I don't talk about my inclination toward depression with everyone. Confessing that one has depression, or mental illness of any kind is humbling. Notice: I didn't say humiliating. Mental illness bears a stigma that suggests the person with mental illness has failed or done something wrong, or that they are faulty, not good enough. For a Christian, there can be other concerns: Will people question my faith? Will they question God's love for me or his power to heal my illness?
With all the possible implications, why am I speaking about my depression in a blog that anyone can read? By sharing my first-hand experience, I may shed light on what depression is or isn't. Depression, for one thing, is not the end of life as one knows it. But a person really does need to make some changes to one's life in order to return to mental wellness.
Although it's impossible to tell my entire story in a blog-sized post, I can tell you a few of the character traits that led me into depression. Perfectionism. A strong work ethic. Overcommitment. Stubbornness. Compassion. Worry. Insecurity. Add a full platter of life's roles and circumstances to the mix and I was in trouble. This can happen to anyone.
I tried counselling, but I didn't get far, because I didn't have the time to reflect, pray, and do other actions or inactions that would help my mental healing. I just kept plodding along with teaching a new grade and being at the helm of an overwhelming class, helping on the farm, raising three teenagers, caring for my aging parents--one with physical disabilities and the other with Alzheimers, their eventual passing, gardening, canning, and early morning writing.
If this seems similar to your circumstances in any way, read on. . .
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Realizing I was in serious trouble, I started seeing a counsellor in Edmonton, who quickly understood my personality and the problems I was facing in the classroom. I was blessed in that this man had a background in education and the Christian faith. Putting pretensions aside, I laid my chalk on the chalk ledge and we got to work.
About two months later, I crashed and crumpled.
My psychologist and family doctor consulted and agreed that I needed a week off, then two weeks, and finally the rest of the year. This was February. Dr. R., my psychologist, confessed to me later that they had gradually extended my disability leave. Both doctors were concerned that if they had told me I'd be off work for the rest of the year, I might have pulled myself together and gone back to work. Knowing that could do me permanent harm, they protected me from my own stubborn ways. This was the best plan for my students as well.
With six and a half months off, including summer vacation, I could begin the healing process. My body and mind needed time to rest, reflect and pray. I read my Bible and other good material, but I couldn't hold my focus
One thing that causes depression, I have learned, is this: stress over a long time can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. That's why I still need to take a maintenance dose of an anti-depressant.
That's Part One of my story.
And why am I telling you this? First, I am following the prompt for May. I am filling my post "with the breathings of my heart." To be continued.