2 Samuel 22:29 – You, Lord, are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
Depression is like a dark bag placed over your head. It causes darkness to encircle your world. You know the light is out there, but you can only see things in shadows.
The bag is scratchy and irritates your forehead and eyes. It weighs heavily upon your head and causes your face to bow down toward the ground. You try to take off the sack before you start your day, but there’s no way to grab the ends or slide it off your face.
What’s worse is stepping out your door and going to work. As you drive along, the glow from the sun is stunted. Each traffic light you come upon is always red making you have to stop.
You stumble around in your day, because you can’t fully get into your work. It’s hard to do such a thing with a bag over your head making your computer display a hard thing to see clearly.
Your boss walks by your desk, takes a quick glance at you, and then asks you why you haven’t finished the report that was supposed to be on his desk hours ago? You try to give reasons why it’s not done, but your boss doesn’t care. He leaves and once again you try with all your might to pull that bag off your head.
Somehow you make it through your day and stumble home. You throw the files you’re supposed to work on at home tonight on the couch and head towards your bedroom. All you want to do is sleep.
But then you think about your family who are waiting patiently for you to join them for dinner. You don’t want to. So you head for your bedroom. They must understand; it would take so much energy to eat. And the bag over your head would make it impossible to eat and you wouldn’t want your family to see what a failure you are. It’s easier to climb back into bed.
The darkness of depression is hard to shake. It doesn’t just exist on the outside but pushes its way into every chamber of your heart. Tonyrobbins.com, in their article, “How to Deal With Depression,” has some ideas on how to get out from under depression’s hold on your life. One idea is to, “Change your physiology. Being mindful of your body and making adjustments to how you carry yourself can be key to getting out of depression. It can be as simple as lifting your chest.” Another is to, “Change your words. Your words matter – both the words you say out loud and the way you speak to yourself internally.”
When darkness encircles your world, remember that you can lay your burdens down at Christ’s feet. Trust that God sees depression’s bag over your head. He will lift it off and give you back your strength when yours is gone. God can be your lamp and turn your darkness into light.
1 Kings 19:3, 4 – Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”
You sit alone in your living room.The blinds are shut as if you could shut out life. And rolling around in your head is the last conversation you had with your son.
It hadn’t gone well, and he had hung up on you.
You start to cry. Then your cry turns even deeper and from your lips escapes, “Woe is me!”
The more you think about your life, the stronger the cry from your heart. But if you’re really honest with yourself, you are simply feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve had disagreements with your son before. You just need to give him some time.
Yet still you feel it’s not fair he treated you this way. On and on you rationize that you hadn’t done anything wrong. And from somewhere down the line the train of self-pity is coming to pick you up.
But does it help you to feel sorry for yourself? Is it going to make you feel better? In most cases no.
Self-pity is a choice to simply feel sorry for yourself and to wallow in it. The more you wallow in the mud, the harder it is to come out of it. You must grab a hose and wash the mud off of you. As you do, you’ll feel the weight of self-pity lift off.
Let’s find some ways to stop thinking, “Woe is me.” Psychologytoday.com in their article, “9 Ways to Get Past Self-Pity,” gives us some clues to help us wash off self-pity. One way to do so is to “reserve your resources for productive activities.” “Every minute you dwell on self-pity is 60 seconds you delay working on a solution to your problems.” Another one is, “They refuse to complain.” “Venting to other people about the magnitude of your problems fuels feelings of self-pity.”
Take a look at the Bible verse above. Elijah was a great prophet in Bible times. He had just watched God win a victory and perform a miracle, yet when someone threatened to kill him, he ran. He was in the middle of self-pity and said in affect that he was done. But God didn’t take Elijah’s life for feeling this way. He fed and cared for him and helped him wash that pity away. God will lift you out of self-pity too. You just need to turn towards him and believe things will get better.
Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Disappointment. There it is. Things aren’t turning out the way you wanted them to.
Do you believe if you don’t expect something good to happen then you won’t be disappointed? That’s a hard question to ask.
With each one of these situations, it shows that you’ve already predicted the outcome. All you see ahead of you is disappointment. And you wonder, “What’s the point of trying when I’ll never see the approval I long for? Nothing will ever turn out the way I want it to be.”
Could there be a reason that you’re disappointed most of the time? Could it be that you don’t have any hope left? You’ve been hurt so many times that you don’t think you can handle one more let down.
How do we move past disappointment? Chopra.com, in their article, “9 Ways to Overcome Disappointment,” makes some suggestions. Here’s one – Adopt the perspective of an observer rather than a participant. Detaching like this allows you to see with increased clarity. Also, celebrate that you know what you want. By having the feeling of disappointment, it shows that you know what your goal is.
Attitude plays a big part in this. I’m opening my journal and writing in it, “Today will be the kind of day that I make it out to be.” That’s right. I said that I make it out to be. In addition, I make it a point to pray that God would open my eyes to see things the way he does. His plan will ultimately be fulfilled. Then I will discover that though one thing may have caused me disappointment, there are many more reasons that brought me joy. Reach for the joy, and let go of the disappointments.
Matthew 9:28 - When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied.
In the ocean, far away from shore, sits a small desert island.
The sand dunes shift and change position with each passing breeze. Only a couple of palm trees stand as sentries guarding the island. Not far from the trees, something moves. And then drops to their knees.
It’s a person, and there’s no one with them. That’s because they’re stranded on this little desert island, because they can no longer come and go as they please. That’s how a person with chronic pain or an illness feels.
But that’s not the way it has to be.
If you stand up and turn around you’ll see an oasis in the distance. That oasis is made up of people who serve as those two, sentry palm trees, always on duty being your friend in spite of your pain.
But you have to take the first step toward them.
Let go of your fears.
If you want things to be different, you must believe they can be.
Cnbc.com in their article, “18 Ways Successful People Think Differently,” gives us some ways that we can do things differently and change our present, such as worry, fear, action, and gratitude are all choices you get to make. No one gets to decide anything for you. Every decision is completely yours to make. In addition, today is that second chance you have been asking for. Use it.
Take a look at the Bible verse above. There were some men who were blind. They went to Jesus hoping he would heal them. But even though they’d gone to Jesus, they still needed to believe he could do it. It’s the same with us. If we want things to be different we have to believe that God is able to change things. No, he may not change everything, and he might not even change the worst things you’re going through. But he does touch our lives by bring others to stand with us through our trials. God will also bring healing to our hearts and encouragement to strengthen us.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 - Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Have you or someone you know been diagnosed with an incurable pain or illness? Finding this out can be devastating to your life. It can cause you to question everything.
Something good has to come from all of this, right?
If you are a friend of someone who is trying to figure out why they have to suffer, and want to truly help, here are some things to keep in mind:
Trying to help a friend quench the fires of depression can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. Helpguide.org posts the article, “Helping Someone With Depression – Supporting a Depressed Person While Taking Care of Yourself,” which provides a guide through the symptoms of depression and how a friend or family member can help. It’s especially important to be sensitive to the pain the sufferer is going through, and this article provides ways to start a conversation, and examples of questions you can ask.
The fires of depression can quickly spred from one area of your life to every part. You may quickly begin to lose the battle against it, but just as the Bible verse says above, when you have someone else with you, they can give you their strength and you will be bound together in a cord that’s not easily broken or burnt up by those depression fires.
Psalm 4:1 – Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress, be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
There are different reasons why we put a smile on our face:
There’s one more reason, though, maybe that smile means you’re trying to hold onto control because you’re afraid of what others would think of you if you didn’t smile.
What’s the true story?
Life gets tiring and sometimes the reason we’re so tired is that giving a false smile takes a lot of energy. Sometimes we walk into a conversation where everyone else is laughing and we don’t feel like laughing because our emotional pain is off the charts. Do you laugh when you’re crying inside? Do you make an excuse to walk about from your friends?
I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m glad that I have people in my life who help me find a balance, and who believe in me enough to allow me the freedom to show my real emotions. That balance I’m talking about is learning to live a life that is real.
There’s something else that can explain what we’re going through and give us some hope. It’s a condition called, Smiling Depression. Nami.org posts the article, “What You Need to Know About ‘Smiling Depression.’ ” In the article they explain that smiling depression involves appearing happy to others and smiling through the pain, keeping the inner turmoil hidden. It’s a major depressive disorder. One thing that you can do is to find things that are meaningful to you and help you feel productive and accomplished.
God wants us to be able to smile when it’s for the right reason. He will also answer us when we call to him for help in living a real life. He will bring us relief from all of the distress we feel in our heart when we’re trying to decide if it’s an okay time for us to smile. As long as our motives are to live a life that is real in our actions and emotions, he will help us do it.
Watch out: Smiling Depression can be dangerous because it can have a connection to suicide. One of the ways to help yourself and others who are depressed is to seek help. If you or a loved one are having thoughts about suicide seek help immediately. It is a matter of life and death. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or simply dial 911.
Nehemiah 2:2-3 - So the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The alarm goes off in the morning. You sit up. You need to get moving. However, you just sit on the edge of your bed. It’s like as if you’ve just heard the worst news and a feeling of deep sadness washes over you.
You mentally check in with yourself trying to figure out where this feeling is coming from:
Home life: You live alone with your dog, but that’s not new. You’ve been living this way for over five years. You’re happy with your environment, and in fact are thankful that you not only live in a functional home, but one that is surrounded by rose gardens and fruitful, green trees.
Work life: You decide to push your feelings aside and start to get ready for work. You stop midway to the kitchen and try to think if there’s anything going on at work to be sad about. You like your job, and the people you work with. Oh, there are those stressful days when you’re almost reaching a deadline, and a few times you’ve gotten into a disagreement with a co-worker, but nothing that important.
Social life: So far you haven’t figured out what could be causing the sadness that has been following you all day. You think about your friends and smile. Yes, a couple of them are a bit quirky, but it makes for interesting conversations and there’s really no concern there. You also have arguments sometimes with friends, but that’s normal, isn’t it?
Family: You just saw your family for Christmas. It didn’t appear that any of them had a problem with you. There weren’t any big, blow out arguments either. You went home and found a bit of sadness, because you already miss your family, but that’s not unusual.
Health: You do have health issues that affect you every day. You live with a chronic pain condition that sometimes makes it so that you have to leave work early. But you’ve had the condition for almost twenty years, so that’s not something new. I guess you could be sad about having to live this way, but you have a support network and your boss understands when you have to take a day off once in a while.
Spiritual life: You attend a great church. You have lots of friends, and even attend several events a year. You take part in a Sunday School class where there are lively discussions and taking apart what the Bible verses you’re studying mean. You love listening to your pastor as he shares a message. You also have your own study at home where you dig into the Bible and find things that apply to your life. You don’t feel a separation from God, so this probably isn’t your source of depression.
Now that you’ve examined the main areas of your life, you aren’t anywhere closer to figuring out why you’re depressed. Truthfully, there might not be a reason that you can point to. Depression can come upon you even if there is no real reason for it. So what can we do to help us lift off the feeling of sadness? Psychologytoday.com posts the article, “Eight Ways to Actively Fight Depression.” In it they discuss strategies to fight depression. One of which is to recognize and conquer your critical self attacks. These disruptive thoughts can interfere with our lives. Another is to do things you once like to do even if you don’t feel like it.
Sometimes we can identify the reason for a deep sadness, but even if we can’t there are ways to combat that depression and allow light to enter our lives once again. Take a look at the Bible verses above. Nehemiah had the job of being the king’s cup bearer. He tasted everything first before the cup was handed to the king. One day, he entered the palace to do his job and he looked sad. He was sad because the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and allowed him to go Jerusalem and rebuild the gates and walls of the city. He was able to remedy the reason for his sadness. Many times we will be able to do so, also. But when we can’t, realize that God will still have compassion on us, and help us find ways to be freed from our depression.
Psalm 68:6 - God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
Here we are with the Christmas season upon us. Everyone is rushing to the malls or outlet stores to find just the right gift to buy for a special someone. Then after you’ve finished shopping, you return home to wrap your presents and place them under your Christmas tree waiting for the day your family will gather.
Wait a minute.
You’re returning home with the presents
You’re returning home to wrap the presents
You’re returning home to a Christmas tree to put them under
You’re returning home to look for your favorite cookie recipe
You’re returning home to bake the cookies
You’re returning home to wait for the day the family all gathers
But what if you don’t have a place you can call home?
It certainly feels like you have no home for the holidays.
What you may be experiencing is grief over the kind of Christmas you used to have. The article, “64 Tips for Coping with Grief at the Holidays,” on whatsyourgrief.com provides us with some answers. Though the article is primarily talking about grieving over a lost loved one, I believe there are some suggestions that also work when grieving over not having a “home” at Christmas. Here are some of their ideas: Acknowledge the holidays will be tough this year; talk to your kids about how things will be different, and letting them know that it’s okay to be sad over what they’ve lost, and it’s okay to also feel happy because it’s Christmas.
And lastly one of my ideas: Though you may not feel like celebrating this Christmas, allow your family to step in and help you through the grieving process. If they live nearby let them pick you up and take you to their home. It may not be your home, but it may help you feel a piece of Christmas joy. After all, God placed us in families for a reason. They can be the ones who shower comfort on us when we need it the most.
Proverbs 4:25-26 - Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
They say that things come in three’s –
My washing machine spills out water from the hose connected to the hot water
My microwave oven suddenly stops working while cooking dinner
Then, wait for it, I go out to my car to drive to a repair shop but it won’t start
Yes, three’s. That’s if you believe in that superstition. Yet sometimes that’s what happens.
But some of us have found that our lives don’t just come in three’s, but four’s, five’s, and you get the picture. Everywhere I look it feels like my life is falling apart.
Things break down like the washing machine, microwave and car. But our bodies break down because of multiple chronic health issues, also. And, the worst of all, those we love fall asleep and never wake up.
When life is crumbling around you, do you ever feel like maybe you’d like to fall asleep and not wake up? Do you just want to stop the merry-go-round and jump off?
But what if your life suddenly takes a turn around? Good things start happening in three’s.
You get the job you wanted
You make a new friend who likes the things you do
You finally get that vacation you’ve waited for so long
But are you excited, or are you waiting for the other foot to fall and for everything to start falling apart again? It’s a difficult place to be. You’ve been so used to things going wrong that you’ve lost the art of finding the good and basking in all its sunlight and peace.
Depression doesn’t only take away your joy; it can increase the likelihood that bad things are always on the horizon, because that’s all you’re looking for.
Yet you say to me, “You just don’t know my life. There can’t possibly be anything good. Can’t you see that my life is falling apart all around me?” Though I haven’t lived your life, I’ve lived long enough to know that even if there isn’t anything you can find that’s good right now, keep pushing forward with your eyes looking up. You can’t find the good if you keep your head down all the time.
Marcandangel.com, in their article, “8 Things to Remember When Everything Goes Wrong,” list some good suggestions for helping you see things differently. They include everything in life is temporary and don’t be ashamed of the scars life has left you because they are symbols of your strength.
Finally, just as the Bible verse above says, always keep your eyes looking straight and directly before you. If you constantly look at all of the negative circumstances all around, your path may stray off course and you may find yourself sinking in sand. Let’s keep our feet on the bedrock and know you’re gonna make it through feeling like your life is falling apart.
Psalm 142: 5, 6 – I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
When you have an invisible mental health issue such as depression, it’s easy to fall prey of judgmental attitudes.
It seems like everywhere I go I sense that others are watching me. Some know that I battle depression. And yes, it is a battle. One fought on the battlefield of our minds. And the enemy stands in front of us laughing.
Laughing because they think we’re doped up.
Laughing because they think we’re taking the easy way out.
But there is nothing easy about depression. And even though we may be seeing a doctor for the condition, we’re judged by others when we choose to accept the help antidepressant medications can give us.
So how do we cope with the judgmental attitudes others feel towards us when we choose to treat depression with medications? Thetempest.com in their article, “Here’s How to Battle the Stigma Surrounding Antidepressants,” discusses how too many people believe depression and anxiety are the individuals choice; and lists some of the unhelpful statements and questions that someone struggling with mental illness deals with when considering medication.
Removing the stigma around taking antidepressants can help people who fight depression to get medical help when treating depression. We have to stop judging others and ourselves so that healing can begin.
God knows that those of us who fight depression are in desperate need of being rescued from those who pursue us by placing labels on us. Our world would be a gentler and more compassionate place if we would support those who choose to get help.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.