Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What to do with depression


Oftentimes its the ones you least expect that deal with depression.

Depression doesn't necessarily mean someone can't get out of bed or function, or that they cry all day long in the corner. Depression comes in many forms and at different times in people's lives.

If you have never struggled with depression, then most likely you have a difficult time understanding someone who does. You might think, "Why can't they just get over it? Life is not that bad." But until you yourself have tread the murky waters yourself, it isn't fair to judge others who have.

I have struggled on and off with depression since I was 16 years old. I consider myself a very optimistic, upbeat person. I see life as the glass half full. I have a deep relationship with Jesus and have since I was young. I love to encourage others, listen to them, and provide a shoulder they can lean on. I love to see others grow in their relationship with the Lord, to see them grow in their talents and passions, and ultimately see them free in Christ and living life to the fullest.

But despite all those qualities about myself, I still have, on a small scale, battled with a bit of depression over the years. I wrote a post about this over a year ago if you want to read it here.

I read a book recently that explained how depression can hit us at any time or anywhere depending on our circumstances. Like when you lose a child, or you are diagnosed with cancer. You will, for a season, struggle with sadness. It will eventually go away (if you appropriately deal with your pain) and you may never experience that sort of depression ever again. But none of us is immune to life's trials, and at some point in our lives, we will come to grips with a terrible circumstance that flips our world upside-down.

Some of us may deal with depression on a deeper, long-term scale. For others it's seasonal or circumstantial. No matter the situation, it's extremely important how we deal with the depression.

Many of my friends and family members have been or are currently taking depression medication. I myself have never done this, but I don't judge others who do. I know what it feels like to struggle emotionally at times. I personally have created my own "game plan" of sorts to help get me through my "low" days. Sometimes I believe my sad days are connected to my hormones, the weather, or circumstances in my life. But other times I do believe it's a spiritual battle in my life, especially after we've experienced a strong victory or helped someone else see victory. But for whatever reason it comes, I know exactly how to combat it and use the tools God has given me to defeat it. Here are some of those tools I'd like to share with you.

  1. Stay connected to God. No. Matter. What. Keep reading your Bible, even if you don't feel like it. Especially the Psalms! They are full of honest complaints and sorrows, and always end up glorifying God and focusing on the King of Kings instead of the depression. Listen to worship music. Read edifying books. Journal. Be honest with Him. He already knows your thoughts anyways :)
  2. Stay connected to others. When depression hits, your first instinct might be to hide away in your house and isolate. Please do not do this! Set up a coffee date with your close friend. Go visit your pastor or small group leader to talk things through and get prayer. Get dressed up and go with your husband on a date. Take your kids to the park. Get. Outside. The more you stay inside, the more your depression festers and creates room for the enemy to lie and fill your heart with poison. The more time you spend with others, the more they can speak into your life and bring encouragement and love. You need others more than ever when you are depressed.
  3. Give yourself small goals that you know you can reach. When you are depressed, you may look at your cluttered house and think, "Where in the world do I start? I can barely make myself breakfast, let alone organize my living room right now." Just pick a room, or a closet, and make a goal to clean it that day. Then the next day pick another section and go for it. Make a list of a few things to do that day, but don't overwhelm yourself with projects you know you can't tackle. 
  4. Spend time finding beauty. If you love nature, go for a walk and really drink in the colors of the trees, leaves, water, sky. Play fetch with your dog. Tickle your child and laugh. If you like to paint or draw, take your tools somewhere quiet and peaceful and create. If you love music, turn on your favorite tunes that lift you up and inspire you. Go to a coffee shop and bring your journal. Dance in your room and act like silly. Take your camera and capture images that bring out your creative side. Write scripture verses and post them all over your house.
  5. Get involved. The more we think of others and chose to serve God's children, the better we will start to feel about ourselves. Find a place where you can volunteer. Do you love animals? Help out at your local animal shelter. Do you care about people? Volunteer at your local food pantry or homeless shelter. Go meet with your pastor and ask how you can get involved at church. Do you love plants? See if you can help landscape or pick weeds for someone who doesn't have time. Do you play music? See if you can get involved in a worship band at church. Do you like to clean things? See if you can help clean your local park or highway and pick up trash. There are so many ways to serve our communities and help get our focus off ourselves! No matter how depressed you are, there is always someone else who is experiencing worse things than you. It helps to reach out to those people and realize how blessed you really are.
  6. Always talk to someone about your depression. Don't keep it a secret! More people than you realize struggle with it. If you are contimplating suicide or hurting yourself, please please please talk to someone else about it. You matter. You are worth it. God has a plan for your life, but the enemy wants to destroy you. Go to your pastor, youth worker, parent, relative, or trusted adult. Share your concerns and let them speak truth and love into your heart. It will be worth it, I guarantee it. 
Even if this post helped only 1 person, it would be worth it to me. We as Christians should always be open and transparent, instead of pretending that life is perfect. James 1 is probably my favorite scripture of all time. We have the hope that even though we will struggle in life, God can mold and shape us into His image if we let Him! Trials may come, but He will use it to make us stronger and more compassionate. To make us humble and dependent on Him.

James 1: 1-5

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

3 comments:

  1. such a good post! thanks for sharing!

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  2. Thanks for being so honest! I feel like this often a taboo topic in the church, and it's really awesome to see a pastor's wife speak openly about it.

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  3. I am going to write down these steps in my journal. I also told the Bethany interns about this post, and some have already read it. I am very grateful for this wisdom you shared and I plan on using this to minister to others.

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