Until August of 2013 depression was never an issue in my life. I never experienced symptoms of depression as described by the NIMH – National Institute of Mental Health . Nor had I ever needed to take any medicine to help regulate my mood. There are many articles that talk about depression: Is it a disease? A mental disorder? Biochemical imbalance? A brain dysfunction? A psychological syndrome? An existential or spiritual crisis? If you are interested, you can do more of your own research, but I can tell you most of it lines up the same. That doctors, both men and women, significantly more brilliant than myself, can’t really nail down an answer. Most however, agree that treating the symptoms is the key to attempt to restore any sense of normality to the life of the afflicted.
Today, I want to talk about My Depression. Most of you that see me on a regular basis would probably not even realize that I suffer from depression. For the most part I look happy, I am social (and sometimes funny), I am outgoing, and enjoy the company of others. What you don’t see are the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism, loss of interest in hobbies, fatigue, balance issues, inability to make decisions, loss of sleep, inability to concentrate for any extended period of time, contemplation of suicide, and the constant physical pain I live with every day. I am not telling you these things for your sympathy, I am telling you these things because I know at least one other person at my church that deals with many of these same issues. I want people who don’t really understand depression and what it feels like to have a disease like depression is.
In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 Paul the apostle tells the people of the church in Corinth about his own suffering. How he has asked God to remove and take away the pain and anguish he is feeling daily. God responds to Paul by telling him “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
For those of you who don’t know Paul the apostle, he started his life as Saul of Tarsus, a terrible sinner and persecutor of the early church. He even sat in judgement and approved of the stoning of Stephen (a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit”). I believe like Paul, I was also a judgmental and prideful man. I would condemn people based on appearance and provoke fights, and spoke very poorly about a God I grew up with and knew. I believe that like Paul, without God to remind me that I truly need Him, ‘that His grace is all I need, His power works best in my weakness”, I would revert back to my old sinful/prideful nature.
Having the disease depression; not being depressed These are two totally different things. Believe me when I tell you that there are days that the only thing that keeps me on this earth is my faith in my Father God. (Don’t freak out, life ending decisions are not part of my daily thought process anymore – thanks to Salvation and my Father God) I know that my pain and suffering (my story) will bring Glory to Him, so I Press On. Now God is not my only reason to live. I have other reasons for pressing on, my amazing wife, my beautiful children, my very tolerant family, the support and love of my church family. I could go on, but you get the picture. I guess I am saying that having the disease depression is a constant battle that you are fighting within yourself; and you will lose, unless you let God into your heart.
As for me, I can’t remember a day when I have woke up and not been in pain. When you go to the hospital or doctor and they say ‘rate your pain from 0-10’, most of my day’s start as a 6 and go up from there. I have been offered and prescribed different mood stabilizers and pain medications, but then I am essentially a zombie sitting on the couch. To me that is just piling on more of the feelings that led me to this state of depression anyway, so why bother. However I have found that if I will just continue to trust in the Lord and see where He leads me – good day, bad day, a little pain, a lot of pain, it doesn’t matter because He will make it work for His Glory.
My hope in telling you these things is that if you are a person on the outside and watching closely enough, you can see the battle, the battle against depression, happening within someone. When you get that rare glimpse into someone who is in this battle, make an effort to establish a relationship with that person. Many people battling depression won’t just “dump it out there” for you to know about. They will try to hide or mask it. They will throw out one excuse or another for their mood. In my opinion, people battling the disease depression are afraid of being labeled as weak. I know for me, I don’t want your pity, I don’t want your hovering over to make sure I’m still here tomorrow. I just want you to listen when I am ready to talk. Maybe even give me a hug and let me know that I am loved. Being loved makes the battle a little easier.