Article: My Struggle with Depression | Jacob Varghese
Stress, anxiety, depression is all becoming very common in our society. The word depression is very familiar to all of us these days. In our today’s society, people suffering with depression are increasing. There is no difference in age group or position of the people who are affected with depression. Difficulties in family life, financial problems, work related issues, children neglecting older parents, serious sicknesses in life like cancer etc. leads people into depression. Satan uses depression as a great tool to fail and destroy human beings.
Have you ever faced with a mental health issue in your life? I have gone through it in my personal life. For me, depression came with the winter in 2017, though warning signs could be felt and seen much earlier but could not recognize what it is. I began noticing that I felt tired, very tired, emotional, anxious, dull and miserable only by October mid. I sank further and further until final breaking down. I just could not go through the motions anymore. I felt like I was dying inside.
I started wondering, I am a Christian having strong faith in the Lord and still why am I going through this? Depression taken me to a level I couldn’t even get out of my bed. I was desperately seeking for deliverance. I felt like God withholding it from me for no reason. I understood the situation not only made me to question God, feel distant from Him but also challenging me as a Christian because unfortunately there are misconceptions and stigmas associated with depression in our society.
When I have gone through this, the people around me including my spouse, children, family members and friends did not understand the reality of depression. It made my life more difficult as I could not seek or get necessary help. Many people actually given wrong advices because they did not understand depression in its real sense and due to the many misconceptions about it. Through my experience of going through it, I understood depression is a real illness that impacts the brain’s ability to function as it should. So, I personally want to believe depression is an illness and not a sin or due to any sin in our life. Being depressed means we are failing to be joyful in all things and to give thanks to God.
Another great misconception I understood among my Christian friends and leaders is that depression will go away if we pray hard enough or have enough faith. But the reality is just like any physical illness, depression being a mental illness usually needs to be treated with more than faith and prayer. So as with any other illness, someone with depression should also seek professional medical treatment. However, I am not undermining the power of faith in God and prayer. While God is capable of divinely healing our mental or physical illness, He does not always intervene in that way. He provides other ways to heal. God gave us people like doctors and mental health professionals with the understanding and skills to help those who are suffering.
Depression is not the fault of the person who is suffering. Of course, I know it is a very difficult trial. It is a mental health condition that affects one’s mood. It can cause intense emotions, including sadness, low self-esteem, low motivation, or feelings of guilt and worthlessness. It can also cause a lack of emotion or numbness. It may be described as a feeling of emptiness or hopelessness. Some people may find it difficult to put these feelings into words. I had a hard time focusing, remembering details, and making decisions. That ultimately affected my work life and family. I couldn’t even sleep, lost appetite, had no interest in eating or pleasure in any activities almost every day. I withdrew from all my social relationships even from people to whom I am so close.
I know my family also struggled with me without knowing what to do in my situation. They wanted to help me but fear, confusion, or misunderstanding held them back. So, let me suggest some guidelines for helping depressed people. Eventually, someone in our church or in our family or friends circle is going to get depression, though I don’t desire any one to get it as I know the struggle attached to it. But be prepared to be surprised by who gets it. Keep away all your misconceptions about it. It is not just sad, lazy, pessimistic people that get depression. It is also people who are high achievers, happy people, people with everything going well in their life, people involved in ministry also can get it as I have gone through. Don’t assume that depression has been caused by any specific personal/ hidden sin as my friends suggested it to be. That is a common reaction depressed people hear it from the church community. You get cancer, or you get heart disease, and no one asks, “What did you do wrong?” You get depression, and they ask, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?” In fact, I have found that sometimes it is the godly who are most likely to suffer with depression.
Don’t rush to or rule out medication. Medication should rarely be the first option unless the situation is desperately bad. Often, people’s emotional disturbance is temporary and can be resolved with understanding, family support, pastoral care and counseling etc. Although we shouldn’t rush to medications, we shouldn’t rule them out either. It is always good to consult a mental health professional and take his counsel. Finally, I had to consult a medical professional for my help. But I have never seen anyone recover from depression by just taking medication. Medication can only work well when it is part of a holistic package of care that addresses a range of issues that need to be addressed. Family and friends need to be much involved as it is the key to a person’s long-term recovery.
I learned through my experience that maintaining a spiritual discipline is the most important thing in handling depression along with a Routine, Relaxation, Recreation, and Rest. We must point them to the objective truths of Scripture. Point them to the compassion of Christ. He is the great high priest who Himself has felt overwhelmed. He has known darkness; He has known fear. He is able to encourage us and support us in the midst of our deepest darkness and He eventually is able to take us out of it as well. We need to help them to see this is a normal abnormality for a Christian living in a fallen world and a fallen body. Many Christians have suffered with depression and almost all of them eventually got better. Give them hope that you will stick with them and give them hope that they will actually be more useful after this than they were before it. Give them hope that they can glorify God in the darkness as my family and many good friends stood with me all through until I came out of it.