This is a heavy post, but I feel like it is an important one. I know not everyone wants to read a post about depression, but I still want to share my healing with you. So here’s what I’ll do: I will start with a short-and-sweet summary, and let you know when I am going into down-and-dirty detail. I want to include the details of my depression because I didn’t realize how depressed I was until I felt better, and if sharing my story helps someone recognize their own depression and be able to start feeling better sooner, then I have to do it.
Short and Sweet:
I have been depressed before. I took counseling classes in college. I know all the symptoms, but I still didn’t realize something was seriously wrong until more than a year after Graham was born. I thought I was tired or overwhelmed by having a toddler and homeschooling. But I did eventually start to think, “This is not normal. I wonder if my hormones are wacky or my nutrition is off. Maybe I need counseling.” I talked to my dad the day I thought that and told him how I was feeling. He prayed for me right then. I was feeling better by that evening. Lighter. Then, that Sunday was a healing service at church. I asked for prayer, and the woman praying for me asked me if I needed to forgive anyone. Someone came to mind, so I forgave them, then she prayed for my depression and I went back to my seat feeling lightheaded. Over the next few weeks, I regained my sense of humor, my lightheartedness, my enjoyment of life. It feels like the ugly, heavy, cancerous half of me that made everything difficult has been completely cut out of my life. Robby has noticed a big difference, and I am SO grateful!
I know God doesn’t always heal depression like this. I have been depressed at least two other times in my life, and I had to get counseling the first time and just work my way out of it the second. So I am surprised and grateful God did it so quickly and completely this time. And I had to tell you about it. If God healed my depression, what else might He do? If He answered so dramatically my dad’s simple prayer and my petition at the healing service, won’t He answer other prayers that we send His way, in surprising ways?
Here’s where I get down and dirty. If you don’t want to dive into the details of my depression, then stop reading here. But if you know someone who’s depressed and may not realize it, share this with them. If you suspect you might be depressed, even a little, then read this. If it resonates, stick around to the end. I’m going to give some suggestions for fighting depression based on personal experience.
Down and Dirty
I have always dealt with depression, I think. When I was young, I suffered a secret trauma that I kept to myself for years. Later, we moved to France, where the weather alone is depressing, and the culture even more so. Then I went to college, where I realized I was depressed and got help. I worked through the trauma for the first time, and forgave the person who hurt me. It was liberating to feel happy, to not have the suicidal thoughts and the self-loathing. I never seriously considered suicide; it was too selfish, but I sometimes imagined it would be a way to stop the pain.
Fast-forward to 2007, almost 20 years later, after my second child was born. Two babies in a row, followed by an interstate move when Ian was one month old (What were we thinking?!), followed a few months later by a 6-month stint at my elderly in-laws’ house while Robby as unemployed, then another interstate move…Yeah, the depression came back. I didn’t realize that’s what it was, although I did know my marriage was not very happy and I was exhausted and overwhelmed all the time..but I did have two toddlers. Even so, God was at work in my life–MOPS saved my sanity! I took up sewing, we had several great churches, and I read Heaven by Randy Alcorn for the first, second and third times. I slowly (over 6 or 7 years) emerged from the fog and began to enjoy life and my kids, and my marriage got back on track.
Then I got pregnant. Not that that was a bad thing in itself. But it was a return to the hard days of baby and toddler. I remembered those days as bleak and hard, and myself during them as unhappy. I was remembering my depression.
The pregnancy was smooth and the birth was mostly uneventful, but looking back now, I believe I was increasingly depressed after Graham was born. Possibly it was postpartum depression; I was never diagnosed. I didn’t even realize I was depressed until the week God healed me. I had started to think something was really wrong with me, that I needed some hormonal or nutritional help, and definitely some counseling. Let me give you a picture of what life was like:
I was extremely irritable all the time. Interacting with my older kids called for LOTS of self-control not to yell at them constantly for the littlest things; sadly, I didn’t have lots of self-control. Toward the end, I pretty much kept to myself unless I absolutely had to interact with them. I needed a lot of alone time. I felt like I was a walking emotional bruise and the slightest touch would set me off. The slightest criticism from Robby caused me to melt down or explode or retreat. I was easily frustrated and had little to no patience, except for Graham. Thank God He gave me the patience and kindness and ability to bond I needed for him. Robby frequently complained about my grouchiness and short temper, and the kids were picking up my mood and yelling and fighting a lot and being disrespectful to me.
I often felt disconnected from the people around me, like I was talking to them from inside a bubble. I mostly saw the negative in things (a tendency I have anyway), and had to work very hard to see any good qualities in my family (except Graham). I mostly faked any positive feelings I expressed, because I knew they needed it and it was what I was supposed to do. I looked with envy and incomprehension at parents who were kind and patient with their kids. I wanted SO MUCH to be that way, but had no idea how they did it. I believed I had once been able to do it, but I couldn’t remember how. When Lily rolled her eyes at me (a frequent occurrence), it took hard work not to slap her. When the kids demanded constant decisions, I wanted to crawl under the couch and hide.
I hated the person I had become and wondered why Robby had married me. What in the world had he seen in this grouchy woman? I wanted to be someone else, for the benefit of my family. I couldn’t remember being happy or cheerful or light. I couldn’t remember enjoying life. I felt like I was carrying around a heavy, oppressive burden that never let up. Everything was hard, even things I used to do with ease.
I didn’t care much about things–except God, and the state I was in. I obsessed about the way I was treating the kids. It was mostly all I thought about. I prayed, begging God to help me. I tried different methods of discipline. I talked to people whose opinions I respected.
But mostly I escaped by spending a lot of time playing games on the iPad or watching TV on the iPhone. The digital world was orderly, under my complete control, and didn’t demand a thing.
I was easily overwhelmed. If I had an argument with a kid, it sent me to my room to recover. A few weeks with my homeschool schedule for the year caused me to call my mom sobbing, and seriously consider putting the kids in school. Everything made me tired. I rarely cooked and couldn’t muster up the energy to even think about doing anything around the house. Keeping the kids on task with chores and a modified school schedule was almost too much to handle. I tried getting more sleep, which helped, but only until I got tired again. And the video games made it hard to go to bed.
Amazingly, my marriage did fine during this time. Robby is supportive and never complains about the things I don’t get done. He takes all three kids out sometimes so I can have a break. He’s funny and can make me laugh even when I’m depressed.
I think Graham got the best of me during this time. I rarely lost my patience with him–maybe I could just fake it better because babies’ needs are simple.
Now, this was all under the surface. I still functioned in life, and the only people who knew I wasn’t myself were the people in my house. I talked to a friend about it once or twice, and I expressed some of these feelings on the blog. But I’m pretty sure even Robby will be surprised at the depth of the darkness of my feelings during my depression. I was blindsided by it, too. It was a gradual decline into the darkest part. Like I said, I didn’t realize something was seriously wrong until just before God healed me.
And it is important to note that God was with me through it all. I did a wonderful study on Ephesians, and I started this blog; I read A Praying Life, and God walked through the darkest days right by my side. I had people I could talk to, and I did, just not to this degree of detail. So it was not all bad.
So on to the good part of the story! About three weeks ago on a Thursday, I called my dad as I usually do, and I told him a lot of what I just wrote. After awhile, he said, “Let me pray for you.” I was driving but I said, “OK,” and if I remember correctly, I believed God could fix what I was going through. I had been trying to spend more time with Him lately in order to fight against the darkness, and I had gotten to a place of dependence on His grace to cover my sin and failings. I don’t remember much of what Dad prayed, but I agreed, he said Amen and we talked a little more and he hung up.
By that evening, the darkness had noticeably lifted. I got more prayer that Sunday for depression, forgave someone I needed to forgive, and felt God’s power move. I went back to my seat feeling lightheaded.
Now I am lighter and more patient than I think I have been in years. I can see my kids again, not just their flaws and annoyances. I make jokes and laugh and enjoy my life again. I feel able to handle things that would have sent me to bed a few weeks ago. I can correct my children without yelling or being mean. I feel like myself again. And all this while I have been getting less sleep than normal because I have been caring for a sick baby! It is like a huge, difficult, heavy part of me is just gone, and what’s left is light and easy.
It’s a little hard to grasp, but God healed me! Glory to His name and to His amazing grace! I am so grateful that He fixed whatever was wrong, that He gave my kids back a loving mother, and my husband a happy wife.
If you recognize yourself here, and you are struggling with depression, even a small one, please talk to someone you trust. Someone with whom you can be real, who will point you to God and pray for you. Talk to a Christian counselor or your doctor, and your spouse. Talk to God. Let your brokenness bring you close to Him. As hard as my depression was, I am thankful for that time. It drove me deeper into Him, because I realized how desperately I needed His grace and His help. I am SO grateful He healed me, but I do miss that desperation I felt to be in His presence (I don’t miss anything else, though!).
Psalm 34:18 says:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Matthew 5: 3-4
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
“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.”
Some other things that I am doing now, to show my gratitude for God’s healing by taking care the depression doesn’t return:
Get outside every day. I take Graham for a walk most days, and walk with a friend sometimes.
Take Vitamin D. Get your doctor to test your vitamin D levels. It has made a difference for me.
Pray regularly. This is my One Thing (more about that in a post soon!). I have mentioned the book A Praying Life. It revolutionized my prayer life. I am reading it again with my walking friend (Hi Missy!), digesting it more slowly. God is meeting me in my prayer times, and it isn’t even hard!
Spend time in Scripture. I am about to start an Advent study by Kari Denker (thanks, Mom!), who does the Journal and Doodle Bible Studies. But even just reading Scripture cleanses and encourages. Get a One Year Bible or a book of promises if you can’t do a study.
Spend time with friends. Get out of the house, have a night out with friends. Talk about fun stuff, laugh, talk about God, pray for each other, listen to their problems, share your feelings. Do something fun, eat together. You’ll be amazed how much lighter you feel after being with people who love you and accept you (and don’t live with you!).
Forgive, and keep short accounts. The most dramatic improvements in my life came after forgiving people who hurt me, whether they meant to or not. In college, I had to work through a lot of anger before I could forgive. But once I did, I had a real breakthrough. And this time, I didn’t know I was holding onto hurt feelings, but after I forgave, there was a radical change, and my depression was gone. There have been a lot of studies to show that unresolved anger and unforgiveness are linked to depression.
Limit screen time, and be present. I think plenty has been said about this one other places, but I will post some recommendations later.
Get enough sleep. Right? We all know this one. It’s the doing that’s hard, not the knowing.
This has been very long post, but I hope it is helpful. I’d love to hear from you. If you have suggestions for dealing with depression that could help someone (or me!), please comment on this post! Or use the contact page if you want your comments to be private. If I get enough feedback, I’ll create a new post and link to it here.