Going to be straight up honest here today: I’m struggling with clinical depression. Also warning: this is about prayer.
If you know me in my off-line life, this probably is no surprise — in the last week I have received a message with a self-care worksheet from my mom, a text from a wonderful friend that she is having cloistered Dominicans pray for me, and a bunch of unsolicited hugs and encouragement.
This isn’t a new path for me. I’ve been down it before. It took me a while to acknowledge it this time, but I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, have been working out to keep those endorphins pumping, and have been saying no to things that feel overwhelming. I’ve been managing well — getting sleep, getting my work done, meeting deadlines — just all with an underlying level of suckiness and bad vibes.
This fall has felt different than other times I have had this monkey on my back. In the past when I’ve been hit with the waves of inadequacy, lethargy, and numbness that characterize depression for me, they’ve been accompanied by a level of hopelessness that kept me mired down deep.
But that isn’t the case this time. I don’t feel the unabating despair this time. Sure, I have a host of other shitty feelings most of the time: the aforementioned inadequacy, dullness, loneliness, stupidity, you know — the normal feelings of daily failings but just all together and all the time. Let me be clear: Intellectually, I know that these are not the reality I’m living. There are a lot of people who love me, support me, and pray for me. I’m still good at my job. My mental function is not suddenly falling off a cliff. I did step in a hole and sprain my ankle on Saturday, but I had a friend to stick me in an Uber and lovely offers of help on Sunday. Also, it’s basically better now anyway.
What’s different this year than my junior year of high school, freshman year of college, or when I was a fresh post-grad? To be honest, I think it’s prayer.
My own rote prayer tethers me back to my day. Going to confession forces me to actually face my real vs. imagined failings. The Mass reminds me I am not out here in the universe all by myself. Unsurprisingly, my prayer right now is pretty low-energy and low-input.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one praying for me. I know my dad prays for me every morning when he prays the Rosary, I know I have friends in my community praying for me, and now some nuns, which is great. Just knowing that people are reaching out to God for me goes such a long way to bolstering me every day. And I think to myself, if I know these many people are already praying for me, I bet I have some secret pray-ers out in the world and up in Heaven interceding on my behalf.
When I was in high school, my mom put a little print out of this text on my mirror. (I can’t believe I was just able to find that online. I love the Internet.) It moved houses and hangs inside a cupboard in my sister’s bathroom. Remembering that there are people in the world that love me was really important for me when I was muddling through high school. But real prayer underpins all of my struggles now. It’s the kind of surface tension that helps us walk on water when it feels like we might drown if we stop treading.
So, that’s that. I’m trudging along and, really, I AM FINE. I just also have clinical depression. Well, I don’t have the official diagnosis yet, but, like, I know.
Why write this now? Well, first off, there’s like 6 other things I should be doing right now, but I don’t feel like it. That’s the main reason I do anything when I do it. But I also have been watching this great show called You’re The Worst that has featured the best media portrayal I have ever seen in a character this season. It’s a raunchy, sassy, adult show, but Gretchen’s depression has been highlighted in a way that feels so real to me. That reminded me that people sometimes need to hear about depression from people who are staring it down and figuring it out. So hey, if that’s you, come sit by me.
Sorry if this was too real for the casual blog visitor who is coming over from my Blessed Is She devotion that I just remembered goes up tomorrow morning, but if you got this far — HEY! Stay a while.
Also, Mom, can I use this as an excuse to avoid the party and go to bed early on Thanksgiving? Let me know…
By the way, there is a reason I said “have clinical depression” rather than “am clinically depressed”: I am a lot of things (messy, incredible, a procrastinator), but I have depression. That can be treated without losing any of myself to it. At work, we call this stigmatizing language, but here, it’s just how I like to talk about things.
Let me know if I can pray for you — comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me or whatever floats your boat. You can even email me and I will give you my phone number. Seriously.