Reflections from an encounter

Julie Liggett

I was at the swimming pool recently and ended up chatting to a lady I’d never met before about her battle with depression following a bereavement.

As we talked, it became apparent that she couldn’t see what I could. She talked about trying to do a little every day and yet there she was in a busy swimming pool laughing with her children – that’s not a small thing for someone with depression.

She had just done something amazing but had gone in to comparison mode – comparing it being no big deal for other people or that it used to be no big deal for her. It’s similar for someone with anxiety – they may dread going to that place, or having to talk to people, or do that thing. They feel the fear, the knots in their stomach, the thoughts of “I can’t” or “what if,” but they do it anyway.

Then when they do, their negative thinking quickly tells them, “it’s no big deal, sure everyone else can do it.” In doing this they miss the opportunity of grabbing a hammer to hit the depression or anxiety with, because each time you do that hard thing you’ve got evidence that you can – you’ve got a hammer!

The other thing I noticed about the lady was that although she felt she was coming out the other side of the depressions, the other side didn’t look the same as the side before the depressions, and it was this that was causing the problem. She was not dealing with the impact of her depression – the lack of confidence it had left her with and the overwhelming fear it would happen again.

The fear “it” would happen again

She was in the shadow of her depression and that’s a tough place to be because it can make it difficult to not only recognise the progress you’ve made but potentially sabotage future joy. It’s like someone experiencing a heart attack or cancer. They may have successful treatment and get the all clear, but it leaves them with the possibility of what if it happens again, what if it comes back.

Of course, it’s a possibility for anyone of us but we just try not to think about it, that’s harder to do when you’ve had to face it. It’s tough because sometimes there needs to be an acceptance – yes it could happen again, but you know things now that you didn’t know before which can help. You or people around you can recognise the signs, you know what the hard thing is that you need to do that helps and most importantly you’ve done it before and you can do it again.

I don’t want to get into the arguments around if God heals you, you’re healed completely. I believe that, but the reality is that sometimes it’s hard to believe that every moment.

The lady thanked me for the chat and said I helped so much but all I did was listen, try to normalise what she was feeling, reaffirm her and give her hope.

On reflection I think I got more from her because she did something special in sharing part of her story with me, she broke the silence, she reached out, she made herself vulnerable enough to share her struggles – she was braver than I am.