I’ve struggled with seasons of depression for years, especially around Christmas. I have done a pretty good job of hiding it even from my closest friends.
Being a preacher’s kid I was expected to be perfect. Everything I said or did was under a microscope and reflected on my family. I learned at a very early age how to put on a mask of cheerfulness to hide the darkness I felt.
I incorrectly perceived that others could fail and be forgiven, that I was required to forgive them, but that I would be judged and condemned for the exact same behavior.
So I grew up freely extending grace to others but demanding perfection from myself.
This contradictory belief system led to my first real episode of depression at the age of twenty-five. My dad had been diagnosed with cancer, my dream job was ending, and I was struggling with thoughts and behaviors that were inconsistent with my faith. Eventually the depression lifted and I moved on none the wiser.
This pattern repeated itself for a number of years. But at the age of forty. I found myself on medication for depression in a psychologist’s office asking for help.
At the time I believed that my depression and taking medication for it showed my lack of faith in God.
I did not understand why I was unhappy. I thought the problem was my work, difficult people, and circumstances.
But the real problem was a chemical imbalance and a faulty view of God’s grace. And the counselor helped me to see this for the first time.
I saw a glimmer of hope as I began to experience God’s grace for myself. I found additional relief in helping others and writing music. And for a time things dramatically improved. But gradually the seasons of depression would return.
I was reluctant to take medication for my depression. Although I took medicines for high cholesterol and blood pressure without a second thought. I even encouraged others to seek counseling and to take their medication.
My attitude began to change when I developed a relationship with someone with severe chemical imbalances and suicidal tendencies. This individual deeply loved the God who had made them. On the right medication, with supporting friends, they functioned perfectly in society. Without medication they were a danger to themselves and others.
For the first time I could see my own depression and the necessity of medication in the proper light. I began to understand that this is a lifetime condition. It cannot be ignored and has to be addressed continually.
And now I am in the season of the year where it can become overwhelming. I know the right things to do. I know this season will pass and normalcy will return. But it does not make it any easier or less painful.
Maybe you are feeling the same way I do. You feel less than spiritual because of your struggle.
But today I just need you to know that you and I are not alone in our struggle with depression.
I hope you will continue to read the next two blog entries.
This Thursday I will be writing about people in the Bible who struggled with depression.
Next Tuesday will be practical strategies in response to depression.