Over the past ten years, I’ve fought an ongoing battle with depression. I go through seasons of life in which it is only barely present: a dull hum beneath a fairly normal existence. At other times, it eats at me to the core, coloring my sensory world in an inescapable shade of blue. While medical science and psychiatric studies have come a long way in their methods of explaining and treating this condition, it is still by no means fully understood, and cannot be totally “fixed” by means of a pill or a diet and exercise plan or counseling or any sort of combination of these things. In our modern age, it is termed a “disease,” and for good reason. I have found in my journey with depression that there is in fact a way to keep on living and experiencing joy in the midst of this persistent despair. This is not a “cure,” but rather a healthy way to approach life while maintaining a calm acceptance of depression.
The first and most important thing I’ve found is that feelings of depression cannot be kept to one’s self. Our solitary mind has a way of playing cruel tricks on us, distorting our self-image and completely twisting reality. Even if you don’t deal with ongoing depression, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon. The longer you dwell on something that is bothering you, the bigger it becomes. That which may have started as a small issue in your mind, perhaps an off-hand comment from a friend or a biting bit of criticism, can quickly turn into a source of paralyzing anxiety if you allow yourself to mull over it for a long period of time. This is why it is critical to have a person or a group of people who are willing to listen to the thoughts that run through your depressed mind. A second perspective is crucial in ensuring that your thoughts remain rooted in the truth. Someone who knows you well will easily be able to speak reassuring truth into thoughts of worthlessness and despair.
Along these same lines, it is incredibly important to be continually rooted in the truth of God’s Word. This is of course should be an integral part of every Christian’s life, but all the more for someone who is battling depression. When everything in me screams “there is no hope and I do not deserve to live,” I can stand firmly on the truth that I am “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that [I] would walk in them” (Eph 2:10). We must be aware of the fact that we face a “great accuser” who would like nothing more than to paralyze God’s followers with false messages of worthlessness and guilt. Standing on the truth of scripture in spite of any given emotion is downright difficult at times, but will serve to lift the depressed mind out of the darkest reaches of depression, and the light will slowly trickle in. Let scripture be your weapon. God’s word is called a “sword” because it is meant to be an offensive measure against untruths.
Lastly, I’ve found that I must acknowledge the connection between the mind and the physical body. In the midst of depression, often the last thing that comes naturally is a desire to exercise. And if you’re anything like me, you’d rather self-medicate your sorrows with so-called “comfort foods” rather than eating reasonable portions of nutrient-rich foods. The fact of the matter is, living a sedentary life marked by bowls of ice cream will only worsen depression in the long run (trust me, I know this from experience). If your body is in good working order, your brain will be more apt to follow suit. Along these lines, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any sort of ongoing bout of depression. While an anti-depressant medication is not always necessary in your fight against depression, it can be very helpful, giving you that “winning edge” needed to pull yourself out of the blue and back into the world of color and joy.
Here’s to fighting well against depression, and daily seeking the enduring joy of the Lord.
Here are some helpful resources if you struggle with brain chemistry issues or mood disorders.
“Mood Disorders and Brain Chemistry” by Dr. Tom Griffin and Pastors Roger Barrier and Glenn Barteau
“When Mourning and Depression are Normal” (Job Series) by Dr. Roger Barrier