Sometimes, you just have to step back
Updated: Sep 18
In the shock of Greg Boyed's passing, an old colleague posted her story of her depression and the discussions she’d had in her workplace on the topic. She was honest and courageous and challenged us all to share our truths so that we can encourage one another.
So, here’s my story. I am a person of high emotion, capable of feeling soaring highs, but also dizzying lows. I experienced depression on and off through school and university, as well as encountering postnatal depression after becoming a mother. But for this blog I wanted to share my truth of recent times: that depression never really goes away, it's a journey, and you just have to be kind to yourself.
Sometimes, you just have to step back.
With the recent passing of my Mum, I tried to keep myself busy, because if I stopped, I seemed to be overcome with a wave of grief that some days…I didn't know if I could stay afloat.
Even my stress relievers like volleyball and my faith soon became sources of stress.
I argued with God and for a while, I found it hard to sit through church as when we sang songs about love, hope and joy, I just couldn’t relate. It’s hard to think straight when you don’t have the energy to.
And as I knew that a good diet and exercise was important to help combat the grief, I made Volleyball a priority. It also gave me something else to focus on. This year, we had an exceptional team with huge potential and we were so driven to qualify well for Nationals. But as the team continued to push themselves further, my body and my mind was not keeping up. I'd gotten into a bad habit of exhausting myself so I could instantly fall asleep, thereby avoiding lying in the still of the night where I would be alone with my haunting grief. I was turning up to trainings and games pretending everything was ok, when really, I was mentally and physically spent. The team was firing but I was internally combusting.
So, I stepped back. I could see the red flags that were so familiar in other times of my life that I was heading for a downward spiral.
I decided to change something and so I began to see a counsellor. Yup I said it... COUNSELLOR.
I was anxious about unearthing these feelings that I had spent so long burying. Suppressing your emotional problems is like holding in a fart: it’s physically painful, it’s hard to hide and if you don’t “release” in a safe way, the pressure builds up and can explode uncontrollably… making an unpleasant environment for those around you!
My counsellor has helped me give myself “permission to feel”. They also showed me practical methods to cope. Don't get me wrong, I still get those stabs of grief, but I’m more in control when they come.
I can relate to my old colleague's journey with depression, that it has made her who she is today. I quote from her Facebook page:
"For those who know me well, you will know Depression is a story of my own. For those who don’t know me that well, you might be surprised? Often I’m told I “seem so together”, so happy, so well. The truth is, I’m not always well. I have good days, bad days, and days somewhere in between. Maybe the difference is I’m not scared to talk about it - I’m not embarrassed by it, I don’t see it as a weakness. In fact, my journey with Depression has made me who I am. I am resilient, I have empathy, I listen to understand others. I am Me."
We need to throw out this stigma around mental illness. We have no problems seeing professionals for our physical health, but why the apprehension around our mental health? Mike King explains it perfectly:
"More work needs to be done in the prevention area. More work needs to be done talking about normalising the inner critic, letting people know you're allowed to have a suicidal thought - this sounds really bad, but you're allowed to have a suicidal thought... I know 90 percent of New Zealanders have had a suicidal thought.
"Even worse, just because you have that thought, you are classified as mentally ill. Having a suicidal thought doesn't make you mentally ill - it makes you human."
And that's what I have finally accepted: that feeling depressed, or being overcome with grief doesn't mean that I'm any less of a human being. It just means I AM human.
I’m hoping to soon go back to train once a week; enough to let off some steam. I may even go back to competing.
I can now sit through church songs without bawling my eyes out. Sometimes I still do not sing all the way through, but I know that that's ok, I know He will wait till I am ready.
That's my story...what's yours?