DEPRESSION is not a sign of weakness it is a sign that you have been trying to be strong for too long. Put this as your status if you know someone who has or has had depression. Most people wont, but its mental health week and 1 in 3 of us will suffer some point in our lives. Show your support...♥
Depression is something very few people are willing to talk about, but I believe it impacts many more people than most of us realize. I can't even count the number of times, several just within the past few weeks, where women have sat down with me and secretly shared their struggles with depression. It's a journey clouded in shame, something we worry others will look down on us for, judge us over. Sometimes we hide behind a facade of being outgoing, the life of the party. Sometimes it drives us deeper into our own shells.
For much too long the church as a whole has perpetuated the idea that depression is rooted in the sinful inability or unwillingness to allow God to bring joy to our hearts. I do believe that depression often is entangled with spiritual struggles, but often broken spirits comes as a result of the imbalanced hormones and true medical issues that trigger depression in the first place.
I hope to provide several resources for coping with depression in coming posts, but today I want to start simply by letting you know that if you are facing depression, you are not alone. And so I'll start by opening my heart and sharing my own story, beginning in 1991/92. At this time I don't believe I was living in full-time depression, but I did experience frequent, terrifying panic attacks in conjunction with hormonal imbalance triggered by the onset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I developed a host of fears and phobias and cried frequently, but also had times that were very upbeat and joyful.
As we progressed into 1993/94, joy evaporated. I sunk into a deep, black depression in the wake of infertility grief and all the daily losses of learning to live with debilitating chronic illness. At my lowest, I seriously entertained thoughts of suicide on a regular basis. :( God used my husband, Scriptures and the book The Ache for a Child by Debra Bridwell to begin my healing.
In hindsight I would highly encourage anyone who is where I was then to immediately seek medical and emotional aid though frank conversation with a competent physician and solid, Christ-centered counseling. It is truly a testament of God's grace that when I did not know enough about depression to understand how desperately I needed that help, that God, Himself the Great Physician and Wonderful Counselor, stepped in and brought about the miraculous healing I needed. Hannah's Prayer Ministries was born as a result of this season when God brought me up out of the pit, out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and set my feet on a firm place to stand beside the quiet waters.
After our first miscarriage (Dec. 94) I had a different depressive episode lasting about 5 months. This time I was simply was void of feeling. Unlike the utter lost-ness, despair and hopelessness of the prior depression, this new grief-based depression over the death of our first daughter left me unable to laugh, cry, smile, be angry or "feel" anything - I simply was numb month after month. My breakthrough and healing here began with the final admission to myself that we had indeed been blessed with parenthood, even if only for a short season on this earth. To actually hear myself say, "I had a miscarriage," a statement that brought about days of gut-wrenching and unstoppable torrent of tears, was a huge milestone. Choosing a name of our daughter, thus "giving her an identity" I could relate to, was another step in overcoming this round of depression and beginning to work through healthy stages of grief.
Noel would be nearly 15 now and I still miss her, grief being a life-long journey. But my depression in the wake of her death was more than just a "stage of grief" and would be medically classified as postpartum depression (PPD), though I had no bring-home baby at the end. I still do not fully understand why, of all our 10 very painful losses, it was only Noel's death that triggered a full depressive experience like this, though I think some issues like our infertility, the fact that she was my first and (at that time) only child, and other life circumstances may have all been contributing factors.
Over the years depression has visited me in milder and shorter seasons, off and on, at various times, often linked to hormonal changes or health complications. My latest real journey through depression came with the conception and birth of our daughter who is now 7. (She is our second our of 3 living miracles.) This time ANGER best defined my experience of peri/post-partum depression. There were many elements that set the stage for this struggle, including secondary infertility, 2 miscarriages a year prior to her conception, a major surgery just a couple months before her conception, significant hormonal imbalance, having to stop our planned adoption due to pregnancy, high risk pregnancy with ongoing perterm labor scares and 13 weeks of bedrest, and out-of-control migraines during her first year or so of life.
It wasn't until after her 2nd birthday that I began to truly feel a connection with this sweet little girl I had prayed and longer for my entire life. I wasn't until after the birth of her little brother the week of her 3rd birthday, when I experienced the normal joys of new motherhood again, that I fully began to grasp and appreciate all I had missed out on, emotionally, over the prior three years. I was a functional mom while dealing with depression, falling into the mild to moderate spectrum of PPD this time, but it was an ugly journey non-the-less. My heart aches for several friends who have experienced postpartum (or any other kind of) depression at deeper levels, including several who have been hospitalized for their own protection (as I likely could have been in the early 90s).
If you or someone you love is walking through the valley of depression, please know you are not alone! Depression is not a sign of spiritual lack or weakness and it is a battle that can be won. Keep watching this blog for future posts spotlighting depression and offering helpful resources. And since the Bible has been my Light through my darkest days of depression (though I have to admit to actually throwing God's Holy Word across the room in my anguish a time or two) I would love to invite you to share the Scriptures that have most blessed and encouraged you in the comments section below.