Entries in discouragement (3)
A client struggling with the deep darkness of depression sat sobbing in front of me. “Sometimes when I am by myself I wish I had cancer.” It took a lot of courage to say those words out loud and let alone to someone else. She went on to explain that if she had an illness she would have justification for not wanting to get out of bed. This is the reason she cries herself to sleep most nights and if she had a terminal illness she would not have to deal with the shame of depression. She would wake up most mornings and feel guilty because she could not “get it together”. She felt shame for telling friends she was having a bad day without having a reason “why”. If only she had a “reason” then she wouldn’t have to feel badly for feeling badly.
Depression is by far one of the scariest, loneliest, and most painful issues we can deal with. My client is not alone. Without a tangible identifying “reason” to feel bad most people tend to feel guilty that they are struggling. It is easy to point to all of the blessings and good things in life and wonder “what do I have to feel bad about.” Generally depression can be caused by a number of things. Sometimes we can easily identify what is causing our depression such as a traumatic event, a loss, change, loneliness, etc, but other times it may not be so easy to find. Whatever the cause for you or your loved one’s depression there are two important things to remember:
1. Its real. You are not making this up. You are not depressed because you are too weak, or you simply cannot suck it up. Depression is real. It is not your fault you’re struggling with depression, it is a valid mental health concern that can afflict anyone. In fact Depressive disorders affect approximately 18.8 million American adults or about 9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
(link to the statistc http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYMOODDIS_ADULT.shtml).
2. You don’t have to live in the darkness. More than 80% of people struggling with depression do not seek treatment, are you one of them? There is no shame in seeking help, talking with someone who can understand where you are and how to navigate out of it is one of the best things you can do to help yourself. There is hope for your future. Living in the monotony and darkness of depression does not have to rule or end your life. You can live fully and joyfully again!
Have you ever had times in your life when everything seems to be going wrong? You stop, reevaluate, try to find a silver lining, and then realize that everything is indeed going wrong. I have. And my first line of questioning is "Where are you God?". It feels like He has just vanished and forgotten about me. In theory, I know that is not true. Experientially, it feels true. In times like these emotions can run through a broad range and sometimes it is hard to keep them in check. What I have learned through the years is to validate every emotion, but not always act on them. Sometimes emotions just need to run their course first, then you can step back and evaluate what should and should not be acted upon. Trust me when I say it can cause a few less entanglements in relationships when done in that manner. Asking and questioning God is a healthy thing to do in times like these because it keeps you connected to Him even if you don't understand the situation. He is there. He promises never to leave or forsake us. That is what we have to remember and believe in spite of how we feel.
My wife, sitting next to me on the couch one recent morning, turned to me, holding up her iPhone. "I love this app," she said, pointing to the a graph on the little screen. "Each day I enter my weight and then it shows me my overall results. On days I get discouraged over my perceived lack of progress, this thing shows that my little ups-and-downs are actually moving me steadily toward the goal."
I immediately thought of a client I'd seen the previous day--a woman working through tremendous personal and relational challenges. "I don't think anything has changed," she sighed, having just endured a particularly difficult week. All she could see was the familiar gap between where she was and where she wanted to be. But from my perspective, I recognized the week as a small dip in the overall progress she had been making over the past three months. She needed help in stepping back to take a wider view of the change she had been experiencing.
Of course, taking this wide view lets us be honest about our lack of change too. Token efforts of "good behavior" mean little if there is no over-all move in a new direction. In marriages, for example, wives remain unimpressed by sporadic expressions of affection from a husband who generally ignores her. On the other hand, momentary neglect is easily overlooked by a spouse who generally feels cared for. What you are moving toward is more important that what you do today or where you've been in the past. It's your progress that matters most.
Even without an iPhone app you can still take a wide view of change. Don't ignore the steady work God has been doing in your life. When you get discouraged about where you are, step back and look again; be encouraged by how far you've come.