My shameful confession is – I have nothing to be depressed about either.
I have a solid marriage to a man I love. He exasperates me at times – but he’s my best friend and he still makes me laugh. (He’s been telling the same awful jokes for 23 years, so that’s quite a claim!)
I have two great teenage kids who are growing towards being thoughtful, funny, interesting young adults. They enjoy school, work hard and so far are giving the whole teenage rebellion thing a miss. (I do not take this for granted.)
I have a fulfilling job, as the Vicar of an urban parish. It has massively rewarding moments. On a good day, I can’t imagine anything I’d rather do.
What’s more, I have it easy compared to many, many other Vicars. Yes, it’s an odd sort of a job, which carries a bizarre set of expectations with it, but at least I only have one parish and one church, compared to people I trained with who spread themselves across several communities and congregations.
And it’s a good church. A church full of decent, encouraging folk. A church full of people who say, “Let’s give it a go” rather than “We tried it once and we didn’t like it”. (I do not take this for granted either).
We have our issues, but our building is warm and dry, our finances kind of work, and (fellow clergy will understand), our graveyard is closed.
If you’re wondering what horrors my past might hold – I had a normal, happy, settled childhood. Ordinary, in the best possible sense of the word.
I have no reason at all to be depressed.
Yet, it seems that depressed is what I am.
Starting in Autumn 2013 I spent months living in thick fog. All light and joy and energy were gone. I would stumble into my study after every church event and wish I could sit and cry – but the tears wouldn’t come. My sleep and appetite were all over the place. I felt like the worst, weakest, most stupid, failed Vicar in all the world and that conviction coloured every thought and action. All my energy went into making it look like everything was ok on the outside, so no-one would realise how far from ok things were on the inside. Every day, for months.
I went to my GP feeling a complete fraud. After all, I had nothing to be depressed about, did I? Feeling ashamed of coping so badly, when my circumstances were so easy. Feeling like I couldn’t possibly have “real” depression. I must just have the “lite” version, whatever that might be.
Now I’m held together by anti-depressants, counselling and a big dollop of mindfulness, (aka, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy – I’ll write about that another time, it’s good stuff). And it’s better, much better. But I feel like I’ve learned to manage the depression, rather than banished it. It is lurking somewhere close by.
Yet, I have nothing to be depressed about.
Either I’m a total light weight to have crumpled so badly – or maybe depression isn’t that much about your life circumstances after all, although they can certainly play their part.
Why am I writing this?
It’s not a plea for sympathy. I have good friends who let me cry on their shoulder, when I need to.
It’s not a fishing trip for compliments so you’ll all rush in to tell me “But you’re a wonderful Vicar, Claire….” I have friends who will do that too – and now and then I even half believe them.
It’s not a set of excuses, so you’ll cut me a bit of slack when I’m rubbish at returning phone calls or organising stuff. (though, some days, even a simple phone call is a mammoth effort.)
I think it’s a request for understanding – for the recognition that depression isn’t just being unhappy because bad stuff has happened to you. The bad stuff in life can trigger depression, for sure, but it’s way more complex than that. However easy your life seems, at first glance, you can still end up there. That there are many, many factors that cause and maintain depression – some of them well understood, some of them not.
I’m writing this, because I wish I’d read something similar a year ago. It wouldn’t have made the depression go away. But it might have taken away some of the shame and sense of being a fraud that went with it.