My journey with depression has been an on and off again battle. Some days I was fully functioning and felt “normal”. Other days it seemed as though I was carrying a large weight around. When it became clear that something more than a simple “down day” was happening I started to read and read and read. What I didn’t do was tell anyone. I mean, who would I tell? What would they think of me if I told them? I was supposed to be the strong one.
Depression does that, it locks you into isolation. It’s the isolation that is natural but it is so dangerous. I have found in the 20+ years of pastoral counseling as I tried to help people it was the isolation that I saw to be so dangerous. That isolation kept everything in the dark where only shame and guilt grew. In my experience it wasn’t the vocal people that were most at risk it was the silent ones who didn’t let anyone in. I didn’t want to be that person who impacted his family and his church with his silent struggle. So I tried to power through. That didn’t work at all.
So I made the big step of letting someone in. I was so apprehensive about telling someone. I felt so weak, defeated, and dumb. But when I reached out to a person I trusted who was both a counselor and a friend, I found him to be so understanding, supportive, and helpful. I didn’t feel as though I was weak or broken. My friend listened and encouraged me and from the beginning of that first step God started a great work in my soul.
In my mind depression is like grief, you don’t so much get over it as much as though you learn to live with it.
As I shared with my friend what was happening he suggested a number of things to read. As I read I learned so much.
For the next few blogs I’m going to share some of the most helpful mind-changing things I learned. Number one was being courageous and let one person in with what’s going on. If you don’t know who to turn to, pray and ask God to guide you.
Number two on that list was the life-changing paradigm shift that depression is often anger turned inward. I never connected those dots before. I thought something was wrong with me. I thought maybe I was just weak. I thought maybe just a change in job and zip code would lift the darkness I felt. What I learned was such a huge growth point for me. I moved from looking at circumstances and relationships to looking inward. I prayed more specifically as I sought to understand.
Here is what I learned: To grow I need to be able to identify my anger. When I can more clearly identify my anger I can learn how to manage it better.
- I needed to understand my personality. To learn how to not subject my soul to unnecessary stressors that perpetuate my depression. Someone once said to me “Don’t sweat the small stuff”. That was so important for me.
- I learned that I hated being taken for granted, misunderstood, and manipulated by strong willed people.
- I found that I felt anger that was shown in my sense of not being understood or accepted. I often responded with a tendency to withdraw .
- I feared that if I expressed my anger people would misunderstand or reject me.
- I learned that my anger is typically mismanaged by suppression. That sense of suppression leads me to being critical or withdrawing.
- I also learned that when I didn’t withdraw I responded with being passive-aggressive.
This tied in so much with what I read about Elijah in I Kings chapter 18 & 19 . Here again is a summary of what I shared in my last blog:
- Elijah was physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.
- Elijah had unmet expectations . He thought that this hasn’t gone like he thought it should have gone.
- He responded with isolation.
- This led Elijah to experience suicidal thoughts . He thought there was no way of escape.
- Finally, Elijah lost perspective: “I am the only one left….”
Can I encourage you with those first two steps. Pray that God would help you manage your depression. Depression is deep and doesn’t usually just disappear. As I said in my previous blog I want to write these blogs to be a caring pastor and if I can pray for you please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.