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Depression Survey Feedback

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As someone who has not suffered from depression, in order to help with my thinking and to make the content of these presentations more ‘real,’ I invited anyone in our Church (Blaze) to respond in their own words to a simple 4 question survey. Obviously, their responses apply to their own experiences and to this church, but I think that their honest reflections are probably a good representative sample of many people’s experiences both here and in other places. In order not to prejudge or pigeonhole people, I sent the invitation to all church members, and received responses from people with different types of depression and different experiences, triggers and journeys. These include long term clinically diagnosed bipolar disorder, childhood experiences leading to long term problems, depression caused by work related stress triggering reactions to other issues, postnatal depression, and several others. These are the questions that I sent round: 1: What are the main symptoms or experiences of depression for you? 2: What do Blaze/Blaze people do that you find helpful? 3: What do Blaze/Blaze people do that you do not find helpful? 4: What else would you appreciate or do you need from Blaze/Blaze people? I promised that the replies would remain confidential, and only be quoted anonymously. What follows is selected anonymised quotes from all the responses, reorganised into random order to make identification less likely. I have tried to leave the honesty intact, so that people who have never suffered depression can have a glimpse of how it feels, and so that depression sufferers can have a rare opportunity to communicate freely about the weaknesses and strengths of this church’s response to them and their struggles. Where necessary these quotes have been edited to make them less identifiable. I apologise to anyone who feels that too much editing may have lessened the impact of their comments, or too little editing may have left them identifiable.

Jez Bayes Sept 2011 1/7

1: What are the main symptoms or experiences of depression for you? “Originally diagnosed with the bi-polar form of depression some twenty years ago. This, as you know, has two distinct acute phases : the 'highs' or mania and the 'lows' or depression phase .In the mania phase there is little insight or control. I tend to forget to eat or sleep, talk non-stop, spends lots of money on things I don't really want or need and make bad decisions. Thankfully I have not experienced this for ten years or more.“ “During depression, I withdraw from all the things and people I love in life. I neglect myself and my home, become very tearful, lose all track of time and either unable to sleep or sleep all the time. I ignore the telephone and knocks at the door and allow the post to pile up,unanswered. Life seems hopeless and frightening.” “Having depression for me is like driving down a road in patchy fog - one minute you know where your going, where you have been and that you are in a car driving along the road. Then you hit a patch of depression and you don’t know where you are, where you have been, where the road is going, where it ends and your not even 100% sure your even in a car anymore. That for me sums up depression - I say for me because I am not 100% convinced depression is the same for everyone The common symptoms probably the same but I am sure there are as many different symptoms as there are sufferers.” “Weariness, hopelessness, purposelessness, failure, rejection, extreme pessimism, short-temperedness, loss of libido.” “A friend helped by telling me that although I may have depression, it doesn't define who I am as a person. This has been helpful as has the Freedom in Christ Course …” “After suffering for a long time at some level with undiagnosed depression, I was then given a list describing the symptoms and realised it described mine. Went to the Dr, medication helped manage the symptoms. Then God revealed longstanding issues which quickly proved the key and so recovered.” “Depression can lie dormant, with the root cause being quite old when finally addressed.” Journal quotes: “Overwhelming weariness. Desire to escape into sleep, to be free of consciousness. Great heaviness of spirit. No spiritual/emotional/psychological energy or vigour.” “Oh to have aims, goals…other than unconsciousness. Oh to be able to feel able to face challenges; instead I fear failure, rejection, challenges of any kind, I fear having to fight or argue my corner.” 2/7

“Self doubt. Lack of self confidence. Expectation of failure, rejection, ostracism. Willingness to run myself down. Total inability to be assertive when needed. Tendency to collapse under any challenge or attack.” “I feel that i can't cope getting through the day without planned interaction with other people. I get very low when something that I've planned to do, eg meet up with x is cancelled. I feel very lonely and out of control of my feelings.” “Feelings of inadequacy; unable to cope; rejection; worthlessness; feeling unwanted and unneeded. I over-analyse things, distrust and criticise my own motives and feelings and go backwards and forwards or round in ever-decreasing circles until I just end up feeling really bad.” “I think with help I have come to have less and less depressive spells and when they come they don’t last long - I don’t think I will ever not have depression but you learn to live with it. I still have days I want to kill myself but I now think more of the people who are left behind than myself and I tell myself suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” “The main symptoms are feeling low not caring about anything, want to be left alone and at the same time wanting someone to talk to. On the whole life just gets too hard to cope.” “Main symptoms have been: inability to control my emotions, panic attacks, feelings of hopelessness, moments of extreme sadness (to the point of not knowing if you can carry on), feeling like there is no future and you have no control over anything anyhow. Good days would be ones where nothing happened at all, bad ones where even standing up was too challenging. The feeling of wanting to lay down (no matter where I was) and close my eyes, was the biggest challenge of all. Even on medication and coming out of the other side now I still occasionally get this urge if stressed and it's almost overwhelming. I have to leave the situation and take myself somewhere calm till it passes.” “Flat, numb, lacking interest in or enthusiasm for anything, feeling unable to cope with almost anything, even the slightest setback can become a major upset, liability to collapse into tears at the least little thing, over-sensitivity to any criticism.”

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2: What do Blaze/Blaze people do that you find helpful? “A few people have looked out for me and haven't minded me popping round whenever. Texts and invites to get out and do something rather than having to organise stuff all the time which is hard work when depressed. As its the last thing you really feel like doing but need to, to keep you out of a ‘Woe is me’ mind set.” “Since joining Blaze, my life has, quite literally, been transformed. The people have been so welcoming. They are tolerant and understanding and when all else fails, can always offer prayer. Being with fellow-believers is such a comfort and I love that I can feel useful by serving in simple ways. My last few years have been so happy, sharing good times such as weddings, birthdays and baby-showers and feel my age and lifeexperience may help in sad and difficult times.” “Blaze/Blaze people have been really helpful in that courses like FIC and the Marriage Day have been provided through Blaze and these have been extremely helpful and have encouraged me to develop and grow, and therefore be stronger, as a Christian. There was an initial warmth and welcoming attitude at the Church. people seemed accepting and friendly and have been generally very complimentary and encouraging to me when I see them. People are always willing to pray with, and for, you. The teaching is good and I feel challenged and encouraged by what I hear in the sermons. I feel God speaks to me and I am blessed through the services.” “My friends in the church who knew where I was were very understanding, and as sympathetic as they knew how to be.” “God has recently healed me of my depression.” “Some people have been great, just letting me know they are there if I need them. A couple of people even pushed through without being overbearing and that's been brilliant. It's a hard one to know how to help, but just a call or a text without being over loading has been great. Some people were very patient indeed and allowed me to try and meet up and made it clear that I could cancel even last minute and that was great. One other person going through similar issues has been a great help to me - but not sure if that counts as we were both on anti depressants and struggling together. Also another friend has been totally brilliant including me in stuff and coming over for tea and car advice.”

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3: What do Blaze/Blaze people do that you do not find helpful? “When new in the church, I found it took a little while to be accepted and get to know people but homegroups, and being invited to play a more active role were really helpful.” “What was most difficult was that they simply did not understand that all their efforts to rationalise me out of my way of thinking were doomed to failure: I could not just decide to feel different and think positively. There was a degree of failure to understand that depression should not be regarded as sin but as sickness, but thankfully I didn’t suffer too much from that kind of thinking.” “I struggle in my role as a woman at Blaze. I feel that my 'gifts' will have to be within certain parameters or they won't be acceptable and therefore I won't be acceptable. I wonder sometimes if there is even a place for me, as a woman, at Blaze.” “Not so helpful is that this 'acceptance' and friendliness over time has never really developed. People are still very nice on the surface when I see them but in general it doesn't go any deeper than that. There are a few exceptions but overall, although the 'friendliness' is still there I'm not sure that I feel any more accepted and welcome as a friend than I did when I first started at Blaze. I don't really feel like I 'fit' in in many ways. I don't feel that I am needed or that people are even genuinely that interested in what is happening with me once Sunday is over. It seems unfair to say it but it seems 'cliquey' at Blaze and most people have their friendship groups already and are not actually that interested in including new people at a deeper level. It's difficult because people are busy and there are a lot of young families with a lot more naturally in common with each other than with us but it is disappointing that, in general, people don't try to come alongside us as a family or as individuals.” “I don't find it helpful when I hear of others having got together (ie gone to the Eden project) and I've not been invited. As that would have helped me so much, but instead finding out I've been left out makes me feel really rubbish about myself and low.” “It probably doesn't help that we don't live in Newquay.” “I feel like I can't just 'be' but I've got to 'do' to be accepted at Blaze. I want to 'do' but I feel that I need to 'rest' and wait on God for a bit longer.” “What was most painful was that other people could do/say things that I felt emotionally incapable of. Others were not being unfeeling, it was just that I knew I could not do what they were doing and that added to the sense of isolation and pain.” “I know that at the very start I felt very abandoned, and we felt like we were going through it alone. It's hard to know how people could have helped, because I was unable 5/7

to communicate at all, but feeling like no one knew what was going on was hard... people just seemed to disappear and leave us alone, almost like they were too embarrassed to be around us. Don't feel like there was any communication between the leaders and me at the point I really needed them to know what was going on. This has been better - but have a nagging suspicion that this was because they were prompted to by others. I don't think my wife was supported at all until recently - certainly at one point I think felt totally alone and trying to carry the weight of the family etc.. while I was completely unable to. I would have liked to have seen more input from people asking how they could help her. (I think more from guys who could have taken on some jobs that I couldn't do).” “Another thing that I find difficult is the encouragement, which feels like emotional pressure to me, to worship in a particular way, ie 'speak out' at the front; work out my spiritual gift; eagerly desire spiritual gifts like prophecy, tongues etc. I feel inadequate to do these things, which is fine as it should be the Holy Spirit who does these things through me but then I feel a spiritual failure because I don't perform in a way that is acceptable to what I perceive is expected from me.”

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4: What else would you appreciate or do you need from Blaze/Blaze people? “More of the same ! Also, I feel that it might prove useful in the future for those fellowsufferers to be aware of one another so they could offer support in times of need.” “Acceptance and love that extends beyond Sundays. Friends for Monday to Friday. Fellowship. To be needed for myself and not for what I can do. To be allowed to do what I can and not what other people want from me. To feel able to openly discuss issues like the role of women in the Church without it being controversial and feeling that I will be disapproved of.” “I have tried to be honest about how I feel and I recognise that it is exactly that, ie. how I feel, and not actual fact of how things are at Blaze. Also, reading this, it sounds as if I am quite negative about things but I do believe that whilst there are problems, (there is no perfect Church) overall we, as a family, a couple and as individuals, are growing and becoming more like the people God intends us to be - still a long way to go though, obviously!” “What else would I have appreciated? I don’t know now, and can’t, thankfully, think myself back into the depths of depression to remember.” “A call from someone at church when it gets bad it does make me wonder if it is worth the effort of getting in touch with anyone and at that point having a call from someone may help.” “Not sure how to answer this one. I feel at a distance from the church as a result of not being around and not having much contact. Certainly coming back into church is not something I am looking forward too. The sense of pressure within that step if daunting. I recognise that is within me, and am not sure how anyone could change that. I think a level of understanding of depression is vital. I certainly didn't have any idea before and my eyes have been opened in a pretty brutal way. I have retained a pretty good sense of self awareness throughout and can see that there have been moment when to an outsider my behaviour may have appeared either lazy or self centred, and I want to try and challenge that perception. There needs to be a level of understanding of an illness that has symptoms and the patience and grace to work with those.”

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