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Friday, July 20, 2007

When Depression Threatens, Don't Forget Your Slingshot

About 12 years ago, I experienced my first bout of extended depression, not just a week or two of the blues, but the real deal--a suffocating, absolutely relentless depression. It made me feel like one of those caged cats in the zoo who paces back and forth day after day after day behind steel bars, unhappily separated from his former life and former self--or perhaps who spends the day sleeping, seizing his only respite from his misery.

Eventually, I sought spiritual counseling, sought medical help, turned to friends who loved me unconditionally, began exercising and focusing on surviving, and because God never gives up on us even when we've abandoned all hope and sometimes even abandoned Him, I am here today. I claim Psalm 94:16-18, "Unless the Lord had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O LORD, supported me."

I'd like to offer a few tools, simple as they are, that I use to help batten down the hatches when the winds of depression kick up in my life. Maybe they will be relevant to you or a friend.

The first/best line of defense against any threat is prayer and reading God's Word, of course. But since we eventually have to close the Bible or stop praying actual words for periods of time, I think it's wise to have some small practical weapons in our arsenal with which to fight these battles. Sometimes it only takes a few stones in a slingshot to bring down an enemy of the Lord!

I'm not a professional, of course, but I am a survivor. Is my life perfect now? No. Do I ever feel down? Sure I do. But--when I feel the shadow of that terrible period hovering over me now, I quickly and confidently acknowledge that I am not powerless. I do not panic anymore because "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed"(John 8:36).

Here are some "stones" I keep handy when I'm under attack:

1. I remind myself of the verse above by stating, "Jesus set me free of depression; therefore, I am free. I may feel threatened. I may feel a little roughed up. Doubt may be tapping me on the shoulder. None of those feelings can compromise the truth: I am, at my core, set free from depression's oppression. Thank God. Now that I've remembered that the issue is settled, what else can I focus on to strengthen my faith?"

2. I get outside at least briefly, to get natural light. Outside light is different from indoor light, even on a partly cloudy day. Twenty minutes can do a world of good. And if I walk those 20 minutes, even better. Plus, outside I can pray more effectively. When I was heavily depressed, my mind was a thick fog, and I couldn't stay focused on praying or reading the Bible if there was any aural or visual distraction.

3. I avoid sad songs/movies/books/network news. I avoid rehearsing the time when I was depressed. I simply avoid reinforcing anything negative at all, until I feel I'm past the most intense vulnerability.

4. Any time you remove a temptation or avoid something, you need to provide a substitute to fill its spot. So you guessed it; I listen to music that glorifies Jesus or I listen to secular songs that I know also evoke positive feelings/outlook, none about broken hearts. I look for little ways to help other people; I watch funny movies. I talk to friends who will lift me up. It's OK for me to express what I'm battling with a friend, but we need to quickly leave the subject and talk about healthy, uplifting topics--not dwell on how low I feel.

5. I talk myself "down from the ledge." I say, "You are an old pro at fighting this. You are smarter than the threat. Your sad feelings may be valid; they may be rational depending on what's going on in your life currently, even so--it's still not all about you and your feelings in this world. Move emotionally outward. Feelings are fleeting. This depression is not coming to stay; it's coming to pass. You are prayed up, read up, sung up--now get up and live like a nondepressed person. Smile." Guess what? I start to feel like an overcomer. and that's not being false--remember--I have been set free. I am an overcomer.

I am not boasting about having it all together; I do not have all the answers, nor do I have particularly original suggestions. It was Christ who set me free and the Holy Spirit who teaches me how to cope with my own personal trials. But sometimes I need to be reminded of fundamental truths and simple plans for facing hulking giants. Now matter how large depression looms, I know that I serve a bigger God. According to Ephesians 4:8 "When He [Christ] ascended on high, He led captivity captive [He led a train of vanquished foes] and He bestowed gifts on men" (Amplified). He has defeated depression. He has bestowed on me the grace to face my fears, an abundant life to enjoy in Him, and courage and desire to begin a brand new day.



I would love for you to visit my personal blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

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12 Comments:

Blogger MICKY said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 2004, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages . God LOVES me so much. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].
PEACE BE WITH YOU
MICKY

July 20, 2007 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Cyndi said...

Wow, Linda. This really spoke to me today! Thank you so much for sharing this. I especially love #3. I tend to "rehearse" the battles (depression, panic) rather than replay the victories (which is, I guess, inherent in #5). Excellent, excellent post. God is so faithful. Thank You, Jesus, for winning this victory for us.

July 20, 2007 at 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless you for sharing this today. I needed this...
Peace be with you...

July 20, 2007 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Cory said...

Linda, God has perfect timing. I will be printing this so that I can share it with my husband. He has been battling depression for many years. It has been in the last month that he is starting to see that he needs to take action, even small actions such as reaching out to someone or getting out in the sunlight, in order to take steps forward. I have been there trying to support and help but it is very hard when I don't know what to do to help. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. God bless you, Cory

July 20, 2007 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Susanne said...

Linda, this was excellent and can be applied to other battles that we face also. I love how you have a list of things to combat the battle all ready to go before it ever comes around. Not that you're believing for it to come but being prepared if it does. That is a hurdle in itself because once you are in a battle it is so hard to start coming up with things then.

I totally was nodding my head yes to the music one. I knew someone who went through a very sad depressed time in their lives and a lot had to do with the certain group they listened to constantly. Sad words, even sad sounding music. God spoke to them to break every CD from that certain group and they haven't listened to them since.

Thanks for all these workable tips. And Praise God that you used your horrible experience to be able to help others.

July 20, 2007 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Micky, I rejoice with you. God is so good--He does NOT abandon us!

July 20, 2007 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Linda,

I have struggled with situational, organic, and seasonal depression and anxiety, and loved this post! I really like how you acknowledge what's going on, but don't dwell, because only the enemy would have you be in a prolonged pit of sadness. Jesus wants to set us free. Thanks for the practical coping suggestions, too. I definitely "second" the getting outside--even for a few minutes. Even in the rain (as it often is all winter in the Seattle area). Those rays do get through! I like to think of them as Sonrays. :)
((hugs)) gretchen

July 20, 2007 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Denise said...

Bless your heart for sharing this sweety.

July 20, 2007 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

I love that you used the word 'overcome' as it has been a constant theme in my prayers lately for a women's retreat i'm teaching in a few weeks.

My mantra as of late is based on 1 John 2:14 - 'I am strong, the word of God abides in me, and I have overcome the evil one..'

Good stuff Linda! :)

Lisa

July 20, 2007 at 7:41 PM  
Anonymous Lynn said...

Linda,

This post is filled with real living in Jesus Christ. It is filled with the power of faith and the absolute deliverance by scripture.

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed"(John 8:36).

Amen, Linda, Amen. Thank you so much for sharing your words of truth. Love you so much, me

July 21, 2007 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I've been taking daily walks with the kids- #1 on his bike, #2 on her trike, #3 in a stroller, and #4 blissfully asleep (not a common occurrence) in the snugli. The time outside, as you said, make things look a little less bleak. We're struggling over here with colic, reflux, sleep-deprivation and a mommy who can't meet even the smallest of her own expectations. Thanks for this post! It's nice to be reminded that it's not permanent.

July 23, 2007 at 8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's like deep, silent water and i am sinking. I heard people sometimes, but i am down...down to the bottom line of my life...just for surviving.

July 30, 2007 at 2:07 AM  

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