Walking on the beach
Depression changed my life. It changed my perspective on things and my values. I am a cheerful person, yet contemplative, a funny mixture of an extrovert and an introvert. That did not change.
The full onset of clinical depression happened seven years ago, after childbirth. I did not think I had ever been depressed before. During pregnancy, I read a book about post-natal depression and I became uneasy about how much I could relate to the general information about depression. It made me wonder. However, when depression hit me with full force, I did not recognize it. I think I was in denial because of the happy situation. I was ashamed for how I felt. I cried a lot and was so tired. When I felt better, I explained the mood swings away as a "bad hair day."
Four months later I sat with tears in my eyes in my doctor's office, telling him that I could not cope. I was diagnosed with depression after a depression-screening test. Diagnosis was a relief. It took some of the guilt away and made sense in my turmoil. I went to a psychiatrist who put me on anti-depressants. The medication did me good and after four months, the psychiatrist decided to take me off it. I was to quit in five days and come back in a month. It was terrible. On day three I crashed. The next week I started working again, very bad timing for taking someone off medication.
Therefore, at my next appointment I started on the anti-depressants again. After five months, I was stable again and the psychiatrist decided to take me off medication in a week. I decided to change psychiatrists.
The new psychiatrist wanted me to be on medication and I agreed. I have popped the pills ever since as prescribed. We have tried to wean me off slowly a couple of times but unsuccessfully. Apparently, I need anti-depressants to be healthy. There are no plans to take me off the medication in the near future. I do not mind. We need many tools to deal with depression and medication is one of them. Medication is my equilibrium.
Where is Jesus in this all? Jesus proved to be my strength and comfort, but not that easily.
It turned out that I had been depressed before, not that much though. I dealt with those times the "believer's way," through praying, repenting and counselling. These are necessary but sometimes more factors need consideration. My guilt increased as down-spirals reoccurred. Had I failed the last time? Had I not prayed enough, was my repentance not sincere, was the counselling just superficial? I kept digging, searching my soul. I blamed myself for not being spiritual enough. If I only were better, this would not happen to me.
One counsellor kept saying to me that my problems were not spiritual. I did not believe it. I know now that he was right. He said that I grew up on shaky ground and that made me unstable. However, he never suggested depression. I wish he had referred me to a doctor. I did need inner healing and I got plenty. I am grateful for that. It became a platform for me to deal with depression later on. Inner healing helped me learn to believe that God was there for me and not against me. It taught me there is always hope. Jesus rose from the dead and I need that resurrection power to survive depression.
As I entered depression, a preaching gifting was also growing in my life. It seemed such a contradiction. How was I to give a sermon while being so depressed? Depression forced me to search for the absolutes of the Christian faith. What is the core of faith? God incarnated in Jesus, which is an absolute. Jesus' death and redemption on the cross is an absolute. I realized that salvation is the absolute and that theories and ideas that do not affect salvation are secondary. Man can only come to God through Jesus. Therefore, I focused on Jesus in my sermons.
Spiritual gifts are not necessary for one's salvation, they are just that, gifts. Therefore, I decided to lay aside guilt for not being tremendously "spiritual." I shared with people gospel accounts of how Jesus related to people and how his power and glory manifested in their everyday situations. I shared how that mattered to me, the hope those stories gave me. People responded. People came to me and told me they needed to hear that Jesus was in their situation, acting on their behalf.
We tend to expect Jesus to show up on His white war horse and transform us, change our situation in an instant. Instead of being childlike in our faith, we tend to be childish. Faith is not wishful thinking. However, miracles do happen. We do not need more faith for a miracle. Miracles are a gift from God and He works miracles in His sovereignty. We cannot manipulate God. If we could, He would not be God but a puppet on a string.
As for me, God did not seem to be doing a miracle, as I was still depressed. Instead of hoping for an instant transformation, I began asking God: "How should I then live?" I stopped asking for healing but for grace to live instead. Whether we live or die, we need grace. Yet I believe God is working His healing in me. I do not pray long prayers; I only read short passages of Scripture. I try to be merciful towards myself. Jesus was not very impressed with the long, wordy prayer of the Pharisee; he was more concerned with contents and context.
Early on in my illness, I came across the Christian Depression Pages. This site became an invaluable tool to cope, a lifesaver. I read all the pages repeatedly and learned a lot. It helped me deal with the opposing nature of depression vs. faith. It helped me face my own prejudices and deal with them. I realized I was neither crazy nor lazy. I was ill. Most of all it taught me to be merciful towards myself. That is our most heartfelt prayer: "God, have mercy on me."
I have been on spiritual mountaintops. I have also been to the bottom of the sea. As for now, I am content with walking on the beach.
All that Jesus asks of me is that I love Him. When Jesus reinstated Peter, all He asked was: "Do you love me?" I have often heard that Jesus was giving Peter a chance to make a new confession of faith for every denial. What this account teaches me is that in Jesus, there is new beginning and the only prerequisite is love. Jesus loves me and He will be with me until the end of the world. Do I love Jesus and will I follow Him to the ends of the earth? Whatever happens, will I keep on loving Jesus?
This gives me the hope that not all is lost in depression. There is not only life after depression, but also life during depression. I believe that is a miracle, the miracle God has granted me. As long as I am depressed, I will go on living, making good use of my life. Depression is limiting but I will not let it conquer. It is my weakness. However, it is a weakness where the power and glory of God will manifest.
Always in Jesus
Copyright © 2000 Ólöf I. Davíðsdóttir