So…heavy topic, especially for the beginning of the year. But I have had one crazy weekend and I decided to just write about how I dealt with it. So I have battled with depression for a few years which I have touched on in a few of my blog posts and I know my struggle stems from anxiety, worry , my need to control everything and know everything coupled with a terrible school system and constantly comparing myself to others. And this last weekend it came back full swing. I had a breakdown in the shower and I cried and even a great sermon couldn’t connect with my spirit as they normally usually do. I have had to make a really big decision and I felt like God wasn’t answering me and that time was running out because everyone else seemed to be moving on with their lives and I was seemingly stuck in a rut.
You see, I really thought I would be somewhere else by the start of this year of my life and especially as I looked at the lives of my age mates and those who are younger than me and all those on social media and I suddenly felt as if I was not only far back, but stagnated as well. I was putting pressure myself to do certain things and achieve them NOW! and I felt as if I was failing my parents by still depending on them, myself by not achieving this things and women everywhere by not pushing myself hard enough. So I sunk and sunk and literally had a mini panic attack and I was sad, sullen and depressed the entire weekend.
And I know I’m not alone. Depression is a disease that infests the mind and scientific studies have proven that people are actually more depressed these days because we want it all, the system defines success one way, we have too many platforms to compare ourselves, we don’t socialize with people face to face and we are more dissatisfied with life. Of course there are some people who are more pre-disposed to depression due to genetics and there are those who just acquire it. And depression does not just appear overnight but slowly creeps on you. It springs from anxiety and hating your own self or life. So how do you deal with depression? How do deal with bouts of depression when you have triumphed over it but the devil is trying to get you?
1. Know you’re not alone:
Yes, I know misery loves company but that is not the point of this point 🙂 The first thing to know is that there are a lot of people who suffer from depression either in depth of in the shallows. So know that you’re not the only one, you’re not crazy. But most importantly cling to the thought that even in the darkest hour, God is with you. This is a crucial point because everything else stems from this one thought. Believe deep down that you are not alone so that even as you wrestle with depression or you don’t feel like fighting you do not lose all hope.
When people lose hope, they lose the will to live. Hope makes life worth it, it keeps us looking toward a new day, new season, better time and believing that it will pass.
And the source of our hope is in God so don’t stop believing in God, in the fact that he is with you, he cares and he sees. And remember that he came to earth as a human and dwelled amongst us and experienced all we do so he knows how it is. Find solace and strength in that realization.
2. First deal with your worry and anxiety:
The thing about depression is that it stems from worry and grows through anxiety. You worry you are not good enough, you’ll die alone. You stress about school and grades and whether you really have a future. You get anxiety about the state of the world, job security, safety, family and your financial instability. Jesus told us not to worry because it does not add a hair to our heads, an inch to our heights or a day to our lives but it actually removes from us: health, strength, faith, fervor and just the will to live. Just stop worrying, if only it were that easy huh? But worry is a practice and anxiety is a disease that stems from a habit so then practice meditating on God’s word rather than the news, singing hymns rather than complaining, practice peace and joy.
PS. I wrote an article on 4 ways to deal with anxiety to start you on your journey towards a worry and anxiety free life.
3. Stop comparing:
Now I know I mentioned this in my last blog post (5 Habits that kill your joy) but it is such an important point. You see, we are brought up in a culture of comparison: from the grading system; of setting one standard for all students and then some supersede that standard and are put on honor rolls and used as markers, to the way your parents casually mention that you should start doing the dishes as well as your sister does and also the media spends time telling you how to get abs like so and so’s and how to earn money like someone else and how this person stays motivated. As I said before and will keep on saying, there is nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from others, but having been brought up in a world-view of competition among people instead of bettering oneself then we do not know how to admire someone else without it making us hate ourselves.
Depression takes root once you not only stress about how you are not enough, but now start comparing to those who you think are enough(either for a job, a degree, for life, for a relationship etc) and are better and you dwell on those thoughts and it becomes an obsession. You see, there will always be someone who many consider prettier, smarter, better, richer, taller, fitter or whateverer(is that a word?) that you. You are the one to decide if you think they are better than you because the minute you think they are better than you in whatever aspect then you are comparing yourself to them and you will never be fulfilled because you will keep chasing them and it will drain you. Always remember what you have, remember that life is not necessarily better because you have more money, more followers, more options or a “better” body. In fact, each stage in life has it’s own struggles and triumphs and sometimes for the person to gain more, they lost their soul which is the most important thing. So guard your heart from discontent, worry and anxiety and stop comparing yourself. You will find your episodes will decrease once you realize that you are exactly who you need to be, look as you need to look, have what you need and have accomplished what you need for this time in your life.
4. Talk to someone:
I think the worst thing about depression is that you can drown and get lost in your own head. Your mind is both a fortress and a war zone, it’s your hiding place filled with thorns and your safe space that fills with water and drowns you.
So to deal with that, get out of your mind. Go and talk to someone. At first it doesn’t even have to be about your struggle but just open your mouth and let the words flow. Sooner or later, you will get to the problem and to its root cause. This person can be a professional counselor, a therapist, a pastor, a mentor/discipler or even a friend. Just find a listening ear(which are many by the way) and find a common ground and talk. Once the trust is established then call this person when you are struggling and just open up to them. A problem shared is a problem half solved. Sometimes emptying yourself of the negativity then opens room for the light to flood in.
5. Know you are forgiven and forgive yourself:
For some people, depression starts after a mistake, a sin, a life-altering bad decision. You start to wallow in guilt and grief and self-depreciating thoughts. You hate yourself and question your value and your purpose. You doubt your decision-making skills. Your next step after dealing with the overthinking and anxiety is knowing that you are forgiven. God did not say you should wallow or cut yourself or pray 15 prayers to certain people, or perform acts of penance to be forgiven. He said that if you confess your sins to him he is faithful and just to forgive all of them and cleanse you and David even goes on to write that as far as the East is from the West, that is how far your iniquities have been cast from you. So believe in grace, unfailing love and unending mercies and go on and extend them to yourself. Forgive yourself for whatever you did that was so bad, it has made you depressed because if the God of the universe can forgive you, then how can you not forgive yourself? Do not dwell on the former things but focus on the now, see God doing a new thing. It is already done and you are already forgiven so start moving on and you will start experiencing healing from both your sin and guilt and from depression.
So I mentioned that you should know you are not alone, but what should you do with that knowledge? Pray. Prayer is not a chant or some religious words or some deep, somber thing, prayer is a conversation with your maker. It is a date with God. Talk to Him, tell him your fears, your doubts, your mistakes, your troubles, tell him about your overthinking and anxiety. He wants to hear from you and he wants to answer you. I personally believe that prayer fixes everything so try it out. Instead of just thinking and dwelling on your depressing thoughts, tell God about them. They don’t have to be in order, just say them as they come and let him answer you as you pray.
7. Encourage yourself:
Remember that depression is in the mind thus you have to fight your own mind and teach it new ways. Therefore start by putting in uplifting messages; this can be motivational talks, positive music, reading a motivational blog(like mine ;D) or listening to uplifting sermons. Faith comes by hearing because you have to hear before you believe. You can only believe that which you have heard. It takes hearing first to start believing that something new can happen that is why motivational speakers make so much money, not because they introduce new concepts but because they enable us to hear the same old things afresh.
You therefore have to take those positive messages you have been hearing and reading, those prayers you have been praying and actually speak them to yourself. After faith comes action and part of that action is speaking life and positivity to yourself. Stand in front of the mirror and compliment yourself, walk around and remind yourself it is a great day to be alive, sit down and remind yourself that you are gonna be ok. Speak life. Speak the word of God. Speak positive words. Do not wait for someone to come and console you but actually encourage yourself like David did. Take God’s promises and speak them out loud. Remind yourself that all things are working for your good, that this is not the ends, that God has good and purposeful plans for you, that you are not alone, that God rewards those who believe in Him and diligently seek him. Think life, Speak words of life to yourself. Replace that negativity and hurtful talk with positive words.
I applied these simple steps to my life consistently and I saw a difference and even this past weekend, I applied them again and felt renewed hope. I also encouraged myself to stay on course by reading my old blog post of Sanity and happiness: why I quit chasing the rabbit and it really reminded me why I am where I am and why I chose my path so I am doing much better.
I hope these steps help you too and if they did then like, subscribe and comment what really stood out for you. And if you have a friend please encourage them to read it by sharing it with them and also share this letter.
Have a great week.