[Guest Post by Amy Jane Helmericks - I always appreciate it when I hear from new readers, especially when they ask to share their story. For those of you who combat depression on a daily, weekly, or season basis--be encouraged!!]
For me, combating depression has been about my relationships as much as my biology. Especially my relationship with myself.
I know there are people who make it look like you have to pull away from your real life in order to “find yourself,” and those single-minded individuals can make folks like me suspect. But I honestly believe I’m as healthy as I am right now because of the digging and asking and finding and O-Kay-ing I’ve done about myself.
I used to say the reason women are so enamored with romance novels is because that pre-commitment exploration was the last time when they were allowed, even encouraged, many of them, to think for and of themselves. I don’t really know if that’s true about the novels, but it was my passive aggressive way of saying the way I’m living ain’t right, no matter how many right-things I’m doing.
What I had to learn, what I’m still trying to wrap my head around now, is that I. am. complete.
All this time I thought I was a perfectionist (okay, maybe I am), but now I think that what I really was pursuing and desiring was a sense of completion. I wanted to know I was enough. And not just because some counselor said, in a slow, emphatic voice,
“Amy. is. enough.”
Because I knew I wasn’t.
I was not enough to keep the kids happy, to keep the house clean enough to “show” when the realtor called 15-minutes out, to exercise the dog enough that she didn’t make my husband crazy.
What I know now is that I (I!) was wresting with self-esteem issues: questioning my ability to cope with the basic challenges of life, and whether I had the right to want or take delight in things unique to me.
A year into my depression I wished I still believed in imaginary friends, because then I could invent people to agree with me, and tell me what I valued was worthwhile.
Writing that down, having that discussion (out loud!) with myself, was a turning point for me. For the first time I realized that somewhere along the line I lost my full voting privileges. Somehow, any will that wasn’t actually evil was a will that it was my Christian, loving duty to accommodate.
Not that I consistently followed this dictate, but I interpreted my resistance as evidence of my sinful nature, which left me further conflicted and doubting my mind and ability to discern.
I coped throughout this confusion by learning superior nutrition and self-care for my physical body.
Eventually I was strong enough to consider that my body isn’t the only part of me that is weak and needs conscious, special care.
Now I take every chance I get to remind myself of truths about me. I feel like a teenager again, wresting to prove myself while hoping I don’t look like I’m trying too hard.
Just this week I got into a “professional” argument with myself where I realized I needed to let go of my old assertion, “I’m not naturally organized.”
The truth is that I am crazy organized, but in my thought-life more than in my physical world.
While it is disappointing to be less-skilled than I like in an area, since my goal is teaching, it is no small or meaningless thing to say that I am organized here.
The more I know myself, the more I can work with the tools I have.
For example, I am not energized by crowds of people.
Quite the opposite.
But I am energized by ideas, and sharing ideas.
Recently, someone questioned my interest in teaching, because of my dislike of rigid structures and schedules and crowds.
“How can you teach if people exhaust you?”
I was able to look him in the face and think, I have food you know not of.
“This is what I’m good at,” I said. “This is how I get energy.”
Completely different than him.
Yes I will listen, yes I want to learn all I can, but I am done apologizing for who I am.
My relationship with myself is as least as important as my relationship with anybody else, and I can’t think of one person I don’ t let be different than I expect.
My body needed taking care of in my depression.
It still needs taking care of, now.
And so does the rest of the stuff that makes me ME.
Amy Jane Helmericks is the Associate Editor of Wyn Magazine. She is a wife, mother, and writer in Alaska whose goal is to help other people tell their own stories. She is currently developing a storytelling curriculum for young adults in between writing and homeschooling her three children.
[Photo: dotun55, Creative Commons]