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Sharing is Scary

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First of all, I will preface this post by saying that sharing this is scary for me...

I teach a short story in my Argument class called “A Blizzard Under Blue Sky” by Pam Houston. Because it is an argument class, the students are to pick out a claim from the story. This story starts out with a girl in her doctor’s office and she complains about feeling bad. She narrates, “The doctor said I was clinically depressed…What I saw was work that wasn’t getting done, bills that weren’t getting paid, and a man I’d given my heart to weekending in the desert with his ex.” The doctor wants to prescribe her pills, but she declines. Her solution? Winter Camping. She and her dogs take off to camp the next frigid (twenty below zero) night. She states that it was the longest night of her life. The next morning she says, “Not once in that fourteen-hour night did I think about deadlines, or bills, or the man in the desert. For the first time in many months I was happy to see a day beginning. The morning sunshine was like a present from the gods. What really happened, of course, is that I remembered about joy…And I was struck by the simple perfection of the snowflakes and startled by the hopefulness of sun on frozen trees.”

My students brought up issues from this story that I had predicted they would. For example, one young lady asked if the claim was that antidepressants are overrated and people just need to step outside and enjoy nature to combat depression. Another one piped up and asked if depression was an illness or just a state of mind.  Many agreed that sometimes people need anti-depressants, yet many times they are overprescribed. Nearly everyone agreed that there’s just something about nature that lifts one’s spirits. We had a lively discussion and I have been thinking about it ever since.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. Some days it is so bad that I just don’t know what to do with myself. Over the years I have conducted my own research on the topic and have seen a lot of the same things: get plenty of sleep, exercise, write down your feelings, talk to people, eat right, etc. In general, I do those things, at least 80 percent of the time.

Okay, so I don’t sleep enough…working on that.

Throughout the years, I have had a few people in my life who have told me what my problem is. “You don’t trust God enough,” Or “It is a sin to be depressed,” Or “Go take a walk or call a friend” Or the one that makes me cringe, “Just snap out of it.” Now I am not saying that these people didn’t mean well or that there’s not validity to any of those statements. There may be. But it’s just more complicated than that. You can’t just “snap out of it” and even though taking a walk and calling a friend may help, it’s like putting a bandaid on a wound that needs twelve stitches. For years and years I thought of these statements and decided that I didn’t want to share my struggles with others. And I didn't for a long time.

But there are just too many hurting people out there. More than I ever imagined. You see, when you’re so focused on yourself, it’s hard to clearly see others and their struggles. I come in contact with others every day and I can just see it in their eyes, sense it in their spirit. They hurt. Whether it’s clinical depression or just a hard “season” in their lives, they hurt and need to know they are not alone.

I’ve come a long way, but I’m not gonna lie. I still struggle. Perhaps I will always struggle. Yes, there are things I can do to combat it, but sometimes I just get tired of fighting it. Some days are better than others, for sure. I will be blogging more on this in the future because it is a topic near and dear to me. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, you are not alone. You really aren’t. It’s going to take some reaching out to others to let them know, but there is help out there. I’m by no means an expert on the topic, in fact I barely know where I stand on it. All I know is some days I can barely get out of bed and living just hurts. I don’t have the answers. I’m just one who tries to combat it daily and some days I pass and other days I fail. One of my friends told me the other day “At least you’re struggling.” My first reaction was “Huh?” But then she explained, “I would be more concerned if you weren’t struggling. I would be more concerned if you just stopped caring and gave up. The fight would be over. Then I would be concerned.” It took me a while, but that has sunk in and I see what she means. And I agree.

At least I’m struggling.

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