Honest reflections about marriage and mission work when dealing with the anxiety and depression

  • Charlie Clayton

Where it all began

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

So you’re telling me that you wake up every morning and just look forward to the day?

It was in this brief, early morning conversation with Abby that I realised for sure that something wasn’t right. There had been an inkling for a number of months that things weren't as they should be - some conversations and brief exploration around 'the black dog' and feeling low. But I had assumed for sure that everyone woke up the same way I did.


Not just about key events in the day that may take some delicate care, but about everything that could feasibly happen in the upcoming 14 hours of being awake. Before even getting out of bed, I needed at least 20 minutes of mental gymnastics, running through all the scenarios from morning until night until I was satisfied I knew what was going to happen in general, how I would cope with it and how I could manage it if not.

It is important to note that in this moment in time, the Mediterranean sea was less than 20 metres from my bedroom window. I had a beautiful wife, a vocation that I loved, supportive friends and family, a varied role that allowed work life balance, and a dog who was slightly unhinged but whom I adored. I wasn't in a rut in life wondering where it all went wrong.

view from a terrace over the sea
The view from our terrace
And maybe that was part of the problem. There was nothing tangibly wrong.

I couldn't exactly put my finger on why my world was in turmoil, but I knew that it was. My emotions were both heightened and numbed. My relationships had my bodily presence and verbal connection, but were at the same time emotionally absent. I was fully committed to my vocation and 'put in the hours' but yet was not able to fully engage in what I was doing.

To the outside world I would be the furthest away from depression. I imagine many people who know me well may be surprised by the content of this blog. But that is what many people with anxiety and depression are really good at - creating a front. And I had developed an incredible front. It had taken years of honing and shaping. In some ways I was quite proud of it! I had my business front, my church front, my husband front, my son front, my 'leader of a mission project' front, my 'I crack jokes aren't I funny' front (I am definitely funny..), my prayer front (yes even prayer), my 'I have life in control' front, all of which had managed to serve me well so far, apart from two things:

Firstly, it was exhausting. Absolutely exhausting. To have to go through the day reacting, pretending, analysing, performing and more…. took an incredible amount of energy reserves, in order to stop life unravelling.

Secondly I got married. Which was brilliant of course. I am punching well above my weight. But for trying to manage anxiety and depression, honestly, it mostly felt like the worse thing that could have happened. How do you front when someone is there? How do you escape from your public persona to hide away in silence when your spouse is around and wants your attention? How do you deal with complex emotions when you can't even really access yours? How do you develop a genuinely loving relationship when you have pretended for so long that you don't know where you start and end? And as for handling kids at the same time...... well that will be a whole section entirely...

And so it was at this point that my journey of exploring why I felt this way really began. I'd like to say that it was all easy from there. Honestly, I have been to the depths of my soul and back, and some days I wished I hadn't even started. Facing yourself can be one of the hardest things to do: taking off the mask, allowing yourself to face difficult scenarios in order to be able to heal, to accept current reality and the impact you have, and process the past, is likely a lifelong task for us all in one way or another. For those with anxiety or depression, it can feel like the scariest decision in the world.

But, in recent months, after finding a level of healing facing some core things in my life, I can say that it is worth it.

And it is with this hope that we write this blog. That in our being honest about our marriage, our working together in mission, and the impact that mental health has had on those that suffer and the loved ones who try and cope, it may in some way help, relieve or at the very minimum allow you to not feel alone in your personal circumstances.

We hope you will be able to join with us as we blog and we would love to hear your comments and feedback.

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