I hate this feeling. You’re fed up and you don’t know why. You feel like life is too hard and you just can’t be bothered with it right now. You don’t want to talk to anyone because you can’t be bothered having a conversation. You don’t want to tell anyone how you’re feeling because you know nothing they say will make you feel better. In fact it will almost definitely make you feel worse right now. Most of all you just want to sleep it all away because you’re tired and know you will feel better in the morning. But you can’t sleep because your brain is playing “what if” scenarios in your head. What if… I have cancer? What if… I have an accident and lose my independence? What if… someone I love dies?
Why does your mind torment you so?
“Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3
I would not be half the Christian I am today without having suffered to get here. I made it through three years of depression at university but I recovered and came out stronger and closer to God.
Recently it has reared up again and it will probably be something that is set off again in the future but I now know that even though it will be awful at times it will also be a blessing to bring me closer to my God who will always see me through it and bring me out the other side.
How has being a Christian helped you with living through depression?
I think that the difference between living with depression as a Christian and living with depression as a non-Christian is hope. Depression takes away all hope but as a Christian even when all other hope has gone there is still the hope of Jesus Christ. Even having just one hope when all other hope is gone makes such a huge difference. I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with depression without my faith.
Without Jesus there is nothing to live for and nothing to strive for. One day there will be no more tears or suffering and I can’t wait! Sometimes the hope of heaven is all that keeps me going. In the darkest times Jesus is the only light I can turn to. I don’t know how I could live through this without Him.
How have others helped you in your struggle with depression?
As soon as I was diagnosed I told my Christian girl friends at university. They were great. They asked me questions so that they could understand more but they didn’t pry. They have been so patient with me over the years. Sometimes you don’t want to do anything at all. In these times they would come and sit and watch a film with me or something. The reality is that often nothing anyone can say can make you feel better. Sometimes all you can do is offer and hug and pray. The absolute worst thing anyone could say is “You’ll be OK. Chin up, you’ll be fine.” and I was afraid of telling people for that reason but my friends and family see it and understand it as a real thing. Knowing that people understand and are not sceptical is a great help.
Knowing I am loved helps me in the deepest darkest moments. Sometimes I want out. I want to die. At those times when suddenly death seems very real I realise how many people love me and how much hurt I would cause. I think about how unbearable it would be for everyone who I left behind and it makes me see that no matter how lonely I feel, no matter how much I hate myself and wonder why anyone would love me I am actually so lucky to be loved by so many.
How does depression affect your faith?
Through living with depression I have realised that no matter what happens my God will never desert me. When I was 14 I had a rough few months. I didn’t realise it at the time but looking back now I know that this was my first encounter with depression.
One day I was sitting at my desk unable to bear the feelings I had inside me any more. I was crying hysterically and thought how I was supposed to be a Christian and how God was meant to look after me. In my despair I asked him to go away. I said “leave me alone. You’re clearly not helping me. I don’t need you any more because you aren’t helping me. Get out of my life.” At once I felt a sense of peace come over me and from then on I have known that He will never leave me. He told me that day that He was there and He wasn’t ever going anywhere. I look back now at one of my darkest moments to remind myself that I am a Christian and always will be a Christian and no matter what happens I will never be alone. People will always come and go. There is only one that I can fully depend on and who will never leave me. He didn’t even go away when I asked him to! Sometimes it takes getting to the darkest place for me to remember. In the times when I am struggling so much I don’t know what to do I have no choice but to turn to Jesus. He always calms me down and gets me off to sleep.
Another question from my interview in our church.
What are the common misconceptions you have found that people have about a Christian having depression?
I think a lot a Christians think that we shouldn’t be depressed because we have Jesus. If we have Jesus then we should be happy. Depression is caused by many different things depending on the person and the symptoms are all different too. The bible makes it clear that as Christians we are going to suffer. Ultimately it is an illness. You wouldn’t turn down medical help for a physical illness. You wouldn’t refuse medication because Jesus has “got your back”. This is no difference. Just because there are no physical injuries doesn’t mean something doesn’t need fixing – whether it is through counselling, lifestyle change or antidepressants. Yes, Jesus is capable of healing you but that doesn’t mean that He will.
I recently spoke in my church about suffering from depression and how it impacts my walk with God. I have written a transcription of the interview that I did during the service and I will post the questions and answers that I gave over the next few days.
How did you come to realise that you were depressed?
I think I realised I was depressed before I accepted it and asked for help. When I was in my first year at university I started to feel very low and unmotivated. I didn’t want to do anything and even though I was surrounded by people I felt lonely. During the first few months of feeling low I would write things down at night when I was lying awake. I reread these while I was thinking about what I was going to say tonight and I will read an extract now:
“Lots of the time I am very chatty and bubbly. I talk to people and chat. When I am doing this I don’t feel so sad but once I stop talking and the conversation closes I am not feeling on the inside what I show on the outside.”
“It’s like I have a whole different person inside me and I just want to shout to the world ‘I am not OK!'”
At this point I didn’t know that I was depressed and it lasted for a few months before I started to research depression. I thought I was depressed but didn’t want to accept it and didn’t know what to do. At the time I wrote:
“I wish I could tell someone. That this writing would accidentally be read by someone and they could tell me what to do. I have no courage to just give it to anyone and watch them as they read it. They would think so little of me. Part of me wants to tell someone but what could I say? I’m just being stupid. No one would understand. They would think I was silly. They would tell me it will get better and that would be the end of it.”
I think that the biggest hurdle is to tell someone. I think that I left it because I thought I shouldn’t be feeling that way and I was afraid that if I told someone they wouldn’t agree that I was depressed and I would have confirmation that I was just being stupid and pathetic because I couldn’t cope with life.
That wasn’t true but it wasn’t until I went on camp that it all came out and I was advised to see a doctor. As a result I suffered in silence and alone for a year before I got help. It took me the rest of my time at university to pick myself up again.