As an individual who suffered from depression for over a decade, I know what it feels like to feel lost and confused and in darkness. I know the pain that you feel when you don’t understand why this is happening. I know the thoughts of “Why can’t I just be happy like everyone else?” “What’s wrong with me?” “If I hide it and smile, no one will know.” It’s a desperate and dark feeling to feel like you’re in a deep and cold pit, and you want to get out – you know there’s more out there – if someone would just throw you a rope, maybe you could pull yourself out. It’s like having a dark cloud follow you around, a little black tar monster chasing you and tackling you and holding you down in a sticky, gooey mess. For some people they may even see it coming, and they feel powerless to stop it – which actually only accelerates the speed at which it approaches, kind of like sinking in quicksand. You try to stop it, you try to deny it, you even fake it for a while. But sooner or later, you get tired of fighting and you just have to accept it. Here it is again. It won. Again….
Depression is real, and is nothing to joke around with. If you or someone you know is having symptoms of depression, while I strongly believe it can be addressed naturally, I also strongly suggest seeking professional medical help if you feel there is a danger to yourself or others. After having dealt with it for a large portion of my teenage and adult life, I can honestly say that it is a demon that may harass some people for the rest of their lives. But that does not mean it has to have power. You can have power over harassment – you just have to stock your toolbox and be armed and ready when it happens. For others, it is an isolated occurrence that they never saw coming and have no idea what to do with it or how to handle it because they’ve never experienced anything so dark and powerful in their lives. The same rule applies – you can get through it. There IS another side – there is light at the end of the tunnel – you just have to have the right tools while you’re inside. A Light inside the tunnel.
Have you ever been to the mountains and you’re driving and you see all this beautiful land and scenery – rolling hills and deep green valleys, tall scaling walls of rock and moss and every now and then a trickling waterfall, trees creating the most beautiful shadows on the roads and wild-life scurrying all around you – and then all of a sudden, BAM!!! Darkness. Thank God for automatic headlights! I mean truth be told, if you were doing your job and watching the road you would have seen the tunnel coming – but regardless of whether you saw it coming or not – there’s nothing you could have done to avoid it. There was no way around it. There it was and you had to face it. A dark tunnel, and you have no idea how long it is.
Now, you know there’s another side to it. You know it’s not a cave you’re going to drive into and not be able to get out of. But you have three choices at this point. You can either A) Stop driving all together and just stay where you are. B) Drive with your headlights off and risk crashing and hurting yourself and/or others. Or C) Use your headlights as a guide for how to get through this pitch black tunnel. … (For the sake of illustration, let’s just assume these tunnels have no lights in them!)
As a depression survivor I can tell you that I have done all three. None of them are easy, but I can truthfully say that choice “C” is a whole lot easier than “A” or “B.” It’s a lot less dangerous and destructive too!
So what exactly is the Light inside the tunnel? Psalm 119:105 describes the Word of God as a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” The psalmist later says he is “severely afflicted.” Many people throughout the Bible were afflicted and depressed. So if you absorb nothing else you read here, understand this : YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is nothing to be ashamed of! It’s nothing new! I don’t say that to sound condescending, but yet the furthest thing from it. I want to encourage you that it is a real disease, a real affliction, and a real problem. Depression has been chasing people around since the beginning of time, so listen to those who have walked this path and overcome it when we say “You WILL get through it!”
When I first experienced depression I was in high school. I’m not even exactly sure at what point it was recognized as clinical depression, but I started taking medication when I was about 16. I was getting migraine headaches and I was missing a lot of school. I was fainting a lot and never really felt good. I was picked on a lot by the more popular kids. I internalized a lot of comments and believed that others thought I was worthless, but I knew I was more than that. So I was very conflicted. As time went on I adopted the comments of worthlessness to be true and I couldn’t distinguish true appropriate sadness from depression. So I tried to find things to make me happy. This was choice B. Boys, alcohol, creating an image to make people like me – I was trying to create happiness with external sources. I crashed and burned several times. So after medication ended up just making me feel bad most of the time, I decided to just wallow in it. I “accepted” that this was my life and it was miserable. This was choice A. (Yeah yeah so I went out of order.. just work with me here..) For years, even though I was getting counseling, I wasn’t really trying to change anything. I thought that going to a counselor was just going to magically help me one day. …(Bookmark this part, I’ll come back to it)… Then there were times when I actually followed advice and listened to those trying to help me. In the end I turned to Christ as my source of light. Faith that if I take my eyes off of myself and focus on Him and rely on him as my guide, I was going to make out safely. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” – In the spirit of following this truth, I didn’t understand how to do it, but I tried anyway. Matthew 6:33 says when you seek first the kingdom of God and His
righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. – Meaning the desires of your heart. When the desires of your heart are in line with His will He delights in giving them to you. And when you seek His kingdom first, the desires of your heart WILL be in line with his will.
During the times that I was choosing option “A”, it was the most pathetic point of my life. I did nothing. I was angry, I sulked, I withdrew.. feeling like “well.. If this is my life I might as well get comfy..” and spent days on the couch or in bed, wishing the pain and misery would just go away on it’s own. I’d occasionally call someone and complain about my life, but in general it was too much energy to even talk. Then I would feel convicted by my laziness and start reading or making efforts. Eventually I started clinging to my little “Bible Promises” book that I got when I was 13. It was too much effort to try and actually read the Bible, so I just read a few promises here and there. Little flickers of light that began to light my way. It was like carrying a little candle through the tunnel, until one day I had a full blown torch. I could see further, and there was less darkness. One day I realized that I could choose to be happy, I just had to be willing to be. I reached the end of the tunnel. Should I keep going? Or stay in the tunnel? Stay where I had gotten used to things? I was just learning how to navigate this tunnel. Now – I didn’t have to? All these unknown things – even though it was where I’d been yearning to be – did I have the courage to brave a new step? I found that I didn’t have to be, because God was brave for me. I just had to do the same thing I’d done in the tunnel. Because God is constant, even when our circumstances are not. Even when we are not. He never changes, He only changes how He deals with us. So I knew He would continue to direct my path, only now I wouldn’t be surrounded by darkness. I chose to be happy. I chose to trust Him. He has never failed me. What he takes you to, he takes you through!