What depression has taught me
Anonymous | MAY 20, 2019 | 3 MIN READ
I’ve had struggles with depression for much of my adult life. For me, it comes and goes. There are just times when I feel overwhelming sadness or irritation. Sometimes it’s triggered by an event that hurts my feelings, but other times it comes without any apparent trigger. I’ve received counseling, and I’ve been on antidepressant medication. But even through this difficult journey, I’ve gotten to see the grace of God in my life.
Here are a few things that I’ve learned over the years about depression.
1. It’s More Common than I Thought
The more I share openly about my depression, especially with other Christians, the more I hear that others have similar struggles. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that other people experience it too. Sometimes I hear helpful tips on how to cope with depression from others who struggle with it.
People who have similar experiences have often been my greatest encouragement. As they have received comfort from God, I’ve been encouraged by them, experiencing what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2. It Can Be Like Quicksand
When I experience depression, it’s like I’m stumbling into quicksand. If I can catch myself early, it’s easy to handle. But if don’t address it, my depression can become a deep episode, a downward spiral that’s hard to get out of. For me, it’s important to address it quickly. That involves getting enough sleep, exercising, or talking it out with someone like my wife or a counselor.
One of the most effective ways of catching myself from depression early is to say it out loud — “I might be slipping into depression.” Acknowledging depression takes away a lot of its power. I also send a quick text message with the two words, “downward spiral,” to a couple of trusted friends. These friends don’t think any less of me, and they’ll encourage and pray for me.
3. I Need to Take Responsibility for My Actions
Depression can make me more prone to be lazy, be unkind to my spouse and kids, or think hateful thoughts. But I can’t use my depression as an excuse for my sin. I need to do my best to take care of my mental health with good habits and discipline. Even if I do respond poorly when I’m dealing with depression, I am responsible for my sin. I ask others and the Lord for forgiveness, make amends, and commit to change by the power of the Spirit. Also, when I feel tempted, I need to remember that I have a great high priest who loves me and sympathizes with me:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
4. It’s Not Just a Matter of Faith or Willpower
Sometimes I hear well-meaning folks tell me, “You don’t have to think about things that way,” or “You just need to have more trust in Jesus.” These comments are unhelpful because they just dismiss the condition I have. Depression is like a physical ailment: It requires treatment and can be hereditary.
Also, it’s not just mental. When I get depressed, my entire body feels physically heavy, even if I’m not thinking negative thoughts. My experience with the antidepressant medication confirms that it’s not just a matter of faith or willpower. For me, the medication slows down my thinking so that I can catch myself before going into the downward spiral. It allows me to think clearly so that I can identify lies and replace them with godly wisdom.
5. God Favors Me
To me, depression can be debilitating — sometimes I feel powerless. But as I read through the Bible, I’m struck by how God honors those who are weak. For example, in the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and Luke 6, Jesus pronounces blessings on those the world may consider weak: the poor, mourning, meek, and the persecuted. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows honor to the weak, choosing ordinary men to be apostles, welcoming the children, and spending time with the marginalized. Paul experienced weakness, too. We don’t know what the “thorn” in his flesh was, but we do know that God provided sufficient grace for him (2 Cor 12:7-10). When I struggle with depression, I try to remember that it’s an opportunity for God to provide grace.
Being prone to depression will probably be a lifelong journey for me. I’m grateful for the grace of God and the support of those around me. I’m looking forward to a time when there will be no mourning, no more tears, and no more pain.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Anonymous is a follower of Christ, husband, dad, and Ph.D. student.