Approximately 25 million Americans suffer from major depression each year. I am one of those numbers. For years, I battled against the strangled hold of depression. Doctors, medicine, good therapy, family, friends, and my church fought with and for me during those incredibly dark years.
It is only by the grace of God and His infinite mercy that I have been medicine and therapy free for well over a year. I do not know why God chose to give me the healing I pleaded for while so many continue to struggle.
I am in the toddler stage of healing. It is new and tender and fresh. Each day that I wake up ready to work or play I am overcome with joy and thanksgiving for God’s daily mercies. As night falls moments of panic occasionally set in.
What if I’m not really healed? What if I fall apart again? I don’t ever want to go back to that place.
These are the words I whisper to my husband as I cry on his burden-bearing shoulders. I run, and I fall, and I get up again just like a toddler.
So, when bad days rear their ugly head- as they did earlier this week- I cry and fall apart in fear that I am headed down an unwanted path. Later, after I calm down, I remember that I learned some valuable lessons during all those years of depression.
I woke up chilled but completely awake at 8:30, sinister thoughts hissed at me.
It is cold, curl up a little longer. It is early; you hate mornings. Stay in bed. Close your eyes. You do not want to get up.
And that is just what I did. My eyes did not open again until late into the eleventh hour. Drowsy and unsettled from my dreams, I did not want to get up. That fork-tongued voice told me I could NOT get up.
I was sinking, and I knew it. This was not just a bad day. This was one of those days. If I did not do something soon I was going to drown in it. From deep within, behind all the lies whispering in my ear, I began to fight, to recall the truth and the things I knew to do in times like this.
I remembered what I learned from years of depression.
1. Reach out for help. You don’t have to do this alone!
2. Follow the advice you receive. Do it even when it’s hard!
It took more than 30 minutes to muster the strength to pull myself out of bed, but I did. By the time I was dressed it was well after noon. I shuffled downstairs trying to decide what to do. Our house was strewn, and we were hosting small group at 7:00. I needed to clean. With that realization all energy leaked out of my tightly sealed reserves. I grabbed a Dr. Pepper and the bag of Oreo’s and curled up on the sofa. I inhaled a a sugary laden breakfast and exhaled bitter laden tears.
How could this be happening to me? I am healed. I don’t want this. Jesus, help me.
3. Tell John. Your family can’t help what they don’t know. Secret keeping is not safe!
After a few false starts, I called my husband. He listened. He reminded me this could be a side effect a new migraine medicine I am taking. Either this would pass, or we would pass on it. He suggested, for the time being, that I go to Panera Bread.
4. Input only the good stuff. What you put in will eventually leak out!
I got in my jeep and opened the sunroof. I pulled up my sleeves to let the glorious light invade my cells. Then I cranked the radio and began to sing out loud, echoing the words blasting from the speakers. The words spoke of joy and truth and hope. If only I could believe them in the moment.
With minimal make up, puffy eyes, and hair askew I looked the mess I felt. I was shaking and my heart was pounding. I sat at my table in the corner of Panera Bread and tried to relax.
Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe.
Each bite of salad, each spoonful of soup, eased the shaking. Good food recalibrated my erratic sugar levels.
5. Go somewhere that gives you joy. Changing your environment can change your trajectory!
I drove to Barnes and Noble, my safe place- my joy place. Still feeling off kilter, I began to browse. As I noticed the things around me, the despairing voices in my mind began to quiet. As I took the focus off of me, I began to engage with the world around me. I searched for two new releases I wanted to gobble up.
I noticed humor in the irony that the Star Wars trilogy and other questionable choices made it onto the Build Your Classics Library display. The ability to laugh was a sure sign I was beginning to feel better. I picked up book after book, selecting several to purchase.
6. Know your weaknesses. Don’t make a bad day worse with bad decisions!
Before I walked into book store heaven, I made two decisions: how much I had to spend, and what I would do if I wanted to spend more. Considering one of my year long goals is to use my book buying budget on mission causes, my spending limit was strictly limited to how much I had available on gift cards. I decided I did not want to use them at one time; so I set a value limit and determined to call John for backup if I began to waver on my decision.
I left Barnes and Noble weighed down with books but light in spirit. I had nothing to be ashamed of, I had taken care of myself and honored my family and commitments at the same time. I knew a messy house awaited my return. A ticking clock meant I had little time to complete the task at hand, but I felt able to see it through, even if I had to ask for a help to get it done.
Together with the help of friends, family, and the resources at my disposal a bad day-one of those day- turned into a day I survived well. It was a day I can remember when the next bad day comes. A day that says I made it, and you can too.
The things I learned from years of trial and error make a difference every day in my life as I live on the other side of depression. When things begin to slip I am able to draw from those lessons. If you think or know you are depressed, I hope you can draw from my experience, finding both practical help and encouragement. However, neither are a substitute for professional help. Please seek help and trust your family and friends who know you best. You are in my prayers with joy for today and hope for tomorrow.