Depression is always a touchy subject. Is it a real diagnosis? Is it a mind game? Is it chemical imbalance or genetics? Is it moodiness and personality? Is it spiritual warfare or a sign of spiritual immaturity? Maybe it’s all of the above or none at all. But to talk about it I’ll need to open up and get raw honest. So, just imagine we’re kicking back in my messy living room, mugs of mocha in our mitts, and let’s chat as friends.
I was diagnosed with depression as a teenager, though I’m certain it was haunting me at a much younger age. At 17, I was hospitalized for it. As a first-time mama, I was plagued with it from every angle. But that is another story. Today’s post is not about my label but about how I live out my liberty.
During a late-night encounter with the Almighty, I was rescued from this terrible state. (Again, another story for another post) Since that night, I have never been a victim of depression or enslaved to it ever again. That’s it. End of entry. Done deal. NOT!!! Though I do believe I have been freed, that doesn’t mean I never have to fight. Depression is deeply interwoven in my being. It’s a constant and persistent nag that I must be always on the watch for and knockback at every attempted advance. Days, weeks, months can go by with no real worrisome symptoms. Then again, days, weeks, and months can go by with little reprieve from the battle.
Depression looks different on different people at different times. At moments, it’s a stifling sadness and then morphs into a manic self-pity. It can be as subtle as a polite laugh at a bad joke and then slam you into a windshield of worry and weariness. For me, there are days when it feels like a weighty fog, annoying but tolerable. Then there are mornings when it makes shrugging off the bed sheets stunningly painful. There’s not always warning and when it strikes, depression isn’t normally a gray area. It’s there! Thick and thunderous. So how does this Jesus loving mama deal with it? In three not so easy steps.
First and always first, I pray. After noticing my symptoms, which can range from paranoia to insomnia, or a mournful soul moaning that I can’t explain, I take it to my Savior. When I’m rooted in the Spirit it’s much simpler to ascertain my descent into depression. However, I’m human and my heart strays much more frequently then I’d like to own. When it does, sometimes it can take a soft word from a loved one or a damaging loss of control to alert me to my danger. So, I pray. I never feel like praying, when in my funk. I never want to lay it down. It’s familiar, oddly comforting, and gives me an excuse to remain self-focused. There have been battle moments that have made it physically painful to ask the Lord for advice. This is when it is most important that I do so. This is a major red flag of battles to come. So, I pray, pray, pray. The position doesn’t matter. The words don’t matter. The heart matters. Since I have littles, that I have no desire to overwhelm, most of my prayers of desperation happen in the shower. I’m not sure if a human could decipher most of my words. But the Spirit does and He makes them beautiful before God. I wail. I screech. Sometimes I even swear. I pour it all out. Nothing held back. This is the Creator. My Creator. He knows everything. He’s allowed this struggle and He equips me to overcome it. Why should I hide any facet of my feelings from him?
After praying, it’s time for action. I examine my recent habits. Am I sleeping enough? Am I eating properly? Taking my vitamins? Drinking too much coffee? Watching dark television shows? Reading intensely melancholy books? The list goes on. If there’s a pattern within my latest activities, I bring it before God and ask him what I should cut out. Then I cut it. Even my constant companion, coffee, has, at times, had to be cut out for a season. My healing is more important than my comfort. I drink more water. I exercise. None of which is an instant fix. But I continue in faith, knowing my depression will not last forever. It has no eternal hold over me and it will submit to my Father. I pour the word into my spirit. Before my feet hit the ground, before I check Facebook or Yahoo, I give the word at least five minutes. This is not my Bible study time. This is my gather strength from the Source so I can get out of bedtime. And it works, as long as I have the courage to obey. The first step out of the covers is always the most painful. A moment of truth. If I can make this one step, ignoring the lying voices within me, setting aside the sadness for just a second, I can make another and another. Usually to the shower, where I pray aloud, and wash off the morning’s emotions and choose eternal joy over fleeting feelings.
I also, ask the Lord to examine my heart. Sometimes, though I’m loathed to admit it, I am harboring bitterness. I am intentionally choosing unforgiveness and rebellion over mercy and humility. There are situations, experiences, even tragedies in my past that resurface and trigger old patterns. If I want to maintain my freedom, I must let them go. I must forgive and re-forgive the same offenses. I must bath my past self in the Light of Heaven. Remind myself to think eternally and to let God handle my history so that I might have a future. Submission is never easy. When coming to blows with depression I start small. I sing. I take whatever song the Holy Spirit sends me and I sing it out loud and out of key. This tiny victory can be more gut-wrenching than getting out of bed. Especially, when defeating a justifiable offense with irrational forgiveness. My voice may be weak and the tears often crack through the chorus, but singing praise to the Maker is a weapon. It reminds me who I am. It reminds me how much I’m loved. It reminds me of my purpose. I am not alone. I am not unseen. I am not worthless. I am cleansed. I am comforted. I am complete.
Lastly, I rest. I rest in my routines. My routines relieve my already burdened mind and make my body move. By following my normal routines, I leave myself a mental white space in which to keep in constant dialogue with God. We talk as I wash dishes, fold laundry, and vacuum the house. Though they can see my distress, my children feel more secure watching me keep up the daily rhythm. A mama scrubbing dirty dishes and singing through tears is much more comforting than a wailing woman buried in a pile of clean towel. (I’ve done it both ways.) I rest from the extras. I splice out my perfectionism and delight in enough. I give my days some slack, some quiet, some stillness. This helps me remember what I love about life. It shuts down the lie that depression is unending. When I stop pushing myself to be more I remember the joys I already have. I rest from my worries. There are just some things I can’t-do. I can’t spontaneously give my dyslexic daughter the ability to read at grade level. I can’t give my husband the pay raise and professional praise he deserves. I can’t be with my son every second to ensure every teenage decision is made with wisdom and forethought. I can’t end suffering, or world hunger, or child abuse no matter how much money I give or letters I write or calls I make to Congress. Biscuits and rice! I can’t even stifle my own prideful spirit without God help. However, I can rest in doing my part. I can rest knowing that God can and will end such things in His perfect timing. Becoming incapacitated with grief over the world’s darkness doesn’t help defeat it. Love, hope, and faith these will defeat the darkness and I can have these in Christ. So, I rest in Him. In Him, I am enough and I am free.
Depression is no joke. It’s not a cliché. It’s not a mirage. Nor is it an excuse, a lifestyle, or a destiny. Our hope is anchored in Christ alone. He may call us to walk across the invisible battlefield of depression but He has not left us unarmed. He will give us victory. He has and does give it to me daily. My mana and quail. My hope and a future. My light and my path. If you live with the battle against depression, Jesus longs to give you His freedom as well. Grab it with both hands and hold on. The feelings are fierce and fearsome but they will not last forever! Keep fighting the good fight.
Books other than the Bible that have helped me overcome:
Sometimes my brain won’t calm enough to read as I’m negotiating the wave of a storm formed for one… so music helps me greatly (on a side note the wrong music can trigger a deeper downward drift) Here’s some cds/songs that strengthen my hope muscles.
Especially the track titled: Let it Go (not an Elsa copy)
Plumb gets it.
Love the song Fighting Words
And as random as it may seem this song from a Disney film
These tunes either help me cry it out and cry for God’s help or the build me up so that I may encourage others. Either way, depression has never overcome me if I have remembered to keep this human temple filled with heartfelt praise.