The other day, I experienced that most dispiriting of sensations – I saw something that made me smile, but the smile only happened on the outside. My face smiled, but I didn’t feel happy. I’d made the external connection between the experience and how I wanted to react, but the internal connection between my behaviour and my emotions wasn’t there. And it still isn’t.
Instead, there’s a sort of blank emptiness, sometimes filled with anxiety that makes my head spin, long after I’ve fixed the thing (like meeting the work deadline or taking my daily photo or sorting dinner) that triggered it in the first place. As a Christian, especially around Easter, this is particularly difficult to deal with. The most central feature of my life is based on joy and love and I can’t appreciate it. And I feel so ungrateful, and self-centred, and worthless. What is the use of me?
I serve, by helping with Junior Church, but often I do it bitterly. I’m scared that someone will notice how scared I am of not being able to control the children or teach them anything worth knowing or just engage with them at all, and that makes me angry and panicky, or at least something with the physical symptoms of anger and panic but with less actual emotion. I do Rainbows and I’m on a committee at work but I get stressed and feel underappreciated there too. I am constantly frustrated, both with the situations I find myself in and with my inability to react positively.
Messages from friends go unresponded to for weeks, I can’t get excited about upcoming holidays, I can’t even bring myself to hoist up the facade of being anything but weary at the office. I hate that other people can’t see how difficult this all is unless I let myself break down in front of them, which would be even worse. I do things mechanically, from the outside, because it’s more British, or something, just to get on with things instead of admitting I hate and resent them, oh, and I’m jealous because the other people who behave the same as me are doing it because their feelings are wired up correctly.
I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. I’ve got a headache and my chest is tight and I want to just be calm and have some actual emotions, with sensible causes, and to be able to spend time reading the Bible or praying or, you know, anything other than watching TV, without losing concentration after two minutes. Some Christian writers have claimed that depression is just a manifestation of sinful human nature and not a proper illness at all, and the thought of that makes me feel physically sick because if God *and* five years of happy pills can’t get me to a point where I can deal with own failings then what is the point? And if it is a proper illness, how am I supposed to deal with it? It reduces faith, like everything else, to just going through the motions. And I know that doesn’t change the facts, but it doesn’t make things any easier.
So I’m a blob of physical pain and stress and resent and I’m doing everything all wrong, and even wonderful little things like my husband making me a cup of my expensive special occasion tea because I’m struggling, even though he isn’t well, are only enough to poke a hole in the darkness for a moment or so. I’m not winning, and I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know what to do about any of the badly managed bits of my life, which is all of them. I have facts, but I want feelings. I want joy.