So, how do I manage my depression now? First, let me explain how my depression works and what causes it. Again, this is not everyone’s experience…it just happens to be mine.
I am not depressed ALL the time. I struggle with “bouts” of depression. They vary in length and I never know when they will pop up. Sometimes depression will slowly creep up, giving me some warning and time to attempt to reduce any stress that I may be experiencing. Reducing stress can sometimes shorten, or lighten, that particular bout of depression, but it never allows me to completely avoid it. Other times, it’s like depression walks up, slaps me in the face and then shoves me into that deep, dark pit. No warning. And I have no idea what triggered the assault.
So, here is what I understand about my depression (and the healing process), so far…
Twelve years ago, after many years of struggling with fatigue, anxiety and depression, I was finally diagnosed with Hypothyroidism. It has many symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose. It is very easy for doctors to get so caught up in chasing the symptoms that they miss the root cause. The thyroid, and the Endocrine system as a whole, is very complicated. Extreeemely long story (and lots of medical jargon) short, my condition is not being treated properly…and hasn’t been since I was diagnosed. I am currently trying to find a doctor who is willing to listen try another thyroid medication, that my research leads me to believe will work. So, part of my problem is physiological.
There is also a spiritual aspect to my struggle. I’ve had some things happen to me in the past. Bad things. Things that I will not get into here…but, they are things that require healing. Deep healing. I’ve gone to counseling in the past; however, it didn’t work at the time because I really didn’t realize the extent of the damage. If I couldn’t be honest with myself, how could I ever be honest with a counselor? As I have grown closer to the Lord and learned to be still before Him, He has begun to show me how the pain from my past has truly affected me, my relationship with Him and my relationship with others. He has also shown me how the enemy (who is Satan) has used my pain to try to destroy me.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
God has been showing me how the enemy has used fear and shame to keep me from walking in the freedom and wholeness Christ died for me to have. Satan has used my shame to drive me into hiding. I’ve put on so many masks; allowing people to see only the image I wish to project. But because of the ever-increasing bouts of depression, the masks have become harder to keep on. I feel like the Lord is prompting me to remove the masks completely, share my weaknesses, and allow His amazing grace to shine through. Trust me, if it wasn’t for Jesus, I would not be sharing ANY of this! Certainly not with the world.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
He is also beginning to surround me with godly counsel. People who have been where I am…and have overcome. We were never meant to walk through this life, alone. There are times when I must withdraw because being around others is too much to bear; however, I have learned not to stay isolated any longer than absolutely necessary. I am an introvert, so I naturally like to be alone. That’s fine when I’m not depressed, but the enemy’s attacks are strongest when I isolate for too long. So, my fellow introverts, if you struggle with depression, please do not isolate! Force yourself to go somewhere, or do something (with another human being!), that allows you to gain some perspective. Don’t spend too much time in your head…
There is another spiritual issue that helps fuel my depression. And this one is probably the hardest for me to talk about. Along with my thyroid issues…and painful past…another part of my problem (I can’t believe I am admitting this) is sin.
I have never had a healthy body image or a healthy relationship with food. Even now, I am not comfortable in my skin. When I was younger, my eating disorders included anorexia, laxative abuse (TMI, sorry!), and diet pill abuse. I had even gone so far as to cut. Now, whenever I am depressed and need to find comfort, I actually turn TO food. It doesn’t matter if I am hungry or not. When life gets to be too much, depression and I snuggle up on the couch with food and Netflix…and binge away! And really, there is no hiding my sin. Because Hypothyroidism slows down metabolism, I can pack on weight like it’s my job! It has taken the fact that I am about to bust out of my fat jeans to bring me to the point of repentance and to begin to allow the Lord to help me turn to Him, instead of food, when I am hurting. God doesn’t want us to abuse our bodies or have an unhealthy relationship with food. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit!
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
I have not been honoring God with the way I treat my body. It’s not that I don’t know the steps to take to be healthy (I am actually quite knowledgeable when it comes to healthy eating and exercise), I just ignored all of the nudges I felt from the Holy Spirit whenever I was about to make a bad food choice…or when I chose to take a nap instead of going for a walk. It has been easy for me to justify my disobedience because I have fatigue and am genuinely tired – all the time. But I have allowed this sin to become a stronghold. God is the only stronghold I want in my life. I’ve learned that I turn to food, instead of God, because I am not truly trusting Him. There has been a disconnect – a divide – between what I know OF God and how I EXPERIENCE God…especially in the dark places of my life. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I am learning how to close that gap which, in turn, is allowing me to be open to the intimate relationship that God always intended for us to have with Him.
So, a breakdown of how I am currently managing my depression as I work toward complete healing and wholeness:
I take medication to address physiological needs.
I am coming out of hiding by removing the masks that I’ve hidden behind all these years. Despising my shame, I will share my story.
I am focusing on the joy set before me, by fixing my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.
I am allowing God to expose the lies the enemy uses about my past, no matter how painful it may be. And let me tell ya…it HURTS!
I am allowing others, with wisdom and godly counsel, to come along side of me as I take this journey to healing.
I have repented of my disobedience and am beginning to honor God by taking care of my body.
I know this isn’t the route everyone takes. Like I stated in my last post, there are as many different experiences with depression as there are people who have it. Depression comes in many shapes and sizes. And just as there are different types and experiences, there are also many different ways of treating depression. I try to refrain from advising others as to how they should treat their depression. It’s not my call. My only hope is that they would make decisions prayerfully – always trusting God to bring health, healing and wholeness to their bodies and to their lives.
I’m trusting God, too!
– End of Part 2 of 3 –
This is the second post (in three parts) in a short series of posts on my experience with anxiety and depression. You can find Part 1 here and Part 3 here. I’m not an expert, nor do I have all the answers…but I do know that I am not alone. People who deal with anxiety and depression can feel very isolated. Those who have never experienced anxiety or depression may not know what to say or how to interact with someone struggling with these conditions. So, in my own little corner of the world, speaking from my personal experiences, I would like to begin to remove some of the mystery, and the stigma, of anxiety and depression…especially within the Church. And most importantly, I want those who are struggling to know that they are not alone.