Down yes, out no.

I often say that I have never suffered from depression.  This is true.  I’ve never been diagnosed as clinically depressed – and I’ve never gone to the doctors to ask to be.

But I have been in a condition that seems from the descriptors to be close to depression – after the deaths of several close family members.  Ah, that’s not depression, that’s being sad, and grieving.  Quite right.  But there were several deaths, and the feelings lasted a couple of years, so I understand the days when I can function as a human being, albeit from the other side of a metaphorical pane of glass, and the days when I cannot function at all.  I get that being told to pull myself together is about as effective as using a sieve to transport water.  (And for the record, you wouldn’t try to use a sieve to carry water, as a matter of common sense, so please don’t tell people with depression to pull themselves together.)  I get the dark hopelessness, the feeling of worthlessness. 

“But you’re not like that now, Claire”, I hear you cry.  No.  For the vast majority of the time I am not.  I do not suffer the lengthy episodes that characterise depression.  But I do fear them, I recognise the capacity within me to drown in that particular river.  And every few years I get a bad couple of weeks.  Always at this time of year, usually when I am tired and busy.  Often in a period when things are happening, which I want to control or have a say in, and which I can’t.  Generally when I am a bit run down.  And sometimes other things happen that remind me of that time, that release a little bit of feeling similar to the feelings I had all those years ago.  There isn’t a single trigger, just a series of weights which drag me down as they accumulate. 

It takes me a while to recognise the signs, to understand what I am feeling is fear, to realise what is happening.  An obvious sign is when I stop talking to people – and yesterday I did not want to talk to anyone.  This was tricky given I was on a course with my fellow curates and training incumbents, with lots of group work. Then I realised I was using twitter to shout at the world, again, not a good sign.  I’ve told people there I will be off for a few days – I don’t want to take out my anger and fear and pain on someone I don’t know who can’t cope with it.  

The odd thing is, that although I hate feeling like this, I am less afraid now that it is upon me than I was as I felt it begin to take over.  It is as though I have been dragged to the bottom of the river, felt the mud between my toes and know that I can start to swim back up.  That’s why I know it isn’t depression.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.       


6 responses to “Down yes, out no.

  1. Last year just about this time – any echoes there? – I wrote a post which I called “The truth about depression” (Sorry don't know how to give you a link)
    In it I tried as best I could to make the difference clear between real depression and a depressed state.
    There are similarities, and one can easily become the other, but sometimes it helps to read about others' experiences of “The black dog”.
    It called forth a deluge of comments, most of them helpful and while I would never presume to try to give anyone advice, I can at least offer sympathy and pray that your current 'low' departs soon.

  2. Thanks Ray, yes, lots of echoes. Reading your post reinforces my own assessment of where I am – and the fact that I wrote my post at all means I am well on the way up again. I am very grateful to you for your own post, which offers a great deal of insight – thank you for writing it, thank you for your comment here, and thank you above all for your prayers

  3. Claire!! [*]

    I have only once been in that deep depth of depression, many years ago, and it was the hurt, guilt and pain caused by the breakdown of a marriage, that I had thought would be for life, but sadly wasn't. I stopped eating, stopped looking out for myself and my whole perspective was one of darkness, a sense of uselessness and that life wasn't worth living. At the same time, events conspired to make me change jobs and to be relocated over 3000 miles away from my separated family. I missed my children dreadfully and couldn't cope with anything to do with issues of visitation, custody or anything else. It took a good six months before I too began to see light at the end of the tunnel and begin to again take responsibility for myself, my work and everything else. By this time I had lost 3 stone in weight and was totally run down. I had previously rejected God, so didn't even have the support and consolation of prayer and healing grace that would have been there alongside me.

    I can remember and recognise those feelings in myself even today, and it's a wakeup call to stop doing whatever it is that is bringing me down. My spouse is a great help as she knows me so well, that she can spot the signs and console and counsel me as only she can.

    Depression is another hidden illness, and visible signs may be as you describe such as withdrawal into oneself, and some people might just think it's your being standoffish, rather than a symptom of something deeper.

    I've found that sharing those feelings with someone else brings perspective and restoration, I mean a human, having already shared them with God. A good listener can work marvels as they hear you compassionately, offering a hand or a hug, but not any solutions. Gently guiding you to the point where you're able to gain clarity of thought for your self to help you out from under the black cloud that disfigures your real view of the world.

    I often listen to people, who quite unexpectedly, confide their feelings to me. The last thing on my mind is to say 'pull yourself together' I try to bring understanding, empathy and compassion into it and to just be there for them. It's a privilege that some feel that confidence in me to speak so openly, but also a burden in some ways if you don't yourself have someone to speak to. My spouse and my Spiritual Director really fulfil these functions admirably. I wonder who they go to?

    Relationships are so important and I constantly think of those more unfortunate than myself, who have no one to turn to. God help them!!

  4. Big hugs from me – but hey you know that … I think also (at least for me) it's the change to the dark days that triggers it, or helps to.


  5. Relationships matter, but I find connection is only really possible as I come out of that place, not while I am in the depths – but I am an introvert (a loud one but an introvert).
    Your experience sounds horrid, and I agree that to go through this without God would be horrific.

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