The descent into the blackness was swift. The quicksand under my feet melted away. Numb, my vision dulled as if I were fainting. But, no. I was very much awake but losing hold of reality.
How could I be depressed? Christians aren’t supposed to be.
At least good Christians, I believed. If you have enough faith, God will get you through anything. Tenuously grasping my fraying emotions, I tried to make sense of the diagnosis to no avail.
However, as my mind shut down, refusing to accept this depression, I crawled deeper into the darkness. It was almost as if I could hear a jail door clang shut behind me. Coldness set in. I smelled dampness and decay while I lost all sense of time and space.
As one who prided herself on being in control at all times, with a rapid-fire brain, this dullness and darkness terrified me. But worse than the mental fog was the spiritual crisis. Everything I built my faith on felt yanked away. I did believe God was bigger than anything I’d ever encounter. But, I never thought a Christian could have depression.
With stunning sharpness, I soon discovered how wrong I was.
Depression. Ugh. Just the word is a downer. Then layer false beliefs about God on top of this, and you experience darkness you can’t imagine. Yet, this is what I experienced. In God’s grace and love, He took me on a faith journey to discover His greatness, strength, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.
In that journey together with God, I live a successful life with depression.
It took several years, and some deep soul work to get to the point where I feel like depression doesn’t control my every moment.
Identifying good, safe friends, working with a counselor, doctor, and then a coach helped me work through the cause of my depression.
But, the only one who can change my daily circumstances and my mindset is me. Yes, there were tips and tricks I learned along the way. A big one is choosing to live in today. Depression, for me, drug me back into the past, which I couldn’t change. Spending every waking moment worried about the future deepened the depression. Often what we fear will happen doesn’t. Talk about wasted emotional energy!
Learning to live in today taught me how to live successfully with depression.
I’ve learned that the black hole of depression is one short step behind me and to my right. I respect its proximity, but I do not allow it to control me.
Today, I choose my thoughts, actions, and words. When circumstances arise that are less than optimal, I decide how to respond. Will I jump to anxious thoughts and allow the negative tapes to start playing (sometimes they do without warning!), or will I pause, assess, and evaluate what happened and the next best step? All of that is within my control.
Getting to this place of rational thought didn’t come easily.
A depressed mind can’t process information quickly or rationally. At least I couldn’t. So, if this feels overwhelming to you, I get it. Start today by getting out of bed, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and putting on clothes. That’s an excellent first step.
Now that you are no longer in bed, it’s time to adopt some healthy daily practices. Routine isn’t boring. Often, it kicks our brains into new pathways. The old, depressive patterns don’t help. Therefore, it’s time to develop some new ones. As I came out of the depressive fog, I realized my daily thoughts, habits, and activities needed an overhaul.
3 key ways to live each day successfully with depression:
Regular time with God.
Some may call this meditation. Whatever you call it, realizing you need help from someone greater than yourself is a game-changer. My anchor is Jesus Christ and my relationship with Him. The time I spend reading the Bible every day orients my mind toward that which is stable, consistent, truth-filled, and wise. Let’s face it. There are days when this doesn’t happen. So, give yourself grace on those days. But, the majority of my days start this way. Not sure where to start? Download this free resource of verses that helped me process through depression and anxiety.
Journal your feelings.
When you live with depression, often you don’t know how you feel on any given day. You just know you feel blah. Being able to identify your emotions allows you to zero in on your thoughts and processing of daily events. When I’m in the deeper parts of depression, I use five questions to help me process the day. Sometimes it’s easier to answer the questions than other times. And that’s okay. The point of the exercise is to examine where you are. There are no right or wrong answers. Surprisingly, the questions often reveal something that wasn’t on the forefront of my mind. Once identified, I’m able to process it healthily. Here are those five powerful questions to help change your day: free download for you.
Spend time outside.
Depression robs you of joy and delight in life. An excellent way to combat depression is to get outside for a few minutes. Whether you sit on your porch or deck or go for a walk, merely being in the fresh air elevates your mood. While recovering from the deepest part of my depression, my counselor encouraged me to walk up to two miles a day. The reason? Walking stretches the long muscles in your legs, which then releases the natural feel-good endorphins in your brain. Plus your interaction with nature and others switch your mind from self-focus to external-focus. From experience, I know that my mood and energy improve every time I walk.
Can’t do two miles? No problem. Walk for 20 minutes at a comfortable pace. The key is to get outside and move. Staying home only increases the depression symptoms.
Depression, which is different than feeling sad, is a day-by-day walk toward health.
If you need medical intervention as I did, get it. If your family member had a stroke in front of you, you’d rush to call 9-1-1. Well, it’s time to give yourself the same level of care. Your body is protesting and calling out for help. Listen to it.
I still have days where I struggle with depressive thoughts and feelings. That’s okay. I do what is necessary to care for me at that time. If the depression deepens or goes on longer than a few days, then it’s time to contact the doctor again. No shame, concrete help for a real need.
However, depression no longer defines my life. I choose to find joy in each day. And when the depression sucks me toward its vortex, I spend time outside, journal my feelings and thoughts, write out three things for which I’m grateful, and talk to God about what’s going on.
You can live successfully with depression.
Need someone who understands? Let’s chat.