Just had a rough morning falling apart inside while trying to explain myself and my situation to a lady at the local NHS wellbeing service, in person this time. Their initial phone assessment left all of us confused and had me labelled in every category from post-natal depression to anxiety. Apparently this won’t do and they can’t help you if they can’t categorise you, so I had to go in and meet them. Now I am just a perfectionist with low self-esteem (i.e. I won’t tell you if you spell something wrong). I don’t think they liked the fact that I don’t fit their boxes that neatly. I am not convinced that they officially ruled the other categories out either.
In any case, because I cannot meet in groups they can’t really offer group therapy, and you need to pass that level to access CBT. I would know if I could meet in groups because I miss my friends, but am terrified of meeting up with anyone more than one at a time. To be fair, I’m not even great one at a time at present, including with the children. This may be in part due to the medication still kicking in at the higher level.
And I have a bit of an idea about CBT from skills my youth leader taught me as a teenager; since then can recognise my thoughts heading into negative territory and have a range of practised strategies for diverting them. Yesterday I caught myself wondering if the guinea pigs were sulking, and before taking that thought further changed the subject in my head and parked the idea for humour value. The self-discipline is a habit which takes years, but mindfulness and self-evaluation are already very much part of my life. I am utterly grateful to him for his time and tenacity in helping me when I was at my previous low ebb. We all need heroes at times to open up to and places where we can be honest and let the truth set us free.
The more I read, the more I think that rather than one cause for my current ill health, there was a drip-drip effect from a large number of directions over a substantial period of time. Everything from the past 18 years got bottled and I ran out of bottle.
I am so grateful for two very useful conversations yesterday. Without them I would have bought a whole lot more comfort food on the way home. The first was an honest chat with dad, who remembers what I was like before and for both of us to recognise how far I have come. The second was with a remarkable friend from church who is like a mentor – she is in the pastoral care team and is wonderful at listening and speaking truth. From her I realised that I have various options going forward, and am hoping to ask for counselling with a Christian group, who can understand better the way I can address my insatiable protestant work ethic mentality which cannot be lived up to. Or at least, how to cut myself some slack.
There is another reason I find it more helpful to chat with Christians about tough times. When I am at my lowest, I still have the capacity to experience joy and hope. It’s like being in a desert and finding shade. My mentor reminded me that joy is a fruit of the Spirit which would explain this. I remember visiting Death Valley with my husband nine years ago. It was 50 degrees Celsius in the shade. Even jumping out of the car to take a photo meant running through achingly hot air and trying not to touch metal in order to get back inside to the air conditioning.
There were no trees in sight, and hardly any vegetation. Depression feels like that, but the deeper I go in my journey with God, the more I am able to find oases of joy, hope and calm. Going to the NHS today did not deliver, and I didn’t feel truly listened to or able to connect, but talking and praying with Christians means my honesty counts for something and is part of the healing. God’s presence is very real to me, and I find myself aching for Him as much as I am aching for healing. When I am through this valley there will be such a celebration of renewal and I know that I am on the journey there. I want to be able to talk over the hurts and come out the other side stronger and wiser.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me
“…the truth will set you free…”