Depression is one of those very sensitive topics in the Church today. There are a lot of misguided and uninformed judgments made and neglect to those who suffer through it. So when one of our readers suggested a post on depression, I was a willing candidate but hesitant. Not because I’m afraid to talk about it, I’ve actually gotten quite comfortable sharing my story when I feel it may be helpful. If I’m hesitant at all, it’s because anyone and everyone could read this blog and there always seems to be hurtful judgments associated with the topic. Which can be hard to deal with for the strongest of people.
While I don’t have hardly any answers for someone with depression, I do have a small experience dealing with it, and I would like to share it with the hope that God would use that time in my life to strengthen someone else, as He did me, even if our situations are not exactly the same.
My depression started with a break-up. We were very nearly engaged, but at the beginning of my senior year in college, the relationship ended.
I fell apart. In the ways I would imagine most people do. I remember screaming and crying and not understanding much of where I was or what was going on. Thankfully, my roommate was there and I praise the Lord every time I remember the situation, that He allowed it to happen that way. Otherwise, I’m really not sure how I would’ve made it.
I went home that weekend, sleeping in my parents’ bed with my mom. I remember while getting water from the sink in our kitchen I started to cry and slipped to the floor sobbing. I scared my dad so badly he ran over and grabbed me, pulling me up and shaking me, with tears and fear in his eyes telling me I had to pull myself together. He shook some sense into me, and for the first time I saw how out of sorts I was.
My mom drove me back to school and I stayed holed up in my apartment for about three days. She slept on our love-seat for an entire week, taking care of me until I was able to get around and do things on my own.
I immediately chose to go to counseling. I picked myself up and took myself there for about a week and was told that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was having thoughts of running my car off the road, overdosing … but there wasn’t anything wrong with me. “This is all very normal.” So I stopped going to counseling, even though I knew everything wasn’t normal.
I couldn’t sleep without crying, I couldn’t eat without crying, I couldn’t get ready or do laundry or go to class or listen to the radio without crying. I don’t know how there was any water left in my body. I hesitantly began taking an anti-depressant. I had every intention of getting off of it as soon as possible, for fear of letting it control my emotions for too long. I was on the smallest dose possible, just enough to keep me from crying every second to where I couldn’t function. I made it through the semester and went to a new counselor when I got home. It was kind of helpful. That’s the best I can say about it. But I was determined to get off the medicine and looked for a third counselor. I finally found one through our church’s association.
For nine months I felt stuck in depression-mode. It was as if I couldn’t remember what I was like before, but I knew it wasn’t like this. I felt like everyone knew, but no one was saying anything. I had great friends who were there for me, but at some point, I started to feel like a burden because I couldn’t get my emotions under control. It seemed as though I was captive to them, fine one minute and in tears the next. I felt as though I wouldn’t find my way out.
My saving grace was that, even though I felt like I was trapped in a really dark pit with lions, I could feel God with me. I could feel Him there. I never felt like He had left me. In fact, I felt Him more distinctly. When I would cry at night, it was like He was there, crying too and holding me. I didn’t understand why He would allow something like that to happen, but nonetheless He never left.
I understand all this may seem dramatic. It was just a break-up, right? It happens all the time. Honestly, I can’t tell you why I took it so hard. But I know God used that situation and those nine long, dark months of my life to show me some amazing truths and what true love looks like. I truly believe that’s why He allowed it.
Depression for me wasn’t clinical. Bad things just happen. It’s life. It doesn’t seem fair and it really sucks. I know some people are prone to clinical depression and they fight it every single day. Others fight, as I did, with depression because of a situation. Some days, depression wins. But it is just that one day’s battle. Not the war.
If someone is struggling with depression, you often hear whispers of have more faith or not a real Christian or some other ridiculous statement from those who seek no empathy or understanding. Those who think it would never happen to them. I would have to tell those who think such thoughts to look at David, a man after God’s own heart and other biblical figures as an example of people close to the Lord who dealt with very difficult, emotional struggles.
Depression didn’t make me less of a Christian. In fact, I would dare to say that it made me stronger. Through that time, I felt God so acutely. I honestly knew He was there. I could feel Him. Although I was in so much pain, I knew I wasn’t going through it alone. And He wasn’t just sitting there sadistically watching. He was feeling it with me, He was carrying me through it. When I didn’t feel as though I could finish the day, He was there, telling me I could. The Holy Spirit comforted me like I’ve never felt before.
About nine months after the break up, I was visiting a church in town. It was actually very much a God-thing. The church where I normally attended was getting the floors redone, so we met at the main campus for services that week. The pastor preached on the Holy Spirit and told a story that sounded much like mine. He then said some really profound things about what love truly is. I walked away from that service with a completely changed heart toward the situation. I wasn’t completely through the depression, but that service marked the change in my heart from darkness to thankfulness.
God is true Love. There is no one greater. No one higher. No one could love you and I more than the One who gave His life for us.
I know that some of you reading this have gone through depression. I don’t know the cause or your situation, if you’re still in depression, just beginning the journey or making your way out of it, into acceptance of the situation. Perhaps it isn’t a situation, but a serious medical problem that causes your depression. Postpartum depression, deaths, chemical imbalances, break ups, rape, injury, PTSD; it’s not what causes your depression that matters the most. It’s that we have a God who sees where we are and never leaves us.
I don’t have a lot of answers, I’m not trained in counseling or medical evaluation. I can’t even say that two years later, I’m cured. Every once in a while I still fear the depression I was in and sometimes, I just have bad days. The only thing I know that I hope brings comfort, is God sees where we are and He never leaves our side. We may never know why we go through the things we go through, but I have complete faith in the fact that He is bringing us through trials to perfect our faith. He knows He is strong enough if we let Him be our strength. It’s not of our own accord.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4
If you are struggling with depression, don’t be ashamed to seek a Christian counselor, and if you don’t feel comfortable at one, find another. It truly helps. Also, if you take medication, don’t be ashamed of that either. If you can ween yourself from it, that’s great. If not, recognize your body needs it and pray for strength of mind and heart that you won’t be controlled by it or your emotions, but that you will be constantly aware of the Lord.
Some of my closest times with God have been during times of grief. Draw near to Him. Read about His love for you and trust His perfect will. Which can be difficult, but is worth it. It is worth the struggle to find out things about Christ through these situations that some will never be able to know. It creates a bond that you will cherish. Mine is only one of a multitude of stories, so know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t alone because God is always there and you have brothers and sisters who have traveled a similar road. (Matthew 19:20-21)