On Depression: A Wounded Healer
[Guest Blog by Sonny Lemmons] – “I’m going to start you on this, at a low dosage, and I’d like to begin seeing you twice a week.”
Wait – what?
See, that’s not how this was supposed to turn out at all.
Physician, Heal Thyself!
It was my second semester of grad school. My degree was counseling based, so the university required students to sit in on one counseling session, as a patient, in order for us to begin to hone our listening skills. I figured I could just learn how to parrot the appropriate times when I’d need to nod my head, look concerned, or interlace my fingers.
After that fateful question of “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself,” my life took a radical departure from what I was planning.
I opened up, for the first time, about wounds that had left scars across my soul: my fights with and sense of isolation from my family; the trail of broken relationships behind me; my monumentally small sense of self-worth; the hatred I had over my body type.
Issue upon issue that I had tamped down, some for decades.
After tears of relief, pain, and embarrassment flowed for the next hour, the woman who would become my therapist for two years began to help me keep from going down the path of jaded cynic I was steadily marching on–and back to being human again.
Splinters and Logs
It’s a little comedic that being diagnosed with depression initially added to my general malaise about life. I was supposed to be the one who was going to help people with what was wrong with them.
But in the most brilliant manner possible, I was humbled.
Admittedly, at the time it felt pretty crappy, but the end result, and what I learned through it all, was nothing short of divine.
I’m now able to use the phrase “I understand” and mean it.
There’s something genuine that comes through a person when they can speak to a shared pain. When the Bible refers to Christ being a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief,” it means He knows.
He gets pain.
He gets it – and us.
Acting as if you are above someone is actually a lower station than living as the first among equals.
I’m far more vulnerable now in my relationships, a trait that has served me in everything from working in higher education administration to serving on a church staff. I have the honor of being a wounded healer.
Being guarded at the expense of being genuine is a not how life was meant to be lived.
So, Everything’s All Better Now, Right?
Even though you never really “get over” depression in the same way you “get over” a cold, you do learn how to manage it. Because like a cold, depression can–and does–come back. I wish my smile was as deep as I force it to be; it’s still a genuine and honest smile, but at times it’s also only surface level.
There are days when depression still grips my heart and mind, even though it’s been well over a decade since I was first diagnosed and began treatment.
Being a stay at home dad.
Not knowing when or if being a writer might take off.
These and more chip away at my senses of identity and worth.
But finally having a name to call what I’m feeling helps give me a sense of power over it instead of vice-versa.
It gives me the courage to look for some metaphorical swine to cast my negative feelings into. For example, when I was diagnosed a few years later with atypical trigeminal neuralgia, I was angry and terrified at what it all meant. Yet instead of plummeting into despair, I was already five steps ahead of where I might have been without having gone through therapy.
I understand cognitively there’s nothing wrong with me.
And I can smile over the fact that the promise of what was “meant evil against me, God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result;” namely, I am now more the me I was meant to be.
Weak smile and all.
Sonny Lemmons (yes, that is his real name) fancies himself a writer of stuff, a receiver of grace, and a drinker of coffee. At least one of these can be quantifiably proven true. He and his wife Ashley have one manic ball of energy (Malakai) and are expecting their second diaper creator in June 2013. A stay at home dad for almost four years now, Sonny can usually be found Tweeting (@sonnylemmons), blogging (www.lookthrough.net) or doing laundry while his son is sleeping.
[Photo: Moobyluvsme, Creative Commons]