This Weight Upon My Shoulders

Every couple of weeks or so I go through a spell of feeling like the weight of the world is resting solidly on my shoulders. During these times I feel tired and overwhelmed, certain that I’m doing too many things, that my hands are in too many projects. These are the times when I most seriously consider scaling back my activities and obligations in order to retain my sanity (such as it is), such as cutting out certain portions of our farm operations or dropping optional obligations to which I’ve committed.

Photo: rawlands under a Creative Commons license
Photo: hannah k (rawlands) under a Creative Commons license

For some reason, it always takes me a couple of days of this to realize that what I’m experiencing is a mild bout of depression. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like the deep, crippling depression that pushes me into suicidal ideation, and so it takes me longer to identify what’s going on. It also settles in slowly, a bit at a time over several days so that, at first, it simply feels like the kind of exhaustion born out of a busy lifestyle. To add insult to injury, this usually coincides during times of actual sleep deprivation, which is indicative that the two things are actually related. Either way, the feeling of being tired masks the fact that this is really the onset of depression, albeit a minor case. (That really soul-crushing depression typically only happens to me once or twice a year, the first always in January/February during the deepest, coldest part of winter, and once sometimes in the middle of the summer.) These smaller episodes occur more frequently — every two to three weeks — and are usually easier to bear up under, gritted teeth and shortened temper not withstanding.

These minor depressive episodes almost always pass within a couple of days, but while they’re here, this weight — it’s an actual, physical sensation — never leaves my shoulders. Identifying it and talking about it sometimes helps it abate more quickly, sometimes it doesn’t. At the very least, it is always something of a relief to recognize it when it’s happening.

2 thoughts on “This Weight Upon My Shoulders”

  1. Jim, I can understand completely where you’re coming from. In fact, we are very similar in that regard. And being deprived of sleep can certainly make the depression all the more weighted. That being said, I think God may be trying to tell you something. When we spread ourselves too thin, and feel the negative results, we typically need to do some soul searching and make some changes. Our mental health relates to our physical health in many ways. You guys do an awful lot…raising a huge garden and selling the produce, horse boarding, carriage rides, and probably others I don’t know about. Along with raising two children and taking care of a farm and its residents. So don’t be too hard on yourself for identifying what some usually just let slide and let it take control. But if you’re experiencing this every two to three weeks, you should definitely consider making some life changes.

    When I started my business in 2007 with two partners, I thought it was the best thing ever – it was scary and risky but I wanted to get a taste of being a true business owner. Instead of finding happiness, I found it was taking my life away from me, slowly but surely. In fact, I knew and felt this early on, perhaps after only 6 months. But I wanted to stick with it, thinking it was just the fear of this working out that was putting doubts in my head. After four years, and high blood pressure, I decided I had to make some changes. I was feeling suicidal, was miserable on almost a daily basis, and knew in my heart that God was saying, “I’m preparing a way for you. Don’t fear and make the decision you know you need to make.” I was afraid of leaving because both my husband and I were self employed. But once I made that decision, I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I wanted to enjoy life again. And God provided my husband with more clients than he had ever had. He says to this day that he believes my decision to leave the business was providential. I believe that too. I could have stayed and continued to be miserable, but it wasn’t worth it. I had to get passed feeling like a failure, and I have. And now have my own business at home and am feeling so much better. Just thought I’d share that with you, and hope it’s encouraging for you.

    Change is never easy, but we always have to be open to it. God will provide, as He always does. We just need to heed His advice. :)

    1. It’s pretty normal for people with major depression to experience a regular cycle of ‘ups’ and ‘downs.’ Even medication doesn’t always completely eliminate the cycle, and I know I’m not the only one to experience the almost semi-annual recurrence of the really bad episodes that almost make life unbearable. I’ve learned to cope with the depression, since I’ve dealt with it now for most of my adult life, and we have made some pretty significant lifestyle changes over the years to help mitigate its effects. Despite that, these cycles persist and there’s always a vague undertone of the depression underlying everything even on my best and happiest days. I know the biggest contributor to my stress levels these days are the sleep deprivation coming from having a new baby, but now that he’s starting to sleep through the night more consistently, I’m hoping catching up on some sleep will help. Aside from that, there’s not a whole lot more we can trim out of our lives to simplify. The late start to spring certainly hasn’t helped, settings us behind on planting as it did. But it’s all par for the course. I’m not complaining, mind you; I love where we are in life and the things we’re able to do with our farm right now. We just kind of got piled on this spring, and it makes some of these ‘down’ cycles feel a little bit worse. It’ll pass — it always does — and then I’ll be good again for a few weeks. It’s the nature of doing business with depression. Most days I’m ok. Some days, like the couple this week, it’s a struggle to get through the day.

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