A question I often ask myself is “what is normal?” I have lived with a diagnosis of clinical depression for over 10 years now. At times, it has been debilitating to the point of hospitalisation. At other times, it just means taking medication each morning. The cumulative effect, however, is that I struggle to know whether I am experiencing a ‘normal’ emotional reaction to something, or something less healthy. During these past months, it has been even trickier to discern what is going on.
To begin with, things were very busy, and my head was spinning with each new change to government advice and church guidance. Just trying to keep up, and keep everyone informed, took so much energy. When everything eventually ‘locked-down’, and it was very clear what could and could not happen, it seemed easier. At first, anyway. I was pre-recording Sunday services in partnership with 2 neighbouring parishes. This was great as it gave me more time to support the practical efforts in the parish, particularly around shopping, prescription collection, telephone support, etc. However, once the initial rush passed, I found myself floundering a bit. I missed preaching every week. I especially missed a “live” congregation: I really struggled preaching to a camera or being recorded saying a prayer. I found myself not wanting to go out at all…not even for daily exercise. I was withdrawing: mentally and emotionally retreating into the foetal position. But, hey, everyone was struggling just now, weren’t they? This is probably ‘normal’. Besides, clergy always end up exhausted after Easter.
I was due to take a fortnight’s leave in May. I like to leave the parish as such times, as I find it hard enough to switch off when away; it is almost impossible when at home. I decided to take the time and hope for the best. My husband will tell you that I can struggle on holiday, too. Usually about half-way through a holiday I hit a major dip, have a flounce and tell the world that it is all pointless. It normally lasts a day or two, and my husband is around to remind me of what is going on. This time, it started much earlier in the break. By half-way through, I was suicidal. I was in a dark place and saw no point in going on. No one would miss me. There was nothing I could do about anything anyway. After a couple of days in this state, I was handed the phone and told to call the GP. It took another day to build up the courage to call.
A conversation with a professional I didn’t know (I don’t have a regular GP) was less scary than I thought. We talked through various options, one of which was approaching the Church about counselling. A small plan was put in place. I contacted Gabby and arrange for counselling. I spoke with a couple of friends. By the time my increased prescription arrived, I felt OK enough to wait a bit longer before taking it. I remain on my original dose.
I still don’t know what ‘normal’ means. I do know (actually, have been reminded yet again) that support is there. Asking for it is scary, but it does help. Am I fixed? Indeed not. But I do have the strength to keep taking the next step and, right now, that’s probably about as normal as it gets.