Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cheer Up!


 People who have never experienced severe or clinical depression or anxiety, will never understand what it does to your mental ability to cope, and how different it is from “normal” depression or anxiety. It is so much more than having a down day, or being stressed out or overly worried. It is also not necessarily  “about” anything, and so it is hard to come up with a way to help it. If I said “I am afraid,” someone would say, “What are you afraid of?” Or you might want to know what I am crying about. I would cry about nothing and everything all at once. Some of the most shallow things I heard from people during the worst of my postpartum depression was their well-meaning but frustrating ideas on how to make myself feel better. How could I just “cheer up” when I had nothing to do with cheering down? I was in the throws of it so much that I was not even in the state of being able to apply anything I was hearing. Sure, I forced myself to try things like walking outside, taking a shower (which sometimes had to be a supervised activity) watching TV, “breathing” or even just getting my favorite drink from Starbucks. These things would have been more helpful if they were proportional to the problem. But, in my case, the problem was much deeper, more complicated and medical in nature. I could try all I wanted, but until my hormones/emotions got some balance, and until I was able to think more clearly (and sleep, for that matter!) I could not climb out of this pit, even for a few moments to catch a break. I desperately wanted people to understand how I felt, and that this was different. That what they were saying made no sense to me! I just felt like yelling at them. (In fact, I did yell around family members.) I have prayed! I have exercised! I have…” It wasn’t working. I had people bringing me vitamins, teas, music, books, medicine, lavender lotion to help me relax, a special pillow, you name it. They did their best to help, but I think what helped the most was not what they said I should do, but just that they were there with me. That they had the courage and compassion to reach out. They may not have known what to say or do, but I clung to everyone around me. If you are trying to help someone through a situation like this, don’t feel like you have to stop the storm (as much as they wish you could) but just being there for them until it passes is the best help you can offer. You may not “cheer them up,” but you may help them survive for one more day until eventually, something does.

I do remember one validating and humorous word of advice from an older friend of mine, who said, “If you don’t feel like taking a shower, Don’t!” She didn’t try to help me into the shower, or underestimate how difficult it was to do even the simplest things. She just let me feel how I was feeling, and told me it was Okay. 

4 comments:

  1. Hey Jessie, I just wanted to reach out and say I've been there - and I've felt the anxiety, the depression, and a lot of things you've mentioned - and yea it's hard, and not fun. But keep going friend, because Jesus is with you, and He will take you all the way through to the other side, and there will be a bright day ahead. I love you, and Jesus Loves You. Keep going.... :0)

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  2. ...and one more thing You're going to be ok, and you're going to make it. Because of Him - He is going to take care of you. He is the reason I made it and He's the only one that knew how to take care of me and how to help me. and He did. I know He's faithful.

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  3. I've never really had anyone understand, or be able to talk to, about my severe clinical depression. Alot of people say, "Just get up, just do this, just do that!" "You'll feel better!" "It's all in your head!" "Get over it!" And I'd look at them and say "Do you really think I want to be this way??" "Do you think I WANT to feel this way??" They just couldn't understand. So I understand, and have dealt with depression, and I mean severe, clinical depression, for many, many years now! I've been on every med you've listed and more!! Nothing helped!!! Thank you for sharing your story!! Nice to know someone finally understands!! Though, I hate that someone else, YOU, has had to deal with it! I wouldn't wish it on anyone!!! - Michelle

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  4. I love when you wrote this: "They did their best to help, but I think what helped the most was not what they said I should do, but just that they were there with me. That they had the courage and compassion to reach out. They may not have known what to say or do, but I clung to everyone around me."

    After my 1st husband died of cancer, I went through a similar sort of depression. I was 29, & a widow with two small children. I had NO idea what I was going to do or how I was going to do it, but through God's people I was able to make it through. And it definitely was the ones who didn't have that advice to offer...it was the ones who just came to sit with me, rub my back, take my kids for a few hours, bring me groceries, etc.

    I also had Graves Disease about 5 years ago, & I had to have my thyroid "killed" with radioactive iodine. Boy, talk about messing up your emotions! Having the one organ in your body that controls all your hormones "killed" messed me up for a good 2 years. I experienced my first panic attack during that time.

    THANK YOU for sharing this blog!!

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