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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Struggling to be a human that continues being

This is not at all easy to write, but I think it's time.  As some of you may know, I have struggled with clinical depression off and on for all of my adult life.  I'm also going through an incredibly tough season personally this year.

The combination of these two factors currently has me in the downhill slope of a Major Depressive Episode (what happens to clinically depressed people when we become very unwell).

I'm not writing this because I necessarily want to talk to you about it, or because I want your attention, but because I am asking for your understanding and your grace.  I know I tend to be good at pretending, even while I am very unwell, that I'm "fine".  I literally am struggling right now with things like eating, bathing, dressing myself, holding down a job and caring for my children.

Please understand that if I am not attending to the most important things in your mind right now, it's not because I don't value you, your project/our project or whatever.  Understand that if you ask me to do something for you that I might usually say yes to, the answer right now may very well be "I can't".

Please DON'T try to tell me how to manage my illness unless I actually ask for your advice - I am still an adult and I'm still cognitively capable of making medical decisions for myself.  My specialist and I have a treatment plan, I have enlisted the aid of a few close friends (you know who you are, and thank you) to help me with enacting that plan, and I am praying that these things, with the grace of God, will keep me at work and out of hospital this time.

Please DO educate yourself on depression and mental illness if they're not things you understand.  Or even if you do think you understand.  Understand that today will be different from tomorrow which will be different from the day after that.  That when I laugh or smile, it doesn't mean I'm all better or that the struggle no longer exists or that I don't need your support - but that I'm trying my guts out to get there, and you're seeing a rare moment of success.  Celebrate it with me.

If you do feel that you have the capacity to be helpful to me at the moment, what I would appreciate most is just your love, your patience and your prayers.  Message me not because you want me to do something for you, but just to see how I am.  Invite yourself over for a cuppa and ignore the state of my house.  Sit with me and help me focus long enough to write out a grocery shopping list (I really struggle with things like this right now).  Allow me to have some conversation space where you don't require of me emotionally...and when I'm having stronger days, times when you do, so I can still feel like a functional friend and person.  Understand that it isn't about you.

Above all, encourage and enable me to do things for myself that are difficult for me right now.  Don't offer to do for me, but ask "how can I help you to do that".  I know from previous experience that to climb my way back out of this, I need to regain some sense of self worth by actually being able to care for myself adequately.  Help me to set simple goals and a plan to achieve them (in this context, "goals" can be such lofty things as "make the bed each day" or "plan and shop for a week's worth of dinners").

If you don't know how to help me, ask me closed questions - right now, I don't have the capacity to answer open ended questions well or sometimes at all.  E.g "Would you like some help planning dinner?" is better than "How can I help you?".  Or "Have you remembered to take your medication today?" is a lot easier than "Are you taking care of yourself?".  "What time did you go to bed last night?" rather than "Are you getting enough sleep?".

This post has taken most of today's remaining spoons to write.  I hope it's useful in understanding where I'm at right now.

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