Quicksand: Musings on Depression

Happy New Year, all! I know this post seems bleak at the outset, but bear with me!

Although it isn’t something I’m entirely comfortable discussing, today I feel compelled to address depression from a biblical standpoint. The word “depression”Β  is thrown around today in a casual way that really disturbs me. I know that anti-depressants are widely used and that everyone seems to know people who are or have been depressed. But that doesn’t make the associated feelings any less real or horrible. It doesn’t mean that the people asking for help are necessarily more self-absorbed or less capable than anyone else. Yes, depression can be sinful and selfish, but most of us battle self-absorption… it just manifests in different ways. It does seem particularly relevant in the first-world. Maybe there are cultural variables that make us more likely to become depressed, but I don’t think so. You only need open your Bible to see myriad verses addressing fear, anxiety, mourning, tears, oppression and darkness.

I don’t know exactly how depression makes others feel, but I’ve had just enough experience with it to care deeply for those who are really struggling. For me, it had very physical effects. The feeling of removal or isolation was positively palpable. On a beautiful, sunny day the world could appear (literally) quite dim; A heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach made me feel anxious, like something was truly wrong. Irritability was always bubbling in my chest. It never seemed to be situational – I couldn’t point to any external circumstance that was affecting me. Many people can relate to these feelings – it is no picnic when they are all present for an extended period. I apologize if that sounds melodramatic, I’m only trying to help those who haven’t been there to understand on some level.

But recently when I begin to feel low or angry in a non-constructive way, I am aware of a fork in the road. I experience the feeling and then I face a conscious decision: I can give in and wallow in these feelings, or I can acknowledge them and choose to act in a positive way. I don’t ever remember recognizing this choice before. I think it is a gift, an opportunity to avoid negativity, but where there is choice there is also burden. It should be simple: I want to feel happy, so I should choose the happy path. I don’t want my loved ones to suffer because I’m unhappy, so I should choose the happy path. But ironically, in the moment, I WANT to let the anger or depression in. I don’t always choose correctly.

When describing these feelings, I’m afraid I have used the excuse, “I can’t help it.” It is my resolution for the New Year to stop using this insipid expression. I may not be able to control the feelings, but I CAN control my actions. I can accept God’s offer to help me out of that quicksand trap. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us: “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” The overwhelming theme in the verses that address the feelings I’ve been talking about is that through God people can receive solace, strength, hope… My new-found awareness of these spiritual gifts leads me to an understanding that to refuse them is to deliberately turn away from God; something I’d like to avoid! πŸ™‚

Would that we all could someday joyfully pray:

“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,” ~Psalm 30:11

Take care, everyone!





6 thoughts on “Quicksand: Musings on Depression

  1. Your response to feelings of depression are quite insightful. Any one of us is capable of clinging to one excuse or another to justify making the wrong choice. While I recognize that most people cannot control the feelings that simply well up from time to time, be they positive or negative, we always have some control over how we respond to what we are feeling. I have tried to share with those I know who struggle with depression the value of “switching channels” when unwanted feelings come up. Just like we have the option to change the channel on the TV when something comes on that we do not want to view, it can often help to switch channels on negative feelings we do not wish to sustain.

    1. I know exactly what you mean by switching channels. I think that’s a really valuable ability, but (and maybe this is too tangential) I also feel like that same ability is what leads to inappropriate desensitization when not exercised judiciously. Too often we gloss over things we should feel deeply. Tough balance.

  2. Hi Delve,

    Thank you for this post. It really spoke to me. It especially rang true when you described how the world can very literally look dim even on a bright sunny day. It’s an interesting visual-mental phenomenon that I have often experienced. It’s possibly also a sign of something chemically going really awry in my brain. In fact, that’s exactly what it feels like sometimes, like something is broken somewhere or just not firing correctly. I have suffered from severe depression and anxiety basically my whole life and have been on and off of meds as an adult. One of my friends has said that if I had diabetes I wouldn’t hesitate to take insulin and wouldn’t feel bad about doing so, so why should I struggle with taking anti-depressants? She makes a good point and yet, for better or worse, I’ve been off of them for about 2 years now. They do remove the lows, but also the highs and most everything in between. You don’t feel depressed, but you don’t feel much at all. Perhaps we weren’t designed to just sort of cruise through life, numb to it’s passing. Perhaps the most meaningful parts of life are lived in the valleys and the mountains, not so much in the plain.

    1. Everything you said sounds VERY familiar. πŸ™‚ I love your last couple of sentences. I think that if our problems are man-made, maybe we should look elsewhere for the solutions. Thoughts and prayers.

  3. You are brave to discuss such a subject, but it something most of us deal with at some time or other, and some deal with depressive thoughts more than others. But I, too, have been there and it is a pit, that I hope never to go down in again. I too, have found that if I hold on to Jesus’ hand, He will not allow me to go down in that pit of despair again. There are many verses in the Bible where we are told that God literally takes hold of our hand, such as this passage in Psalms 139: “If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Hour hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You. Psalm 139:9-12

    I, too, have to choose when I feel those dark moods come over me, whether to give in to them, or to ask Jesus to take hold of my hand and to help me overcome and look up.

    May God be a major part of your New Year.

    1. Thanks, Jeri. πŸ™‚ And thank you, too for the beautiful verses. Having the spiritual support of my family is such a fantastic thing! Prayers for a God-centered New Year for you, as well.

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