. . . when you withdraw, you are often desperate for someone to reach out to you. If that’s all the rest of us can offer, it’s a start.
Katharine Welby, daughter of the Archbishop of Canterbury, recently discussed her battle with depression in The Telegraph. What struck me about her journey was the similarity to the trajectory of many people suffering with symptoms called schizophrenia: onset in college years, denial, worsening symptoms, and a multifaceted approach to a healthy life in spite of symptoms. As to those who would say that depression or schizophrenia isn’t a unique tribulation, in a way they speak truth. In no way does that mean the torments of those conditions aren’t great. Those who suffer, often in private due to shame, need much assistance.
Welby’s struggle became public after she posted details in a blog to a small circle of friends. “I have friends, a nice home, a very supportive family nearby, a good church, a good job, a brilliant doctor and an incredibly wonderful boyfriend,” she wrote. “However, previously I have had many of these things and still found myself unable to find a way out of the despair.”¹
She said her depression began while taking A-levels exams and worsened while at university. “The doctor said, ‘Get help now and catch it before it gets bad’. So obviously, I just ignored that and didn’t go and get any help…” Another round of depression hit after she graduated. Counseling helped and she began working with the police force. The emotional overload became too great and the depression surged again at the beginning of last year, with what she calls “catastrophic” results.
(The following lengthy excerpts come from the interview as reported by Cole Moreton.)
Was she suicidal?
“Not quite. That came in April . . .My whole life fell apart. . . . I got to the point where I just couldn’t bear the thought of living any more. That got very aggressive and all-consuming.”
“I would go out every day, which was often the most horrendous effort, but I knew that if I didn’t then I would get myself into some real trouble,” she says. “When I completely lose it, I do get very erratic and just try to harm myself in any way possible. I knew that if I left myself alone for days at a time I would be a serious danger to myself. So I had a few very good friends I could just go and sit with.”
Did they her parents know?
“I hid it from them quite well. I don’t want to put a burden on other people – which in a way is quite selfish, because you’re actually giving people no opportunity to love you back to health.”
How, then, did she begin to recover?
“I spent hours every day reading the Bible and praying. I had Post-it notes with encouraging verses written on them and I stuck them all over my room. Everywhere. I got to the point where I was so miserable in myself, but so happy and peaceful with God.”
She was also helped by a “fantastic” doctor who listened, understood and eventually found the right medication. “I had cognitive behavioural therapy for a while. That helped. I had very good friends. I moved to a church where you are noticed and included immediately.”
What is her experience of the Church failing people with depression?
“Some Christians will say, ‘You’re not depressed’. Then they insinuate – or state directly – that you don’t have enough faith, or that depression is not biblical because the Holy Spirit gives us joy, or that you haven’t experienced the love of God. To which I just say, ‘I experienced the love of God more during my darkest period than at any other point in my life.’”
She doesn’t know if her depression is inherited, and doesn’t particularly care.
“Hopefully, one day I will be able to live free of it, and happily so. Maybe I won’t. But we have to acknowledge it is a very real thing, which affects a huge number of people,” she says.
“These people need support and they need love, and they need to know that if they have to retreat into a dark hole, someone might text them and say, ‘Hey, thinking of you’. Or drop in with a stew, so they can eat. Whatever it is, a sign that someone is thinking about them.
“I know from personal experience that when you withdraw, you are often desperate for someone to reach out to you. If that’s all the rest of us can offer, it’s a start.”
Reference: ¹ “Katharine Welby: ‘I got to the point where I just couldn’t bear the thought of living any more’” by Cole Moreton, The Telegraph, 5/07/2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/wellbeing/10037199/Katharine-Welby-I-got-to-the-point-where-I-just-couldnt-bear-the-thought-of-living-any-more.html