It is ok!, I am Depressed (Part I)-Mental Health, and Self Care in Organizing


Fil Anderson in his book “Running on Empty” says, “We actually want to be seduced by busyness. But why do we love the killer? In part, it’s because when we’re busy, we don’t have to think about important matters we prefer to avoid. Busyness enables us to quiet the voice of the deeper issues that trouble and haunt us. Plus busyness makes us feel important. Everyone prefers action and adventure to boredom. Sadly if we do not stop, we will go on with our busyness until it kill us”

After almost four years organizing in the immigrant, and workers rights movements, participating, planning, putting together campaigns, marches, rallies; after facilitating dozens of popular education trainings, and help organize grassroots organizing groups to face the immediately, and long term threats against our communities; after hundreds of meetings, conference calls, conferences, and conventions; after helping workers recovered their unpaid wages; after starting a complete new life from scratch after losing my pastoral position at the church; after moving 2 times to whole unknown places, and start all over again making connections, and new friends. After I lost my father, and found myself in deep debt. After pushing away my faith, and any involvement with any organized church. After finding myself alone, without a partner or companionship. After I committed myself 100% for my physical and health transformation. After all these amazing, transforming, and life changing events happened, suddenly everything collapsed. I found myself in a very deep and profound hole, trying to make sense, not of my past, neither my future, but of the reality of my present. Suddenly without any warning, I started sobbing uncontrollably, and a feeling of hopelessness surrounded my so shaken soul. There was only one single thought in my mind: “is my life worth enough to keep living it?”

Depression is one of the most misunderstood illness in our society right now, most people think is when people are in a low emotional mood, so the solutions to this is, like many would tell me: “Shake the sadness and enjoy life”, or “Go for a walk/run and you will see how everything changes”, “Take control of your emotions and get over it”. All these comments, even though their intention are to help, the only thing that create is the realization that people really do not understand what depression is, and the different forms this illness can take. At the same time there is so much stigma when people refers to depression, because of this, people tend not to publicly accepted, and even worst they deny it as something they are going through. In consequence depression, without even noticing that is happening, is destroying lives, families, work places, and communities. According to the Health Promotion Board: “Despite being one of the most common mental disorders, depression is often misunderstood. These myths and misconceptions may contribute to the stigma attached to depression, discouraging those affected to talk about their symptoms or seek help and treatment” (http://www.hpb.gov.sg/)

There are many myths in the illness, two of the most commons are: Depression is about feeling sad and is a sign of weakness. According to the same above organization, these are the facts that contradict these two myths:

MYTH: Depression is about feeling sad.
FACT:
 Depression is more than feeling sad. A persistent feeling of sadness is one of the symptoms of depression. However, depression also involves physical symptoms such as changes in appetite and quality of sleep, emotional symptoms such as feelings of worthlessness and changes in behavior such as the loss of interest in our usual activities. For people experiencing depression, these symptoms continue for more than two weeks.

MYTH: Depression is a sign of weakness.
FACT:
 Depression is unrelated to the strength of someone s character; it is a serious medical condition like asthma or diabetes. Depression is often triggered by major life events that may be challenging to cope with, e.g., the loss of a loved one, loss of job, etc.

Part of living a vulnerable life is to always recognize I do not have all the things together, neither the control of my life. To be able to open myself to you is for me the first step to realize that I cannot do this by myself, that I need the community of my fellow friends in order to overcome my faults, and even to be able to live a better life in the midst of depression. It is in these low moments when I realized how blessed, and fortunate I am for having such a great community of people who love, and care for me. I have always heard that the darkest moment of the night is the beginning of the dawn, and for me in this journey, there are many dark nights, but also bright mornings.

For the last year I have dedicated myself to transform my life from an inactive, and unhealthy life, to an active and healthy lifestyle. In that process other areas of my life started to change as well. My spirit started to be in touch with my faith in Christ that for many years was very strong, but for the last couple of years was stalled. But in all these years I have never dedicated  to take care of my soul, where I think my emotions are. After many years pretending I could do this by myself without seeking a lot of help, after years of trying to help others, I forgot to help myself in this area. Little by little my emotions, and my mind started to affect my body, and suddenly and emotional breakdown happened. It has been 2 weeks since that moment, but in reality there have been many days and weeks who I have been feeling down, and it was really hard to even concentrate in the simplest things like checking an email, or even to listen to the worker’s issues, and try to think what else to do. I have been absent for a couple of months, and I never saw the warning signs. But after all, there is one thing to know, it is ok! I am depressed.  Just the fact to let it out, it is the beginning of the healing. It does not make me weaker, or less of a man, it makes me stronger, and more of a human.

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark.
In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace mean”
-Brennan Manning

In the immigrant, workers, and low-income community rights, we are so preoccupied to make changes in the system we are constantly fighting against, that we forget about making changes in taking care of ourselves, mentally and physically. If we continue with this life’s rhythm, there are going to be many organizers burnout, and a very damaged movement. The same way we are fighting for justice, we need to start taking care of our own personal justice. After living this experience, I know that I do have to take care of myself in a holistic way, I mean, in all the areas: spirit, soul, and body.

 

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