By Barbara Epp
I want to tell you about my experience with depression, why I think God allows some of us to experience it in our lives, and how we can have hope in the midst of it.
I am not a doctor, a psychologist, or a psychiatrist. I am simply one who has experienced depression first-hand. I am, in fact, one, who, with God’s help, has learned from the experience.
Symptoms and Causes
To some people depression is a time of feeling low and discouraged. While this is an accurate description, it doesn’t necessarily describe all the other feelings that can be part of depression. I will share with you what my experience was:
- You feel desperate and that you are losing control of your life.
- It is a space filled with darkness, fear, despair and panic.
- Your thought world profoundly impacts your physical life.
- You feel as if time is racing or you are moving in slow motion.
- Your world and activities appear insurmountable and life can feel like a pit.
- There are overwhelming feelings of isolation and you feel disconnected from others.
- You feel trapped with no way to escape.
- You hate yourself for feeling like this and feel tremendous shame and guilt.
What causes depression?
Medical practitioners could give you reasons why this occurs, but I will share from my own experience and from the experiences of those who have shared their struggles with me. It seems that depression is often triggered by trauma in our lives. It could be emotional, mental, social, physical or a combination of any of these factors.
My story begins with lost memories. There is a period of approximately three years between the ages of five and eight that I have no recollection of my life as a child. I associate tremendous shame with this period of time. I know there were many significant events that occurred during this period, but I can’t remember starting school, welcoming my baby brother or moving from Saskatchewan to British Columbia.
I was an outgoing child and the object of much attention from family, friends and even strangers. What I experienced as a young girl was having my hair shaved off my head just before starting school. This was done to me in the hope that my hair would grow back thicker. It had a traumatic and lasting effect on me. I immediately changed from being the center of positive attention to being the object of scorn and ridicule. This was the beginning of my entrance into a world of darkness.
I can remember my mother talking to a doctor about giving me “nerve pills” when I was a pre teen. As a teenager, I experienced the repeated rejection of a close friend and soon began to experience the torment that depression can bring.
As a young mother, I fell into a deep post-partum depression. This experience was the most painful. Attacks of depression continued over the next seven years. They would vary in length with the longest period lasting for nine months. I lived in a very isolated area of north-central British Columbia and rarely visited a doctor or talked with other people. One thing I continued to do though, was talk to God and cry out in my despair.
Need for God
You see, I am a Christian. I had recognized at a very early age my need for God and His deep love for me. Now, years later, I was in the pit of despair, crying out to a God that I felt had abandoned me. I thought Christians shouldn’t be depressed and my husband and friends couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. Their comments pushed me to a place of deeper despair. Again, I called out to God for help. Where was He? Had I so disappointed Him that He would not hear me? When I felt most tormented I would read my Bible looking for relief and comfort.
In the following passages of the Bible God spoke to me:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you O Jacob, he who formed you, 0 Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead” (Isaiah 43:1-3).
“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).
“Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in – behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me;
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, ‘‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is a light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, 0 God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would out number the grains of sand.
When I awake I am still with you.
If only you would slay the wicked, 0 God!
Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
They speak of you with evil intent;
your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, 0 Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, 0 God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting”
Slowly, these truths began to touch my heart. God began to show me the steps I needed to take in order to begin my journey ‘up from depression.’ As I stepped out in faith, believing the truths and principles that He had shown me, I began to realize God’s plan for my life.
How do You Gain Victory Over Depression?
I can only speak to you from my own experience. This does not replace speaking to your doctor about any medical concerns you might have about depression. I have found the following steps helpful in dealing with my depression and releasing me from its hold:
- Recognize that God is with you and has always been with you.
- Realize that He has a plan for your life.
- Relinquish control of your life to God.
- Replace negative thoughts with positive and truthful thoughts.
- Rely on God because He is at work in your life.
In order to take these steps, you will need the power that only the Holy Spirit can give. God wants to be our leverage in living, empowering us to feel better about ourselves, more excited about our future, more grateful for those we love and more enthusiastic about our faith.
If you are looking for a deeply satisfying relationship with God, I encourage you to pray by faith and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has given you His Holy Spirit to help you live life according to His perfect plan. Why not pray this simple prayer and by faith invite Him to fill you with His Spirit:
Dear Father, I need You. I acknowledge that I have sinned against You by directing my own life. I thank You that You have forgiven my sins through Christ’s death on the cross for me. I now invite Christ to again take His place on the throne of my life. Fill me with the Holy Spirit as You commanded me to be filled, and as You promised in Your Word that You would do if I asked in faith. I pray this in the name of Jesus. As an expression of my faith, I thank You for directing my life and for filling me with the Holy Spirit. Amen