“That’s depressing”. “They SUFFER from depression”. “Studying for this test makes me so depressed”.
I am not sure what is worse – the normalization of using “depression” as a joke or the stigma associated with the reality of word – that causes such disconnect in our society. Maybe we joke about it or overuse the term, because we are truly afraid of its impact on the people around us…or maybe its an attempt to neglect what may be going on within us.
Depression is the most common mental health disorder in America (source). This overwhelming statistic tends to make me feel so helpless. How can I impact this statistic for the better? How can I aid in the fight for mental health awareness and support those who struggle to come up for air in the dense, deep waters of depression?
You are not alone.
Depression is, in fact, the big elephant in the room. 7.6% of Americans are struggling with the reality of depression and many even go undiagnosed and untreated (source). Therefore, you are not alone.
You can find power and healing in speaking out against the stigma of depression. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops but sharing it with others in confidence that this is not a death sentence and that this is NOT the end of your story. This provides space to heal and feel support from others. One of the tendencies of depression is to isolate yourself, and the lie begins to form that you are unseen, invisible, and not worthy of attention.
Fight the Lies…
I am strong. I am worthy of love. I am equipped with the knowledge and skills to make good decisions for myself. I have the power to extend myself grace when I fall or make a bad decision. I am enough and not too much. I am not defined by my past. I can take one step forward today.
The denseness of depression can sometimes immobilize us in our journey towards healing. Once these lies begin to overwhelm our minds and hearts, we can chose to speak truth over them. After negating these lies, we can fill our mind with ANYTHING else: what we are going to be for Halloween, what we are going to make for dinner, where we want to go on our next vacation. Substituting negative thoughts for positive or even neutral thoughts provide a framework for a habit of letting go of negativity. There is power in learning to live with your hands open (not clenched) and heart abandoned (no expectations).
We are multi-dimensional beings going through an earthly experience. Depression is a result of clinging to the tangible things this world has to offer instead of extending ourselves to who we truly are. We were made to be more than just doctors, lawyers, teachers, and investment bankers. We have other dimensions to us than just mothers, daughters, sisters, and cousins. We are neglecting our spiritual beings; we aren’t satisfying our cravings for more than this one dimensional space we exist in on earth. We must seek help from God and the Holy Spirit dwelling on this earth.
My mom always told me, “intelligent people go to counseling”. So, here is my time to plug for all of the counselors in the world. There are trained professionals that can help you to alleviate your burden. My mom considered counsel-seekers intelligent, because they are able to humble themselves enough to say that they do not have it all together. We all have something to learn- even if we are not depressed. If we are depressed, there are professionals that literally are certified to walk through it with you.
Be a support…
As multidimensional beings, we long to satisfy our callings and our gifts. When we exercise these gifts in exchange with others, we become more satisfied. The tendency is to remain busy (or at least act like it) and not to slow down to have intentional encounters with those around us. These are missed opportunities to use our gifts.
In all honesty, it is sometimes hard to love someone who experiences depression. It is hard to love someone who hates themself. It is hard not to become overwhelmed with negativity, because it is harder to pull someone up than to pull someone down. If you have a friend or family member who may be experiencing depression, it is important to have your own support in order to make sure you are coming from a place of fullness. It is important that you have a well to drink from before you start pouring all of your water into someone else’s well.
After my mother passed away about 3.5 years ago, it was a slow decline for about one year until I began experiencing physical depletions. I had blood work done to show that my body was literally attacking itself. My cells lost their identity and began to attack each other instead of what they were structured to do. This caused me physically to slow down, but I continued to push myself (I was training for a marathon). This lack of rest and ability to rejuvenate my body caused me to mentally deteriorate. I went through a tough break-up which caused me to fall flat on my face. I had lost everything. I had lost my mom, my boyfriend/best friend, and my health- these were all critical parts of my identity so I lost myself, too. I struggled with an eating disorder and over-exercising. I was wasting my time instead of investing it in using my gifts to help others- my true calling. I was fighting against my own identity, which was also what my cells were doing to themselves. Our mental state has an intimate correlation with our physical being. Luckily, I had been seeing a counselor for many years up until this point, but she had to move away so I stopped seeing her. I took it day by day, and clung to the friendships I had, which became my saving grace. They are what provided me strength and the momentum to keep going. It was not until a year ago did I get diagnosed with depression. I had been told before by my counselor that I could be depressed but I would immediately shut her down. I didn’t want to be labeled as “depressed”. It seemed like a hopeless place full of shame and stigma. I didn’t want to be on medication that would take away my personality and would soon be addicted for the rest of my life. These were all socially constructed ideas that surround depression. I found a new counselor and talked with my doctor about what the medicine would entail. He described it basically like it was a vitamin. It was a low dose anti-depressant that was not addictive and would simply balance the neurotransmitters (signals) in my brain to do what they were meant to do instead of fight against each other. I would only have to be on them for a year or until I got better. Ever since I humbled myself to accept that I am not okay, I have been able to begin my healing process.
One and a half years later and I can confidently say…I am strong. I am worthy of love. I am equipped with the knowledge and skills to make good decisions for myself. I have the power to extend myself grace when I fall or make a bad decision. I am enough and not too much. I am not defined by my past. I can take one step forward today.