Yesterday was Blue Monday - calculated to be the most depressing day of the year. But for those suffering with depression it doesn't stop after Blue Monday. Here are some descriptions of how people suffering with depression may feel:
¨ “a complete absence: absence of affect, absence of feeling, absence of response, absence of interest.” (Wurtzel, Prozac Nation”)
¨ “I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for.” (Spurgeon, Baptist preacher)
¨ “the most miserable thing” (Abraham Lincoln)
¨ “My bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.” (King David, Psalm 32:3)
¨ “A steady drizzle of fear, pain, guilt, panic, deadness and fatigue.” (Ed Welch)
¨ “It’s not just my body that’s tired but my brain. I constantly feel as though an iron vice were tightening on my cranium. My head feels empty. My mind won’t work. My ideas are confused and I can not longer concentrate…” (anon.)
¨ “My tears have been my food day and night.” (Psalm 42:3)
What can we do to help?
Well, perhaps first of all, here’s what some have said doesn’t help:
- Being Ignored
- Being told to love myself more
- “People gave answers before they tried to listen. It seemed like everyone had a remedy for me.”
- The sense that depression and Christianity are incompatible: “if I was properly trusting in God, I wouldn’t feel like this.”
- ‘You’ll get over it’ type comments
- People pinning too much emphasis on external factors
- The stigma around mental health.
What might help if we are trying to help someone with depression?
- Showing genuine love. This can be hard because a depressed person may tend to withdraw, and appear not to want you around, but as one writer said: “The problem is not that they dislike you; it is more that they simply don’t feel, or what they feel is different levels of pain, and relentless pain expels all other passions.” ( Ed Welch in Looking up from the stubborn darkness) Don’t give up! Continue to show love even when they seem to be shutting you out.
- One way of showing love may be in sending a card to show that you love, care and pray for them, in the same way that you would for someone who was suffering with a physical condition. This may also help to remove some of the stigma around depression.
- Practical help with kids, meals, etc.
- Letting them know that they are not forgotten
What might help if we are suffering with depression?
- Prayer – John Newton said "If we're not getting much out of going to God, we will certainly get nothing out of staying away."
- Having a ‘safe’ group of Christian friends that we can be open with, and trying not to push them away.
- Medication - helps some, speak with your GP.
- God's Word - One person I have spoken with about their struggle spoke of the comfort he gets from knowing that God made him (Psalm 139) – this helps him in two ways:
(1) helps him not to try and take his own life when he’s tempted to as he knows it belongs to God and it is for God to decide when he will take him home, and
(2) it helps him to know that God has a purpose in the suffering, a purpose to draw him closer to God, to make him more like Christ, to make him less content with this world and to have a greater longing for being with God forever.
- Someone else mentioned that it helped to see the benefit that that their depression has brought – in particular in helping them to stop being self-reliant and accept that they can do nothing without God. As hard as it is to believe – a number of people have spoken of the benefit that came through their depression/suffering and how it has actually strengthened their faith, knowing that God hasn’t left them even in the worst times.
I hope that some of that is helpful, and pray for all those suffering with depression that they will not feel alone, forgotten or abandoned. Please feel free to share your struggles and ask for prayer here.
I’ll close with some words from one of Today’s readings in the 5 day Bible Reading Plan. “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:8-9)