Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Oppression of Depression, the Sufficiency of God

"Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion." ~Psalm 103:3-4

As people have heard or read our story, I have had some ask me to describe what depression feels like. I absolutely cannot speak for everyone who suffers from depression, of course (it affects everyone differently). However, I am happy to share my own experiences, with the desire that through my transparency others will find hope or, if applicable, the resolve needed to seek out help for themselves.If you’re interested, read on.

**I am not a doctor or counselor. This is not intended to diagnose or cure anyone. If you are really struggling, please see a health or mental health professional.**

Depression comes in a lot of varieties. Some is brought on by difficult or painful circumstances, other cases are clinical (or biochemical); some cases are long-term while others are brief; some produce a general feeling of sadness, others are characterized by anger, while still others cripple people to the point where they might be unable to function. Still others may have combinations of depression with other issues such as mania or anxiety. My experience is only with an uncomplicated, familial, clinical depression.

As I look back, the first indication I see of any problem would have been in high school where I struggled with a low sense of self-esteem. I certainly did not see myself as God saw me in Christ: created with a purpose, redeemed, loved, valuable, etc. During this time I also had my one and only incidence of suicidal thoughts. It scared me enough that I vowed that I would never entertain thoughts like that again (and I have not.) The low self-image continued into college. “Blah” kind of was becoming a way of life for me.

There were bright spots, of course, but, just as depression is circumstantial for some people, my bright spots tended to be circumstantial, and therefore rather short-lived. Difficult circumstances would plunge me further down, too, but because I was always riding just below the surface of emotional “normal,” I never really noticed much of a difference. I thought it was normal. I couldn’t remember anything to compare it to. I kind of see it this way (me riding just below the surface of “normal” with occasional deeper plunges):

I struggled with this for more than 15 years. Briefly, here are some of the things I’ve felt or experienced:

  • low self-esteem
  • general sadness
  • feelings of inadequacy
  • fear of failure
  • very self-demanding, but never good enough
  • unwillingness to “dream” about things that could potentially not happen (underlying this was a fear of disappointment and a fear that other people would think me a fool if whatever I dreamed for never materialized or eventually fell apart)
  • unwillingness, and eventually inability, to fully experience joy
  • guilt over things that weren’t my fault or within my control
  • shame for things other people did, especially if they did not seem to accept any sense of shame for it themselves
  • feelings that I didn’t deserve better than this; acceptance that this is just “the way life is going to be for me”
  • difficulty praying
  • sometimes the knowledge that what I was feeling was completely irrational, but as is common with the nature of depression, I was quite literally unable to do anything to get myself out of the pit
  • a critical and angry spirit
  • defeat and eventually apathy
  • hopelessness

As I have written previously, God was very faithful to bring healing to me after about 15 years of struggle. However, it wasn’t quick and easy; it took not only medication but also lengthy counseling and lots of prayer. I know God could have healed me miraculously, but for whatever reason he chose not to.

This week someone shared something she had read (by Beth Moore, maybe?) about God’s healing power. To summarize, Sometimes God exercises his omnipotence in miraculous ways with the purpose of showing his Supremacy. Other times He chooses not to heal miraculously, forcing us, instead, to increase our dependence on Him and let Him carry us from day to day (for example, the Apostle Paul and his “thorn in the flesh,” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He does this to prove his Sufficiency. In my case, I wished (and prayed) for the miraculous healing (I still believe he is able), but I have come to the point where I am content for his Sufficiency to sustain me.

The battle is not over, and medication doesn’t “make it all go away.” I still struggle from time to time, but in general God has used medication, counseling, and his grace to lift me up out of the miry pits of depression. And I am ever reminded of my dependency on Him.

So, what has come with the victory of healing?

  • An ongoing sense of my dependency on God’s Sufficiency
  • A fresh outlook
  • True abundance of life
  • More realistic self-expectations
  • Willingness to risk failure
  • Freedom from the felt need to criticize
  • Hope and the ability to dream
  • Release from the strongholds of shame and guilt
  • The ability to feel joy
  • A sense of God-esteem that includes the knowledge that I am:
    • Forgiven
    • Redeemed
    • Justified
    • Precious in His sight
    • Dearly loved
    • Created with a purpose

1 comment :

  1. You go girl - a lot of Christians are also depressed and fight this as part of their sin nature. Thank you for your post! :)


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