It’s been described as that dark cloud that hovers unrelenting. It isolates as we look into the window of others’ “happy lives”. It warps our perspective of what is really going on around us. It makes us miserable as we try to get away from ourselves. Worst of all, it makes God seem a million miles away. This is depression and it as legitimate as any other physical illness that can be “seen”.
Major Depression has been a personal struggle of mine for 25 years. I am just now on a path of healing and stability. In my case, I have been diagnosed with Bipolar 2 which is predominantly expressed through major depression and severe anxiety. Though on medication, I still have to fight this several times through the course of the month or year, depending on how I am cycling.
I remember the first time I was prescribed an antidepressant by a primary doctor after a major break down in college. For me, a breakdown was when I couldn’t physically keep going and mentally felt that I needed to drop out. I was given no knowledge on depression except to take the pills given to me. I cried my eyes out as I felt that I had become one of “those” people -weak, faithless, and undisciplined. I hated myself for it. Depression is a dark continual sadness that blocks out all enjoyment and hope that the sun will come out from the dark ominous place it hides. You may feel despair or at times, nothing at all.
I wish I had someone who had walked the road before me hold my hand and say “It’s O.K., it’s going to be okay ” I soon learned that several people in my extended family took antidepressants too -Aunts, cousins, and my father all needed some kind of medication. There was a genetic link to mental illness. This was just a “little” life altering detail left “hush hush” in my family.
I take medication twice a day. It’s what I have to do in order to remain stable and functioning. I have learned to accept it as my life line and not berate myself as having some kind of weakness. It is so easy to dismiss an illness that doesn’t show physiological symptoms that are medically measurable. All the years I had prayed for healing, all the self-help books I read, all the journal therapy I poured myself into -this is where God led me. And it’s “OK”, it’s going to be “okay.”
Maybe this story resonates with you in some way. If not you, maybe you have a friend or family member that might need hope. Hope is the main word here. HOPE that if the dark clouds seem to completely block out the sun, God’s word promises He will make a way and there will be a better tomorrow. The sun will shine again.
” For I know the plans I have for you”, says the LORD “Plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a HOPE”.
7 Things I have learned on dealing with major Depression and Anxiety:
(disclosure: I am by no means a medical doctor nor a licensed therapist. These tips are only given from my personal experience in which I believe to be helpful for those struggling with these disorders.)
#1) Proper diagnosis from a psychiatrist, doctors who specialize in brain chemistry. A primary doctor may quickly put you on an antidepressant or anxiety medication but this may not be sufficient. I was misdiagnosed for 20 years with just having depression which at that point was half my life. In my case, I have Bi-polar 2 which actually becomes less stable and exasperated with the sole treatment of antidepressants. A psychiatrist is truly the best medical professional to evaluation of your condition and treat you accordingly. Yes, it may cost more money in the beginning, but it beats years of mistreatment and psychological suffering. If your depression is coupled with anxiety, racing thoughts, irritability, and mood swings, this could mean you are on the Bi-polar spectrum like I am. Your primary doctor should be able to refer you to a good psychiatrist.
#2) Support from others. A psychiatrist is not going to give you this. You need to tell someone your struggle. There is tremendous relief that comes from “coming out” of the depressive closet. Friends and family can now pray for you and check on you when you sink into that deep hole. Force yourself to talk. Force yourself to answer your phone or text and be honest with how you are doing. If you aren’t able to find this support immediately, look at joining a mental health support group on Facebook. Be ware though, there are some real crazies out there…I’m just saying, use discretion when finding a group. I have seen a few Christian groups which would lend some spiritual support as well.
#3) Remember the LORD is near and He passionately loves you. He is your helper. He is your healer, He is always always there. Even if he feels a million miles away, He’s right there. Be honest with your every feeling and tell Him. He can handle your anger. He can hold your brokenness. He will lift you out of this miry pit. He will, I know. He has for me so many times.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalms 34:18
“The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.” Psalms 103:8
#4) Don’t toss your pills because you are feeling better. This is a BIG NO NO! Trust me, I speak from experience. I started to feel better and told myself I could rise above depression but it landed me right back on my face. I am not saying that you may need to be on medication forever, allow the psychiatrist to walk you through that option.
#5) Counseling. Pray and seek a spiritual counselor. I have done this on many occasions when I was in the darkest valley. I am in a good stable place right now and I have a close network of friends and family for counseling these days. Journaling has been the greatest therapeutic outlet for me. As I pour my feelings and prayers out on paper I experience such a mental catharsis.
#6) Exercise. Not my favorite on the list but necessary. Set small goals but do set goals. For me, especially on “dark days”, I have had to force (absolutely FORCE) myself to get out and walk. I will set a goal of 10 minutes to walk. I am lazy to say the least but I find that if I pump a podcast or uplifting Christian music in my ears I get soul therapy as well. And I usually walk longer which allows for my body to produce “happy” chemicals that lift the serotonin levels in my brain.
#7) Remember that FEELINGS FOLLOW. If you are real depressed or anxious right now you might want to tell me to shut up. I get it, but there is no alternative for healing and hope without forcing yourself to take steps of self help. You will find by setting small measurable goals and attempting them, the feelings of success will follow and hope will be breathed into your soul.
***If your currently in a supreme dark place and wishing you were not sticking around on this earth, please don’t hesitate to seek immediate medical help at a hospital. You need to do this. You will be glad you did and it will be a gift to those who love you. Remember God has a purpose for you on this earth that only YOU can fill. Don’t let Satan win by lying to your soul and keeping you from the abundant life God has for you.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10