Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Pit

OK, so it's more than just a funk. The depression pit has been gradually eating me up since before Christmas. I've kinda battled depression for a long time now, but I say "kinda" because it hasn't always been an "active" battle --- it's really easy to stay in denial when it doesn't interfere TOO hugely with daily life ... at least, not in a manner that's noticable to others. Which makes now very odd. I've been far deeper into the pit many times before, but never before has it gotten in the way of daily life before. And it's a stupid way to get in the way too, that it's just oversleeping by twenty minutes or so, but it's enough to make my life a nightmare because of the people around me. It almost then seems like nothing worth talking about -- "Yeah, I overslept again, so what?" even if it is a symptom of a bigger issue. And, of course, the people I live with don't know the bigger issue, so they just get progressively more pissed at my non-appearance in the morning; and I don't necessarily have a "bigger issue" to tell them, because depression ends up being such a nebulous, amorphous thing that you can't really put words around -- so it ends up sounding like I'm just looking for an excuse to skip prayer. Plus, no one's saying anything or asking anything, which makes me wonder if they're either taking the "give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themself" strategy and/or reporting in to the "official" folks about how Steph is being such a slacker non-nun and how I really shouldn't be here. And I don't really have that close of a relationship with any of them to "talk" to them about it and besides, I got nothing to say.

Yes, I have my counselor; yes, I have my "happy pills" ... which were good for a time, but have been kinda sketchy lately. But now my counselor felt I was ready for a group setting, which cuts back on my one-on-one appointments, so I'm just kinda left hanging. Again, because it's just this generalized "blah" (except for the spontaneous crying fits) or else I'm in a decent space when I show up for the group .... there's nothing to say. Besides, as I always try to convince myself, "It's all good." It's no big deal, it's nothing, whatever. And even knowing that a good chunk of this right now is at least partially situational doesn't really seem to help matters much.

It's crazy. I was a music therapy major; I wanted to go into the counselling side of things. I know, better than anyone, that "depression" should have no stigma attached to it. And, in my mind, it doesn't. At least, not for other people. For me, though ....

And I've been so impressed with folks like RealLivePreacher, when I happened upon his up-front posts about depression, and HeyJules, who actually had begun with a whole blog detailing her journey out of the pit. I figured a while back that maybe I should step up, tell my story, and add to the non-stigma nature of the beast.

Except, go figure, I never got around to it. I vaguely referenced it back in September, but that's because I was leaning towards there. So now, here I am, pretty much in the thick of things, not necessarily giving the best picture of the beast. Not that there is a "best picture" of it, but if I was wanting to post to show how "normal" people have this and get through .....

And now this weekend I get to go meet with my prioress (who's incredibly sweet) in response to a wonderfully concerned e-mail she sent right after Christmas break saying that she wanted to get together because I seemed kind of out-of-it and were things alright? And then I get to follow it up with a meeting with my formation director (that is still not the most well-built relationship yet) that I'm not feeling nearly so good about. Part of it is that I've got nothing to say. I don't know why I'm not showing up, I don't know why I'm not waking up, I don't know why I'm depressed. And, while some people understand and accept that kind of struggle, others don't, and that makes it extra-hard. I beat myself up enough over how this is all playing itself out, this isn't my preference, and to then feel like I have to justify it or "explain myself" to others just doesn't help the situation at all.

And, of course, this whole Bible thing has exploded, and I've read all of 6 chapters .... while everyone else is ready for Exodus. I'm good at getting the blog going, but .... that's about it.

Not that there's really any point to this post. Just some random ramblings in search of some form of assistance. Not that there's even anything that can be done, but I just feel myself getting deeper and deeper in trouble with the folks I live with, which then makes me feel worse, which then increases the spiral, and .....



Blogger Veronica said...

Oh hun, I have struggled with some form of depression, post traumatic stress, or self-injury for most of my life.

It can be more tough than most people can imagine... you have my prayers.

1/10/2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger Kiker said...

Aw, Steph. I feel for you.
I have been depressed on and off for almost all my life. And those spirals where you feel like you are disappointing people & messing up constantly make you feel even worse.

Maybe admitting that you are stuggling right now is your first step toward healing.

The only advice I have is try to be as honest with folks about what is going on as you can. More people will understand than not.

I will keep you in my prayers.

1/10/2006 1:46 PM  
Blogger the cynic librarian said...

Hi Steph, I append the following quote in hopes it will cheer you up. It comes from a man who experienced depression, aka "melancholy," all his life. A very religious man, he came to see the dis-ease as a test by God, with whom he wrestled like Jacob at the well. Yet, in the end, he saw the anxiousness of melancholy as a test sent by God because God wants us to pass. I hope you and the others who read this will forgive me for pasting something so long--but I think it should be read in toto, so as not to lose the pith of Kierkegaard's arc of thought.

The words come from his journals:

"The thought that God tests [prøver], yes, tempts [frister] a man ("lead us not into temptation") must not horrify us. The way one looks upon it makes the crucial difference. Disbelief, melancholy, etc. immediately become anxious [angst] and afraid and really impute to God the intention of doing it in order that man shall fail. However remote it may be that the melancholy anxiety in a man would think of having such thoughts about God, yet in the profoundest sense he really does think in this way, but without knowing it or becoming aware of it, just like the hot-headed person who is said not to know what he is doing. The believer, however, immediately interprets the matter inversely; he believes that God does it in order that he shall meet the test [Prøven]. Alas, in a certain sense this is why disbelief, melancholy, anxiety, etc. so often fail in the test, because they enervate themselves in advance--it is punishment for thinking ill of God; whereas faith usually conquers.

But this is rigorous upbringing--this going from inborn anxiety to faith. Anxiety is the most terrible kind of spiritual trial [Anfægtelse]--before the point is reached where the same man is disciplined in faith, that is, to regard everything inversely, to remain full of hope and confidence when something happens which previously almost made him faint and expire with anxiety, to plunge fearlessly into something against which he previously knew only one means of safety, to flee, and so on.

The person with inborn anxiety can very often have even a visionary idea of God's love. But he cannot concretize his relationship to God. If his idea of God's love has a deeper ground in him and he is devoutly concerned, above all else, to nourish and preserve it, then in many ways and for a long, long time his life can go on in the agonizing suffering of getting no impression in concreto that God is love (for anxiety continues to be too overpowering for him and prevents him from seeing the danger, the test, the temptation, etc. in the right way, that they are for him to meet), while he still all the more firmly attaches himself to and clings to the thought: Yes, but God is love just the same.

This is a sign that he is being educated or brought up to faith. To hold fast this way to the thought that God is love just the same is the abstract form of faith, faith in abstracto. Then the time will come when he will succeed in concretizing his God-relationship. -- X2 A 493 n.d., 1850

1/10/2006 1:56 PM  
Blogger What Now? said...

I too appreciate Real Live Preacher's willingness to share his depression journey, and now you are joining him in bravery by beginning to tell your story. I appreciate this honesty and bravery, although I'm so sorry it's happening to you.

I'll echo Kiker here: I think that being honest -- with your prioress, your formation director, your counselor, and anyone else you think might be supportive -- is the first step. We often heal in community, and I hope that proves true for you.

You'll be in my prayers.

1/10/2006 2:11 PM  
Anonymous Mary Beth said...

I've been on meds for depression since....mmmm....1991? Should have been before then, probably. I remember telling my mom "I'm depressed" when I was 6 years old.

The meds sometimes stop working. I strongly recommend that you see about getting them changed.

RE: the Bible group, I think you have given us an amazing gift in having the idea and setting it up! When Q Grace wrote about it, I so wanted to do it, but she said it was really best done with a group. It didn't occur to me to start an online group! :)

Hang in there, kiddo. It will get better. I promise. :)

love, mb

1/10/2006 2:51 PM  
Blogger see-through faith said...

oh Steph :(

Remember the Bible thing was no pressure - and God's anointing

You did a great thing getting the site up and running and inspired many to give it a shot. that's all we can do.

Depression is rotten. it's not your fault and it is so hard to define.

You've been wonderfully honest here, and I suspect just as honest before God - He will help because He has heard your cry.

Re the abbotess - it's great she's interested enough to call and meet with you. As for the SD - well if it's the wrong person - the jell isn't there- you have to say so - to the right person at the right time.

I have to be honest here too. Since you've been. If it weren't for the 90 day Bible thing I'd have gone under today

(more in email)

Be still and you will KNOW He is God.

You are a terrific woman of God.

1/10/2006 2:59 PM  
Blogger Susan Rose, CSJP said...


Ditto what everyone else said.

Many prayers and warm socks coming your way.

Check your email for a practical solution to your problem waking up in the mornings.

Try to be gentle with yourself. All will be well.


1/10/2006 4:20 PM  
Blogger AveMaria1 said...

Aww Steph....

I feel for ya, everything will work out for the better, just hang in there. I agree with Kiker, admitting that your feeling down in the dumps is the first step to feeling better...

If there is anything I can do, you know my number and I am here if you need to vent.


1/10/2006 4:30 PM  
Blogger Bad Alice said...

Oh, Steph, I have been where you are many times and it is maddening. It's maddening to not know why and to feel as if everything takes way too much effort. I always want to sleep when I'm depressed.

I second Mary Beth on revisiting the happy pills, switching, upping the dosage or something. And do tell those who are worried about you. It's hard to invite folks into the mess, but I think it's good to resist the very strong urge (I've had it many times) toward isolation.

I'm feeling pretty damn horrid myself, so I don't have cheery words at all, just a prayer for the both of us, and all our sisters in depression.

1/10/2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

*hugs* What you wrote describes how I've been feeling almost exactly (except my 20 minutes in the morning has stretched to 2 hours so I'm regularly arriving in lab at 11.30! and still nobody says anything to me about it!). I hope things improve for you and if you find anything helpful, please let me know :)

1/10/2006 6:26 PM  
Blogger Chaplain Lydia said...


You're an inspiration!!!! I went out and bought the book for the Bible Study. Just remember, 90 days can be in "Steph's Time" too.

I'm praying for you and hope you'll be feeling better soon. I know when I've had a tough day at work (I'm a prison chaplain, Disciples of Christ, and the only progressive one on staff at that!), I come home and take a look at what our blog community is saying these days. It sure has given me some good thoughts to ponder, new friends, colleagues who care, and lots of laughter.

Know you're loved by God and the rest of us. Praying for the depression to lift soon.

Blessings, Lydia

1/10/2006 6:38 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Speaking it is a major part of taking control away from "it" and giving it back to yourself.

Having an honest heart-to-heart with the prioress is probably the best first step. This way you are in control of what she hears and knows directly from you. Then working with her you can decide how to approach it within the house.

I imagine that the stress of all this is amplified (consciously or unconsciously) by being a junior professed experiencing what you are and having to deal with how it gets read "at home" in the convent.

Also, be patient - sometimes the folks with whom we don't quite "gel" are actually the ones who understand situations like this one the best (or at least the most appropriately).

Just take it a little bit at a time and don't be upset with yourself for not appearing perfect (e.g., being on time) in someone else's eyes. The only eyes that really matter are God's and one's own, and you know you are "precious in God's sight" so ...


1/10/2006 6:41 PM  
Blogger ukok said...

Blessed Virgin Mary, Ora Pro Nobis!

God Bless.

1/10/2006 6:46 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Thanks so much for sharing your post. I know exactly what you mean about the stigma and other people verses yourself. I'm thinking of you. Don't sweat the Bible thing. Those pages aren't going anywhere. No bad grades if you don't read it. Just enjoy the community you set up. You're in my thoughts.

1/10/2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger ~Jennifer said...

Mark me down as another depressed child of God.

Lorna said if it hadn't been for the bible thing she would have gone under today. Well, I've gone under. It started around Sunday night. I still haven't done my reading today.

Sorry, I'll just stop before I make this about me, as I'm sometimes prone to doing.

I know all too well that there are no magic words to make you feel better or make things right, but know that I understand the desire to stay in bed, to sleep just 20 more minutes, to hide from the day, and then the guilt you feel afterwards.

I also know it can get better, and in fact, when the depression lifts and you start living again, the contrast is so startling that it invigorates you and causes you to thank God for everything, even the depression.

1/10/2006 7:18 PM  
Blogger Lorem ipsum said...

Well, The Pit has a floor of quicksand. The more you try to get out, or wish you could, the further down you get. I don't know how you could get any busier. And I wish I knew what to advise. Just keep writing, even if it's not here. And we're on the edge of the time zone, which means it gets darker even earlier. Wintertime is the worst, for me too.

Take two seasons and call me in the summer!

1/10/2006 8:07 PM  
Blogger seeking_something said...

Hang in there. I've heard someone say "if you don't feel like praying, at least say your prayers." I'm glad you're attempting the Bible, you can't really go wrong to read it you know.

I probably go through life on a low-grade depression. But what the heck. Kick butt sometimes. Chill sometimes. I dunno, put on some music, and dance yourself silly. The cool folks will join in.

1/10/2006 8:08 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I've never had depression. I don't really know what it is. I think there still a stigma surrounding it which is why you probably should follow kiker's advice. Part of the reason there's a stigma is becuase those who have it don't want to talk about. As you say it's nebulous. It's a disease with no shape. It's like grief or heartache or any other affliction of the 'soul.'

You have to be upfront with people. You have to cast some sort of light upon it. Otherwise, people really will think you're a slacker and a do-nothing and that's not the truth.

If the truth will set you free then you have to begin there. You will encounter skeptics but doesn't the Dude of Bigness encounter skeptics everyday?


1/10/2006 8:10 PM  
Blogger LutheranChik said...

Steph: "Been there." You are in my thoughts and prayers.

One of the things that helps me when I'm down is reading Henri Nouwen -- someone who constantly struggled with depression. His sharing of his experiences, and his trusting in the love and goodness of God no matter what, have been a real comfort at times.

1/10/2006 9:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steph, I will just write a few words on behalf of all of us lurkers. I read your blog every day, and if I have to miss it, I always catch up as soon as I can. Why? Because you are one of those people who can write of ordinary things and extraordinary ones with complete conviction. You are the person a lot of us want to be!

FWIW, maybe there is a physical side to this depression at this point. Maybe that sounds dumb, and maybe it is -- but it's worth checking out. (I was an RN long ago.) Subtle signs are sometimes something we really need to pursue.

1/10/2006 9:46 PM  
Anonymous eija said...

Steph... At first - yes, what the anonymous said: Make sure your physical condition is good: Low or high thyroid values may cause depression, and anemia can make you both tired and depressed. Rule those things out, because they are easy to fix.

You talk about keeping up the face and beating yourself about things. Oh, that is so familiar to me. But I tell you: During the last couple of years God has been giving me a real intensive course about accepting myself and being honest. He made me (you) the way I am, the temper and tangles and all. And He loves me (you!) just the way I am (you are).

Seriously. Little by little I've grown too tired of keeping that "things are ok" -face up. I'm slowly learning to be what I am: If I feel bad, then I do. And I'm happy only, if I really am happy. No faking. And you know what? That pleases God. He values honesty, He wants "real" people. He doesn't care what other people think of me - then why should I? If you don't know what to say to them, then say just that.

Learning to rest in Him, even if the world seems to fall apart without me contributing to it, seems like a task impossible. But it isn't. To really rest in Him and only do what He prompts me to do - despite the efficient super-doers that go swirling around me - is actually very deliberating.

And - you say "it's really easy to stay in denial when it doesn't interfere TOO hugely with daily life"

I know. Isn't it so, that you don't feel you have the right to say that you're depressed - because you're just a "mild" case? I know I do. I can function, I can go to work - kinda, I can take care of the kids etc. So even if the doc gives me a diagnosis "severe depression", I keep doubting it. Maybe it's just "situational" as you said - because I'm being mistreated at work? Or something else in that field. Whatever, even a mild case, it's still an illness. And if not properly treated, it sadly is a fatal one, in many cases.

I'll quit lecturing now. I'm just asking you to openly be the person you are - the one God created you to be. You're a sweet product of His hands and worthy of being exactly the one you are.


ps. if you need help with managing the 90-blog, I can help you with that. Just let me know.

1/11/2006 3:42 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

What Kiker et al. said.

Praying too.

1/11/2006 9:53 AM  
Blogger Claire Joy said...

me too… sending you love and prayers. An alternative interpretation to the sisters' silence may be compassion and patience, not judgement. It looks a lot alike sometimes… :)

1/11/2006 10:15 AM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Nothing to add to so many words of wise advice and empathy, but I do send my love and prayers for lighter days very soon.

1/11/2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Oh, and Steph...I'm nothing like ready for Exodus either. And I'm kind of untouched by the experience of reading thus far...

1/11/2006 12:37 PM  
Blogger fin said...

I was on paxil for a while...like training wheels for my brain. Now I don't fall into that black pit so often anymore. I know how you feel.

1/12/2006 11:33 PM  

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