“Don’t talk like that!” “You can’t say those things.” “Life is not that bad.” “Just snap out of it!”
There was no snapping happening when I was suffering from deep, crushing depression. It was a walk. Sometimes a fast walk, sometimes even a run. There were days where the walk was slow and others when it felt like a crawl. The desire to be free kept me walking; kept me clinging to Jesus. The overarching desire to live a life pleasing to God no matter what circumstance I faced.
“You’re a Christian. You shouldn’t need anti-depressants.” “Maybe your faith isn’t strong enough.” “Are you sure God is not punishing you? Have you repented?”
The guilt and condemnation piled up; heap upon heap. Maybe I am the problem, after all? Maybe this is my fault because I did not honour my parents enough. Maybe I really was so terrible as a child that God is now punishing me. The snap that everyone wants now becomes even less than a crawl. The walk is halted. The burden increases. The weight oppresses even further. What if these too are lies? Truth sets free; it never imprisons. Yet, here I am even further imprisoned by rules that I will never be able to follow. Those around me are frustrated and disappointed. I have failed. I am not free.
I have not found a single one of these rules in the Bible. What I have found is many people who suffered depression; those who walked out and those who did not. And I found how they overcame; how they lived a life pleasing to God despite their circumstances. My body is a gift from God; the vessel that houses me. If I want to live a good life I need to care for my body. Depression causes very real, very scary and overwhelming physical responses. It is not just a state of mind. It is a state of being so all of my being must be involved in walking out of it.
A lack of vitamins B and D can cause fatigue and a depressed state of mind no matter what is going on around me. An underactive thyroid, elevated stress hormones, damage to the pituitary gland and an auto-immune disease all play a role in how I feel. Lack of sleep, preservatives, diet heavy in carbohydrates and sugar and low on fruit and vegetables all contributed. I had all of this. I was like a turtle wading through peanut butter. Lies from childhood, lies from adulthood, disappointments and failings, added to guilt and condemnation makes for an unbearable load. Then to discover my body is conspiring against me; I was utterly crushed.
I can try all I want to get my heart and mind in the right place but if my body is working against my desires no amount of changed thinking will make my body produce more of the vitamins and hormones it needs to function properly. I started to take care of my body. I took medication, I took antidepressants, I improved my diet, got enough sleep, exercised, sat in the sun. I started to get better. The overwhelming fatigue started to lift. I had more energy. I could focus and concentrate. My time with the Lord improved. I became a better mum and wife. I could do life. I have learned to not get bogged down by rules God never made. He commanded me to love Him with all my heart, all my soul and all my strength. I had no strength. In order to do what He has commanded me I needed help. I needed to take care of the body He gave me; I needed to fix it. I did what it took to live a life pleasing to Him.
What if I had chosen to believe the lie that I am a Christian therefore I should not need antidepressants? Post-natal depression can turn into psychosis if left untreated. I was two points away on the scale, from psychosis and hospitalisation. I was broken. I could have said, “No thank,” to the antidepressants and other medication I needed and instead said, “I am going to trust God to heal me.” That would have been foolishness in the extreme. I would have been placing a condition on my healing, that if not met, would have ended up with me in an institution, my husband without a wife and my baby without a mother. I would have been saying, “Yes, I want to be well but only if God heals me. I am not prepared to accept good health any other way.” Foolishness.
I took the medication; all of it and faithfully. I did what I could do to take care of myself. And I trusted God to heal me. And He did! As I sit and ponder back over the time since my first baby was born, I see how much God has healed. He has sustained me on my sick bed. He has brought things to light in my body that I have attended to. Most of all He has healed my heart. He has revealed the Truth to me. The Truth has set me free. I am not under a cloud of guilt and condemnation. I am not ensnared in rules He never made.
I still live with things in my body that do not work properly. I still struggle with fatigue, controlling my weight and I still have to work on my mind. I still have days when I feel like I am wading through peanut butter, but I have found that being content is learned. Swapping a depressed state of mind with a content one is a skill that I can learn and master.