Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Depression Doesn’t Care

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18 NLT

I'm lucky, fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it.  I'm grateful for my family, friends, comfortable home, and physical health.  But the mind is complex.  In the midst of my comfortable life, I battle mental illness: depression and bi-polar II disorder. Even though I was diagnosed at the age of 44 after a breakdown, mental illness has plagued me since childhood.  Grumpy, hard to live with, selfish, and defensive were a few labels assigned to me, along with funny, sweet, outgoing, and caring.

I coped with mental illness through spending, binge drinking, unhealthy relationships, and eating, but as a young, involved, and happy wife and mother, mostly denial.  My circumstances were too positive for depression.  Bi-polar disorder was for people who spent days or weeks in bed followed by days or weeks of mania.  However, deep inside I knew something was wrong. My inner rage, jealousy, and outward defensiveness showed up often.

Fall 2005.  With my youngest child in kindergarten, I was alone for the first time in 13 years, and life changed drastically. After 3 hours of sleep and 4 hours of racing thoughts, an AVON business, a dog, house, and yard demanded my attention.  I planted flowers then ignored them.  I folded clothes in silence like a zombie, attended PTO meetings begrudgingly, and quit going to Bible study, but faked a smile while teaching Sunday school.

Winter 2006. After a morning mood boost from exercise, I set big goals for my day.  But instead, I sat, stared, slept, and ate. With my husband away playing with his band one night, I ordered pizza with the intentions of watching a movie and playing games with my kids, but I sat in complete darkness for five hours in my living room ignoring my kids.  I did as little as possible: no yard work, no Bible study, no reading, and no housework other than laundry.  I existed with no joy.

April 2006.  I either paced the floor or cried.  At Easter lunch, after I cried throughout the worship service in the balcony instead of the choir loft, my husband told my family I wasn't feeling well and asked them to leave. The most difficult year of my life began.  One doctor prescribed an anti-depressant, told me to memorize Philippians 4:6, the worry passage (which I already knew), assured me whatever was bothering me was not important, and said his scales were broken, "It's impossible to lose 12 lbs in one week."

After two more weeks of crying, pacing, and losing another 6 lbs, I saw a psychiatrist and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  She changed my medication and prescribed sedatives for my anxiety and sleeping pills. I stared at that medicine every morning and night in disbelief. I didn't want to be one of "those people," yet I took them.  I used sedatives during the day and a sleeping pill at night for a year.  My body became rested and relaxed, and with the anti-depressant, I slowly returned to my life.  My brain is ill, so the anti-depressant, which I take now, keeps my serotonin level from lowering into major depressive disorder.   

Close friends insisted I go out for dinner. I didn't want to go or open up and share, but I did, and it helped.  One friend assured me, "You'll cry every day, then every other day, then once a week, once a month, and one day you'll wake up and not cry." 

My living room, with no television, became my retreat where I cried to God and read Psalms continually, focusing on the verses of David crying out to God day and night.  I highlighted each "I cried" and "He hears." 

July 2006.  I cried less but felt worthless and lonely.  My husband asked me to speak to a minister, Jeff, in Greenville. I went with all the answers to my problems. 

After listening to me, he said, "That's great, now, tell me everything about Katy." I spoke freely, sharing what I had never shared with anyone. He didn't preach, laugh, or criticize.  He listened.  I mentioned ADD, mood swings, rage, feelings of rejection, and racing thoughts.  He suggested psychological testing.

The ADD was obvious, but after opening up to someone about my life and answering questions honestly, bi-polar II disorder was not a surprise.  Bi-polar II is sporadic highs and lows but not as extreme as bi-polar I.  I left the office crying, then laughing.  My illness had been identified and could be treated.

My battle with mental illness continues.  I'm not ashamed.  Do I love or choose depression?  Of course not. I'd rather spend my day gardening, hiking, reading, or laughing instead of sleeping.  No matter how fortunate my life appears, my mind is unpredictable:  I'm happy, then I want to drive alone with no destination.  I accomplish much then make terrible decisions.  I laugh often but wake up with intense feelings of dread.  I'm touched by the smallest kindness then cry when I'm angry.

Depression doesn't mean I'm not aware or grateful for my husband, three beautiful children, comfortable home, family, and friends; in fact, depression doesn't care.  Mental illness means my brain refuses to see this life. 

Jeff shared an interesting example.  There are days when you look out a window where massive trees block a spectacular view. The view from other windows is clear, but you're unable to move, so you stay here unable to see beauty or experience joy.  Eventually, you'll move to a different window but may move back to the blocked window from time to time and eventually move again.

Mental illness is difficult to understand.  If I share with others who don't understand or think I'm selfish for being depressed because "you have it made," I move on and never share with them again. Their opinions are irrelevant to my illness. We all have traumatic experiences and fears that cause sleepless nights.  If others dismiss these traumas, it doesn't mean they're not real or important.  I share my illness with a few friends, my doctor, a few family members, and a ladies Bible study group, and it's healing.

Seeking qualified medical professionals and friends who understand our feelings of worthlessness and treat our illness seriously is important, but it takes time.  Most mental illness is left untreated for years, so we can't expect to be well in a few days. 

While seeking professional help and learning who to trust, I experienced God, the most loving counselor, like never before. He treats mental illness seriously.  Cry to Him.  He listens, understands, and assures often, through His word and His people, that on days my view is blocked, I'll be looking through a different window soon.

Katy Glymph is an adjunct writing instructor for Anderson University, a part-time associate at Belk, a wife and mother of three in Anderson, S.C.  She earned a management degree from Erskine College in Due West, S.C. and a secondary English education degree from Clemson University. Katy is the author of Recorded for Reality - the relevance of the Bible to our realities @ When she isn't teaching, writing, or working, she enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, and talking about writing. She's currently working on her first novel.  

Thanks, Katy, for sharing so honestly and transparently. Join me tomorrow for the second in this series on mental illness when Tammy Davis shares her story. Meanwhile, if you have a prayer need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I'd love to pray for you! J

God bless,
“Woman at Home” photo courtesy of Marin/
“Sad Woman” photo courtesy of Frame Angel/
“Tree in Bubble” photo courtesy of njaj/
“Colorado Mountains” photo courtesy of Liz Noffsinger/

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