Writing this post has been difficult for me. In almost four years of blogging I’ve never talked about this part of my life, but for a while now I’ve known it was time. Writing this series about living Life to the Full has made me take a hard look at myself and the areas of my life that prevent me from living a full life. All of my life I’ve struggled with periodic depression, usually set off by a negative event. Childhood bullying, break ups, injuries, family losses and tragedies, any time something negative happens in my life I know I’m at risk for a bought with depression. The feelings are familiar and I now know how to recognize them as they creep in.
I’m sharing this now because I’ve been struggling recently and know that I’m not the only one. Recently we had an accident that could have been tragic and was completely my fault. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the mistake and the “what ifs” are haunting me and causing me to battle my old and familiar adversary, depression. My hope is that by airing what I’m going through possibly someone else will find light in the darkness. I believe that when we talk about our struggles out loud and bring them in to the light, their power over us diminishes. I’m hoping shedding light on this side of my life will bring light in to another’s. I believe much of this struggle is spiritual, as well as physical and chemical. I am a follower of Jesus, and my perspective here reflects that. If you are not, know that you will hear no judgement from me. I’ve tried to include helpful insights for those of all (or no) faith backgrounds to the extent that I can while remaining true to what I believe.
I’m not any type of expert on depression, just a fellow sufferer. I’ve been medicated on and off through the years, but never found healing through anti-depressants. I’ve gone to counseling on and off as well, and found much more healing there than through medication. I’m of the opinion that everyone can benefit from counseling. If you’ve never tried it, seek it out. Many churches offer it for free. I’ve never been suicidal, except for a few fleeting thoughts while on Zoloft, a prescription anti-depressant. I then read that suicidal thoughts are a side effect of Zoloft. What the?!?! It seems irresponsible to prescribe an anti-depressant with a side effect like that. When I felt those thoughts creep in I immediately reached out to my counselor and doctor, who had me stop taking the medication. If you EVER experience thoughts of ending your life, please seek help immediately. See the resources at the bottom of this post for more information.
In my own battle with depression, I’ve found five daily (some hourly) ways that I can choose to fight back. Again, I’m no expert. These choices are things that work for me and help me to get my head above water. To me, depression feels like I’m in deep water and can barely keep my face above the surface. It takes all the energy I have to keep from sinking. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to let myself sink, but that is not the life God wants for me. John 10:10, the verse I keep going back to throughout this series, says that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” Depression is such an example of how the enemy’s lies can destroy the life God wants for us to have. We can choose to listen to the lies telling us that God doesn’t love us, that we aren’t good enough, that who we are isn’t enough, and sink down into the dark. Or, we can choose to believe that God created us for life to the full and get up and live it.
1) Start the Day.
This one is practical, but also powerful. When I get up before my children, make my bed, get dressed, grab coffee, and spend quiet time with the Lord, my entire day changes. When I am struggling, my instinct is to stay in bed as long as possible, stay in my pajamas all day, avoid quiet time, not take care of myself, and wallow in negativity. Choosing to start my day has a huge impact on how I feel. If you have children, get up before them. If you don’t, set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal and take that extra time for yourself. If you are a follower of Jesus, spend 10 minutes in the Bible, with prayer and reflection each morning. If you are not a follower of Jesus, spend 10 minutes in quiet reflection. The soul needs that time, no matter what you believe.
2) Choose Gratitude.
Make a list of everything you have to be thankful. Whether you are thankful to Jesus, a higher power, or the universe, choosing gratitude can be a powerful tool to fight off the darkness. When you take the time to write down the big and the small, it changes your perspective in an incredible way. Reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts was a game changer for me. When I feel those “woe is me” feelings coming back, I look to my list and force myself to write more. Choosing gratitude in the midst of a personal storm in my life is the toughest, but makes riding out the storm much more bearable.
3) Choose Joy.
When the darkness closes in, part of fighting back is to look for joy and choose it. Joy is very different from happiness in that it can come in the midst of pain. Joy can be a reflection of the good in others, the smile of a child, the laugh of a friend, while happiness is more self focused. Choose to smile at other people and mean it. Choose to laugh and be around people who make you do so. Enjoy the people in your life. If you have kids, play with them. Celebrate all that is good in your life. Wallowing in discontent will cause me to sink lower and believe lies about myself that just aren’t true. If I daily (and hourly) seek out joy, my entire perspective shifts.
4) Run Away from Darkness, Towards the Light.
For me, this means running away from the things that bring me down and towards God. Are there negative influences you keep running toward? They may be a person, a website, an activity, a substance. While you can find incredible encouragement and positivity online, you can also find hatefullness and evil running rampant. I have to limit my exposure to Facebook because all of the hateful political posts and fear mongering shares really cause me to sink. A friend stopped using Instagram because it caused envy and discontent to creep in to her heart. For a while I visited a forum that was drowning in darkness and negativity. In the midst of a dark time I wanted more of it, wanted to feel bad. I had to stop going all together because of the way it cause me to sink deeper. When I run towards God, I choose time with Him first. Before I check my email, before I do anything, time with Him wins. Running towards the light may mean banning negativity from your life from tv, music, movies, social media, and even some friends. Choose uplifting things. If they bring you down, run.
5) Run to Community, Away from the Shadows.
Negativity thrives in the dark, in the hidden. When I find myself avoiding friends, running towards lonliness, refusing company, I know I’m in the midst of a depression battle. My instinct is to run to my bed and wallow in the bad feelings. To fight it I must force myself to reach out and grab community. Say yes when someone invites me out. Answer the phone. Have real conversations. Let people in. God can use people powerfully in my life if I let them in.
In Genesis 16:13, Hagar gives God one of my favorite of His names. She says, “You are the God that sees me.” She is in a dark place, has been mistreated and suffered, but in the midst of it God comforts her. God sees us. He is the God who sees me. I’m choosing to believe that. I believe and know that He loves me. He wants real life for me. He sees me. He sees you. He knows you and loves you. His heart hurts when yours does and breaks for you in your suffering. He is the God who sees you.