When you live with depression & anxiety it’s too easy to let it define you.
I’ve lived with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. At times it’s left me incapacitated and suicidal. At other times it’s been my defining persona; the thing that defines me amid my many affectations. But, for the most part, it’s simply a big scary, unpredictable and bottomless pit that exists on the edge of my consciousness.
And, in a life consisting of a growing number of decades, to be honest, I’ve been well, more than I’ve been unwell. I’ve been treatable and treated. I’ve been willing (for the most part) to accept the illness I have and get on with living out what I’ve been created for. (Whatever that is?!)
Like any sufferer of a poorly understood illness, I’ve been the victim of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. I’ve dealt with symptoms that are common among sufferers while at the same time being specific to me. I’ve been discouraged and encouraged. Pathetic and strong. Happy and sad. But interestingly, in all of those states, I’ve always been me.
So it’s possibly not a surprise to hear that in a recent cruise through Facebook, I was somewhat concerned by the number of people who appear to define themselves by their ‘problem’. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condemning anyone for what they choose to share on social media. I am not the ruler of the world! However, I wonder how difficult it becomes to move beyond your affectation and into a purposeful life when you’ve been defining yourself in a particular way.
I understand that I appear to be dealing in eyebrow lifting irony as I clearly and publicly define myself as a sufferer of an illness. So, by way of explanation, I do this in order to highlight that my illness does not stop me from ‘sucking it up’ and getting on with my life (when I can) and to encourage others dealing with similar circumstances. Fundamentally, I work from the knowledge that God has not forgotten you.
I don’t (or a least try hard not to) make my writing an opportunity to lament about how difficult my life is and how much I expect the people around me to pander to my sensitivities. And, if you’d had the opportunity to be a fly on the wall during some particularly difficult moments between Mr Wonderful and myself, you’d find that the difficulty exists within my need to be indulged for my illness and his need to remind me that underneath my illness I am still the person I was created to be.
I’d have to say it’s extremely important to avoid becoming a victim of chronic illness and allow it to rob you of your ability to get on with living. My illness, along with a cartload of other symptoms, includes fatigue, fear and an inability to look forward to or enjoy any activity and participate in ‘normal’ life. However, I am capable of understanding that those symptoms need to be worked through in order for me to be what I was created to be. The confident, capable, fun loving, thoughtful, etc, etc etc… me!
Sure, I get tired, so if I have to do things while I’m tired that’s what I’ll do. If I have to do things that engender fear, I need to learn to do them afraid. If I have to do things I can’t rustle up enthusiasm for, I have to find a way to make it happen. If I had a broken leg and needed to pee, I’d have to find a way. I might need to find someone to help me but there would be a way.
Fortunately, I live in a time that has at least basic treatment for my illness. It’s not perfect and it won’t cure me but it helps me to manage. And, as long as I hold on to the precept that I was created not for immobility and apathy but for progress and productivity, I will continue to seek out ways to make it happen.
If you think that progress and productivity are isolated to those who are smart, creative, have money or the right parents blah, blah… then you’ve misunderstood me. Progress and success is the ability to pursue who you are; underneath your illness.
This week from Stevie Wills who lives with Cerebral Palsy: “I can’t do everything I want to do, but I can do everything I was created to do.” I hope I’ve remembered it correctly.
If you need to talk to someone NOW call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)