Depression can be a life-long struggle. It can be a one-time event. It can be onset by circumstance. It can come out of nowhere. People experience it differently and heal from it differently.
Depression might be hard to define, but it good for us to talk about it. This is my story of battling depression over the past few years. I’ve thought many times about sharing it with you, but I had no real insight, no follow-up. As I emerge from that gray cloud, I finally feel ready to be vulnerable.
It had been building for a couple years. I assumed it would work itself out, but instead I found myself in a very sad state. I thought about Heaven every day. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. This empty, hollow feeling haunted me. It was like seeing the world with a gray wash of paint over it, even on the sunniest day.
One poignant afternoon Marcello and I went to get coffee, just the two of us. It was a quaint little café with blooming tropical plants spilling onto the outdoor patio. The sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot.
As we sat there I realized I needed to get help. Even though it should have been a beautiful moment, I had a sinking feeling in my chest that I longed to escape from. Marcello was trying to engage in conversation with me. I gave it some effort, but was mostly withdrawn. I couldn’t escape myself. Looking back, these moments must have been quite difficult for him.
To be honest, I don’t like to revisit this memory. I’m terrified of going back to that place, but I believe talking about it might help someone.
Not every moment was like this. I had bright spots and thousands of sweet moments with my children. Outwardly I could fake it, but inwardly there were ups and downs. Sundays seemed to be the hardest. I’m not sure why. I have never been able to put my finger on it.
The apathy and disconnect led me to occasional self medication. It took many different forms — shopping, wine, food, projects … I’d realize I was being unhealthy and stop, but then subconsciously move onto a new “medication.”
I sought God. I sought counsel. I sought answers. On paper, I should have been happy as a lark. Inside I was a hollow shell. I decided that wasn’t ok and I was going to get help.
I finally made an appointment with my doctor and, though I knew I had nothing to be embarrassed about, I squirmed in my seat as she asked me questions.
I was sadly surprised at my answers.
My doctor could not have been more gracious, understanding and made me feel no shame whatsoever. She told me seeking help was the right thing to do. After confirming I had sought counseling, she prescribed me the lowest dose of an antidepressant.
Hear me carefully here, PLEASE. I am in no way saying that a pill can solve life problems, restore a marriage, bring back a loved one, cover shame or heal a broken heart. I am saying that if you have a relationship with God … If you are making loving efforts in your marriage … If you are doing what you can to restore a relationship, mend the past, move past hurt in healthy ways … it could be something more.
Some depression causes according to Very Well Mind:
- hormone imbalance or fluctuation
- poor nutrition
- chronic medical conditions
- substance abuse
My doctor told me it would take a month for the prescription to work. The first day I felt a physiological affect. My heart seemed to beat faster. I felt like I had just drank a black cup of coffee.
It took more like two months for my mood to lift. The medication never fully took it away, but it did take some weight off.
After the medication was in full affect I underwent some mental adjustments. First, I experienced the pattern of expecting to be sad. When you’re used to feeling empty on certain occasions or days or even for no reason you begin to anticipate it, to brace yourself. That in itself can create a dreary day.
After I got past the notion that I did not need to expect sadness, I found myself feeling guilty for my happiness! I would wake up in the night — you know, just tossing and turning for no real reason — and find myself excited to start the day. That truly surprised me!
Am I not concerned for the world and those who have less? Can I not find someone or something to mourn for in this moment?
Where I am now
About a year later, life was changing. All three kids were in school and becoming more independent. We were settled into our new home and I could breathe a little bit.
I’m currently not taking any medication, but I’m grateful I had the option when life seemed too big for me.
There’s no one-fits-all cure or clear cut victory. It’s more like an on-going process. There were many factors contributing to my healing. I had to do A LOT of work in my thought life.
I wasn’t even aware I could control my thoughts until my 30s! So it took quite a bit of learning and practice to hold thoughts captive to Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)
I look forward to starting the day again! I’m overall a content person with passion and energy. My smile is easier and the sun is shining again. I know that gray cloud might make a comeback in my life at some point, but I feel better equipped to do battle!
Thought Life Challenge
I wrote a devotional and workbook with everything I learned in the past five to seven years on weeding out negativity and finding joy in the Lord. Everything you say or do begins with a thought. Taking control of them means taking control of your life.
If you think this is something you could benefit from, but can’t afford it right now, let me know so I can gift it to you.
Depression and faith
I shared my depression battles with pastors and friends at church, and no one told me I should have more faith or made me feel any form of shame. I am fortunate in that regard, because I know there are people out there who would say to those struggling that they need more faith, that there must be sin in their lives.
To them, I would say, there is sin in all of our lives. If I didn’t have faith in Jesus Christ, I would be a shell of a person. I might have caved into more sin, looking for something to fill my void other than my Savior.
Without Him I would be in a much worse position. Without depression, I wouldn’t have seen God reach down from Heaven, time after time, with love and grace and mercy to this sorrowful soul. I get tears in my eyes thinking about the way He has cared for me.
Let me be clear, through depression, I have seen the maker of the universe, the God who spoke to Moses, the One who commands angel armies, reach down to comfort me personally, tell me I belong to Him and give me purpose.
I don’t believe that I would know His love or attention to detail or unfathomable greatness if it were not from struggle or pain.
If you are going through depression now, I encourage you, I implore you, to make God your focus. For there is NO joy like seeing God operate in your life, to see that he cares deeply, deeply for you personally.
Depression is not who you are, it is something that you are battling for a short time here on this Earth. But imagine how free and insanely happy you will be in Heaven when this is lifted from you! It makes me think about those who are physically wheel-chair bound running through a sunset field in Heaven.
You can’t see the handicap of depression, but it too constrains and debilitates. Trust in Jesus and you’ll be running though that field one day too!
Heaven is real, and if you want to know how to get there, you reach out to me: email@example.com. I’d love to talk to you! Don’t hesitate, do it RIGHT NOW. It’s my favorite thing to chat about!
If you are a skeptic, like me, you need to click this link:
Is there proof God exists? Prepare yourself!
These are two honest posts I have written in response to applying the Word to my life while battling depression:
I hope you’ll check those posts out, because they contain many practical things you can do to move closer to real joy that I can’t fit in this article.
Whether you take medication or not, if you relate to what I’m writing about, you need to talk to someone. Seek counseling and contact your doctor. Don’t keep putting it off.
If you or someone you know is in trouble, here are some resources:
- Samaritans 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 212-673-3000
- United Way Helpline: 1-800-233-4357
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.