It took me a while to realize that I was depressed.
After my little Eden was born, I was exhausted, as all mothers are in the those first few years, eh hem, I mean weeks after birth (Let's be real. Years.) But I was a bit snappy and impatient, more than usual. I remember one weekend when my sister and Mimi came to help me cook freezer meals. Eden was three weeks old. And for some reason, extra fussy while they were here. I couldn't do anything. She needed me 24/7. And I snapped. I just couldn't do it anymore. My sister and Mimi were trying to console her to let me rest. But it wasn't working. I snapped at my three week old baby.
But I started to consider something may be wrong when I lost it in this rage that came out of nowhere when the girls messed up the playroom. Scary monster, don't mess with mommy, kind of rage. I was scaring my kids. I was scaring myself.
Then I began to notice the fog my head was in. It was like I was looking out of my eyes and seeing blurry. (And I had my contacts in)
I was tired. ALL. of the time.
I was irritable and did not want to go anywhere, do anything. I did not have any energy.
I had this sense of dread in everything I did, everywhere I went. It seemed like all I could see was the darkness. I felt like I had no hope. It was dark. Deep. and Scary.
I finally decided to tell my doctor, and we started working on treatment. And I started doing some of the things that I know to do, that I tell others to do in the counseling room. I am so glad I became aware. I am so glad I acknowledged it. Because it was sucking the life out of me.
I don't know how else to describe it. Like a dead woman walking, they say. Gosh, that is so real.
I felt dead inside.
I felt guilty for going through it. I had thoughts, lies running through my head all the time.
"I have too much to hope for, too much to find joy in to be depressed."
"I must not be as strong as I thought."
"How can I battle depression? I am a counselor!"
"I am a failure as a mom and a wife."
"I have nothing to offer anyone anymore."
So dark. I couldn't seem to find the light.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by close friends and family who get this. Who never made me feel bad for what I was going through, who prayed for me, supported me, kept checking on me. Still check on me.
But none of them would have known had I not told them, had I not taken off the smiley mask and shown them what I was really going through.
But not everyone is this lucky. Some are in churches with people who tell them that they don't have enough faith if they battle depression, that if they believed that God will heal them, then He will. Some say to others, "Don't claim this. If you don't speak it, it won't be true." Some of their family members say that they have too much to be grateful for to be depressed. And some completely ignore it altogether.
And this causes so much shame. And isolation.
Which is danger zone for someone battling depression.
And on top of this, many times when people are depressed, they have a tough time in prayer. The safest person, God. The safest place, in his presence... And they (we) just can't seem to find the words to be able to tell Him how they feel, how they are doing.
And so they isolate even more. Because it just takes too much energy to engage with self, with others, and with God.
This post will not even come close to touching on all the ways that you can walk through your depression and come out on the other side. There are many more conversations to be had about this. But for now, can I just encourage you in a few ways?
1. Your depression does not mean that you are less spiritual, a person of "less faith." It just means you are a regular person who struggles just like the person can next to you, that you need God just as much as the person next to you. Though your faith can grow in the process, you can't blame your depression on your lack of faith.
2. Having strong faith in a God who can heal does not make your depression magically go away. Did I just say that? God heals. Yes. Does he always? I don't think my answer to this will be thorough, but I will say this. God heals us spiritually through the blood of Jesus. He gives us a new heart. But our bodies and minds are still affected by the fall. Sometimes God heals our bodies and minds on this earth, but none of us are fully whole and healed until the other side of eternity. And many won't see deliverance from their depression until heaven. However, believing and trusting in who God is can bring you hope that can help you live through your depression. It can bring light in darkness, strength in despair, joy in mourning.
3. To hide it, or mask it, only makes it worse. Seriously. So don't do it. Don't feel like you have to tell everyone. Just tell the ones that matter.
4. Your depression is not because of your weakness. I repeat. Your depression is not becasue of your weakness, as if it is completely within your control. Though there are some things that are within your control to help you work through it, it is not a result of your weakness. You can connect. You can fill up empty buckets that need filling. You can fill your spiritual bucket by engaging in the spiritual disciplines. You can fill up your social/relational bucket by being around your people. You can fill your physical bucket by being more intentional about eating, sleeping, and exercise patterns. But weakness? No. I actually believe that people who battle depression are some of the strongest out there.
5. Depression is not a respector of persons. People battle this in all walks of life, across all genders, races, ages, faiths. Never believe the lie that you "should not" be depressed because of your "great life."
6. You don't have to know what to say to others or to God. But don't let that keep you from being around them. You need them. Isolation will only lead to more depression. Find a person or two. Tell them what you are walking through, even if you can barely get the words out.
7. Ask the Spirit of God to intercede for you when you have no words, no energy to pray. When your mind feels too foggy, too dark to pray anything at all. Just ask Him to pray for you. He will pray the perfect will of God over you.
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."- Romans 8:26, ESV
And P.S., the word for "weakness" here is astheneia, which means feebleness of mind or body; by implication, malady; disease, infirmity, sickness. Is this not true of depression? A sickness of the mind.
8. Find a good counselor. I can't emphasize the importance of this enough. Don't do this alone. Depression can bring all kinds of scary thoughts in your head. Please allow someone in with you there. Sometimes it can feel like you are stuck in quicksand. Reach your hand out and let someone help you get out.
9. And fill your mind with truth. Read scripture, no matter how numb and foggy your brain feels. Depression can lie to you. So keep reading scripture, even if it is only one verse at a time. And if your depression does not go away, keep reading it. It will anchor you when you feel lost at sea.
I will end this one today on these Psalms.
For when you have no idea how to talk with God when you are depressed, read this:
Psalm 42 (HCSB)
1 As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?” 4 I remember this as I pour out my heart: how I walked with many, leading the festive procession to the house of God, with joyful and thankful shouts.
5 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God. 6 I[a] am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me. 8 The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night— a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I will say to God, my rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?” 10 My adversaries taunt me, as if crushing my bones, while all day long they say to me, “Where is your God?” 11 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.
Psalm 43 (HCSB)
1 Vindicate me, God, and defend my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from the deceitful and unjust man. 2 For You are the God of my refuge. Why have You rejected me? Why must I go about in sorrow because of the enemy’s oppression?
3 Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place. 4 Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy. I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God.
5 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.
I am not even sure what to say.
I have no words.
All I know is that my mind
Feels numb, almost dead.
Tears have become my companion.
Sadness seems to be choking out any light,
Will you show me your face?
Will you hold me near?
Will you bring hope?
Because I have none.
In Jesus' Name,
Creative Journaling Prompt
If you are struggling with depression,
1. Anything you can think of that brings light in your life.
2. Truths of God that are hopeful.
3. List the things that drain you and fill you. Work to incorporate several "fillers" each day.
For the next seven days, write one thing that you are grateful for each day.
Make a circle with pie pieces. Write in different areas of health in each piece: spiritual, mental/emotional, social/relational, physical, intellectual/occupational, financial, family/marriage, and volunteer time. Put the pieces that apply to you. Then assess how "full" each piece is. Are there major deficits? If so, make a short list (two-three) of things that you need to incorporate in your life to fill that piece up. Example: if physical health is suffering, maybe you write that you need to exercise at least twice a week. If social health is suffering, maybe you write that you need to say "yes" the next time someone asks you to hang out. Then start implementing what you can.
Make sense? Let me know if you have any questions!