For most of my life I have battled depression. I am not a health care professional so I do not write as clinical doctor. I write as an individual who has suffered serious depression. I want to tell you about it because if you have never carried the cross called depression (and if so I hope you never do) my experience may help you to be more compassionate and understanding, it may even empower you to help identify and support someone who is.
I will tell you about a crisis in my life that led to severe depression almost 20 years ago. I was suffering from terrible physical consequences from some surgery I had and I became very depressed. I had two very young children at the time and I knew that I needed to fight because they were my anchor and I knew I could not let go. I knew I need to fight back so I could be a mother to them. However in spite of my resolve, I knew I needed help; I could not do this on my own and I prayed to God desperately asking Him to send me an angel. God answered me and sent me an angel in the form of a “health psychologist” specialized in helping people cope with medical issues.
Prior to working with this doctor, I saw a psychiatrist who told me “there is nothing to fear, but fear itself!” He knew how much emotional pain I was in and he knew that the pain was called “FEAR”. He offered me drugs but I did not want to take medication. Instead I opted for “talk therapy” and higher dosages of nutritional supplements.
There was a point in my depression where I felt like I was trapped at the bottom of a well. It was such a dark place and I was so totally afraid! Inside the well it was completely black and I would try to reach my arms up to scale the walls as I tried to lift myself up but the walls were slimmy and there was nothing to hold onto. There was nothing I could grip onto to pull myself out of the dark place, and inside the waters of the well which were so dark I felt like I was surrounded by snakes and I was in danger! This was my personal perception. It was not rational, but it was real nonetheless.
I had a lot of support during this terrible time. God was with me and he helped me. I resolved to fight and I am here to tell people there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. It isn’t always like this for some. Unfortunately I have known people who have committed suicide. Lord please have mercy on them!
Many years after I healed I became a counsellor to distressed people because I wanted to help people fighting depression. I took suicide intervention training and I learned about the important things to look for when assessing people’s risk to commit suicide. The signs were things like, 1. Have they ever tried to hurt themselves before (if yes they are more likely to attempt suicide) 2. Have they isolated themselves and cut off ties from family and friends (this is a big warning sign that they need help) 3. Do they talk about taking their life or how they might take their life (this is a big warning sign that they need help).
Depression isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s an illness and while I did need the support of a healthcare professional, I also needed the help of my family and friends and most of all I needed Jesus. I needed people to continue to believe in me and love me and tell me they needed me. I needed to drag myself out of bed when all I wanted to do was sleep. I needed to pursue activities when all I wanted to do was cry. I needed to believe that God was there and that He would help me.
Remember though that God works invisibly and visibly. Jesus works in hidden ways and in visible ways through people! So if you have a friend that is suddenly unreachable and wants you to leave them alone, consider that they may be depressed and what they really need is your love, your compassion, not your judgement, just your friendship, your willness to give hope when it may appear to them that there is no hope. Be that hope! Be that friend that is willing to say “I won’t leave you alone because I love you! I need you! You are important to me!”