“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – Deuteronomy 31:8
Depression is one of the more common psychological struggles a person can experience in a lifetime. According to ADAA.org, “MDD [Major Depressive Disorder] affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.”
“In 2015, an estimated 3 million adolescents age 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.”
While depression can feel like a very isolating, lonely experience, the fact is, many people have or will experience some form of depression in their lifetime. Anything from a divorce, the loss of a loved one, exposure to traumatic events, or other kinds of emotional or physical harm can lead to feelings of hopelessness.
The good news is that you’re not alone, and because this type of feeling can be so common, there is a lot of research dedicated to providing you with support.
“The smartest thing I’ve ever learned is I don’t have all the answers, just a little light to call my own. Though it pales in comparison to the over-arching shadows, a speck of light can re-ignite the sun, and swallow darkness whole.” – Sleeping at Last, “Emphasis”
Pratical Ways to Receive Help for Depression
Here are several practical ways you can receive help for depression:
Talk to someone
Whether talking to a friend, family member, co-worker, spouse, or counselor, it is important to find a support system. We can experience some of the most isolating feelings and thoughts during seasons of depression. We might be additionally feeling shame from the stigma of talking about it with others, but having a support network can create a sense of safety that it’s okay to share. Nobody should have to wrestle with distressing thoughts or feelings alone.
There are many forms of depression. Among the DSM-5 diagnosable forms of depression, we find major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia), premenstrual dysphoric disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), depression due to another medical condition, adjustment disorder with depressed mood, postpartum depression, and unspecified depression. Knowing what diagnosis you have can help you understand the cause, intensity, and features of what you’re going through.
No two depressions look the same, so it can be helpful to be informed about it. I often sit with clients who don’t even realize they are clinically depressed. After my clients have filled out something like a Moods and Feelings Questionnaire, I can see specific thoughts or experiences they are struggling with and let them know their symptoms are explainable.
While one client might fill out that they have been worrying a lot, tearful, and having difficulty concentrating, another might indicate that they have intense feelings of guilt, shame, or worry. I like to go over these results because it offers an invitation for a client to specifically share with me what they indicated on the form. More importantly, it allows us to objectively explore anything that might have led to them having such intense feelings of guilt or worry, and thereby reduce any criticisms they might have toward themselves for feeling that way.
Join a community
There are many support groups available that help individuals navigate mental health difficulties.
Here are a few I find easily accessible:
- Meetup – https://www.meetup.com/depression-454/ – Seattle, local support groups that show how many people will be attending a group that day.
- NAMI – https://www.nami-greaterseattle.org/ – The national alliance on mental illness has support groups right here in Seattle.
Contact a crisis worker
If you are feeling suicidal, know that there is always someone you can talk to about this. Many people don’t these resources are available, or that it’s possible to be hospitalized or have a bed found for them if they felt they couldn’t keep themselves safe. If you are unsure if you can keep yourself safe or simply just need someone to talk to, these are great resources:
- Call the suicide prevention lifeline, or visit their website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ – 1-800-273-8255
- Text 741741 and you can be connected to a crisis worker immediately for no charge. This is a great resource for persons who prefer communicating through text. It also allows for immediate care.
Read quality literature on this topic.
There are many valuable blogs, books, articles and videos dedicated to helping people overcome depression. Not only that, but many of these resources were written by persons who themselves have experienced depression firsthand, and are therefore very familiar with what you’re going through.
These are some of the resources I have found particularly helpful:
1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America – https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/college-students/resources
This is a fantastic website which pools together national resources on these topics. Here you can read about various types of depression to understand them, learn about various types of therapy for depression, join their free online support group, view infographics that detail helpful facts, questions, and info about various topics related to depression.
Endurance, by Jan and Dave Dravecky is a website I stumbled upon that is written by a couple who share openly about their own experience of depression and the intense feelings of anger, sadness, isolation from God and others they felt. I like reading about their journey to healing because it’s from a Christian perspective and tackles some of the hard, spiritual questions we might have as believers when we feel totally alone.
To Write Love on Her Arms – This is one of my favorite non-profit organizations because it centralizes around helping those struggling with depression and self harm. This is an entire community of blogs, personal accounts and more the reveal just how not alone you are in your struggle.
4. Health Central – https://www.healthcentral.com/depression/?ic=1102%2520
This website offers blogs and articles written with information about depression that is relevant to this going on today such as tv shows, research findings, online therapy, and more.
5. https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/guide/resources/ – everyday health has a list of resources on depression here. Among them include links to blogs, information about specific medications, and more.
There is a plethora of Christian books dedicated to overcoming depression. Some of my own recommendations include:
- John Piper – When the Darkness Will Not Lift
- Zack Eswine – Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for Those Who Suffer from Depression
Take care of your body
Depression is a very internal battle, but it can be amplified if we neglect our physical bodies’ needs. When I went through a very bad depression myself, a very close family member of mine who looked after me during that time told me that I just needed to do 5 things each day: eat, sleep, exercise, pray, and read my Bible.
For me personally, my desire to take care of my body was almost nonexistent since I was dealing with so many internal battles. But, research shows that both our diet and whether or not we exercise regularly can significantly affect the chemicals in our brains that help or hinder our mood.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
I like to think of a journal as a placeholder for our thoughts. The pages objectively hold things we may not even know we are thinking. Journaling is a time where you can practice mindfulness – paying attention to your thoughts. When we pay attention to our thoughts it can help us move in and out of them with a feeling of having a little more control over them.
Much like the techniques found in CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), journaling invites us to wonder about the specific ways we think about things can influence our feelings. Another way to think of this is like taking an eraser, or an editing marker to your thoughts.
On paper, you can see written down exactly what self-critical thoughts you might be having, or if any cognitive distortions are taking place. [Cognitive distortions are thoughts that might involve catastrophizing (jumping to the worst conclusion), black and white thinking (believing things can only be all good or all bad, all this or all that and not paying attention to middle ground options), over-generalizing (applying features of one situation to all situations), focusing on the negative (having ruminative thoughts that are primarily negative), and more.]
With journaling, you can be in control of these thoughts and re-write them, reminding yourself that your thoughts do not have to control you. If nothing else, journaling serves as an outlet, a place where you can express how you truly feel.
Yoga has become more widely accepted in Western culture as a form of exercise that has huge physical, mental, and emotional benefits. While it originated in India as a spiritual discipline, yoga has expanded into a physical discipline as well, with emphasis now being placed on one’s ability to control both their thoughts and their physical body with exercises focused on strength, focus, perseverance, and more.
Yoga is a powerful way to practice mindfulness and being present with your thoughts. The difference between yoga and journaling is that yoga is an opportunity to integrate your body with your mind and soul. Studies show that yoga, much like meditation, significantly combats feelings of anxiety by slowing down our heart rate, pacing our breath, and aligning our posture.
3. Listen to music
Music, for me, is a totally healing experience. Below I’ve briefly shared a few bands that I personally find their lyrics, ministry, and feel to convey healing.
- Sleeping at Last – Sleeping at Last is, in my opinion, music’s best kept secret. Not everyone knows about this musician, but his songs are like poems written to God. I recommend “Saturn,” “Emphasis,” and “You are Enough” to start.
- Bellarive – Listen to their song, “Tendons.” It’s a masterpiece about the act of grace committed on the cross.
- Josh Garrels – Another amazing Christian artist. “Beyond the Blue,” “Farther Along,” and “Born Again” are some of my favorites.
- Needtobreathe – Solid Christian band with more light-hearted tunes but still a deep message.
Speak with a psychologist or doctor about medication
I typically recommend medication as more of a last resort if the above methods (over time) still prove to only slightly alleviate your suffering. The standard medicine used to combat depression is called an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) and often have few side effects.
Ask for prayer
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” – Psalm 40:1-3
Scripture describes battles that occur in the unseen world as spiritual. There is a war being waged on each of our souls and powers of both darkness and light are fighting over you. Asking for prayer is a way to actively fight those powers of darkness that perpetuate lies.
I think the self-criticisms we often deal with when we are experiencing a low mood can be one of the biggest reasons we stay in it. Being able to have someone normalize how anyone in your situation would likely also feel just as sad can begin to lift these harsh expectations you might be placing on yourself that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel.
It’s one thing to write on a form that you are struggling, but to have someone go over the specific ways you’re feeling can be very validating. It means someone is listening and not afraid to talk with you about the details of your depression. More than that, know that in Christ, you are never alone. He understands your pain and suffering more than anyone ever could. Turning to Him, you will find relief that no man can give.
If you haven’t already found a therapist, please contact me to set up an appointment. As someone who has personally dealt with the hardships of depression myself, I want you to know I am here to help, listen, normalize, and care in whatever ways I can. You don’t have to suffer alone.
“Rainy day,” courtesy of Cameron Stow, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Locket,” courtesy of Monica Sager, Flickr, Copyright Monica Sager, used with permission; “Lights,” courtesy of Kari Shea, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Together,” courtesy of Stuart Vivier, unsplash.com, CC0 License