Depression: Isolation

isolationTARGET AUDIENCE: CHRISTIANS
In about 30 minutes, I am supposed to leave for my small group meeting at my church. I enjoy them. In fact, I am actually excited about the fact that I have the privilege of attending this meeting every week. At this point, though, I feel like my feet are glued to the floor. I have showered, got cleaned up, fresh clothes, had supper. Everything is in order for me to go to the meeting. There is nothing for me to do, but I feel like there are hands holding me back. Of course, there are no physical restraints. I am free to come and go as I please, but I squander much of the good weather we have in this country. When the nasty days of winter come upon us much sooner than they are welcome, I will tell people that I would give anything I own to be able to get out, go for a coffee, or just do a bit of grocery shopping that I will have to put off until a better day.

Let me reinforce the fact that there are no physical restraints keeping me in my apartment. There are no physical obstacles to me walking down to my truck and driving to the small group meeting. On a conscious level I know very well that going to that meeting will be good for me on every level, but there is a conversation happening, even as I type, in my mind, attempting to persuade me to avoid going out of the apartment. It isn’t just a small group meeting at my church. My doctor wants me to go to a clinic to have blood work done. This is just as effortless as going to my small group meeting. There are plenty of clinics in my neighborhood with easy access and it really only takes a few minutes. Even if it took more than a few minutes, so what? It isn’t as if I have to get to work or I have a slew of appointments and people will be disappointed if I’m late. 

It isn’t just the conversation that is happening in my mind or the fact that my feet feel like they are glued to the floor. There is anxiety, a feeling of physical heaviness in my chest, that I experience when I am in this place. It is a place of darkness, of defeat, of loneliness, of despair. I know that I am by no means alone, but I feel so alone right now. 

There are times when social contact is the precise medicine I need to lift my spirits and make me feel like I am part of the human race again and the family of God. Isn’t it a curious thing that I have the head knowledge (the theology) that I am a child of God, that Jesus Christ died for me, that when I die, I will be with God in heaven, but I can feel so alone, so isolated, so unwanted, and undesirable right now? You would think that with all that Baptist theology I would never feel anything again, well maybe that is a bit exaggerated, but for decades I was taught according to the Fact Faith Feeling train. We base our faith upon Facts. Our faith is not dependent upon our feelings, but just the facts. For decades, I suppressed feelings with respect to my faith. 

My feet are still glued to the floor. I still feel those hands on my shoulders, those invisible hands, those hands that do not exist, that are holding me in this chair. If I was laying in bed, I would feel like I was paralyzed, unable to move my legs, but in reality, my legs would move just fine. I would imagine that I am tired, exhausted, emotionally drained, even though I haven’t done anything to warrant those feelings.

On days when I experience the deepest, most severe isolation, a major breakthrough is having a shower, or cooking food, or washing dishes. Some days when I am in the pit of isolation, getting out of bed is a victory. 

What am I feeling right now? Right this minute? To be honest, I am rather confused about what I want. One part of me wants to go to the meeting. I know I will enjoy it and have a bit of fun. The other part of me is emotionally drained, or at least I feel like I am. That part of me wants to crawl into bed and spend the evening reading or playing games on my tablet. I will have a busy day tomorrow and I am not mentally prepared for the busyness of tomorrow. Yes, I am the same person who, in my last post, begged God for just one busy day. I will be busy, but it isn’t going to be that intense, I hope. As I have grown older, I have found that I do not have the stamina I did at one time. Yes, what I am feeling right now is fear that is irrational. Did I mention that much of what I experience in depression is irrational?

My battle with depression is a journey. It started when I was a teenager, which is when I first remember feeling “blue” or “despondent” and it wasn’t just because I didn’t get my own way or get what I wanted. In those days, most people, including my parents, hadn’t really been educated with respect to mental illness and there was a huge stigma attached to it. People who suffered from depression were, at times, considered, “not all there” and should be avoided. I journeyed through those years, but this is still a battle. Most people I know understand, at least on a surface level, depression and they attempt to treat me with dignity and respect, for which I am truly grateful.

If I am going to that meeting, I have about four minutes to get moving. My feet still feel like they are glued to the floor and I am still feeling anxiety over going out at all tonight. There have been times when I have forced myself to do things, particularly  social things, against my will and have experienced heightened anxiety or panic attacks. If I feel trapped with respect to where I am sitting, I can experience a panic attack, which is usually a sudden difficulty breathing, sweating, confusion, and sometimes physical paralysis, which means I am unable to walk or move without assistance. A case in point is a potluck dinner I attended a few years ago at a church. I was standing in line, waiting to be served, when I suddenly realized that I was in the midst of a crowd and there was no easy path of escape for me. I descended into confusion (there was this din of noise and activity that didn’t make sense) and I had trouble breathing (shortness of breath) and I began to sweat profusely. Fortunately, one of my housemates saw what was happening, and led me to a wall where I stood, back against the wall. I “crawled” along the wall to a door, went through the kitchen into the foyer of the church, where I had oxygen and space. The panic attack subsided within minutes.  When I used to ride public transit, I remember sitting in the middle doorway of a bus, on the steps, because I could not handle standing in the middle of a crowd. I would take a subway train in the wrong direction until I could get on a train where I would get a window seat and have the illusion of not being “trapped”. 

It’s too late to go to the meeting now. For the rest of the evening I will deal with feeling defeated because I really did want to go to the meeting. I am not sure if feeling defeated is helpful. I feel like I missed an opportunity, which indeed I did. This is a journey and there will be times when I miss opportunities because of elements of my battle with depression. This is a journey. There are deep wounds that I have ignored for many years that I am now confronting and for which I am seeking healing. Yes, I feel defeated, but by God’s grace, I will be at next week’s meeting.

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