Sunday, 17 November 2013

Dealing with depression

In just one week, I have read four tragic suicide stories linked to depression. All the victims were responsible people who were valuable to their families and society. One was a pastor of a church, who was such a blessing to his members, and the other three were mothers, one of them a doctor.

What is this horrible disease? Depression can be defined in many ways, but it is generally described as feelings of intense sadness and misery.
Often times, depressed people feel helpless, are filled with self-pity and find it difficult to do everyday activities. They may lack the will or strength to continue. Some people might even consider harming themselves, others or committing suicide. For some people, they bounce back after a short period, while for others it may linger. Depression is indeed a spectrum but regardless of where you are in the spectrum, you need support.

As I thought about these people who were driven to suicide as the only way out of the painful pressure they found themselves in, I could only just cry. You see I don’t blame them at all. I know too well what happens when things get so bad that you feel there is no other way out. I know what it means to have those thoughts that urge you to just harm yourself and end the pain inside. I know those thoughts that tell you not to tell anyone because they won’t understand or might panic. But I also know that these thoughts are of the devil and are usually lies.

You see depression is not just a problem for unbelievers or immature Christians. It affects everyone. The great Prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven experienced it, King David experienced it, Job, Habakkuk, and a host of many others too.
The story of Prophet Elijah in the book of 1Kings19:1-18 shows us how we can deal with depression. We see here in verses 1-3a that his depression was caused by fear from the threat of death on his life by Queen Jezebel after he killed her Baal prophets. For other people, depression can be caused by family rifts, failure in exams or an aspect of life (e.g relationship, health, business venture), tiredness or stress at work or home or school, unrealistic expectations, ..just about anything annoying can kick start it.

Regardless of what causes it, depression often forces people to retreat alone and dwell on self-pity as we see in verses 3b-5. Elijah left his servant in Beersheba in Judah, while he journeyed on to the desert alone. He lay under a broom tree and prayed for God to kill him.

In verse 10 we realise he was filled with self-pity, which was based on false information. He thought he was the only one left in Israel who was zealous for God. He even forgot his own servant who had been with him! So intense was this lie that he repeated it again in verse 14. But it turned out that there were seven thousand people who were also zealous for God!

So often when someone is depressed, the person feeds on negative images or lies in his/her mind. And because they are alone and do not speak to others about it, they believe these lies. Speaking with someone else may shed light and provide objectivity and perspective and balance.

I remember when I would get so upset and full of self pity because my husband said something that hurt my feelings. The poor man did not mean any harm, he didn’t even know he had offended me. But my mind would go into over drive and make me see how he was demeaning me. My mind would also bring back painful experiences from my past and try to relate the two. It would then show me how I could never be happy and why I would always be a victim. No matter how much I tried, I would be filled with example upon example of my miserable life and how things were going to get worse if I chose to continue living.

But it’s all a plan of the devil. He hates to see us succeed. He wants us to take the easy way out and quit. He knows how significant your life would be to others. He knows the blessings you alone can provide. He knows that you are a light and a beacon of hope to many who are looking up to you. He hates that. He wants your light to be extinguished so that those people can remain in darkness. So he will assault and terrorize you on every side with lies and twisted logic.

Speak to someone as soon as possible. You are not doing yourself any good by keeping quiet while those horrible thoughts run riot in your head. Talk to someone. Don’t be afraid they may not understand or will panic. Often times they too may have experienced something similar. By talking with them, you will begin to see that things are not really as bad as they seemed before.

If you can, seek medical support. God seeks to help us in many ways and doctors are one of those ways. Don’t be ashamed, most health care professionals are trained to help with counselling and the right medication. Depending on were you live, there are usually resources available to help you.

I once heard a preacher say that sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to take time and rest and enjoy ourselves! That was what God did for Elijah in verses 5-7. He fed him twice and made him rest. Take time to rest and get replenished. Don’t be too frugal, don’t be penny wise, pound foolish. Your health is important, taking care of yourself is one way to improve your health. Take personal responsibility for your happiness. Eat good food, go watch a movie in the cinema or at home, exercise, sleep well, drink lots of water, read interesting books, laugh, dance, … whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it!

Finally don’t forget prayers and speaking/trusting God’s word. God loves
you unconditionally and understands what you are going through. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Don’t rely on your feelings, but on God’s word. Sometimes you might not feel God’s Presence, but He is always there. Your feelings are not a good measure, God’s word and promises are. Read and speak them out loud. Listen to sermons and pray.

You too can overcome depression and be all that God wants you to be. Don’t quit, even when it feels so good to do so. Hold on to God’s hand, He will never fail you. So many have experienced and triumphed over this same trial, you too will come out strong and be an encouragement to others.

Stay strong, may God bless and keep you. Amen

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