Dealing with Depression
- Wednesday, August 02, 2006
I went through a period of serious anxiety and depression that I attribute to my singleness. I won't discredit physical factors, but I believe this struggle was largely fueled by the emotional stress of wondering What's wrong with me? During that dark time I dreaded public settings, even though I'd always loved being around people. I withdrew so much I had to get someone to pick up takeout meals for me.
I'd never dated a lot, which I attributed to the fact I was overweight and somewhat shy around guys. I believed things would change when I got to college, when I graduated, when I started working. But none of these milestones helped. I eventually lost an enormous amount of weight, and in some ways I thought it would "cure" my singleness. At the age of 25, when I was within mere pounds from my goal weight, my anxiety grew stronger because my life wasn't changing the way I thought it would. I was still single, and not even one man was showing interest in me.
I started withdrawing from everything and everyone and absolutely drowned in all my insecurities. Now that I couldn't fall back on the fat excuse, I started accusing myself of a whole new set of faults. I was terrified of my future, that I was going to be alone forever. It seemed as if my dream of a husband and kids was shattered. I even questioned my sexuality, which brought on a whole new set of anxieties.
Despite my reservations, I decided to seek help from a Christian counselor. I felt a huge relief after the first visit. Through counseling I started to deal with things in my past that had contributed to my anxieties and insecurities. Taking prescribed medication and talking to a counselor have felt somewhat humiliating at times, but they're absolutely the best things I've ever done in my life.
I can look back now and see how God was ready to do some work in me. Not long before this tough season, I'd prayed that God would reveal to me the things that were holding me back from moving forward in life. Boy, did he! After all of this, I experienced a freedom I've never known before. I came to realize a very important truth that needed to sink deep down into my bones: Singleness isn't my fault. It's not about my flaws, my looks, my eccentricities. It's all about the right time and right place. I'm OK with that now. God is in control.
Through prayer, God's Word, and the wisdom of other believers, I've experienced a transformation like nothing I could have imagined. I'm now more fearless and hopeful than ever. It seems so fitting (and a testament to God's humor) that my last counseling session was the week of Easter—the season of renewal.
I went through a three–year season of depression about ten years ago when I was in my mid–twenties. At the time, I'd been a Christian about seven years. I was raised in a Christian family, so I knew in my mind that God's always with me. When the depression set in, I constantly prayed, "Please God, hold me close to you because I don't have the strength to cling to you." I wanted to keep my mind clear, so I didn't go on any medication. It was a difficult struggle.
It felt as though Satan was whispering in my ear lies about how God sees me, telling me I'm not important and that prayer and Bible reading don't help. He tried to convince me my singleness is a sign I'm not worthy, that nobody loves me so what kind of future do I have.
I sought Christian counseling. In our sessions, I discovered I needed to learn to be honest in my prayers. Instead of telling God what I was really feeling, I'd often told him what I thought I was supposed to pray. So I started being honest with God about what was really going on with me. At first I felt anxious. What would God do? How would he respond to my honest words, questions, feelings? But over time I learned I can talk to God about everything that's on my mind; he listens, cares, and helps.
I learned a lot from Neil T. Anderson's books about my identity in Christ and how I can resist the devil, take authority over my thoughts and put them in God's hands. Watchman Nee's book on Romans helped me grasp what Jesus did for me on the cross and what an impact that has in my life. Christ died for me; I do matter to him. He took my sins and my pain, and he loves me. That's a revelation that still gives me strength and hope.
I bought myself a cross necklace to remember what Christ did for me—and to remember I'm a new creation. Because of his death and resurrection, I don't live under condemnation anymore.
I also learned to give God control over my life. Things won't always be perfect or go the way I want them to. But I know that in losing my life to him, I'll gain it back abundantly. My life still isn't always easy, but I know Jesus Christ is my Lord. He loves me and I love him. And that gives me hope.
This might sound trite, but when I'm depressed I've learned that stepping back and really looking at the situation with new eyes is a big help. Many times when I'm depressed, I've gotten in a rut of thinking about the problem or situation in the same way. I need to stop and ask myself, What is God trying to teach me here?Am I feeling stuck and depressed because I haven't learned the lesson I'm supposed to?
Sometimes help comes in simply accepting this is where God has me right now and that I need to stop demanding my own way on my own timetable. If I get rid of the negative selfish emotions and really look, I can see the positives and what God is teaching me. Many times this shift in perspective and attitude is the first step in getting out of depression.
Just four months ago, I was able to purchase my first solo home at the ripe age of 29. The first two months were great; I spent most of my time unpacking and setting the house up the way I wanted it. But I eventually finished unpacking and there was nothing left to do but be there … alone.
Then my only sister and I got into an argument, and she quit speaking to me. This led to a fallout with my parents, and I was left with no one to talk to. As the depression started to sink in, I decided to drive to my parents' house to talk things over—only to discover they'd invited the family over for dinner but had failed to invite me.
That night, I drove all over the city, crying my eyes out and letting the depression set in deeper. When I got home, I didn't want to leave. The next Sunday, I didn't even set my alarm so I'd get up for church. The following week, all I did was come home from work, sit on my bed, and cry. Soon after, I couldn't even get out of bed. It seemed no one cared about me.
Then a line from an old Amy Grant song popped into my head: "I'm raining on the inside." That's what I was doing. I hadn't heard that song in more than 15 years, but God brought every word to mind. As I lay in bed singing this song out loud, the Lord met me. He reminded me I'm his child, and that if I looked to him, he would take care of me. I got out of bed and was able to make things right with my sister and parents. And I attended church the next morning. I promised God I'd never again let anything get in the way of honoring him.
In the days following my return to church, I heard from a friend I hadn't talked with in a long time. She needed some part–time work done and wanted to know if I was interested in helping her. She had no idea what I'd been through the previous weeks, but God did. He knew I'd probably face loneliness again, but he sent her to rescue me.
I've since finished the part–time work, but I'm not lonely or depressed. I know I might get depressed again in the future, but I also know God is right beside me no matter what.
I've had many seasons of depression. I remember two in particular because they both lasted about a year. One was when I graduated college and went through a "this isn't what I planed for my life" phase. The other was when I lost my grandfather. On this journey, I've learned it's OK to get counseling—it's not something to be ashamed of.
I still have seasons of depression; they can last from a day to a year. However, I now know depression isn't permanent. These are also seasons when I usually experience big spiritual growth because I lean more on God and study his Word more. When I get to the end of the dark season and the clouds start rolling away, I have a new and bigger picture of God and a new understanding of my life in him. I don't get all the answers, but I get a new peace.
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