to humble us,
to soften us and make more room in our tender hearts,
to reveal our sensitivity and teach us compassion,
to help us process our losses and burn away the bullshit parts,
to confront us with our crappy relationships,
to enrich us and acquaint us with our humanity,
and when it’s over, to equip us with hope, that which is a product of struggle.
Schools can make you and break you
My time in primary school was that of a happy, fairly popular kid. The teachers knew my older brother and sister (both good students) and my mom worked at a pharmacy next to my school so I somehow felt held by the system. I didn’t realise for a long time what a privilege this was and how blind it made me to some of the other kids in class who were less bouncy, curly, visible, known… they seemed to matter less to the rest of us and thus were more likely to fall through the cracks.
Fast forward to secondary school, the strictest and most academic schooling joint in town, which I chose for myself, is where I got confronted with the creme de la creme of the emerging intelligence in the city and I just didn’t measure up. It was as stark and brutal as it was true. These kids could study. Everything. The dull and the ugly. And they wanted to please their teachers too. Me? A rebel without a cause, I didn’t know how please anyone to save my life. And man, did I pay for it!
Do you feel as inadequate as I do?
At the time, it felt like my life revolved around that question. Do you also feel as inadequate as I do? As insecure? I might have been a rebel but something got broken and shame moved in. Was I thought of as dumb? Nope, but being 4th from the bottom in academic results never felt nice. Was I ugly? Nope, but being one of the heaviest gals in class wasn’t a pretty sight at that time either. Was I friendless? Nope, not at all in fact, but imagining the questions my friends had about my poor grades made me wince many a time.
Maybe you’re not in enough pain yet?
I didn’t seem to care about school, all I wanted to know was people, from the inside out. They didn’t teach that at school. Nor did they teach us it mattered. And when a friend struggling through a nasty break-up was referred to attend a group therapy, my eyes lit up. I literally thought I had to get referred to it too. To get my question answered. When I finally dialled the number and a kind lady’s voice made me cry, I felt somewhat relieved. Maybe I wasn’t faking it? The same kind lady saw me a few times before referring me to the programme and both reassured me I was in the right place and offered a challenge when I wavered about commitment: ‘Maybe you’re not in enough pain yet?’
There is more room in a broken heart
I was. We sat in a circle, the 12 of us, for 3 months, every day, 6 hours straight. We were told that the only excuse for being absent is a death certificate. I liked the radical approach. It felt hard core, dramatic. Card core enough to allow me to get my shame stories out, the shitty narratives I told myself about myself. It was a physically painful act and psychologically and spiritually a profoundly liberating one. I threw myself into it: the psychological drawing, psychodrama, visualisation, movement, the arguments, the reconciliations. It was intense, personal, hard-hitting, connecting, exacting, heart-wrenching. The stories we carry are heart-breaking. I since learnt there is more room in a broken heart.
We are not meant to be awesome, we are meant to be human
Depression is not pretty, and it can be fatal. I do not treat it lightly. I am a melancholic type and sadness and numbness have sometimes been my most faithful companions. Like in that therapy room at a tender age of 22 where I learnt to dig deep for gold in my life earlier than most. The wisdom of that experience confused me a little, maybe even slowed me down at first too because I could smell bullshit and falsehood of the rat race from a mile ahead and never forgot that human dignity is the primary currency of human life. In good times and in bad ones. I am grateful for the suffering. The joy, grace, compassion, courage and wisdom only became available to me at the end of that dark tunnel.
As the Instagram generation is ravaged by teen anxiety and depression and the newspapers are shouting that we are letting down the kids, part of me thinks, letting down how? Isn’t pain, hardship and hard questions what life is made of? Maybe we must allow it, the suffering that is, to burn off the bullshit. Maybe depression is humanity’s most effective marketing trick to seduce us back to our true nature? Maybe we wouldn’t listen otherwise. And so I offer this, the purpose of depression is to deepen us, because we are not meant to be awesome, we are meant to be human.
Seek help to make sense of your suffering:
- If you wonder if you are suffering from depression, please check NHS website for a list of symptoms.
- Seek help in a way that feels appropriate. It doesn’t have to be your closest circle of friends, sometimes it may be part of the problem. As crazy as it may sound, my parents never knew I was referred to a group therapy. Not at the time. And not that they were a problem. We just didn’t know how to talk about things like that.
- Where to get help: Please speak to your local GP, seek private counselling, call Samaritans, if your employer has an Employee Assistance Programme, please don’t hesitate to call them. As an ex-HR professional I can assure you, these services are 100% confidential and HR despair at times when people don’t use them when needed.
- As a Sanctus Coach, I often refer people to Sanctus Directory for further details.