbol of life beyond mental health. My life could have ended, however, like a the usage of a semicolon in the sentence that is my life, I continue to live on. It is so encouraging to know that other humans like me all over the world continue to battle in spite of their mental health related struggles.
Today was a rough day. I have resisted outside help fo(u)r years but, after having had an awesome conversation with Kuya Zhaun Frias (love you, bro), I finally went to the Dalhousie Mental Health office to seek for regular counselling. I felt extremely anxious when approaching the building. I believe this happened because I’ve internalized stigmas surrounding mental health in a way that has prevented me from seeking the help that I need.
Disclaimer: it is disappointing to discover how inaccessible counselling is at Dal. In spite of the hoops that I have to jump through to get it, I am resolved to no longer be on this journey alone (feel free to hold me accountable).
As I sifted through my thoughts post visiting the office, I made my way to a Social Work event entitled Using Collage To Critically Reflect On Our Semester. Little did I know this event would totally stir up emotions that I had been repressing. Basically, the objective was to make a collage that was reflective on how we felt last semester along with how we felt about the current semester.
This is what I came up with (can you tell that I’m a minimalist?). “In the end,” was used as a symbol for my depression. Again, very much in line with the semicolon movement. The first half of my collage is an illustration of my first semester. I felt as though I had learned a lot more about my mental health challenges and about the extent in which it effected my every day life in a deeper way. As I worked through my depression, it felt as though everything I did involved an extensive amount of labour on my part. It didn’t matter how small or big the task may have been. Either way, I felt as though I couldn’t accomplish anything meaningful. As a result, it felt like I was journeying through a desert that was lacking of life and was fruitless. I constantly felt like what I did was never good enough and it didn’t matter how hard I worked towards attaining my goals because it seemed as though I kept coming up short.
However, I realize that how I may have felt or how I may feel in the future may not necessarily be reflective of reality. This is why I look forward to a new beginning everyday. As God continues to present me with new doors of possibility, by faith, I keep opening them in hopes of learning and growing in a different way. I tend to dream about where I want to be and what I want to be doing in a way that causes me to struggle to be content with where I am now. Post returning back from the Philippines, my heart has yearned to be back. God has planted a seed in my heart to want to go out of my comfort zone and adventure around the world with Him. Even so, for now, I’m learning to bloom where I’m planted and love the life that I have. So, as I open the door that is in front of me, I look forward to be led in the way of love by my incredible Creator.
“You may grow out of your depression, just wait and see.”
These are the words that have haunted me since I was diagnosed. I’ve seen how God has used my experiences to help others in so many ways. Although, like Paul, I pray regularly the this thorn in my flesh will eventually be removed. Today was a hard day because I finally came to the realization that this may be a lifelong journey. I think that I’ve avoided going to see a professional for help because I’m still in denial of the fact that the battle won’t be over anytime soon. I think I convinced myself that, if I wait long enough, it’ll eventually fade out of my life.
God visibly has different plans for me. I can’t blame God because, for every thought of “He must not love me because He created me this way”, there are about a bajillion scriptures (that’s right, a bajillion) that say otherwise. In fact:
[…] [He] created my inmost being;
[He] knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise [Him] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
[His] works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from [Him]
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
[His] eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in [His] book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
I am handcrafted, yo (and so are you ps).
Anyways, the point is that I’m a mess half of the time but I have every reason to be grateful. I am not the way that I am by mistake. God didn’t accidentally add too much of a certain ingredient when he was in the process of creating me. He formed my inmost being with intent. When He saw the finished product, He was pleased. In spite of the fact that I may feel discontent with my life due to my depression at times, I hope to live the rest of my life fighting to fully embrace the truths that God has so clearly laid out in His word: I am loved unconditionally and am a valuable human in His eyes.
On the flip side, I was able to cry with my sisters and enjoy some time of self care. God is good to me and I’m so thankful for the support in my life. Shout out to my Social Work family! All of you have made it so easy to process all of my emotions in a vulnerable and gut-level real kind of way.