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My story is increasingly common in the world today. You just don’t know it. Given the statistics of depression in our world, it is likely that someone you know closely is dealing with it. Given the attitude that far too often shows up in a place of faith, it is likely you don’t know that a person is struggling with it. We have found ourselves in a place where people are pressured to make everything be “okay,” or “fine.” Expressions of anxiety, depression or struggle are met with a sort of awkward avoidance because we are uncomfortable sharing honestly how we are. The person struggling is left feeling it is far better to leave such things unsaid. Bottling it inside won’t help. It will only lead to greater struggle. The very place where we should find support can often feel like the place where we must hide the most. But it can be different, and it should be different. Here are some things that I have learned, and am still learning about how to deal with depression.
It is not a faith problem.
Depression and anxiety don’t exist because you don’t have enough faith. They are real things. Real emotions. However, those feelings are built on false foundations. Things like depression exist because of the brokenness of the world around us. For some, it is a medical issue that must be treated with medicine. Talking with your doctor can be a great help. It isn’t poor faith to experience it. God isn’t less because you are struggling. And you don’t have to be “fixed” before you can approach Him. He takes you broken, and that is beautiful.
Circumstances don’t define you.
Though a combination of social media, email, ads, and other notifications, you likely receive multiple messages a day that are trying to define who you are and what you should be. These messages can number in the thousands. All of these things seek to build an identity for you. And they all have their own agenda. None of them are really true. You are not what the world tries to tell you. You are what your Creator tells you. In Christ, joy and peace can be found. It isn’t easy all the time. It takes work and choice.
Own your feelings. Recognize what triggers it.
We are not victims of our circumstances. For a number of years I experienced a pronounced downturn in my life around the time of my father’s birthday. I closed off. Felt bad and down. I withdrew from friends. It was a cycle triggered by something outside of me. I knew what was going on but felt powerless to stop it. It was confronted finally and I came to realize that I wasn’t powerless. By owning the emotions related to it and taking responsibility for them I was able to begin ending that cycle. Acknowledging the feelings is an important first step towards recognizing responsibility in them. Developing an understanding of what events and thoughts act as triggers for those negative emotions helps begin a process of healthy expression without the feelings taking control.
Don’t go through it alone.
We weren’t made to walk through life alone. While solitude can be healthy and help with reflecting through feelings, it can rapidly lead to isolation. We need each other. Engaging in community with authenticity is vital. That doesn’t mean you go around sharing the deepest details of life with every person you meet. You need a few individuals you are able to count on. You need someone you can share openly about what you are experiencing. A person who can speak into you and your life. A person who cares enough to tell you things that hurt, but are for your betterment. And you need to be a person like that for someone.
Although we were not made to go through life alone, we also were made to rest on our own. God gave us the sabbath with purpose. He gave it as a blessing. It is an intentional time to rest and trust in Him. The endless cycle of buzzes and dings is destroying your soul. The connectedness of the world is both awe-inspiring and terrifying. The thought of unplugging and missing out on the latest tweet, post, snap or vid evokes some of the deepest fears we face. All the notifications are not a blessing. They are a curse. What if once a week you put it all away for a few hours? What if you turned it all off? What if you rested in the silence and allowed your soul to recharge? What if once a month you took a whole day? By the way, if you do that (and you should), don’t tell Facebook.
These are things that have helped me. They are works in progress in my own life in many ways. Depression is real. It is a struggle, but it is not an end. Whatever you do, just don’t stay silent. Reach out and ask for help.
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About the Author: Brian Hatcher lives in Franklin, TN with his wife and children. He is the Discipleship Pastor at ClearView Baptist Church.