Kris shares his experiences living with depression.
By my early twenties my depression manifested itself by preventing me from engaging socially with anyone, my housemates included. I would have anxiety attacks in crowds of people where people I knew were present. If I was entirely anonymous I was pretty much ok. It was the terror of knowing that someone could come at me from any angle and engage me in conversation. I had stuffed up my life and I was too scared to talk to anyone in case I influenced them to stuff up theirs. Dialogue with anyone was fraught with such danger, was too much responsibility for me to handle. While there is truth in looking at relationships that way, to let that stop you from having relationships is pretty irrational. Depression doesn’t lend itself to logic though; it twists the truth and outright lies.
So I was numb, couldn’t hold down a job for long and could hardly raise myself from my bed.
I remember clearly the morning I turned the corner from this road that was leading to a pit of nothingness.
A sunshower has just passed through and I am curled up on the couch looking out the window at glistening beads of water dripping from the leaves of a small tree. I am in awe as I study the tree, marvelling at this living thing that at slower than a snail’s pace will eventually soak up that water in its roots and will deliver nutrients up its solid trunk and through its branches. I can see some beauty in amongst my self-imposed bleakness.
It was in that moment that I decided I didn’t want to live as a depressed person anymore. And I think that is an important thing, it didn’t free me of depression but I had decided that I didn’t want be defined by it anymore.
I had been trained as a youth worker and then people thought I should become a High School Chaplain because I’d be perfect for it. It was daunting to the extreme, the responsibility and even to just have the title of Chaplain. I felt so inadequate. I accepted the job. I think it was more perfect for me than me for it because I had to rise to something bigger than myself. I’ve come to believe that helping others is the most effective way of helping yourself. Depression is like being locked in a tiny world that only you inhabit, and in that place you don’t like you very much. I just love the symmetry, the feedback loop that is created when we help each other that it helps us and that it exponentially can create a better world.
Five years on, still a Chaplain where I have to listen to others and encourage them, where I have to meet others often in a place of hurt and need. And when someone is sharing their pain with me they usually don’t need me to bring mine to the table as well. I think that by having to leave my darkness at the door it gets easier to leave it further behind. So I find myself in a place where anything I say or do could influence the person across from me and while that still scares me it challenges me to do my best and I’m ok with that.
I guess I found healing in doing what frightened me the most. Never entirely healed, I can sort of feel depression lurking in the corner of my mind like it’s just out of my peripheral vision. It’s there and if I end up spending too much time on my own, if I surrender to my natural inclination to be a reclusive hermit it pays me a visit and I know it’s time to turn to being creative and to being sociable (choosing to do the things that are therapeutic to me) if I want it to go away. I am thankful there is meaning to my existence, thankful for my work, my friends and family and most of all my wife for providing me with an encouraging, challenging and supportive foundation to build a life worth living on.