Depressed people quite often feel like the author of Psalm 102: "My days disappear like smoke. My health is broken and my heart is sick...My food is tasteless,... I am reduced to skin and bones because of all my groaning and despair...My life is passing swiftly... I am withered like grass."
Depression is one of the most common psychological ailments treated by physicians and psychologist, and statistics show that six times more women as men are depressed. The depressed individual doesn’t care so much about who or how many, however, as what to do about. Following are some facts to help understand and relieve depression.
Signs of Depression
Indicators of depression include:
- feeling sad or hopeless for more than two weeks
- a drastic change in eating habits
- trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- feeling fatigued without a clear reason, loss of sexual interest, difficulty concentrating or making decision
- feeling jumpy
- wishing you were dead
- feeling guilty or worthless
- crying more than usual
- new pains in the stomach, abdomen, head, or back for no medical reason
Depression is not just a modern day phenomenon but was also an experience for many people in the Bible. Jonah said, "Please kill me Lord. I'll rather be dead than alive" (Jonah 4:3). Elijah, following his brief victory, said, "I have had enough...take away my life. I’ve got to die sometime, it might as well be now" (I Kings 19:4). Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, said, "What sadness is mine...O, that I had died at birth... Lord, you know that it is for your sake that I am suffering..." (Jeremiah 15: 10, 15).
God loves you. He has not abandoned you, and He is continuing to work in you life for your best good (Romans 8:28).
Moses, a leader of Israel, said, "Why pick on me, to give me the burden of a people like this?...I can’t carry this nation by myself! The load is far too heavy! If you are going to treat me like this, just kill me right now; it will be kindness! Let me out of this impossible situation (Numbers 11:11-15). Job and the writer of Ecclesiastes are other examples of depressed people. Even the Apostle Paul experienced depression as noted in II Corinthians 12:8. Jesus also felt depression in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33,34).
Depression is part of normal life. You are not a bad person because you’re depressed. It’s not sin to be depressed! Depression is natural result of loss. It’s important for you to remember that God loves you. He has not abandoned you, and He is continuing to work in you life for your best good (Romans 8:28).
Reasons for Depression
Depression generally falls into two categories.
A. Physical. Sometimes the source of our depression is a hormone imbalance due to poor eating habits or some physical dysfunction. Hormone imbalance is common for midlife women at menopause. Depression may also have a simple cause such as illness, medication, or fatigue. If your body is over-stressed for a long period of time, you are more likely to experience depression.
A medical examination should discover any physical causes for your depression. It may then be necessary to restructure your habits so that you can have a healthy physical body less prone to depression.
B. Emotional causes. Generally, depression that is not physically oriented will be associated with some sort of loss. The biblical characters mentioned earlier were experiencing a real or perceived loss. As you try to identify the sources for your emotional depression, think back over recent losses.
Instead of going through the normal cycle of loss, depression, and recovery, we may stay in an extended period of depression.
Quite often people experience depression when there is a relational loss; that is, a breakup in a friendship, a fight with or a separation from your mate, stress with children or relatives, or that ultimate lossâ€”death. If you have a relational loss, you may take months or years to recover.
Other losses also cause depression: losing a prized possession or a special souvenir; lost time or not enough years left; and lost opportunities, such as giving up marriage for a promising career.
Many people experience depression when there is a loss of choice or control in their lives. For example, people who are pushed toward an unwanted divorce may feel that they are being manipulated by other people. They may be depressed because of the potential divorce, but also because they feel life is out of their control.
Factors that Reinforce Depression
It is bad enough to experience depression itself, but other factors may keep us continually depressed. Instead of going through the normal cycle of loss, depression, and recovery, we may stay in an extended period of depression.
A. We may be unable to express emotion or we may believe it is wrong to cry or talk about our problems.
B. Emotional fatigue may prolong depression. If you are experiencing long-term fatigue, or burnout, or if you have an overload of problems, you may take longer to get over a new emotional loss.
C. Physical fatigue can also extend depression. For example, people deprived of sleep for three nights in succession may act as if they are emotionally disturbed. The cause, however, just lack of rest. The remedy is to sleep.
D. An incomplete emotional development may also cause depression to be extended. People who have never learned to accept love may not be able to receive people’s emotional nourishment to help sleep recovery from depression.
Express your feelings. It’s OK to cry. It’s necessary to talk. You may feel anger, self-pity, fear, guilt, jealousy. It’s helpful to express these feelings to another person.
E. Pressure from another person or a group may also keep a person in depression longer. A person may be required to word or act in a way that doesn’t match his or her personality or the way God has created him or her.
Recovery from Depression
Depression is not hopeless. There is a cause, and that cause can be corrected. Psalm 73:26 says, "My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; He is mine forever." Your situation is not hopeless, but you need to take some definite steps to get out of your depression.
A. Identify the loss. Is it a relationship, a material possession, time, an opportunity, control over your life, or physical health?
B. Express your feelings. It’s OK to cry. It’s necessary to talk. You may feel anger, self-pity, fear, guilt, jealousy. It’s helpful to express these feelings to another person. Expressing your feelings is not a sign of weakness but of strength. Talking with someone else doesn’t often make the problem go away, but it does begin to change your perspective. Expressing your feelings will often enlist your friend to pray for you. Crying changes the chemical make-up of your body. It enables emotional stress to be drained off so that you are better able to cope.
C. Gather information about the loss. If it is physical, get a good check-up and work on improving your health. If you’re experiencing the loss of your young adulthood, list all of the advantages of moving into midlife. If you’ve lost a relationship, discover all you can about what went wrong and what could be done to make improvements. Explore ways to deepen your existing relationships. Getting information and analyzing the situation will help you take the next step.
Sometimes our lives are so deeply involved in a job, another person, or material possessions, that if we lose one of those, We Lose Ourselves.
D. Make decisions. Decide that you are a survivor. You need to ask. "Now what?" or "OK, now that this has happened, what are my options?" There may not be one perfect option, but what is the best option that you see? Sometimes talking with friend helps you to discover other options, or you may decide that two combined options will be the best solution.
E. Develop a support group. Try to discover several friends who can stabilize you during this time of transition to your new adjustment.
F. Turn away from you loss. After days, weeks, months of appropriate grieving over your loss, there should finally come a time when you will say, "OK, the grieving is over, my hope really is in God, not in this situation where I have experienced loss."
Sometimes our lives are so deeply involved in a job, another person, or material possessions, that if we lose one of those, we lose ourselves. It is extremely vital that you think of your key asset as your relationship with God. Then, no matter what happens around you, God and you can continue. Relationships, possessions, and jobs will change, but your relationship with God never changes.
Conway / Farrel Articles ~ Reprint by permission only, ©2011
Midlife Dimensions ~ www.Midlife.com
The Conways and Farrels are international speakers and popular authors.
Midlife Dimensions is a ministry founded by the Conways and continued by the Farrels.