I have a history of depression.
There, I said it.
Admitting this hasn’t always been easy for me. In fact, for a long time I was in flat-out denial. I wasn’t depressed, I was just tired, or stressed, or just dealing with a lot. Or it was hormones, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Or all of the above. But I was never the D-word. How could I be? I had Jesus. You can’t have Jesus and still be depressed.
Except that you actually can. And — hear me now — it doesn’t make you a bad Christian.
I didn’t finally acknowledge my depression until after my two miscarriages and the unexpected loss of both of my in-laws happened in fairly rapid succession. It wasn’t until then that I finally acknowledged I was dealing with something more than just grief and exhaustion. I was ready to call the sense of joyless numbness and hopelessness I’d been carrying around for months what it was. I admitted that I was depressed, and that I needed to deal with it. And that’s when I started to heal.
That’s also when I learned that you can’t confront something that you’re not willing to acknowledge, and you can’t claim victory over something you’re not willing to name.
Since then, God’s brought me a long way in my battle against depression. So far that I can stand up and proclaim myself healed. But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t try to creep up on me from time to time, and that it’s not a real battle when it does.
But before I can do battle, I have to acknowledge the true nature of my enemy.
Recently, it started creeping back in, and instead of naming and confronting it, I denied it and hoped it would go away, even though I knew better. On top of feeling depressed, I also felt guilty. God has answered prayer for us this year in a big and positive way! We’re right where I spent years praying to be! How could I be depressed? How could I be anything other than full of joy and gratitude?
But it went on long enough that I knew I had to look it in the face. Just to be sure, one night a couple of weeks ago I took an online assessment, expecting it to say that I was mildly depressed. Instead it said that I was showing signs of moderate to severe depression. I knew I needed to deal with it before it got worse–because that’s all it ever does if you try to ignore it.
I started praying about it immediately. I confessed my depression, and all of my negative thoughts and fears, and the things I was feeling hopeless about. And I confessed my guilt over feeling depressed when He’s been so good to me this year.
That’s when He helped me realize what was already plain to Him: that we are complicated creations with complex brains and emotions, and we are perfectly capable of being sad and depressed about some things while still being grateful about something else. I went to sleep that night, feeling a little more at peace.
The next morning I was still struggling, though. Now, I’ve learned that God is the best therapist out there. Not only does He listen, but He can change my thinking. He can even change my circumstances, but if He doesn’t, He can still change my outlook on my circumstances.
So I got out my journal, and I wrote down everything in my life that I felt was contributing to my depression. And I prayed and gave each of them to God. And as I did, I looked deeper. The things I’d written down were circumstantial, but they all spoke to a deeper longing that was still unmet in my life, one that I’d started to believe would never be met.
By now I felt like I needed to go walk so I could really pour my heart out to God. So I walked, and I prayed, and I confessed and asked questions, and when I was done walking I went up to the bluff and just sat there, looking out at the lake and the hills beyond, and I just let God love on me for a little while. And I realized then that I had been looking in the wrong place to fulfill that deeper longing. That it already had its perfect fulfillment in Him.
I also realized that I’d been carrying burdens and responsibilities that didn’t belong to me. So I repented for trying to do God’s job, and admitted that I was far, far too weak to carry these things, and that I needed Him to take them from me.
And as I prayed and cast my cares on Him, I picked up a rock that lay at my feet and threw it off the cliff as hard and as far as I could.
Y’all, I know how hokey that sounds. But that tangible feeling of casting something heavy far away from me made it feel more real, and when I was done I felt so much lighter and full of peace.
It took a few more days of staying in prayer and in the Word, closely guarding my heart and mind and refusing to pick any of those weights back up off of His altar, but I’m doing better. My hope and my joy have been restored, and I’m enjoying life again.
I’m not saying that this is a simple thing. It’s certainly not as simple as picking up a rock and throwing it off a cliff. I know that sometimes depression keeps you from even being able to pray, let alone hike up to a cliff to start tossing rocks around. But God does care for you and you can claim victory over and healing from depression. I’m not saying it won’t be a battle, and that it won’t involve a lot of steps. But the first step is to acknowledge it and call it what it is. The second is to call on Him for help. And He will help you. Even if all you have the strength to do at first is to whisper his name. ♥