The first time I visited a counsellor I walked into the waiting area of the clinic and saw a woman from my church there. I slipped straight out again and walked once around the block. When I came back she had disappeared (how we wish the depressed would disappear!) and I persuaded myself to sit in the high-risk waiting room for a few more vulnerable minutes until my name was called. As if visiting a counsellor hadn’t raised enough issues for me, I then faced the added shame of being seen visiting a counsellor. Apparently depression was something we shared in common but never talked about, especially not in church.
Back then no one talked about depression especially the common everyday type, unwarranted, un-asked for and unwelcome. You might have got away with a reactive depression following the death of a loved one or a similar crisis event; something truly worthy of grief. A nervous breakdown, shrouded in medical enigma and psycho-babble had a certain drama that rendered it acceptable in a hushed unspeakable way, but everyday depression that lingered grey for months was an anathema.
When I first wrote about my own struggles with depression back in June, a light touch piece prettied up with some descriptions of the beautiful Lancashire countryside, I was stunned by the response. It put me in touch with a community of others whose lives had been affected in some way by keeping depression a secret. In the church coffee room or watching the kids play in the park I met with people who were surprised I had suffered from depression, people who were surprised I would admit to having suffered from depression, and we talked. Sometimes we talked softly and sometimes with boldness, in coffee shops and at the end of meetings when the chairs were being stacked and the light turned off. I met people who wanted to tell me their stories. Online and in homes I shared with those who I thought knew my story but clearly did not, people who listened to my version to make sense of their own. Depression is one of our best kept secrets and these were people talking about depression for the first time ever.
This week saw the launch of Time to Change an ambitious UK project aimed at removing the stigma of mental illness because the nine out of ten people who suffer say that the prejudice and discrimination they have experienced is worse that the pain of the illness. We raise awareness of how mental illness is experienced whenever we share with honesty. Talking and listening we can give and receive healing one friend at a time.
I wanted to share some links on depression and mental health. Some are from big name experts and others are from ordinary everyday sufferers sharing their stories online. They are all brave people and you can be sure that for each one of them, the lucid well structured thoughts and carefully penned sentences have emerged out of a chaos of pain, disappointment and frustrations, common to anyone whose life has been touched by the pain of mental illness.
The Links – hopeful, healing readings!
1. Adrian Warnock is a true Christian blog-father and also a trained psychiatrist. You can find many articles on mental health issues on his blog at Patheos. I share three below for starters,
2. Amy Simpson is the author of, ‘Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Church’s Mission’. She blogs at amysimpsononline.com and I share three of her many excellent pieces below,
3. Mark Lawrence is local to the North West where I live. He describes himself as ‘Christian, husband, father and leader who eventually worked out that life is a journey!’ He has recently shared a series of honest and vulnerable pieces on his own battles with mental health issues. I share the first of the series here and the rest can be found on his blog, Loved, Free and Powerful.
4. Elli Johnson has told her own story on her blog, The Hippo Chronicles, currently up to part 12, I share the first instalment here,
5. Katharine Welby is daughter to the ABC but in her own right a significant advocate of all depressives and other marginalised people, something she seems constantly surprised by!
And a final story from, Andrea Selley which I think you will be glad you read.
I am not a doctor and neither are the writers whose pieces I am sharing. Depression is a significant illness and if you think you are suffering from it you should see your doctor who will be able to help you.