I’m sitting here in front of the computer screen with my heart screaming at me to write something, but my mind keeps drawing a blank. Oh how I want to write, but here I still sit, staring . . . waiting for the thoughts to start flowing. It’s rather tedious and annoying. I feel like my mind does that so much these days. It seems that ever since I went through that severe struggle with postpartum depression, my brain has never fully recovered. I don’t know if it ever will. No, I do not battle with the depression like I did before. I still struggle with it, but it’s so much more manageable than it was.
To be honest, there are several parts of those two years of suffering that I barely remember. Those years were absolutely awful and those pages of life seem incredibly blurred. That’s the problem with depression; it draws you down so deep that you don’t even know who you are.
I recently came across someone who expressed anger over a family member that was suffering from depression and took attempts on her life. This person expressed how selfish it was of her family member to be acting this way. As this person’s feelings unfolded, I felt a pang dig deep inside of me. Though I knew it before, I suddenly realized how much people who’ve never been through deep depression don’t understand. I didn’t even know what to say. This person’s words felt so harsh and she had no idea that I was soaking in the very words and feelings I used to exhibit before admitting to my own depression and it tasted bitter. I had friends around me who battled severely with depression and, in my naivety, spoke too harshly. Though depression has been a lifelong struggle for me, it wasn’t until it completely took over my life a couple years ago that I realized I had a problem and the deepness it takes you. I wanted to take back everything that I had thought and said before. Though I had never viewed depression in the pious way that some people do, I still never fully understood how paralyzing it is . . . until a few years ago.
So, here I sit, having gone through the deep, and I want to help other sufferers and those on the outside. I want to be the voice that needs to be heard. I want to express the pain we feel and why there is no easy fix to depression. There is no easy answer. Please let me help you (on the outside) understand what’s going on with us on the inside. When you feel compelled to say something akin to the following, please reconsider:
But you seem so happy all the time!
People with depression are masters at disguising their true feelings. Sometimes we hope that putting on airs on the outside will help change what’s going on on the inside, but it doesn’t work. We don’t want people to know what’s really going on, for fear of pity, gossip, or worse, condemnation. Oftentimes, the happiest people you know are the ones who are suffering the most. But, there always comes a breaking point. We’re able to pretend for only so long, which is why it’s shocking to people when we break. I will give you a little insight though. Many of us drop hints here and there that things are not okay, just to test the waters. If we’re met with shock or judgment, we close up and continue as if everything is okay. But, we’re really not okay.
You need to exercise, get some sun, eat healthier . . .
Though these are wonderful suggestions, they are not permanent fixes. The high feelings after exercise are short, at best. I remember forcing myself to exercise and feeling great afterwards, just to end up in tears while showering moments later. Depression is incredibly draining. It literally zaps all of your energy. You don’t decide for it to be this way. It just is. Your mind is always in such a fog that merely thinking takes so much energy. When you get out of bed, you feel like you have cement bricks on every part of your body. Have you ever been so tired that you can barely make it into bed, but then the moment you get into bed there is that feeling of relief? That’s the way those of us with depression feel all day long. Yet, we don’t get the feeling of relief. We long for it, but it doesn’t come when we slip into bed. The heaviness lingers. It engulfs and continues to weigh us down deep into the night. Sometimes sleep brings temporary relief. It’s the only escape from everything. This is why when depression strikes, sleep is the go-to response, both for the benefit of an escape and because of the heavy exhaustion.
Others have it so much worse than you.
This is something that we’re already telling ourselves over and over again. The guilt that comes with this is overwhelming. We look at our lives and see how much we have, how happy we should be, how much worse it could be, and that spirals us even further. We suffer so much guilt over knowing that things could be worse, and we so badly want to break from this pain but can’t.
Just snap out of it.
If it was that easy, we would have done it already; trust me! There is no “snapping out” of depression! Like I said before, there is no easy fix. One doesn’t just wake up and suddenly decide, I will not depressed anymore. If only it were that simple. If only! Depression affects every asset of your life. It’s not just an inward feeling or mantra or whatever you want to call it. It’s an illness, a true mental illness, that causes physical, mental, and spiritual turmoil. It greatly affects your health. It rips apart your mind, and it attacks your faith. Let me repeat this. Depression is an illness. It is something that takes careful and meticulous work. It’s almost worse than just a physical illness, because the mind is what needs the most healing. There is no particular medicine that just suddenly heals you, though medicine does help immensely. Healing from depression requires elements that touch on every area of your life, and it’s hard work.
You need to go do something for someone else. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Stop being so selfish.
I want to cry, scream, and/or scratch out someone’s eyeballs when I hear this. I would never wish depression on anyone. It sinks you so deep that you lose sense of who you are. You sometimes even lose all sense of feeling. Your hormones become so imbalanced that it affects every aspect of your emotions. Some days you cry about everything. Other days, you feel nothing. You can’t cry. You can’t laugh. You simply can’t feel, and you hate it. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I hated the way this made me feel. The lack of feeling is the worst feeling. There were days when I would beg God to let me feel something, anything. I didn’t even care if it was sadness. I just wanted to stop feeling dead inside. It was like a black hole was swallowing up everything about me: my personality, my capacity to love, my logic, my ability to feel . . . everything. It made me question who I was and why I was still living. What use is the shell of a body with nothing inside?
I lost all sense of the woman God created me to be. I looked around at my life, my husband, and my children. I was hurting them. My children didn’t have the mommy that they needed because I was in such mental turmoil every single day. I struggled to function. I saw my husband hurting from watching his wife slip away. Remember, I dealt with this for years. When it goes on for so long and you try so many things to help, you feel hopeless. You feel like it’s never going to get better and your family is just suffering because of it.
People say that suicide is the most selfish thing a person can do, especially if they have a husband and children. Before you assume where I’m going with this, please know that I do NOT think suicide is okay. And yes, I do think that in some or even many cases, it’s selfish. However, when a person going through deep depression talks about suicide or even attempts it, they truly feel like their family will benefit without them. They see the problems their own personal pain is causing, and they just want to fix it. They don’t want their family to hurt anymore. Though people on the outside might look at it as selfish, they personally think they are truly helping everyone, including themselves, because they are exhausted and don’t want there to be anymore pain.
If you are a true Christian, you should have the joy of the Lord in you. Take a hold of the joy of the Lord, and things will be better.
Stop the train right now! First off, I’m just going to remind those who are Christians that to be saved, the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That’s all it takes to have Christ in your life. Believe in Him and be willing to let Him have full authority in your life. The thing is, so many people try to mix feelings into the joy of the Lord. Feelings can lie to you all the time. Just because I had moments when I felt like a black hole had swallowed me up doesn’t mean that the Lord wasn’t in me. What I was feeling was a flat out lie, and I let that lie get the best of me many times. Because of that feeling, I already questioned my salvation. But then when others tell you that if you’re a true Christian, you should feel joy, you become hopeless. You’re already beating yourself up over this.
God doesn’t say we will feel joy. He says we will have joy. Let’s not forget that joy and happiness are two completely different things. Happiness is a feeling, an emotion. Feelings wane and wax. The joy of the Lord is a deep-seeded anchor that carries you through, despite what you feel.
Even when I questioned my Salvation and my belief in God, I truly believe that it was the joy of the Lord that kept me going each day. It was His promises that He reminded me of every single day. There was the promise that this would not last forever. The joy of the Lord is what helped me hold on. Yet, even though I had the joy of the Lord, holding onto that did not suddenly make me happy . . . because happiness is a fleeting feeling!
You need to read your Bible more. Pray more. Seek God more.
If only you knew how much I prayed, read my Bible, sought God . . . I woke every morning begging for God’s help through the day. Each moment was spent in walking prayer. When I felt beyond overwhelmed, I closed myself off in a closet and literally cried out to God. The mental pain was too much to bear. It seemed as though God was the only one Who could possibly handle my thoughts and my heart. I begged for Him to heal me. I got angry at Him. I clung to Him for peace, though it felt like it never came. I constantly read my Bible, looking, searching for anything that could help me out of this turmoil. The problem was my mind was such a cluttered mess that everything I read sent me in further turmoil. Everything I read was a glaring reminder of what I wasn’t, of what I needed to work on. It was exhausting. I doubted my salvation. I doubted if I even believed in God. I didn’t know what to do, but yet I still clung on. No, it wasn’t a matter of not seeking God enough. I’m ashamed to say it, but I seek God much less now than I did then. Even my husband can tell you how much time I spent praying and reading. When a person is going through deep depression, especially a Christian, every waking moment is spent praying and begging.
You mustn’t be right with God. This is clearly a spiritual problem. Depression is a sin.
This one gets my goat every time, and I might get some push-back for my response. But, anyone who says something akin to this needs a refresher on the Bible and great men of God throughout history. There were wonderful men in the Bible who battled depression, such as David, Elijah, Job, and many more. There were so many great men in history who struggled. Martin Luther battled depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts (something I’ll explain about in more detail in another post). C.S. Lewis suffered greatly in the last part of his life. Charles Spurgeon battled depression so badly that he had to take a few months off from his ministry every year, so that he could get away. The depression would overwhelm him greatly, and he’s written about it (as have both Luther and Lewis).
Though depression can sometimes be tool God uses to draw a person in sin back to them, please please do not use this argument as your go-to argument. If the person is not in obvious sin, then you can not make that judgement. Trust me when I say that someone going through depression has already had this thought and wondered over it a million times. I was constantly praying for God to show me if there was an area of sin in my life that I needed fixed. I was more than willing to deal with whatever God revealed to me; anything to help end the pain. I searched and searched. I prayed. I even came to the point where I was over paranoid about everything I did, trying to make sure that it wasn’t the result of some sin that could be the root of the depression. I so badly wanted it fixed. I wanted it to be gone. But, there wasn’t anything. It wasn’t spiritual. Though that can be comforting in of itself, I was still left in turmoil because it meant that there wasn’t a “repent and be better” solution. Depression, more often than not, has nothing to do with the spiritual condition of the person but rather the physical.
I don’t know what to say or how to help.
It’s okay, and you don’t have to! Just be a friend. Listen. Don’t try to fix it, just listen. If we knew how to fix it, we would be trying that already. But, oftentimes the most therapeutic thing is to just be able to talk it out. Instead of putting on judging airs or suggesting what the person should do, hug them, cry with them, listen, and pray with and for them. You have no idea how much of a help that can be. Also, if you know someone who has gone through the same thing, direct your friend to that person. Aside from God, someone who’s been through it can help much more than anyone else.
There are so many other statements and responses I could give, but these were the main ones that have always struck a chord with me. If you would like to read another woman’s testimony and see some statistics, my friend, Ruth, has written a beautiful post about her own journey, and she also gives lists of great songs and Scriptures that have helped her through her own depression journey.
If you have gone through depression or are battling right now, what are some other things you wish people knew about your battle or would like to express but feel like you oftentimes can’t?