So I realised this morning, my mind has been astonishingly blank the last week or so. Not that I have thought nothing – just that I have thought nothing that even I find interesting enough to dwell on. I say ‘even’ I because my mind wanders onto the dullest and most bizarre of thoughts on regular occasion, so the fact that I find my thoughts too dull to ponder is really quite extraordinary.
So anyway, I have been pondering the dull nature of my thought life and wondering why, and I have come to this conclusion. I am avoiding the world inside my head.
I have depression. I get it quite badly on a regular basis and kind of cry and get tired and just generally see no hope in the world. Problem is, recently I have had hope. I am very low, very sad and yet at the same time very happy. It seems like the chemicals in my brain are at war with my circumstances ‘I am happy’ ‘No you are not’ ‘no really I am’ ‘no really you are not’. This is the current sound track to my life.
Amongst all the dull thoughts I have been thinking, I have been pondering the happy/depressed state of my mind and wondering at it. What does it mean to find hope within an illness that is doing everything possible to rob you of it?
I have friends, a nice home, a very supportive family near by, a good church, a good job, a brilliant doctor, and an incredibly wonderful boyfriend, however, previously I have had many of these things and still found myself unable to find a way out of the despair.
So what has changed? For me the change has been an increased understanding of what ‘God loves you’ really means. It goes beyond the point of a strange and distant sense ‘I know, I know, but what difference does it make’ to a point where it has given me the strength to change my mindset and outlook on life.
Now don’t get me wrong, when I am very low I still will see a black veil of nothing hanging in front of me, I will still find that point of hopelessness where there is no way forward. My brain gets full and I cannot possibly understand how to empty it or what the way forward is. However, in between these moments I find life. There is a hope that comes from the understanding that in it all, the highs and lows, the hope and despair there is truly a place where you can find peace.
The bible is my key. Reading the psalms (that oh so regularly quoted ‘you can yell at God, look’ book) I find that I don’t need to have hope every second of the day. In my hopelessness I just need to acknowledge that God is bigger than my illness and he will come through – eventually. Not always easy, but always possible. I go back to Job in the bible, again an inspiration, a man in despair, who maintained trust and faith, but not in a squeaky clean ‘all is fine’ kind of way. In fact, I don’t know that I have yet encountered a single person from the bible who did have a ‘everything is fine’ kind of life. So why do we feel we need to?
The church is the place where hope can be found, but this is only possible if the church is willing to accept that life is not always rosy. The stigma around mental health illness – of any kind, must be eradicated. The bible is full of people who screw up, who get miserable, angry, who hurt and who weep. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane found life a little too much to bear and pleaded with God.
My hope comes from an understanding that life is not easy or straightforward. It is complex and frightening, but I have a God who will stand with me every step. It is just a shame that so often his people will not.
This is the time for change; if you look online you will find endless campaigns to end the stigma. I don’t want to be told that I ‘have not a correct faith’ or ‘do not understand God’s love for me’ one more time.
I have a hopeful depression. I am unafraid of my illness, I know that at times it will be unbearable, but I know in it all I am not alone. I look forward to the time when this hope is shared by the church and all those in it suffering quietly and in fear of what their friends would say.