Dealing with Depression...
“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?
I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.”
- Psalm 6:2-9, NIV
CAN YOU RELATE?
David penned the agony that is depression pretty well. God’s answer: MERCY. Honestly, I could end this post right there, but it’s the in between, the suffering, where those who battle depression find ourselves trapped in the longest wait of our lives. Because when you’re depressed, days feel like months and years. When you’re depressed, everything is numb. For me, depression is a bone-chilling winter inside. Much like how yesterday was in the Austin area—grey, wet, cold, and silent…a haunting and deafening silence.
So I want to talk about the in between, the space I feel like we don’t talk about enough at all, especially in “church culture”. How does it feel? What do we do? How can we cope? Who do we tell? All real questions I have found myself asking lately. But first, a story…
MY RECENT BATTLE WITH DEPRESSION
The first couple of months after I quit my job depression settled in. I say settled because it didn’t barge in and invade; instead, it moved in slowly until it took over the entire house room by room. I thought I had a grip on it, I thought I was okay… but then I found myself in bed all of the time, not eating or eating too much, not showering, not caring about anything. I cried all of the time or didn’t show emotion for hours on end. I became paranoid about every person in my life. What was this? Who was I?
If you’ve followed my journey, you know anxiety is something I have endured for years, it’s no stranger. But depression had always been a bit of an acquaintance, someone I’ve had few encounters with. Honestly, I had prepared myself for a possible onset of anxiety after I resigned because everything was so uncertain and out my control. But depression was never a thought and I didn’t know the warning signs. After some time, I found myself living with it. Or if I am brutally honest, not living at all.
And now? Now, I am in a MUCH better place, but depression is still a creeper. I have good days and I have tough days. Therapy is something we have discussed and most likely the next route I will take—one I AM NOT ashamed of. In fact, I praise God that it’s a well-considered option because that means I have improved a hella lot on laying down my pride. YEA BABY! 🙌🏽 But truly, seeking out help is never in my nature. I AM THE HELPER (any other type 2 enneagrams out there?!). And maybe that’s why this has taken even more of a toll on me. My final words at my previous job weren’t even words, I was blubbering in my pastor’s office about how I was battling anxiety and depression and working to the bone wasn’t helping. But help never came from that. Follow up never happened. And I worked at a church y’a’ll… I think you can piece together why depression sank in after that. It’s a forgiveness journey I have been on ever since. One I am thankful for and will share about soon because FORGIVENESS IS FREEDOM. But that’s a story for another time…
Alas, there I was in the hot seat again—a seat I had drenched in tears just as David and I needed help, I needed mercy.
STEP 1: BABY STEPS
First of all, I am not here to offer a step-by-step process on how to handle depression. I am no expert. I am no doctor. BUT, I have a story to tell, a journey on how I am finding healing. And maybe, just maybe it’ll help one suffering soul. I do know that every single time anyone shared their struggle with depression during my darkest of days, it leaped out from the page or screen like a bright light. And those little lights built up, baby! My hope is to add to them.
So what was baby step #1 for me? I vividly remember looking up at Philip with tears streaming down my face, stuttering the hardest words of my life, “I think I’m depressed…” He shook his head in agreement because he had known.
After that, we made the tiniest changes. He started to come home every single day for lunch to be with the kids so I could have some quiet time. I began to write again and journal in my Happy Planner® Faith Warrior sheets. I made myself get outside every day, taking walks with the Elly and Enzo. Each step was a baby step. Each step I needed to feel. We walked through those weeks alone. We had to. We needed each other more than ever. We were battle buddies. It wasn’t a time to share it with anyone. I turned down coffee dates and meet ups (and still am for the most part) because I knew that the more I discussed it, the more I picked at the open wound. But our marriage needed that time, I needed that time. I had to rediscover what it meant to be utterly dependent on my husband, and that is a very good thing. Baby steps.
Have you admitted the state you’re in? What baby steps are you taking or need to take?
WORSHIP THROUGH WINTER
Next, I realized how much more I needed to worship God. There is nothing more powerful against depression and anxiety than worship.
“Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.”
- Psalm 8:2, NIV
Worship is a weapon. It’s through the praises of God’s children that the enemy is silenced. You see, even David worshiped through the scriptures above—that is why that book is called Psalms. He is such a great example in the Bible of what it looks like to both cry out to God in agony and worship at the same time. Job is another incredible example of this—someone I am studying and pulling so much goodness and wisdom from for my future works.
If you are dealing with depression, I encourage you to read Psalms and Job. Gain from their goodness and WORSHIP through your winter. I know it’s hard. I know your worship may be sobs, but I also know just how powerful it is.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
- 2 Corinthians 3:17, NIV
TAKE TIME TO HEAL
Healing takes so much time. I am still healing. Depression is a devastating wound, one that you almost have no idea how it’s going to heal. Yet God, The Great Physician, is performing His greatest operation. I have recognized that He is doing His work and I need to do mine…rest, be still, and let the healing process take place.
“It’s time for you to be selfish for once, Erica…”—hard to swallow words from my hero-of-a-husband. I nodded my head up and down as I, you guessed it, sobbed because that word was frightfully foreign to me. Selfish?! But I knew…I knew it was the best thing I could do for him, for our family, and for myself. I was done pouring from an empty cup. I needed my cup filled and still do. I am letting the healing waters pour in, seeping into every fiber of my frail being. It is going to take some time. In fact, 2019 feels like such a landmark year. I am calling it my year of retreat. Like a real author, I am retreating to my secret writing place in the woods to pen the great American novel. Like Jesus, I am retreating to pray and fill up before I continue to serve.
What I realize is that the “selfish” moments I am taking are becoming a selfless act for my family. I am full just enough to encourage and love my husband well. I am full just enough to cradle Elly’s face and tell her she is smart, breathtakingly beautiful, and the sweetest child when she cries to me saying “nobody likes me, mommy…” I am full just enough to sit with Emmy and teach her about not caring about what others think of her as she begins to battle the fear of embarrassment for the first time ever. I am full just enough to rock Enzo and sing to him, stroking his hair as he falls asleep for a nap. They need me here, and depression can have me no longer.
Are you allowing the healing to take its time?
That’s where I’m at. That’s it. Healing, one day at a time. It’s a process. It’s a foreign land still and that’s okay. How much more should I place my trust in the One who holds the universe than when I’m in an unknown place? So, I embrace this season and setting.
Depression may be a winter inside but God is preparing the spring. You’re not alone.