The word depression has many stereotypes, so permit me to disband a few for you. I am not sad all the time. I do not cry all the time. Something tragic never happened to me, I lead a very normal life. Contrary to popular belief, I am not depressed all the time.
The best way to explain it is like this: Depression is like asthma for your brain. Sometimes your brain has an “asthma attack” and you become depressed. Just because you have asthma doesn’t mean you are always having trouble breathing, and just because I have depression doesn’t mean I’m always feeling bad.
Now you know what depression is not, let me explain to you what depression is.
Scientifically, depression is when your brain does not produce enough chemicals and hormones to process things as positive. It doesn’t have to be related to outlook, personality or life history. Something in your brain is broken, and doesn’t always produce the chemicals needed to register stimuli as positive or good. This can happen as a result of a traumatic event, or — as in my case — it can be genetic.
If I were to try and explain what depression is like, I would say it like this:
When you are in the midst of a depressive episode, all you can think about is the negative. Nothing registers as positive, even though you think it should. Everything, even seeing friends, takes so much energy, that you don’t want to do it at all.
You also feel as though you are doing everything wrong and become frustrated with yourself. It is hard to make yourself do things and you are very tired and frustrated on top of feeling like everything is hopeless, even though you know you shouldn’t feel that way.
So why does this matter to you? Allow me to explain:
As far as I could see, depression was awful. It affected my performance in school, caused difficulty in forging relationships and destroyed my drive for life. I didn’t see how I could serve God when I felt so broken. I didn’t understand how this type of mental illness could be of benefit to anyone.
It so happened that I was driving to church one day after a bad episode of depression and I was wondering why on earth God would let me have depression. I was wondering how, if he really loved me, God could let me feel so much pain. How could he justify letting life seem so hard for me sometimes?
And right then song “Keep Making Me” by Sidewalk Prophets came on over the radio. The lyrics where like a slap in the face. I suddenly realized, I am not unfortunate, in fact, having depression is such a huge blessing. The words of the song spoke directly to me at that moment.
“Make me empty, so I can be filled….” Depression makes you empty. It makes everything loose its worth to you. Your body doesn’t register anything as a good, and all you can realize is the energy involved in completing the task. I wanted to be angry at how empty I felt. I wanted to complain to God about how hard it was for me to have to put so much energy into doing things that other people were able to genuinely enjoy… yet others were praying to be made empty so they could let the Lord into their heart.
“Make me lonely, so I can be whole…” Depression makes you feel lonely. You are experiencing things you cannot even verbalize, a kind of psychological pain that most people can’t even imagine. Sometimes you feel very alone. How many times have I cried about not having someone to talk to, not being able to explain how I feel, or not getting to see the people I like? Yet others were praying for God to let them feel lonely so they could learn to find consolation in, and develop a relationship with, Christ.
“Because in the darkness, I know you will hold me…” Isn’t that the beauty of God? He lets us be hurt, so he can heal us. He lets us be lonely so he can befriend us. He lets me experience darkness so I can learn how to let him hold me.
Till you are my one desire,
Till you are my one true love,
Till you are my breath, my everything,
Lord please keep making me.
My depression is not an impediment. It is like a superpower. It keeps me from getting bogged down by trivial worldly things, and helps me realize that God is what is most important. I can skip right past the distracting pleasures of this life and fasten my eyes on the real goal of my life… to get to heaven.
So the next time you think your weakness or trial is dragging you down, do something hard. Try viewing it from a different perspective. And maybe you might realize you have been praying for God to take it away when really you should have been praying “Lord, please keep making me…”
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Note from Brett: We’re excited to share Rachel’s story because depression is often misjudged as a spiritual problem. While the spiritual and physical do intertwine, it is important to seek medical help along with spiritual growth when dealing with mental illness.
You should also know that tick-borne diseases like Lyme Disease can trigger mental illness as the bacteria impacts the brain. Depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, and other conditions can all be symptomatic of a bacterial infection in the brain, absent any trauma or established genetic disposition.