So this is not my usual kind of blog post. You have been warned.
Being depressed sucks.
No, like, I know you know this. It’s just that it sucks in ways you don’t really think about.
For instance, one of the things Helpful People are always telling you is that your feelings are valid. And it IS important to know that. The problem is that when you’re depressed, your feelings might be valid, but they are based on an inherently skewed perspective that is sometimes super far from the truth.
For example, I might be angry with someone because I feel like I’ve worked my ass off for them and they’ve only criticized my work and never praised it. Well, if that were the case, those feelings would be valid, as in, totally reasonable. Of COURSE if you’ve done a lot of work for somebody and they’ve only been critical, you’re going to be angry! The problem is that with me, at least, part of my depression is that I become super sensitive to criticism, so I really remember it and it really hurts me, while I tend to brush off compliments and forget they happened because, on some level, I don’t believe them. So I’ve got this weird double-think where I believe I deserve compliments, but I don’t think I got any because when I DID get them I disbelieved them. In any case, the person I’m angry with might have complimented me PLENTY of times; it’s just that ALL I remember are the criticisms. In that case, my anger is totally UNreasonable: it is unreasonable to angry with someone about something that never even happened except in your head.
In the last week I’ve opened up to two people about some things that have been bugging me in my family dynamics. Usually I only complain to my mom and to my bestie Jen, both of whom (Jen especially) will always have my back and validate my feelings. But I KNOW that Jen validates my feelings, so I don’t always trust her validation (which is also unreasonable thinking). So when I opened up to two other people I knew well but not so well that I expected them to automatically back me up, and they DID back me up, I felt AMAZING because they reassured me that my feelings were reasonable: the situation WAS super messed up, and it was totally reasonable to feel as angry as I did about it.
One of the symptoms of depression is black-and-white thinking: EVERYTHING is either PERFECT or AWFUL; there is no in-between. This, again, can make one’s feelings very unreasonable. It’s why, when people commit suicide, lots of people who knew them just can’t figure out why, because the problem really was NOT that bad. But to the person with depression, it LOOKED that bad.
This summer I’ve been working as a summer youth pastor. I’m supposed to meet once a week with the associate pastor (who also works with the youth). The meeting before last, he gave me a brief critique of my teaching: he said I talked to fast (I always do, and more so when I’m nervous–which having adults in the room–WHICH I ALMOST ALWAYS DO IN THE YOUTH GROUP–makes me nervous, sooo…), and he wanted me to do more student interaction with the lesson (it was a history of the Old Testament series he’s been seeing me teach, and of course, it’s lecture-heavy and question-light, because it’s new info for the kids–BUT RATHER IMPORTANT INFO?), and he wanted me to do more stuff that was about their everyday lives and the stuff they were struggling with. Not that they tell us what they’re struggling with, which he acknowledged. But he only sees one of the three lessons I was teaching every week (the others were a series on world religions, and a bunch of life application lessons with a large amount of student interaction–WHEN I CAN GET THEM TO INTERACT). If you’ve noticed that I’m very defensive about his criticisms, it’s partly because I have atypical depression, and one of the symptoms is “over-sensitivity to personal rejection”, and I felt a lot of personal rejection in his criticisms. Never mind that he was super nice about his criticisms. Never mind that he’s probably right that I need to slow down and could do more asking kids for interaction with the lesson. Never mind that I willingly gave HIM criticism on his preaching (he’s studying for the ministry) when he asked for it. But when he criticized my teaching, it HURT. Like, really hurt. I cried on the drive home.
And I realized today why it hurt me so much and why it has made me want out of this youth pastor job even more: (not only because I probably have PMS today, but) because I felt like the teaching was the only part of the job I was doing WELL.
As a summer youth pastor, I’m supposed to help organize fun activities. I didn’t do so great at that this summer, partly because I had trouble getting kids together to do things, partly because depression makes jobs overwhelming, partly because I was already planning and teaching three lessons a week, and partly because depression makes any kind of task harder. I’m also supposed to hang out with teens in smaller groups. I did a LITTLE of this, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to do–for most of the same reasons stated above. So I was super feeling like a failure in this job–except for One Thing: the teaching. I’m GOOD at teaching–or at least, so I thought. I was teaching these kids some things they had never learned before, like about world religions and church history (THEY DIDN’T KNOW WE WERE PROTESTANT. THEY DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THE WORD PROTESTANT *MEANT*!) and the history of the Old Testament. Things I would have KILLED to have church classes on when I was a teenager instead of the same old thing we got every week: a Bible story I’d heard fifty times before with a life application I knew already and a bunch of questions that could be answered with either “Jesus”, “prayer,” and “go to church”.
And then with one meeting, he made me feel like I had failed at the teaching, too. Like all that good work I thought I had done was worthless. And if the ONE THING I had done right this summer wasn’t right… that meant I hadn’t done well at ANY of it. It made me feel like a total failure.
It’s only now, when I’m looking at the reasons WHY I taught the things I did–and the fact that I was doing some of the stuff he wanted me to do, just not in the lesson he attends–that I realize that maybe his criticism was wrong–instead of my reaction being unreasonable, black-and-white, overreactive. I mean, it was still probably black-and-white and overreactive, but at least now I know that my response wasn’t necessarily unreasonable: not because I AM a total failure as a youth pastor, but because his criticism was, in some ways, wrong. It makes a big difference.
In any case, I want out of this job. I’m technically still youth pastor until the 27th–two weeks away–and I told them a month or so ago–when I wasn’t anxious and burnt out about the job and feeling like my teaching wasn’t what they wanted–that I would continue to teach on a volunteer basis. Now I really don’t want to. I just want out.
On top of that, school starts next week. It was supposed to start on this coming Thursday, but lightning struck the high school (!) and messed up the electrical systems, so the high school doesn’t start until next Monday (!!) (I totally thought the kids were pulling my leg when they told me). In any case, that means I have to start subbing soon, and I HATE IT. I hate getting a sick feeling in my stomach every time the phone rings; I hate going to sleep and not knowing if the phone’s going to wake me up at 5:30 AM and tell me I have to work the next day; I hate getting up at ten till six to go to a job I dislike so thoroughly.j
The only bright spot is that I’m in interviews for a job half an hour away: a regular 8-5 job, $20 an hour, copyediting and writing for advertising! It’s right in my wheelhouse, and it has a casual dresscode (this is important to me lol) and would include decent health insurance that I (presumably) wouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for. I’ve done one interview and they want me back for a second, although they haven’t scheduled it yet. The only problem is that the job is temporary: 6-9 months with the possibility of extension. And though they encourage you to apply for other things with the co, including permanent positions, it would still mean that I would have to wait for a permanent job in order to move out of my parents’ house. And GOD, do I ever want to move out of my parents’ house.
I’m just… having a really hard time right now. Everything seems overwhelming and awful, and I don’t have the energy or the willpower to do anything. I just want to sleep forever and never wake up.