Life looks bleak. There doesn’t seem to be much that makes you smile or laugh. Are you or someone you know battling difficult circumstances: the loss of a loved one, a scary diagnosis, job loss, sin struggles, or just stuck in a place you never thought you would be? What do you do when discouragement/depression comes? I was there personally for a decade, I have studied depression, and I have interviewed others about their experiences. This is what I know:
- Be encouraged. First and foremost, you are not alone! We all go through difficult times, and there are people out there who can help you through this. Also, know that Satan is thrilled that you are discouraged because he wants to tear down what God wants to do in your life: that means you are a threat to him. On the opposite side, this is the perfect opportunity for God to work, and He can do great and mighty things you can’t even begin to imagine. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
- Talk to a safe person. Hopefully, you already have someone like this in your life, but if you don’t, look among the people you already have some sort of relationships with: in Sunday School class, small group, committee, etc. (If you don’t have any smaller group interaction, now is the perfect time to get involved!). Look for someone who listens, cares, and tries to understand others (and who doesn’t tell other people’s stories!). It also helps if you are lucky enough to encounter someone who is willing to share their own weaknesses. Know that even the most caring person may not completely understand depression, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t care for you.
- Do fun things that lift your spirits. Sometimes we need to shake ourselves out of a negative pattern by purposefully seeking fun and funny things to do. Watch a favorite comedian, view cute animal videos on YouTube, go for a walk, enjoy a hobby, and most importantly, do it with other people!!! Laughter can truly be great medicine.
- Meditate on encouraging Scripture. Pray, sing, do whatever you can to surround yourself with life-giving truth and hope
- Eliminate the negative. The previous two suggestions are meant to focus on the positive, but you also need to deny the negative, hopeless thoughts and feelings that come with depression. (Philippians 4:8-9) There will be better days, and we always have hope in Christ. Know that God will use this for your good: He artfully uses difficulties in our lives to develop a richer, deeper character that He can use in mighty and beautiful ways that also blesses us. (Romans 8:28)
- Where is the depression/discouragement coming from? If you have an obvious circumstance: a loss, a disappointment, or even getting stuck in a rut, then this may pass quickly by seeking God, good community, and time. However, if this discouragement has persisted for a couple of weeks, you need to be aware that the longer depression/discouragement sticks around, the harder it is to get rid of. Do not let that worry you, but do let it motivate you to get whatever help you need!
- Seek medical help. This is, by far, the most difficult for some people. However, our bodies were not the only things affected by sin and the fall in the Garden of Eden. Our emotions and minds were also fractured, so they can be hurt and diseased just like our bodies. At the very least, talk to your doctor about the depression, but truly the best thing you can do is go to a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist because they specialize in this area! I struggled hard but briefly when I first realized I needed more help. I went to a counselor with little discomfort, but when she suggested I see a psychiatrist for depression medication, that was tough! Without even realizing it, I had a stigma that I should be able to get through this without medication. However, I had seen other people try to do that, and I did not want the unnecessary pain it caused them and their families. The medication doesn’t take away the pain or numb you from life, or at least, it didn’t for me. I still went through plenty of pain in the ups and downs for almost a decade before I could truly say I no longer struggled with major depression, but going through it with God’s help, my family and friends and church community, and the counselor, psychiatrist, and medication all gave me strength, help and accountability to battle the best I could against depression and to not leave other casualties along the way.
I know that is a lot of quick information: I literally wrote a book on it and could write more. However, I wanted to hit the high points today, and in future posts, we will talk in more depth on each of these things. I greatly welcome your comments, questions, and discussion. I am praying for all of you who are struggling like I did! May you trust in the God of all peace to give you comfort and strength during your times of struggle.
- Treating Depression: New Research on What Works; Psychotherapist Douglas Baum Says We Can Improve the Odds of Identifying the Right Treatment for Each Patient (prweb.com)