“Depression is Not Living Below ‘See’ Level”
by Lisa M. Rider
If you look up the word “depression,” you will find a variety of meanings; sadness and gloom are two synonyms. However, this definition seems more accurate: “an area lower than the surrounding surface.” Of course, this definition can describe more than an emotional place; but, I believe that people who struggle with depression can relate to this.
My journey with depression began around 8 years ago. I suddenly couldn’t sleep, nor could I think clearly. I would also cry uncontrollably for what seemed like days. There is now a television commercial that depicts depression as a dark hole in the ground. At first, I resented the cartooned portrayal of such a serious issue. Yet, the more I think about it, that dark, consuming hole seems an honest assessment.
If I could describe the original feelings that took hold of me, I guess I could sum it up as a sense of failure. I was a pastor’s wife and often the church looks at mental affliction as a lack of faith; thus, I decided that I must have been a spiritual failure. This thought plagued me. I just did not measure up. At first, I hid my new fears well. I attended all events with a plastic smile. Then, when alone, I would beat myself up for my hypocrisy.
One day, as I looked into the bathroom mirror, I heard these words in my head, “Things cannot stay the way that they are.” Immediately, I once again took inventory of my spiritual life and knew that I must be coming up short; I wasn’t seeing something correctly; Was I truly a Christian? Was I living a lie?
I had no idea how to fix it.
Finally, while at the doctor’s, I mentioned this new problem. The doctor quickly wrote me a prescription for an antidepressant and sent me on my way. I didn’t want medication, but I didn’t want to be me anymore, either. When I returned for a follow-up visit, I saw a different physician. She looked at my file and said, “Oh- you have a history of depression.”
A history? I hardly thought that two weeks on medication made it my history. I guess I felt “found out.” All of the years that I had been honestly joy-filled, even the time I had only tried to be joyful—and I was now defined only as having a “history of depression.”
I slipped a little deeper into the hole. Who was I? Maybe I deserved to be defined; I didn’t even know anymore. I began to withdraw from people because I was afraid that they saw the real me. This person cried out to God, served with her whole heart, read the Bible- but still did not find joy. “Yup- she’s a fake.”
I sought God more and more. My answer came clearly; God had not abandoned me, but assured me of my salvation in Him. I was His child, and illness would not change that fact.
It’s been years and I have learned a few things about depression:
Depression can be a chemical issue. So many Christian people struggle, but feel ashamed to seek help because it might seem like a lack of faith. Well, can I tell you that faith can keep you strong in the midst of circumstantial depression? However, some of us are really chemically challenged and need medication to help stabilize our moods.
Depression is not living below “see” level. Those who are dealing with depression are not necessarily missing something. Struggling does not make us infidels; the Bible is filled with people who at times struggled. Job, for instance, was a righteous man. Yet, he suffered through difficult times. He even thought it might have been best had he never been born. He was still considered a righteous man.
David cried streams of tears “because men do not keep (God’s) law. (Psalm 119:136)
Jeremiah wept, “Woe is my hurt! My wound is grievous. But I said, ‘Truly this is an affliction and I must bear it.’” (Jeremiah 10:19)
If God’s great men could struggle with emotion, I feel certain that we can, too. We might not be thrilled with affliction, but there is not a spiritual rite that prevents us from suffering. Perhaps, some of us have been given this gift of depression to grow us deeper; perhaps God knew that some of us could handle the burden, so He entrusted this to us. Perhaps, we are supposed to be seen as who we really are so that others will know that struggle is unavoidable- but with God, all things are possible.
Believe it or not, I am beginning to believe that joy and depression can coexist. Joy stems from God’s strength! We can rely on him, trust Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength- and still, at the end of the day, need antidepressant medication.
Like most, I would love to stop taking meds and just live “normally.” However, if I must take medicine for the rest of my life, I will thank God that He provided the knowledge to create such medicine. My faith is not to blame for this affliction. On the contrary- I want to use this illness to increase my faith. I guess, by now, I would confess: “My name is Lisa and I have a history of depression.”
You are not alone in this. I have dealt with depression for many years. The only thing I have found that helps me is praising and worshiping the Lord. That has definately made a change in my mood and how I feel. God always has an answer for any problem we may face in life. God bless you.