This is a difficult subject to talk about both personally and broadly. Meaning, I am going to share my own struggles with depression and anxiety and hope that I don’t offend others with how I deal with these things personally. Faith has been the only thing that has helped me fight depression and anxiety. Knowing Jesus brought me up out of my own personal pit.
My first real bout with depression occurred in my junior year of college. I was on my third college in 3 years. I was living with 3 girls that I didn’t know. I didn’t really feel like I belonged. That year I flunked out of school. Life wouldn’t be the same after that.
When I look back on that time, I was rather disconnected. I chose to stay with my high school boyfriend in college. My life was about maintaining that relationship, not making relationships with the people I was in school with. There were also struggles with my family, and even though I was away, I could feel the weight of what was going on at home. It wasn’t good.
My coping mechanism for bad times is to close up shop. Meaning, I internalize all of my emotions and numb out. Sharing my struggles with friends rarely turned out well, and usually provided fodder for gossip, even as an adult. Often times what I thought was a time to vent my emotions turned into an advice session. So I don’t often trust others with my story.
I had a secular therapist and I have been on anti-depressants. Therapy sessions tended to be big gripe sessions in which I could vent and feel better after; it helped me identify the sources of my feelings, and gave me some coping mechanisms. But the same situations still came up over and over. Really what it boiled down to is this: the common denominator was me. I didn’t know how to process that or what to do with it except own that I was the problem. Which, honestly, contributed more to my innate insecurity and shame. Depression continued to eat my lunch.
Anti-depressants were even worse. It numbed me out even more. Take a numb person and multiply it by 10 and you get nothingness. That was how I felt on drugs. I was alive but nobody was home. But, hey, at least I didn’t feel anxious.
If I had to boil down to the foundations of my experience with depression, it would be a lack of self confidence, an extreme sense of not fitting in, and things not turning out how I dreamed they would (a feeling of loss and despair that I have failed to live out my dreams). There isn’t enough therapy dollars in my budget to deal with these issues. There isn’t a happy pill with a big enough dose to take away these deep-seated feelings. They were bred over time, over a thousand circumstances that cannot be changed.
I can blame a lot of external things for how I felt about me. I did fully blame myself for how life turned out. For example, I thought that I deserved how things turned out because I chose to pursue all the wrong things. I can fully admit that a lot of my life I have been on the run. Running away from my own brokenness, looking for something to take away the pain that I felt so deeply. I have put on mask after mask to make myself and my life palatable to others hoping to be loved and accepted. Sadly for me, it never worked. But Jesus has changed everything for me. In my pursuit of Jesus and in pursuit of the meaning of spiritual freedom, I have some insight that now keeps me out of the pit.
Without God, no one really loved me. Without God, no one really knew me. Without God, there was no plan. Yeah, you can be cynical and say this is a crutch; but without the foundation of being fully known by a loving God, to be honest with you, I doubt I would be on Earth today sharing my story. I was suicidal and on the brink of it just before I walked into church. See, when you set your value on what the world says you are worth, you end up being nothing when what defines you says you are worthless. God never says that.
See, without God showing me who I am and that I have a purpose there is no value to me or my life. The construct of the mind that I had before I knew Jesus was a trap with no way out. There is nothing lasting that gave me purpose. God is purpose. Love is purpose. Therefore I have purpose.
The apostle Paul urges us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. No human construct can permanently transform anything. Only God’s perfect will can transform. I beat depression by pursuing God. I got to know perfect love (even still getting to know it). Perfect love then casts out my fears. It has not been not immediate but over time fears have subsided. I know there will be a time when all my anxiety will be no more. It is my job to let go and let God take over. It is all my choice.
By no means am I saying that depression is not real or biological. I am not saying that no one should be on anti-depressants. I am saying that for me, what I learned was that I was my own worst enemy. What I said about myself in my own head and what I believed about myself by definition of others, who I allowed to speak into my life, was not edifying. I had no other external example in my life that led me to believe anything good about me because life never looked good from my point of view. I have taken a hard look in the mirror in my journey. It isn’t all roses and lavender. As Christians we cannot sugarcoat our lives and what we learn from our past. We must be sober about ourselves and where we have been. It is God’s job to do the restoring and transforming. We cannot hold on to our old ways. We must become new and go into those painful places so that God can do his handiwork. We must also trust others with our lives and stories so we can encourage others to seek the love of God and his ways, to pursue the fullness that is the Christ. That is part fulfilling purpose.
If you are dealing with depression, I truly feel for you. There is a way out. I promise. The life of Jesus is alive in us. He makes all things new. Even you.