I wasn’t going to write this; I was going to hold onto it a little longer as I come to terms with yet another label that goes right to my core and infiltrates everything. Two weeks ago I went to the doctor and explained that even though I struggle with anxiety the feelings of deep sadness, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts were new and they worried me. After a lengthy discussion I was diagnosed with reactive depression.
Part of me was relieved that I finally had answers to the emotions that had been troubling me for about 2 – 3 months and that I could work towards changing things. But the larger part of me couldn’t understand how I had let myself sink so low. I have a beautiful life, far from perfect but still beautiful. How could I be depressed? Sure I had been struggling, but depression had only entered my thoughts a few days earlier as I researched the symptoms. I wasn’t caught completely off guard but neither was I comfortable with what seemed to be like a branding iron searing deep within my skin.
Psalm 13 “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.”
For those who don’t know what reactive depression is, it is reaction to an external event or circumstance, such as the loss of a loved one or job. For me I think it can be pinpointed to when I started my degree in Commerce; very quickly I went from seeing it as a challenge to feeling completely overwhelmed. I tried hard to be positive you knew it was going to be hard work; imagine all you could do with the degree. But despite the positivity I told myself and others, the truth was I hated it. My original reasons and inspiration for completing the degree didn’t quite stack up anymore. The doctor suggested I seriously think about whether I want to continue with the degree and what I want to do in general. I gave myself a week to decide what to do.
It was a very anxious week filled with many panic attacks. Pretty early on in the week I knew I wouldn’t be continuing to study a Bachelor of Commerce even though I contemplated taking medication to help me through (it wouldn’t take effect for three months). The career outcomes no longer interested me, they only made me feel more anxious. Yet I held onto the idea a bit longer. Why? For three main reasons a) I felt I would be walked over in business if I didn’t have the degree b) yet again I had attached my identity to my degree. I was convinced (shamefully so) that I would be nothing without it c) I wanted to make my Dad proud of me for having skills that come naturally to him. FYI (and my own) my Dad loves me and is proud of me and for the record I don’t need to be an expert in everything. If you are wondering where the need for my Dad’s approval comes, from aside from being his daughter, you have to look at my past. I look most like my Mum and so people naturally see characteristics of her in me (she is my Mother after all) but they would rarely mention my Dad. My Dad brought the athletic gene to our family but I didn’t get it. I couldn’t share the same depth of love for sports as my sister shares with him due to her natural gifting. So I guess from a young age I sort to find ways we were the same as if to say to everyone, see I am my Father’s daughter not just my Mother’s. Anyway, another idea was to study something else. I thought about a Diploma in Business Management, so I could get basic business skills or Interior Design, I love watching design and renovation shows. As I explored these options I found out that enrolments for this semester are closed so if I choose to study, it would be next year. Another idea was to volunteer to gain confidence in myself and my skills/talents.
After lots of discussion and prayer I made the decision to withdraw from my course. I was expecting to feel really anxious as I let it go. Instead, much to my surprise, I felt super relived. So what am I going to do now? Well, I contacted my brother’s school wondering if they would be at all interested in allowing me to volunteer. They were. At the second meeting I felt peaceful. I start on Monday.
Please don’t get me wrong, this blog post is not about saying my depression is worse than yours or that the answers are simple. If you are struggling with depression or otherwise my heart breaks for you; I wish I could give you a hug. Seek help, you don’t have to struggle alone.