By Corallie Buchanan
Have you ever had a moment where you feel so weighed down by emotions that you struggle to even get out of bed? Have you ever been so overcome by sadness that you have no idea where you are, who you are with, and what you are saying? Have you felt so low about yourself that to pull yourself down actually made you feel good? Having no point of reference, your mind goes completely blank as you spiral down into confusion. When someone tells you to snap out of it, that just makes you even more confused.
This is the life of someone experiencing depression. There are as many sources of depression as there are brands of soap powder. In my experience though, there has been two major causes.
1. The modern woman: a myriad of unrealistic expectations.
Depression is a taboo word among many women of this day and age. No one wants to admit that she struggles with depression. The media portrays the 21st century woman as a successful superwoman. Both mother and entrepreneur, she holds all the aspects of her life together while looking immaculate. She personifies the unachievable.
So it is not unusual that within this context, women do not like to talk about their depression. It is a word which carries such a stigma. Those experiencing it don’t like people to know that things are not okay. They don’t like the fact that they don’t measure up.
Society sets up a certain expectation of what a successful woman should be. Even the church portrays a picture of how women should be—happy, healthy, and satisfied. Most think, a true Christian woman should not experience depression. Some even think it is sinful to have depression, yet I know many who have personally also struggled with it.
I have only just come to realize that this comparison is a major cause of depression in my own life. I just simply don’t measure up to what I think I should be. I am married with a wonderful husband and daughter. I live in a beautiful house, and have wonderful friends who have become like my family. Yet I always seem to find myself coming up short of the unrealistic expectations I have placed on myself. When I do fall short, I am overcome with guilt. This is no way to live.
My childhood was not easy. I didn’t go into marriage with the same skills as some of the other people I know. They grew up in happy and loving Christian homes. They had a good foundation to build their marriage and life upon. I did not. There’s a gap between what I think I should be, and what I actually am. I am constantly critical of myself, and when I fail at something, I am twice as hard on myself.
I have found the best way for conquering depression (and I’m still not there yet), is stop setting up unrealistic expectations for myself. I am not from the same background as those around me. How can I possibly expect myself to be as far along in my walk with God as they are? I am as good as I can be for the life I have been given. That doesn’t mean that I am not trying to be better, but it means I’m not so hard on myself. I need to learn to have grace with myself, and realize that I have these emotional problems because of my past. I am not going to have my life all together.
I am going to take longer to get to the place that they are already at. I need to be okay with that. It is dangerous to compare myself with those who have had more stable backgrounds. I am not them; I am me, warts and all.
2. Traumatic experiences: A major cause of the onset of depression.
For some people, depression is a lifelong on-off battle. Sometimes you think you may have won, but something happens that brings it all back again. I am one of those people. Up until early last year, I thought I had won my battle with the beast of depression. I was wrong.
I went through such a traumatic experience that knocked me totally off my feet. I lost a very crucial relationship in my life in a very difficult way. A relationship that I had been relying on for my entire life just fell apart with no warning. I found out things about this person that changed my entire perspective on them. I began to question everything I knew about myself and my life. I questioned every memory, every experience. My whole world was thrown into a state of utter confusion.
Not long after all this happened, I began to experience severe depression. During my depressive episodes, I felt so broken. I didn’t know how to snap myself out of it. The emotions were so overwhelming. I felt totally overcome by pain and sadness, and couldn’t see my way through. I spent the better part of last year in this state. It was only towards the end of the year that I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel (and believe me, it was a pretty dark tunnel). It has only been in the last few months that I have been able to find the words for what I have experienced.
It was so sad that I considered going on anti-depressants. They can work and many people do need them, but I don’t trust myself with them because there is a history in my family of becoming dependant on these types of drugs. I found the best way was to just stop comparing myself, and so set realistic rather than unrealistic expectations.
3. Comfort that isn’t actually comforting: help for those wanting to comfort the depressed.
Many well-meaning Christian people will try to comfort you by quoting scripture at you. While Scripture is good for you, it is not something to be given in isolation. A person experiencing depression cannot just “snap out of it, and get over it.” Sometimes they just need a hand to reach out and touch them.
Even times those closest to us fail to understand just what we need. When I was really struggling, all I wanted was somebody to sit down in the dust with me and cry. I didn’t want a sermon, I didn’t want a preacher. I just wanted someone to empathize with me and just a plain old hug. I spent my life in church, so had heard all of the Scriptures on joy, peace, and life. Having someone just quoting the Bible at me didn’t help. I needed a physical hand to break through my darkness.
When comforting somebody experiencing depression, physical touch can be one of the most healing things. It can reach past the emotional blockages, and right into the person’s heart where they need comfort the most. There are some wounds which just cannot be healed by words alone. If you are one of the unfortunate people who struggle with depression, then you are not alone. Millions all over the world struggle with the same thing. But the stigma is almost worse inside the church than out.
Be okay with the fact that you struggle with depression. It is not something to feel guilty over. That will just make your depression worse. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It means that you are human.
If you know someone who is going through depression, don’t just preach at them and tell them to snap out of it. Give them a physical demonstration of the verbal encouragement you are trying to bring them. Put your hand on their shoulder. Just sit there, don’t try and tell them how they should feel. Let them know that there is somebody physically there with them. Sometimes just a body in the room is all it takes. Don’t pretend to have an answer to their problem. Just be their friend.
You are okay. You are not a bad person because you experience depression. You are human. God can give you help and healing as you turn to Him and look to others for help.
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