Friday, 25 November 2016

Malignant Sunglasses

For those of you who, for whatever reason, don't know the meaning of the saying "seeing through rose-tinted glasses", I'll explain it; it means seeing the good in everything, but to a fault. It's not a fancy way of describing an optimist. If you're looking through rose-tinted glasses, you're seeing good that is false, that isn't even there, and obscuring and ignoring the bad things.

Depression is like that, but the complete opposite. When you're having an episode, there are no good things in your life, everything is a negative, and those things are are already negative become disastrous.

I'll give you an example, but first I'll provide two pieces of context. First piece of context, which may seem irrelevant for the moment: I love cats. I always have, and I want one when I have my own house. Less than two years ago, I was considering getting a cat for my shared house. Second piece of context: until fairly recently, my relationship with my parents was very strained, due to the simple fact that I was growing up, and we didn't see eye-to-eye on issues that were important to me. They were, and sometimes still are, a big source of stress.

After a particularly awful Skype with my parents - that I hadn't wanted - I was crying with my boyfriend comforting me, and a long and beautiful Facebook message from my closest friend open on the screen in front of me. And I turned to my boyfriend, the man I was in love with and who was in love with me, and said these words:

"I want a cat because I want there to be one creature in this world that isn't disappointed with me."

Do you see my point? I was almost surrounded by people who really didn't think I was a failure, and yet I was convinced that the whole world was disappointed with my existence. Depression is so good at completely blinding you to the truth, twisting and warping the good to non-existence and the bad to skyscraper-proportions. It doesn't listen to reason; no matter how many times you tell someone "it's really not that bad", it just won't convince them. So basically, if someone with depression is telling you that their world is ending in some way that you just can't understand, don't tell them to "snap out of it" or try and convince them with logic that they're overreacting. Just be there for them, see if you can make them aware or remind them that depression will make things ten times worse than they really are, but accept that the episode is happening, that there's nothing you can do about it, and wait the storm out together.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sabotaged Pacifism

Here's a fundamental part of me: I hate conflict. I always have. I hate it so much, it makes me so uncomfortable, that when I see/hear conflict, even if only as a friendly argument, I have to try not to physically retch. After a childhood of watching two family members frequently use anger in a purely destructive manner, I have always tried to avoid feeling angry. I thought it was a bad emotion. It's not; it's a gift from God that is used to initiate change - if we're angry about something we want to change it - but that's a whole different post.

If you think you have no control over your emotions in general, depression takes that to a whole new level. It introduces you to emotions you didn't even know existed, that you'd heard about but never felt before, at levels you didn't even think was possible. Of course, most people just think that means a really low mood, being really, really sad.

That's the tip of the iceberg.

Remember how I said in my previous post that I have a child-like joy in the world in general? Well, let me now tell you that sometimes I could have easily gone into my favourite nerd-shop and left a bombsite. I'm talking windows smashed, tables snapped in two (don't know I would have done that - I'm pretty weak! - but I would have found a way), everything off the shelves and damaged in some way, the hooks they hung from on the floor and bent, all types of paper shredded by my own hands.... I would have wrecked the place, had I been given half the chance. The cherry on top of this was the reason for this massive overreaction; there was none. There usually isn't one. Your emotions can just pop up, at staggering intensity, following none of the patterns you may or may not have observed in yourself pre-depression.

There's one small consolation though; there's a reason for this lack of reason. Depression is caused by, amongst other things, a biochemical imbalance in the body. There are a lot of chemicals that have ridiculously long names that your body has to regulate very accurately and carefully in order to be "normal". It's pretty amazing to be able to do that in the first place. But studies have shown that these carefully monitored and controlled levels of biochemicals are really far off where they need to be in someone with depression.

For any sceptics out there who don't believe that mental health disorders are the same as physical disorders, chemical imbalances are found in many if not all medical conditions. Stroke and assorted difficulties? Chemical imbalances. Parkinson's? Chemical imbalances. Autism? Chemical imbalances. Mental health disorders and "physical" disorders are exactly as debilitating as each other. So the point here is that it's not a trick of your mind. You're not just being weak and pathetic, you are ill. You have as much to be ashamed of as if you had a broken leg instead. You just need time and resources to be able to heal.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

The Evil Ice-Cream Scoop

Hey, guys, it's Daisy. How are you all doing? Hope you've like my previous posts. Please feel free to give me some feedback on how I'm doing so far.

So the title of this post might seem a bit weird and comical, but it's the name I used for something that happened to me when my depression was harder hitting. Then and now, it's the best way I can describe what it felt like. This post will hopefully give you an insight into how some emotions - how generally feeling - was for me. Note the "for me" in that sentence: this is one of the areas that can vary widely from person to person.

Ever since I was old enough to know what emotions were and how to identify them, I've felt that I was always feeling something; mostly happiness and the sort of childish joy you might see in a six-year-old playing with bubbles (even now, when I'm 22!); then of course sadness in times when you might expect it; even boredom. There was always something there. My heart was so eager to experience things that I am what you call a sympathetic laugher/crier: I will cry and laugh simply because someone else is, no matter if I have no connection to that person or if I know what they're upset or amused by. If I am moved by their emotions enough, I will feel them.

Enter: depression.

A lot of people just think that it's feeling sad. Even if they acknowledge that it's more than the usual blues, they still just think it's sadness. For me, it started like that. But I would be sad for no reason. It's like my body would wake up and decide, with no previous information, that today was a bad day. And that was just one aspect. Another aspect was an impending sense of doom, just a general feeling that something and/or everything was going to go catastrophically wrong. And with the warped thinking that comes as a free gift with depression, "public humiliation" and "nuclear explosion" were counted as equally catastrophic.

But then, as my depression deepened, things changed. Like my body had just decided it had had enough, and it shut itself down as a self-preservation mechanism. For the first time in my life, I felt...nothing. I don't know if it's "normal" for some of you guys to just feel nothing, but for someone who has never experienced emptiness like that before, I find it very difficult to describe. Hence the title of this post; it was like the Devil had got his favourite ice-cream scoop and completely cleared out my insides.

This emptiness is reported by the majority of people with depression, but what varies is the reactions to it; some relish it because they had had enough of the pain that they were feeling before; some feel empowered by it for similar reasons. Personally, I hated it. It terrified me. Luckily I felt it only for two hours. But it was one of the most horrible evenings of my life.

This analogy may seem weird at the start, but bear with me. I have really bad circulation, particularly to my extremities. My feet are almost always cold, and my hands are only slightly better. So when I explain to people that I'm wearing microwaveable slippers because my feet are cold, they recommend thick socks. This is very kind of them. But each time they do, I have to remind them that socks - or any sort of heat-conserving clothing - only work if there is body heat being emitted in the first place, otherwise they are useless. The same thing could be said for my body when this ice-cream scoop was through me with; I felt physically cold enough to be shivering on the sofa as all my warmth, that I had at differing times both treasured and taken for granted, was robbed from me. I was a useless shell.

Luckily, I wasn't alone when I became empty that evening. My Christian boyfriend and very good friends were there, one of whom was very well-versed in the Bible and very in-tune with our Lord spiritually. He read me some verses that explain to me how loved I am by God when I was feeling that everything in the world hated me. I'm afraid to say I can't remember which verses they were (there are many in the Bible, though!). But I do remember how I felt while and after he read it and sat with me. If the Devil had emptied me of everything I was, God poured it all back until I was full. And then kept pouring. I was filled and filling up with this uncontainable joy and thankfulness and relief and safety. And it wouldn't stop; it just kept on coming until I had been sobbing on everyone's shoulder for half an hour non-stop.

The Devil had taken everything away from me, and I didn't intentionally cry out to God because I didn't even feel like I had the strength to. And He came anyway. He saw my agony, my emptiness, and filled me up with Himself out of love. And with God inside me, as I had forgotten He always had been, that ice-cream scoop didn't even bother returning ever again.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

The God Truth

Hey, guys. Hope you’re all doing okay.

If this blog will discuss aspects of Christianity, it’ll be weird not to explain the most important message of Christianity, called the gospel.

It might be that, like me before I became a Christian, you know this buzzword, may have even thrown it around in religious contexts, but have very little idea what it means. The word “gospel” means “good news” – I know, probably a phrase that makes you feel sick if you’re in anything of a precarious state. But it is good news, if you know what has happened.

So almost everyone will know the concepts of Heaven and Hell, and the purpose of them. Heaven is the place for all the “good” people, where we will eternally enjoy God’s presence and all His glorious gifts in perfect unity with him. Hell is the place for all the “bad” people, where they will eternally endure torture and torment, separated from God’s wonderful gifts and even God Himself (but not; bit theologically complicated).

I apologise if the reality of Hell upsets some people – it upset(s) me; I just want everyone to go to Heaven – but that is what the Bible says. The Bible, thought written by flawed humans, is the Word of God, what we call God-breathed; God was speaking through all the authors, telling them what words to say. Everything in it is true.

So, Heaven and Hell exist, and if you’re “good” you go to Heaven, and if you’re “bad” you go to Hell. However, imagine it’s an exam you take to get into Heaven; failure leads to Hell. Most people think of it in this way: “if I’m good enough, I’ll get into Heaven”; “as long as I don’t mess up too many times, I’ll avoid Hell.” But what if I put it to you like this: the exam is an Oxford/Cambridge English Literature exam, a Harvard Law exam. Difficult, right? And now this: the “pass mark” is 100%. Nearly impossible. Some of you may be thinking that it can still be done. That is true, but that’s because this analogy doesn’t fit properly. In order to get into Heaven – God’s resting place – we have to be as perfect as He is. Completely and utterly spotless. Basically, it is impossible for anyone to get into Heaven. We’re simply not good enough. We’re not even nearly good enough.

Massively disheartening, right?

BUT

God loves us too much to let us go. All these mistakes we made – “sins” is the technical term – need to be paid for, because God is perfectly just. He can’t simply sweep it under the carpet, or He wouldn’t be just. But the payment is eternity in Hell, and God couldn’t and can’t bear for us to go through that. He wants perfect relationship with us, as we were created to have in Adam and Eve, the first humans God created.

So, in order to keep justice and to keep us with Him, God sent His beloved Son to take the punishment for us, through death on the Cross. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross, every single sin, past, present and future, were forgiven, and Christ’s glory, coming from His status as the Son of God, is shared with us if we believe He saved us by His death and accept Him as Lord. Take a moment to think of that, re-read it if you want. All those times you hate yourself, all those thoughts that say you’re not good enough, all those voices that insist you’re not worth anything…. Jesus Christ, while terrified of His known future death, looked forward in time to you – specifically – and said “I get [your name] for the price of agonising death and separation from my Father? No brainer.” And He died. For you.

If you ever think you’re worthless or that no one loves you, remember this. The Creator of the universe died for you because it was too painful to lose you. He has loved and will love you for eternity.


So recap: we deserve nothing but punishment from God because we’re not perfect (as we were created to be), but instead, through His love, He sent His Son to be punished instead of us, so we can live with Him eternally. There is one who can, does and will love you more than you can ever imagine for longer than you’d ever believe. And He’s the One who holds stars like grains of sand.

Call me Daisy

Hi, guys. Call me Daisy. Kind of nervous but I want to – need to – do this.

Mental health can be an awkward topic. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety can be even more awkward. Thankfully we are now in a more enlightened time of mental health and associated issues. The “buck-up”, “don’t be so weak” and “sort yourself out” mentality still remains sadly, but the majority of people now even slightly accept that there are such things as mental disorders that you cannot just “snap out” of. This is a big blessing.

But it is so much harder to really understand the situation these disorders put people in. I myself helped friends in the past who I knew were suffering with depression and/or anxiety. But I couldn’t empathise with them, with their internal sufferings, with the complete lack of choice they had, until I had experienced both conditions for myself.

This discrepancy between the reality of those suffering and the perception of those around them results in painful misunderstandings and heartbreak in both parties. As someone who has both watched and personally experienced this, I would never – never – wish any of that pain on anyone.

Therefore, anyone who cares, please listen. Let me talk about my observations, so that I can help make you a little wiser about this. Please, let me have the delight of saving you some pain.

I will declare something now, I’m not hiding this; this blog is not just about depression, nor even depression and anxiety. This blog is about depression, anxiety and the Christian faith. Many of you will switch off – and at worst, click off – as soon as you read that. But allow me to ask those of you who are persevering: of the possibly many problems you have with the existence of God, is the existence of evil one of them? If so, there is not a single person – Christians included – who doesn’t struggle with this problem. Christians don’t have some magical immunity against suffering. We are human. We live in the same broken world as everyone.

Just a request/demand; questions about the faith are whole-heartedly encouraged. I may answer some individually, and some collectively in new posts. So feel free to post questions. What are discouraged – to put it lightly – are purposeless attacks on Christianity or any religion. I’m not saying this to “protect my fragile delusion”, as I’ve been accused of before by non-Christians. I’m putting these limits in place because, with any luck, people in very precarious and dangerous places will be reading this blog, and some of them may be Christian. For all any of us know, an attack on their faith could be all it takes to force a suicide attempt. It’s that serious. You may be angry with God, so all you want to do is shout at Him. That’s normal. All I ask is that you don’t discourage others with everything that discourages or confuses you.

The point of this blog is to inform, encourage and support. If this helps you in any way, please let me know so I can reuse those strategies. Equally, if something is unhelpful, let me know so I can rethink how I work.


Disclaimer: the things I write about in this blog are things I have experienced and observed myself. Depression affects many different people in many different ways, so what I write about here may not be the experiences of others and will certainly not apply to everyone.