Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is also treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
American Psychiatry Association
I do not hide my truth of having battled depression and multiple anxiety disorders for 22 years. Wait, let me rephrase that: I do not hide it now. For most of those 22 years, I did not know what depression really was (I was a child for some of those years) and when I did know, I figured that I was black, so I did not have a mental problem.
I grew up in a culture- home and religion- that made it seem like people with mental illnesses and disorders were rare, white, and unsaved. Clearly, no black people suffered from depression, and if they did, it was because they did not know God (that statement is erroneous). Add to that the fact that my particular brand of black was Jamaican and it becomes, “that’s an American thing.”
I did not grow up with a positive or clear understanding of depression and mental illnesses, so I never knew that when I drifted towards alcohol, food, marijuana, NyQuil, and promiscuity, I was actually trying to self-heal from the trauma of my past and numb the pain of my present.
I did not know.
No one had told me.
And even if they had, I would not have understood it.
As a youth and young adult, I engaged in behavior that I now realize was severely unhealthy:
• I had my first drink at six years old,
• I drank NyQuil to the point of intolerance,
• I watched pornography excessively,
• I partied incessantly during my first two years of college,
• I consumed copious amounts of alcohol,
• I ate my weight in junk and carbs, and
• I engaged in risky, promiscuous behavior
This is the “cleanest” version of my past that I can type right now, but my past was poisonous.
As I have grown and learned, I now know that my behavior had a medical component, in addition to a sound reason- I was battling depression and anxiety disorders because I was raped as a child.
It took coming out of my last bout of depression (depression comes and goes) for me to really see the destruction that I was causing myself. I was in physical, emotional, and mental pain because of my choices and I saw no way out…
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to co-teach my first Mental Health First Aid class to some of the 2018/19 Resident Assistants at UMD. Being with those young adults continued to show me why God delivered me from my past- so that I can be a real-life example of healing to others. It was a great experience and I can’t wait until I am able to teach another group of young people.
As I taught the class, my mind frequently drifted back to my loved ones, specifically, my best friend, Amy. This summer was an emotionally hard summer for her, as she dealt with job uncertainty for the summer and the upcoming school year. She is a contractor in the school system and when the past school year ended, so did her job and source of income. With no definite “yes” for employment, she unknowingly drifted into a place that she was not familiar with- a season of depression.
For her (and for me), it was hard to know that God had a plan for her life, but not be able to see any proof of that plan.
Was she just imaging that?
Was God lying in Jeremiah 29:11?
When Amy began to see only darkness and uncertainty ahead, she chose to find comfort in what she knew- her bed. Amy’s sleeping patterns changed and she found herself sleeping for 12-14 hours per day, and when she was not sleeping, she found ways to become reclusive and avoid people. Even me. When I finally noticed this pattern, I called it out for what it was DEPRESSION…but Amy was not ready to hear that word.
In our 24-year friendship, one important revelation came to us: God allows me to go through situations before Amy so that I can prepare her for what she is about to endure.
And depression was no different.
My 22-year battle with depression occurred for many reasons, with one of them being so that I could help her through her temporary season of depression.
And I will gladly accept that.
Amy is coming out on the other side of her depression and I want to share with you what I shared with her. It is my prayer that something in this post helps you find healing- in Christ- from depression.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
I am using scripture to support scripture here; God declares that He knows the plans that He has for our lives, and that the plans are for our good. So even when things are not going all peachy and rosy in our lives, we can hold fast to that truth because…
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Numbers 23:19 ESV
God cannot lie to us. What He has said and written in His word is true and He will do just as He said. God has heard our cries and He really is faithful and just to answer us. Yet…
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
James 1:6 NIV
In this text, James was referring to asking God for wisdom, saying that if we lack wisdom, we should ask it of God because He will supply it liberally (verse 5). However, verse 6 tells us that we must ask in faith. In all things, we must have faith that God is able to work a way in our lives. No matter how things may look, when we cry out to Him, we must truly believe that He is able to make a way. But beloved, …
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
Philippians 4:6 NLT
Those last two are musts- you must give everything over to God. Pray and give your every situation- good and bad- over to God. He loves you and He is there. Praise Him and thank Him in advance for what He is going to do; thank Him for all that He has done.
Depression is just as real as the air that we breathe. No amount of ignoring it or putting it on another race/culture/religious belief is going to erase it. However, we do know a God who is able to heal us and deliver us from what we are going through. Turn to Him and trust in Him; let Him bring you through.
*If you or someone you know is battling depression and in need of immediate mental care, please reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. They are able to provide a wide range of support for those experiencing mental health crises.*