Click on the link to read Depression (Part 2).
Whether or not you’ve ever experienced depression, this article is going to help you. You, or someone you know, has suffered from the devastating debilitation of depression at one time or another in their life, and some have fought it their whole life, so even though you may not have experienced it yourself, gaining insights into depression and how to help someone suffering with it will be beneficial to you.
As one who’s battled depression on and off for most of my life (and who’s learned to walk in paths of victory, to some degree), I would like to offer some insights. These are “battle strategies” which have worked for me–maybe they’ll work for you. A disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not claiming to have knowledge or expertise in the areas of severe mental, emotional or psychological problems. Following these suggestions will help anyone, but they are specifically targeted at the 3 levels of depression which I have personally experienced.
The Bible clearly teaches that you don’t have to experience something to be able to counsel another who is going through it. But, there is something about depression which defies explanation and seems to have to be experienced, before it can be truly understood or helpful counsel can be given (and even then, who can really “understand” it).
If you’ve never suffered from depression, you are apt to say things like:
- Just snap out of it
- Just get busy and you’ll feel better
- Maybe you need more exercise
- Stop thinking about yourself so much
While these might be helpful suggestions in another context, and I’m sure you mean well, please resist this impulse. Believe me, if the person could do something simple and be over their depression, they would do it.
In this article, I’m going to talk about “levels” of depression, for lack of a better term. My experience is that the lines are somewhat nebulous, and you can slip back and forth between the levels to some degree, but the deeper the level, the more the miry pit sucks you in, and the more difficult it is to back up to the top and climb out. Managing, or being Victorious in Christ over depression, may be a misnomer. The past few years I have, again, after almost 20 years of freedom from level 2 or 3 depression, been battling to “just” experience level 1 or be completely free of this monster. My age and circumstances contribute to the intensity of the fight. But I have reason to believe, though it’s purely subjective presumption on my part at this point, that I may be coming through on the other side at last. I hope so. So I would prefer to call it “Managing, or being Victorious in Christ” through depression. Though they may not feel this way at all, a depressed person can still bring God glory. (For proof, read the Psalms written by David, such as Psalm 42 and Psalm 143.)
So, let me describe what I call the levels of depression, ones which I’ve experienced. Today I will only cover Level 1 Depression. In next week’s post, I will go on to talk about Levels 2 and 3 Depression. I hope you’ll return to read that post, as it will include suggestions for the family and friends of a person suffering from severe depression.
Symptoms of Level 1 Depression
The first level is what I would term mild depression, or pre-depression. It’s often accompanied by sadness, lethargy, negative emotions and thinking, a desire to just crawl back into bed, desire to sleep more than usual, temptation to give up trying, or give in to fleshly desires or temptations, and temptation to neglect responsibilities and be slothful. (Allow me to remind you that temptation is not sin, but giving in to temptation is.) Level 1 depression may be associated with, or the result of, an extraordinary expenditure of emotional, physical or spiritual energy (such as when Elijah came against the prophets of Baal, or after someone has just attended a spiritually and emotionally moving seminar where God was really at work, or has just finished a huge physically-draining project, or has just nursed a sick friend or family member back to health) or it could be the season of the anniversary of a sad event, such as the death of a parent. It could be any one of these things, but it doesn’t have to be. Level 1 depression may be triggered by lack of close fellowship with the Lord, or irresponsibility in normal tasks, or eating poorly. It may be due to a lack of Vitamin D or experiencing cloudy or rainy days for days on end. There doesn’t have to be a reason, or it could be the culmination of a number of things. The cause may never be known, and though we often spend endless days and exhaust ourselves trying to figure it out, knowing what caused our depression is not as important as taking action to fight against it and hopefully preventing it the next time. I hasten to add that, if you are depressed it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong, or always could have prevented it! However, taking action when I first see symptoms at this level, has allowed me to prevent depression from moving to the next level pretty successfully for the last 20 or more years and has been the key to successful management of depression for me. But not elimination of depression: (read next week’s post). (One can be Victorious in Christ even when depressed.)
Actions to Take when experiencing Level 1 Depression:
- Cast out negative thinking, and replace it immediately with a plethora of specific thankful thoughts (Philippians 4)
- Bathe your mind, emotions and soul in the Bible, especially soaking in Psalms and Proverbs (suggestion: on the day of the month, read every 30th Psalm; e.g. July 1 read Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91, 121; July 2 read Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92, 122, etc.; Proverbs can be read this way, too, one chapter a day)
- Force yourself to be responsible: satan is tempting you, and irresponsibility breeds guilt and mental instability, which produces depression (it’s not the only cause of depression, though)
- Ask God to bind satan in Jesus’ Name and by the power that raised Jesus from the dead; resist the devil and he will flee from you!
- Follow a healthy routine, and schedule–going to bed and getting up when you should and at the same time each day. (The Bible is full of examples of rising early and spending time with God. If you are able, go to bed each night early, say, by 10:00PM, and get up early, say, by 6:00AM. Routine and schedule are the important things here.) (Practice moderation in all things.)
While I used to experience fairly severe depression at times during my teens and twenties, I have experienced almost complete freedom from the deeper levels of depression over the past 20 years by following the above advice. When I begin thinking complaining, negative, or ungrateful thoughts or I hear lies in my head, the key for me, in this level, is to immediately begin thinking and even speaking out loud, “Thank you, Lord, for this, and thank you, Lord, for that, and thank you for this other thing…”–and keep on going for as long as 5 minutes or more. This has nothing to do with my feelings and everything to do with my will! Forcing my will to follow what I believe in my spirit, and telling myself the Truth, causes the devil to flee, and creates an environment in which my emotions can follow the ways of gratefulness and faithfulness. Gratefulness and depression cannot live together harmoniously in the same spirit. I sometimes have to say out loud, “I will (do such-and-such!)” This prevents the devil from gaining a foothold in my life through bitterness, complaining, self-pitying, ungratefulness, disrespect to my authorities, etc. The battle begins in my mind.