Depression is a mental illness that l live with every day. l was officially diagnosed with depression three years ago after l became burnout from my work as a teacher.
Here’s how I would describe my depressive episodes: My mind feels like it’s been overtaken by negative emotions and thoughts, such as sadness and futility. The onslaught either comes in sudden waves or l sink slowly into a miry pit of despair and helplessness that can last for weeks at a time.
When the depression is at its worst, l become either emotionally numb or undergo intense psychological anguish. I find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time and become easily overwhelmed. Seeing others around me living and enjoying life gives me heartache because l feel like a spectator standing alone on the sidelines.
To combat depression, l’ve chosen not to take antidepressants; instead, l prefer to eat healthily and exercise. I try to avoid stress and seek professional help on a regular basis.
Ultimately, I believe in the power of the Great Doctor to heal. Thus, I spend lots of time reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture. Whenever l experience mental turmoil, I speak aloud the Bible verses that correspond to my situation: During bouts of fear, l speak Isaiah 41:10; when l am overwhelmed, l speak Isaiah 26:3; and when l feel myself sinking into the murky depths of mental darkness, l recall Psalm 40:1-3. I believe these verses work within me as I speak them aloud and help me keep my focus on God. I also am grateful to have people in my church who pray regularly for me.
Though I believe that I will receive complete healing when Jesus returns again, l also believe that God can heal me today and wants me to enjoy life “to the full” (John 10:10) while I’m here on earth. Thus, l thank God for His goodness and present my prayers and petitions to Him (Philippians 4:6). Every day, l wait with hopeful expectation for deliverance (Micah 7:7).
I’m not defined by how I feel
Having depression holds me back from leading a healthy, functioning life. In particular, l feel like God has called me to start a writing ministry, but l struggle to find the strength and concentration to sit down at the keyboard.
During such times, l ask myself why God doesn’t heal me so that l can do His work. However, when l consider the numerous individuals in the Bible whom God entrusted to further His Kingdom, who suffered from sorrow, anguish and desolation, I realize that if God can use them, surely He can use me?
In Psalm 69:1-2, David relates his feelings of despair and distress as being akin to sinking into deep murky waters with no foothold. Yet God considered David “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), and anointed him as King over a united Israel, gave him many victories over his enemies, and made a lasting covenant with him.
Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” (Jeremiah 9:1), cursed the day he was born because of the loneliness, ridicule, and rejection he experienced (Jeremiah 20:14). Despite that, God called Jeremiah to be a “prophet of the nations” (Jeremiah 1:4-10) who revealed the sins of the people of Judah and the consequences of their idol worship.
Even Jesus, on the eve of His crucifixion, confided His feelings of distress and anguish to Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:34). Where would we be today if He did not go all the way to the cross?
These individuals’ refusal to allow their emotional state to hinder their obedience to God in walking out His purpose for their lives motivate me to keep writing on days when my mind wants to give in to the darkness. It reminds me to let God, not depression, define me and His will for me.
Learning to trust Him in the dark
Many a night, l have lain awake and cried out to God in distress for healing.
When the darkness did not lift, l had to make a decision: If God wants me to endure this season, then l can either choose to love Him and trust that He will work out everything for my good (Romans 8:28), or l can turn away from Him and fend for myself. Considering that my life was a total mess before l entered into a relationship with Christ, the latter was a poor option.
During the times when l sit emotionally (and physically) in the dark, l remember what God has spoken to me in the light: He will not test me beyond my endurance (1 Corinthians 10:13) and He will never fail me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). With these reminders in mind, l choose to trust, lean on, and rely on Him.
Since I’ve put on eyes of faith, l’m now able to see God’s grace, provision, and favor instead of my struggle. He has blessed me with kind doctors, provided financial provision, and enabled me to write productively, for which l am truly grateful.
Reaching out to others
One of the ways God has provided for me is through a Christian counselor who attends my church. She specializes in depression and can empathize with her patients, as she used to struggle with depression herself.
This counselor’s healing testimony encourages me that God can heal me as He healed her, but more importantly, l take comfort in knowing that I have someone l can talk to who knows firsthand what l am going through.
Since then, I’ve started to turn my focus away from myself and ask: Is there someone around me with depression whom l can be a testimony and friend to?
Though this season is challenging, I believe in the goodness of God and His healing. I know that He is with me and nothing, especially depression, will keep me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
l will continue to have faith that God has a wonderful purpose for me; depression is only part of the journey He wants me to take in order to fulfill His plan for my life. And in the meantime, l will enter His rest, and watch with hope and expectation for His restoration.
If you also suffer from depression, my heartfelt prayers are with you. I invite you to join me in believing that this is not the end of our story; God says that He is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and that He will mend us and bind up our wounds (Psalm 147:3).
He will wipe every tear from our eyes, and pain and mourning will be ours to suffer no more, for He will make those things pass away (Revelation 21:4). I have faith that on that day, we will experience true joy—one that lasts for all eternity.