A year ago my best friend told me I needed help. She was right. Nothing could make me smile anymore, not even seeing baby ducklings in the Kinnessburn. So I went to my GP and was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety, and immediately started taking antidepressants.
Last winter was the worst six months of my life. All of my emotional and mental energy went to teaching, meaning that the rest of the time I spent lying down in my office staring at the wall. After two and a half months of seeing a therapist, she told me she wasn’t qualified to deal with my problems. I then took a more pragmatic approach and told my GP I wanted someone to help me cope with anxiety specifically, and was assigned to a self-help coach in the spring. That went better, but was only for three sessions. All the while, my GP and I kept increasing my dosage.
Even so, it wasn’t until Easter that I discovered joy again, and it wasn’t until June that I was able to live with that joy. I have been depressed at least since I was 16, and have had anxiety for even longer. How I feel now is revelatory, revolutionary. If this is what ‘normal’ really is, then what have I been missing the last decade of my life? I have always striven to make the most out of life, claiming the promise that Christ gives life abundantly. And so I marvel at the prospect of finally, finally, being truly alive.
I never really wrote about having depression on my blog, though I did allude to it occasionally. I was seriously and severely ill, and I am still recovering. I’m still on medication, and yes, I am harbouring fears about what this winter will bring with its long, dark, cold nights, and of when I eventually come off the medication. But I am in a place now where I am better able to cope, and I still have the promise of my good Lord Christ, and so it will be okay. If there is anything I have learned, it is that God is Faithful.
It is strange, looking back. Only now can I see just how bad off I really was — and how I had been for a while. Last night I tried on a dress I wore at a best friend’s wedding four years ago, which took place the summer before I moved to Scotland. I was quite bad off then, too. The dress still fits, but differently, and isn’t nearly as loose at it was — which is saying something, as it is a size 2 (U.S. sizing). For the first time in my adult memory I have an appetite again, and a metabolism to keep up with it.
Like my rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety and bouts of depression are an illness, occasionally a debilitating one. Even if I seem okay, I still take medication to keep the worst effects at bay. I recognise the symptoms, know the triggers that can make it worse. I know I may be preaching to the choir here, but I have to say it: people who are depressed can’t just ‘snap out of it’ and become ‘normal’. It takes longer than a couple of months to be ‘okay’ again (especially, in my case, it’s been so long that I didn’t know what ‘okay’ felt like, let alone ‘good’). It’s taken me months and months to reach a point where I could even write this post, and I’m still not convinced that now is the right time. I have lost friends along the way. I have also gained friends, and a sense of self-confidence I never had before. But the point is that it takes time, and for me it will take some more time yet. There is still the winter ahead.
I almost didn’t publish this post. I’m feeling better, but I don’t want to jinx it. This post is not at all saying that I’ve ‘made it’, that I’m fully well. Instead, this is a reflection of the past year, an update on the journey. And so this post is to say, more or less, ‘Here I raise my Ebenezer; hither by Thy help I’ve come’. Now, onward and upward…