Dealing With Depression
I recently saw an article in a magazine with this title, and picked it up, looking for hope. It informed me that depression is caused by self-pity and lack of hope. That’s very nice, but I knew that. So how do I DEAL with it!!
Having dealt with depression on a regular basis, in my own life, and in the lives of others, I thought you might like me to share with you some of the ways that I have found, to really deal with depression. When I say “deal with depression” I don’t mean take a pill. I will grant that there are chemicals that will help you feel better, and there are forms of depression that can only be dealt with medically. I’m talking about the depression many of us face in the course of our lives. I believe if we don’t deal with it, it can lead to serious problems.
Probably the biggest cause of depression is lack of hope. My marriage will never get better. I’ll never get married. My children will never straighten up. I’ll never have children. My job will never get better. I’ll never get a job. I’ll never get to the field. I’ll never get off the field! I don’t know what to fix for dinner. I don’t have anything to fix for dinner!
Seems to me that it’s largely a matter of perspective. When depression strikes, your feet suddenly weigh 500 pounds. I describe it as trying to swim upstream. In oatmeal. Every step is a struggle, much less mustering enthusiasm about tomorrow. Life takes on shadows, the colors dull and nothing seems worthwhile. At times you can’t even focus your thoughts, they just seem to spiral around in your brain like some never ending carousel.
What to Do
Change your thought patterns. There are several ways to do this. But all of them depend on you choosing not to wallow. There is a balance between riding the depression out [it will go away when it’s ready to go away] and wallowing in it. Don’t wallow. Obey. Start with what you know the Lord wants you to do, pare it down to the bare necessities. Don’t wait for the joy. Just do it.
Bible reading and devotional time. If this is not a daily habit, you better make it one. This is the anchor that will hold you to reality when everything else blows off course. It is SO IMPORTANT that you let the Lord speak to you in His word. Remember, “though we are faithless, He remains faithful”. I have found that He doesn’t mind if I come to Him and throw myself on His lap, spilling out all my problems [most of them self-inflicted] and basically dumping on Him. He never scolds, he never laughs, [well, sometimes he must!] and He never pushes me away. I don’t care how mad at Him you are, or how upset or unhappy, please, please, please, don’t turn your back on Him!! Tell Him about it!
Make time for your Father in heaven, and spend time in His word. Make a list of all the Hope you have. [I Peter is a good place to start] All the hope we have in Christ, all the promises He has made to us, and what about all the verses that talk about His love for us? These are real and tangible things that we can base our hope on, no matter what our situation is. And honestly, when you think about it, everything else is all “gonna burn” anyway!!
Then, just like the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” Especially if you’re a global worker, money seems always to be an issue. There just never is enough of it to do everything that needs doing.
[I find it particularly depressing when I can’t buy shoes for my kids. And they only have one pair at a time!] But if we’re honest, there are MANY MANY things which we can count as blessings, and for which we can “offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord.” [Thank you Lord that my children have feet!] So sluff off the lethargy, and sit down and make a list. Sometimes just beginning to thank the Lord will lift our spirits sufficiently to make the day bearable.
Sing. Even if it’s in a monotone at first. I find that just listening to the right music often isn’t enough. I must make the music. It’s almost as if I’m saying to the enemy of my soul, “You will not win, you will not win, you will not win.” I choose to look to my heavenly Father. I choose to be thankful for something today. I choose to sing, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Avoid frustrations. I know when I’m depressed the enemy likes to point out to me all the places I’ve failed the Lord, all the good intentions that I’ve never completed, all the things I’d hoped to do as a mother and never do, all the “good global worker” activities I “ought” to be involved in….etc, etc.! But I learned one thing. The enemy drives the dump truck!! NOT the Lord! Have you ever noticed how He deals with us in love? He never expects more than we can give, He knows our feeble limitations, and He’s so pleased that we just love Him, that our inept efforts to serve Him pale in comparison. One year I was very ill with asthma and for months it was all I could do to keep homeschooling my children. I dragged through the days exhausted before I’d begun, and life was truly taking on a bleak aspect. Then my good friend decided to visit. She’s a doctor, and probably wanted to look me over…But you see. She has no children, and you can eat on her floor. Literally. I walked around my house SO DEPRESSED because it was filthy, and I had no energy to clean it. I remember clearly one morning as I walked through my bedroom door and took in the aspect of a living room that would not meet “House Beautiful” standards, it was as if the Lord whispered to me, “Did I ever expect you to have a clean house?” I broke down in tears right there. He knew my limitations, He knew my heart, and He was not worried about a clean house.! [I must tell you. My friend is a dear, and she never said a word about my house! She simply blessed me with her love and friendship.]
So if the enemy is dumping the dump truck on you, run to the Father. Ask Him what one thing He wants you to do, and just do that. Don’t think about all the “supporter expectations”, or the spring housecleaning you last did in 1980. Pick one thing, and do it. Clean that linen closet, or maybe just one drawer in the kitchen. In the end it’s God we will give account to, not the supporters.
It’s also depressing when you think about all the things in life that you’d like to do, and most likely never will. Look up. We have a heavenly Father who has put all that imagination and creativity into us, and He is going to use it just as He wants to. Don’t forget we’re going to live for all eternity. I figure I’ll get to do many of those unrealized things in heaven! Meanwhile, write that story you’ve been putting off, [who cares if nobody wants to publish it! The fun is in the writing! Besides, your kids will like it.] Or, paint that picture. Design your mansion in heaven, or plan that trip to Europe or wherever, you’ll take during the millennium. [When there won’t be any wars!!]
Be careful what you eat. Bingeing will only make you more depressed. I promise.
Be careful what you see. Television, books, YOU know what causes depression, frustration, and unfulfillable longings in you. Stay away. Having already sent a child on ahead to heaven, I’d rather not read heart-wrenching stories. I figure life has enough drama, thank you very much. And, horror of horrors! Craft magazines!! Put a craft magazine in my way and see me run screaming from the room!
Be careful not to shirk. As I said before, don’t wallow. Pigs wallow. Don’t say, “I can’t help it.” Don’t lie. We can do nothing without Christ anyway. All we need to do is look up. “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” Don’t allow yourself to be detoured from that. He really does give “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”
These are not full-proof cures. They are just some ideas that I have found helpful. Sometimes the depression won’t go away immediately. Sometimes it won’t go away for weeks or months. But do remember, as Oswald Chambers is fond of pointing out, “self-pity is a sin.” Get your eyes off yourself and on to God. I know you can do it, because I have. Don’t hold in your hurt, closed heart to yourself, give it over to Him again and again. You just “lift up your eyes” and suddenly you’ll remember that underneath are the everlasting arms.