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We are not alone
Some of us living with depression slip into believing the lies we are alone, no one cares, and the world would better if we died. Some of you heard this favorite lie, “It’s a sin to be depressed.” The truth is we are not alone, we are loved, and our lives have purpose. It is not a sin to have an illness. Remember George in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life? He believed the lies and the angel showed him how worse life would be for those he loved if he died. Our lives have purpose for good. We are unique works of art crafted by the greatest of all creators, God.
Depression leading cause of disability
I scanned several recent health documents on the subject of depression and I learned some amazing facts. According to the World Health Organization there is an estimated 350 million individuals with some form of depression and it is the leading cause of disability worldwide.1 Nope. Not alone. Recognize any of these names: Beyoncé, Terry Bradshaw, Drew Carey, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Brad Pitt, Mike Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon? Yep. They all live or lived with depression. They reached out for help. They lead successful lives with their unique talents and personalities.2
Depression is a treatable illness.
Find a doctor you trust. The majority of us living with depression will enter into remission with proper treatment. Medications help the body heal and cope. Diabetics depend on medication. Those with crippling arthritis live functional lives on medication. There is a medication or a combination of medications if necessary to bring balance to the chemicals in our brains to assist us to live our lives to our fullest potential. There are almost more medicines for treating depression than we can count.
Take the first step
There are counselors who will help you learn life skills to deal with the issues that cause you pain. Go to your doctor, your pastor, your most trusted friend, the county mental health department where you live or family member. If the first attempt at reaching out is brushed aside, go tell someone else. But take the first step. Seek help. You are more valuable than all the precious metals or jewels in the world. You are the only one of you there is and you are loved.
Last fall I heard on the news of a college sophomore who died after he jumped off a building because he had lost all hope. He felt his life too painful to live. He felt there was no one he could tell. I wept for him as if he had been my child. I wept for his parents who loved him. I wept for his friends who didn’t see his pain. I wept for me because maybe my story may have helped him. In my next column I will start at the beginning of my story of my living with depression.
1 WHO, October, 2015, Depression Fact Sheet
2 Wikipedia contributors, “List of people with major depressive disorder,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_people_with_major_depressive_disorder&oldid=708650078 (Revised March 6, 2016).
a work of art that mixes styles, materials;
a literary, musical, or artistic piece consisting wholly or chiefly of motifs or techniques borrowed from one or more sources
The driver behind me must think a bobble-head is driving this truck. Each drop of a wheel into a pothole bounces me up and down, jarring me left and right. I grip the steering wheel and pray I remain on my side of the road. Jostling along I ponder potholes. Do paved roadways and life’s pathways mirror one another?
I slammed into a few devastating, deep potholes along my journey of life. Some were apparent to all and some were known only to me. My fishbowl life as a preacher’s kid kept me struggling to survive in waters of inadequacy and imperfection. My dad attempted suicide when I was sixteen. Two of my daughters suffered sexual assaults as young adults. My father-in-law ran over my two-year-old daughter. Stresses at work where I was the recipient of workplace abuse reinforced my sense of failure. My mom’s cancer returned and rapidly grew to stage four. My health crashed with anemia, hypothyroidism and exhaustion. Physically, mentally and emotionally I felt like I was drowning. The stresses and pressures became so jarring I eventually careened off my pothole pitted roadway into a murky, dark ravine of depression.
I attempted a Band-Aid-like approach to these difficulties and pain. I avoided discussing them and pretended as though they had not happen. I worked ten to twelve hours daily preventing myself from thinking about my circumstances. I withdrew from interacting with family and friends. I owned the heartache of others who suffered tragedies and wept with and for them. Pain and hopelessness crippled me. I believed the lying voices of darkness. Despair. Discouragement. Defeat. I wanted to die and I made a plan.
God had a different plan. He said in Isaiah 41:9-10 (MSG),
I pulled you in from all over the world,
called you in from every dark corner of the earth,
Telling you, ‘You’re my servant, serving on my side.
I’ve picked you. I haven’t dropped you.’
Don’t panic. I’m with you.
There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
Through the prayers and loving hands of family, friends and my doctor He held me and opened the eyes of my heart to see His light in this dark world. He reminded me this world is temporary and we are engaged in a spiritual battle. In Ephesians 6:10-20 (NASB) He told me,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. In John 10:10 He stated,
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
We all have life-jarring moments that toss us hither and yon like limp rag dolls splayed askew wondering, “What is happening?” Our painful experiences pierce our hearts and minds causing us to crumble. The powers of darkness desire to crush us but we do not have to remain broken. When we give our damaged lives to God and trust our pieces into His care, He comes in and cuts away the wounded, festering areas of our hearts and creates something new. He takes the shattered, splintered parts of our lives and makes something beautiful, better and stronger than the old.
He said it Himself in Isaiah 43:19 (VOICE),
Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak,
and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert;
Waters will flow where there had been none.
In Isaiah 65:17 (VOICE) He promised,
Now look here!
I am creating new heavens and a new earth.
The weary and painful past will be as if it never happened.
No one will talk or even think about it anymore.
He called us in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) to come to Him.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Winding roads, curves, precarious ledges and potholes of hurts and disappointments dot our lives. God desires to smooth out the rough terrain created by hardship and heartache. God is able. God is willing. He is the seamstress taking sundry scraps of fabric and piecing them together into a patchwork quilt. He is an artisan using colored shards of glass creating a stunning stained-glass window or lampshade. He is the Master Craftsman. He gathers us to Himself, with all our broken parts and splinters and creates a masterpiece. He makes us into something new and never before seen. Will you respond to His loving voice and tender embrace? Will you surrender your broken life into His capable hands and allow Him to mold you into a pastiche? He is waiting.