Since I was a young child, I have always cringed when I hear someone being called a “cry baby”. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves, and others, to always be strong? Why can't we cry, or show emotion in a healthy way, without fear of judgement?
When I was a young adult, and a young wife and mother, someone close to me made a complaint that I cried too much and too often. This hurt me of course, and gave my already sensitive self-esteem, something else to worry about.
I mentioned this to a good friend and neighbor of mine. She was a young wife herself, and a lovely Christian. She didn't offer me advice on how to change my flaw. She offered me a story instead.
She told me of how her mother-in-law had been suffering from bad headaches and fatigue. Her mother-in-law had always been an active, healthy lady. After much influence from her family, she agreed to see her family doctor for a checkup.
Expecting to hear that she had something physically wrong, she was surprised when the doc gave her a clean bill of health. So why the headaches and fatigue she asked?
My friend's mom-in-law was asked this question by her doctor; “When was the last time you cried?"
What kind of question was that she thought? She quickly answered with a convincing explanation of how she was a strong, Christian, grown woman who could handle anything life has to give her. She was not an emotional person. The doctor replied, "That is exactly your problem".
He went on to explain how taking on everything as this strong, unwavering individual, and never allowing herself to feel or release any of the emotions she had, was manifesting itself into headaches and fatigue. The doc's prescription was simple. "Take some time all to yourself, and "allow" yourself to cry!" My friend's mom-in-law took her wise doctor's advice and pretty soon was relieved of her headaches and fatigue. She went on to share her story to other women.
My sweet neighbor also went on to tell me about the many times it is written in the Bible that Jesus himself cried. The simplest verse to remember, and also the shortest verse in the King James Version of the Bible, is "Jesus wept". Found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35. Those two words have stuck with me to this day. As did my friend's story. They set me free from at least one of my many issues that may try to lower my self-esteem from time to time.
I was reminded of my friend's wise words today, when for the first time in a very long time, I cried. A true, cleansing of the soul, cry. I realized, after the fact, that it had been months and months since I had really allowed myself to cry. Without trying to hold back the tears. Without telling myself I needed to be strong and fight what I was feeling. And I felt better! I still have the same problems that need to be worked out. But I felt better having released that little bucket of tears.
I plan to continue this way of thinking, along with a brisk daily walk in the park, as I go forward on my journey of taking better care of myself. If you don't take care of you, who will?
THE BLACK VEIL
Have you ever felt as though you weren't quite awake? Functioning as usual, but mentally you weren't connected. Kinda like a robot if you will. I think all of us, at one time or another in our lives, have felt this way. Either due to stress, a hectic schedule, anxiety, or just physical exhaustion.
Our bodies have a breaking point. It only makes sense that our minds do as well. Only problem is, unlike our bodies that can be rested and healed, there is not always a way to rest our mind. And the healing can feel like an impossibility.
When we have an infection, we go to the doctor, get antibiotics, and in a few days, we feel like a new person. Our old self again. If only it were that simple with depression.
The "D" word. The word everyone, it appears, will experience at least once in their lifetime. For others, like myself, it will be a continual, life long battle. It can be managed well for some, or relentless for others.
My own personal experience falls into the more unyielding category. My first experience with depression being at the tender ages of 4 and 5. I remember it vividly. I had a merciless feeling of being unloved and unwanted. Looking back now with 20/20 vision and all of my experiences over the past 50 years, I know that I was a child suffering from clinical depression.
There may have been a few factors that triggered my problem, but none that were the root cause. I believe the root to be a physical, chemical imbalance in my brain. Something I was born with. Maybe even inherited.
After suffering with depression throughout my youth, teen years, and half my adulthood, I finally received some relief by way of medication. A lot of people don't believe in meds for depression, but I am living proof that they can be exceptionally beneficial to some patients. I will never be embarrassed or ashamed to tell anyone that I use an anti-depressant. That one pill a day, literally saved my life. That is something to celebrate. I only wish that I had sought medical help years before I did. But I was a victim of the stigma that still surrounds mental illness.
Even with successful control of my symptoms, there is no true cure. I found this out first hand this year as I experienced one of the worst depression episodes I have had in years. There were several triggers I believe, with the biggest being the sudden loss of a loved one. My entire family was hit hard by this loss, and we have each been trying to find our way through the sadness, disappointment, and emptiness that is grief.
Over the course of a few months, it was as if a black veil slowly engulfed me. Each day, that veil seemed to get just a little darker, and felt a little heavier. Until one day it literally paralyzed me. I could no longer respond to my daily world.
Getting out of bed no longer felt necessary. Getting dressed or showering were no longer needs, but chores too difficult to grasp most days. Keeping my body fueled with garbage instead of real food was my choice of survival. Grocery shopping was out of the question. I only left my apartment after dark as to avoid the sunlight, and in hopes of not seeing anyone I knew. There were no calls, no writing, no visits with family or friends. If there had been a dark cave that I had access to, I would be hibernating there now. That my friend is depression at it's peak. It feels like an actual entity with a heartbeat all it's own. A monster that needs to be slain.
All I knew to do during this time was to pray. And even though it may have appeared my medication was not working, I never stopped believing it would, and took it on time every day.
I don't know exactly how long I was in the darkness, as I lost all track of time and existence most days. But one day, the veil lifted. Just like that, the lights were turned on again. I saw the sunshine and wanted to greet it. I once again could hear music, and feel laughter.
I can't tell you why I was suddenly brought back into the light. Whether my prayers were answered, or my meds kicked in, or it was a combination of both. I do know I fought the battle and won this time. My only hope is that I will win it again, if I'm called back to the front line.
If anyone reading my story feels as though you are struggling with depression, please seek help.