Have you ever felt like you just don’t want to get out of bed…ever? There is a dark cloud floating right behind your eyes that makes everything seem distant and slightly unreal. Your logical mind tells you that the sun is shining and that everything in your life is actually pretty good, but the voice seems hollow and muffled. Heaviness, and even dread, is all you can feel in your bones.
This is what depression feels like for some of us.
This week we come to the third of our five topics in the Overcome Series. I am not preaching this weekend (really, I’m not this time), so I haven’t created any mind maps this week. However, I do have some things to say about depression. Of all the topics in the series, this one hits closest to home for me. My personality type is prone to depression. I am an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs and a FOUR on the Enneagram. I tend to be a glass-half-empty thinker and absorb the deep emotions of the people around me.
It can be a real bummer sometimes. I have to work really hard to be upbeat and positive when I’m in public. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being disingenuous, it simply takes a lot of concerted effort to pull forth the extroverted, positive part of my self to present to the masses. After a long day of being with people, I collapse, and sometimes implode into an introverted cave.
When the stress builds around me I don’t have panic attacks, I don’t lash out in anger…I withdraw to the darkness of my internal cave.
It’s always been like this. I remember sitting on a chair and staring at nothing for hours as a child. I’d hear kids out in the street playing and wouldn’t flinch. The motivation to do anything isn’t present.
Some people can’t relate to this, and that’s OK.
I only experience mild depressive episodes. Some people experience long periods of clinical depression. There is a long history of this in my family tree. This is when the heaviness and the not-wanting-to-get-out-of-bedness lasts for weeks.
What do we do about depression?
First, let’s take a look at two passages of scripture. The first is Luke 4:1-13. This is the story about Jesus when he was led into the wilderness for 40 days. SPOILER ALERT: this passage is NOT explicitly about depression. However, the image of the wilderness is a good metaphor for how depression feels.
Jesus was in a dry, desolate place. He was weak and vulnerable, thus open to the temptation to take the easy way out. The only thing that got him through it was his devotion to the promises of God. They did not immediately fix the problem or deliver him from the desert, but they did give him enough hope to endure and press through to the other side.
The second passage is Psalm 40:1-3. King David experienced a wide range of human emotions. I can relate to this guy. Psalm 40 talks about his experience of feeling like he was sinking in a deep bog. Yep, that’s a good description.
God put a new song in his heart. I love that image. Music is part of my therapy, too. Sometimes, when I feel down, I grab my guitar and start singing. It really helps. The song of God is a metaphor for a new way of perceiving the world, as well as a literal practice of music.
Our hope is ultimately in the promises—the song—of God.
Now for some practical tips:
First, check out www.makeitok.org to find a boat load of excellent tips on what to say and not to say to people experiencing mental health issues.
Second, try BPEs (Building Positive Experiences). Sometimes we just have to make ourselves do things that our logical mind knows we would enjoy, but our feelings and body don’t want to do it. Just do it anyway. The physical practice of doing positive things will actually change the chemistry in the brain for the good.
Third, there are basic practices that we’ve said all three weeks now: breathing, meditation, exercise, better diet. Remember, mental health is physical health. The mind and the body are completely intertwined. How you treat your body directly impacts your mental health, and how you feel/think will impact your body.
Finally, there is no shame in seeking professional psychotherapy and medication to help pull out of the miry bog.
May you go in peace today. And, as my depressive buddy, Eyeore, always says, “Thanks for noticing.”