Depression. It has certainly tested my resolve in the last twelve months. I would like to share humbly what I have learned about dealing with depression. This is not meant to help if you are suicidal or wish to harm yourself. In that case, I urge you to call someone and get help. If you have no one to call, call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 211.
These are some of the effects depression has had on me. Sometimes it feels like you are lost in a fog; nothing is in focus, everyone seems far away, and you just don’t care. Sometimes it leads to panic attacks. Sometimes it seems every grief in the world is piercing your heart, and you can’t stop crying. Sometimes people give you well-meaning advice that just makes you feel worse. One of the things I struggled with was to “Think of all the things you are grateful for!” What if I don’t feel grateful? What if I resent you for even saying that?
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4)
The first thing I learned was that I must accept that depression itself is a part of life. It is not because God is ignoring us, or that we have sinned, or that we will never get out of depression. It is the path we have been given to walk, a time for introspection and growth. Jesus told us to take up our cross. Our first step is being strong enough, disciplined enough, to accept that. It is a process, like metamorphosis. The caterpillar crawls into a cocoon and seems to die. If you look at it, it looks like a dead leaf. Nothing seems to be happening. But inside, a wondrous miracle is in process, and the caterpillar is being transformed.
Take time to examine what is really going on internally:
Is it really grief? You have probably heard of the five stages of grief, but they are not something you move through in sequence. The pain you felt at the very first may reoccur at some unexpected trigger, like a song or a memory, and a wave of grief will wash over you like the first day you were grieving.
Is it fear? I heard two news stories on two different topics one day, in which both said, “It’s normal to be scared.” I wanted to say, “No, it’s NOT!” Of course we are afraid of the pandemic. But it is not normal that I am afraid to leave my house or hug my friends and family. We have been terrified by the turmoil surrounding our country’s succession of power and what will become of our freedoms. But that is not normal! There is no shame in being afraid.
Is it anger? It is so easy to fall into the trap of bitterness, whether the wrong is real or imagined, and it will always destroy your relationships. The author of Hebrews warned: “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:15).
Is it exhaustion? If you are someone who continues to work through pain or tiredness, this is a possibility. I realized I was punishing myself by refusing to rest, as if I didn’t deserve to be happy. Take time to eat healthy food, drink fresh water, exercise, sleep, and spend time in fresh air and sunshine. Give your soul a chance to rest and breathe.
Is it denial? If you have to constantly reassure yourself that the path you are taking is correct, it’s time to reassess! Take time to listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you, or what your heart is telling you. If you are someone who lies to yourself, this is a hard one to confront. Remember to love yourself!
I have used different methods to track my self-assessment. Try journaling. Try listening to podcasts or reading books on overcoming depression. Read the scripture; the Psalms express every emotion you can imagine. Sing the songs that well out of your heart. Go to a counselor or pastor to help your search for peace. Like anything worthwhile, it will not happen automatically.
Eventually a day will come when you notice a beautiful sunrise or find yourself singing “Amazing Grace.” When the fog of my depression lifted, it was like seeing the world for the first time. The beautiful moth emerged from its cocoon, rested in the sun till its wings dried, then took to the air. Gratefulness will fill your heart again.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Let us pray...
Through many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.