Disclaimer: I’m not a medical professional, so if you have any medical concerns related to this topic, they should be directed to your healthcare provider.
This word, in my own humble opinion, carries with it a stigma in today’s Christian circles. While some are “coming around” and recognizing how this issue truly does affect the believer, this topic is left pretty well alone. The “pat” answer to the Christian struggling with depression is simple: you need to trust in God more, read your Bible more, give your issues over to God, and while those things are all true and helpful, for me anyway, that answer has sometimes hurt.
Because, you see, I struggle with depression, and sometimes, being told that I am not trusting God enough or giving my problems over to Him makes me feel as though there is no hope for overcoming this beast. I’m not going to slam you with facts about depression, but I am including links at the bottom of this article that talk about emotional abuse, the link between abuse and depression, how depression changes the mind, and the Christian and depression.
I’ve always been a fairly emotional individual. I am passionate about the things I hold dear, fiercely loyal to those I love, and a stickler for fairness (thanks, Dad), and while all those things are good in moderation, in excess, they have wrecked havoc in my life. In my early to mid twenties, I fell “in love” with a guy at the local Bible college that I attended. My parents noticed several things about him that put them on edge. He talked down to me, pushed me around, and did not want to spend any amount of time with my family. I easily justified all those behaviors, but I started losing my identity in his. As a result, I started exhibiting behaviors that were not Christ-like, and I started forming sinful habits that were to set my feet on a path of absolute heartache.
When it all blew up
Due to growing tensions with my family and my boyfriend, I moved to his hometown with him. I ended up in an apartment that we pretty much lived in together. (He still slept at his folks house to keep up appearances.) There was a lot of lying, sneaking around, drinking, partying, in addition to the loss of sexual purity. When he wanted to propose to me, he asked my dad for his blessing. My father in his wisdom refused to give both his permission and blessing, and, at the time, I was so hurt. My boyfriend was incensed, and demanded that I chose between him and my family. We ended up getting engaged, and our relationship was pretty much over at that point. In fact, about a half hour after the proposal, he asked me if we had made a mistake and asked me if we should break up. This was a question that he asked any time my family was brought up, whenever I would talk about going home for the holidays, whenever I had regrets about moving so far away from my family, and, looking back, it was his way of controlling me. I started to make up excuses as to why I couldn’t make it to my parents house for Thanksgiving or Christmas to avoid the fallout, and I kept telling myself that I loved this guy and that if I just showed him how much I loved him by pleasing him, my life would fall into place. During that time though, I started to fall into a depression. I knew that I wasn’t living for the Lord, and the constant fear of my relationship ending because I couldn’t keep him happy left me in a constant state of panic. Then, one night after I made a secret call home from the safety of my bedroom closet to wish my brother “Happy Birthday,” my fiance broke up with me.
Depression can take many nasty turns. And, as it turns out, there is a link between abuse and depression. It wasn’t until several months went by that one of my mom’s friends sent an article to me about emotional abuse. As I checked off every marker of emotional abuse, the thought that I had been in an abusive relationship hit me like a ton of bricks. It honestly left me feeling like I was completely worthless. Yes, as a believer, my identity is in Christ, but, you see, I had done everything in my power to live in such a way that no one knew that I was a Christian. Thankfully, God in his mercy saw fit to rescue me from that situation, and he very clearly led me down a path of reconciliation with my family, my church family, and with himself. However, returning to my first Love did not “solve” my bouts of depression.
The period of time in between my singleness and my marriage to my husband was relatively short, but it was one of the sweetest times of my life. A group of single ladies in my church formed a Bible study, and the fellowship of that group sticks out in my mind as one of the most spiritually rewarding seasons that I have ever experienced. Drawing close to God through this shared study, being able to share my testimony, the encouragement that we were to each other-well, my depression took a backseat in my life. I met my husband, we were married, I became the mother to his three children, became pregnant right away, and it wasn’t until my sweet baby boy was born that depression reared its ugly head in again..
NOT the baby blues
I knew all about the baby blues from my doctor, the hospital, and the plethora of articles that I read while pregnant. I knew that I would probably experience the baby blues, but I was not prepared for the crushing depression that set in during the first few months of my little guy’s life. Nursing was excruciatingly painful, I was sleep deprived, and I felt like I absolutely could not give my baby the attention he needed because I had three older children to take care of. When the kids were in school, I literally slept every single time my baby slept. We did not move off the couch until it was time to pick the older kids up from the bus stop. When I spoke with my doctor about it, he was hesitant to put me on medications because I was breastfeeding. So, I slogged along, and the fog of depression started to dissipate when my son was 6 months old. And then when he was 7 months old, I discovered that I was pregnant again.
Prepartum depression is a thing
Did you know that? I didn’t. I talked to the midwife at my OB’s office who assured me that it was a thing, and that, due to being pregnant, she did not want to give me medication. She gave me a list of natural remedies for depression, but it wasn’t until I had my baby girl that my prepartum depression disappeared. Then the postpartum depression set in again. See the vicious cycle? During the first year of my youngest child’s life, we sold our house, moved into a teeny tiny rental house, built a house (massive stress), moved into the house, started homeschooling, and, if I’m being honest, I was in a depressive state for all of it. Stress and depression are also related. Again, who knew? Well, apparently, depression can change the brain, and during periods of stress, that depression becomes more of a first response. A defense mechanism perhaps? I’m not 100% sure if that’s true for all cases, but it seems like that’s how my brain operates.
The Christian woman and depression
How about today? Is my depression licked? Nope. Have I found ways to “cope?” Yes. Do I think that this topic is grossly overlooked? Absolutely. There is no one right answer for the Christian woman and depression. But, friend, if you are struggling with being depressed, let me tell you, I’ve been there. I am there. And I understand. I understand that crushing weight on the chest that makes it nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I understand the heightened sense of anxiety, the fear, the tears. And while I wish that I had the cure, I can only offer encouragement and my assurance that I am praying for you.
The verses that I cling to are found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4