What Little I Know about Depression
by Barbara Ryan
My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.
Depression is a chronic feeling of sorrow in one’s soul, an air of melancholy, and a battle with omnipresent tears. One’s days are characterized by sighs; one’s nights are characterized by tormented or interrupted sleep. One’s soul agrees with Jeremiah who wrote in Lamentations 3:17, “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.”
Depression can cascade upon you, as it did on me one fateful day in January of 1997, or it can sneak up on you, as it did with me in l989. Either way, one finds oneself being carried downstream, away from the familiar feeling of “God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world” to another frightening, unfamiliar place of feeling “Can hell be worse than this? Must I go on living in the midst of this overwhelming psychic pain?”
When depression comes to visit, one must immediately do several things. First, one must rule out organic causes for depression, such as anemia, hyperthyroidism, etc. Second, one must immediately begin a regimen of healthier self-care, providing better nutrition, exercise, and patterns for rest, even if rest is not easy. Third, one must streamline one’s life, jettisoning those extraneous things that drain energy, and conserving those things that maintain energy, because one needs energy/soul strength to address those things that brought on the depression. Fourth, one must carve out time for quiet and reflection, in order to begin the journey to depression’s source. And fifth, one must find one or two mature, faithful prayer partners to come alongside and to lift you up to Jesus for healing as is depicted in Mark 2:1–4; friends who will figuratively hold you up before the throne while the battle wages in your soul (as is depicted in Ex. 17:8-13). Sixth, be patient. Antecedents to depression are usually long; resolution from depression is often commensurately long. Seventh, do not fight against the current of depression. Go where the Lord would have you go, but go in faith, knowing that He who brought you into darkness is with you in the darkness and will lead you to the Light.
My experience with depression tells me that as I stayed Godward in my pain, He brought to light those things outside of me and in me that caused my soul to plummet into despair. Once I identified those things outside of me (the difficult circumstances), I was able to constructively engage and change some of them (my external circumstances). For those externalities that do not or cannot change, once and for all letting go of my vain hope that they would change and accepting what is brought great healing. Thus, my external changes in circumstances were not as significant as my internal changes, where I replaced old, defeating thought patterns with new, Christ-honoring thought patterns.
I am persuaded, with Paul, that neither death nor life, nor depression nor tears, can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I am persuaded that He will deliver ours souls in safety from the battles that do rage in our souls from time to time. I am persuaded that we can be kept in the love and gentleness of Christ, even as we walk through the valley of depression, which is a painful gift, because it leads to a sweet brokeness of self—reliance and strength which is ultimately very pleasing to God. When we are weak, then He is strong. Nevertheless, dear friend, I pray that your days of darkness will be few.