Who can I talk to about depression? I’ve asked this. Maybe you’re asking this. Let’s talk about depression. Sound okay? No? No one starts a conversation like that, but maybe we should. Maybe the stigma only remains because we choose to keep it hush-hush. Today, let’s choose to talk about depression even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Ready? I’ll start.
One day at work, I felt a wave of emotion come over me. I did the awkward walk-run to the closest bathroom—you know, the kind where your co-workers smirk and whisper, “I knew she couldn’t leap from no-stars to a three-star spicy on her Pad Thai.”
As the lock clicked on the stall, I wept. Not like a few tears-silently-streaming kind of cry. I mean like the ugly cry where tears and snot form a stew all over your face. I was freaking out: “What’s going on? I don’t get what’s happening! What if someone walks in here?” And I was completely numb at the same time.
Maybe I’m a little off-center, but there’s a line, you know? Losing it at work just couldn’t happen. Really, losing it at all was frightening. As I regained control, I walked back to my desk and asked a friend for the name of a counselor. The bathroom freakout was the catalyst for me to realize something was wrong.
It’s almost impossible to explain what depression’s like to someone who’s never experienced it. I think that’s fair to say, because I can’t imagine what it’s like to go through cancer. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I empathized and grieved with her, but I didn’t experience it myself. It wasn’t my body that was up for discussion. Does that make sense?
To help give insight, here’s a description I wrote from the pit of depression.
Depression’s like being trapped in a snow globe. I swim at first, wanting to get out and fight. I hear people tapping on the outside of the glass trying to free me. But, eventually the cold and numbness take over. The taps faint as I drift toward the bottom, cold and empty. I can’t lift my feet to trudge through the snow and water. Who can I talk to about depression? No one. I’ll stay alone.
There were a few common themes I lived with and believed during that time.
- People matter, but I eventually go it alone.
- Interest fades.
- Hope and belief are absent.
If you knew me, your jaw would probably be on the floor about now. My defining characteristics as a person are: caring for others, fighting for what matters, and belief that God’s made each of us unique and awesome. Do you see how hurtful depression is to the person suffering from it? It is suffering, because you don’t recognize yourself anymore, you don’t love the things you used to love, and you don’t understand why.
Okay. Whew! Deep breath. Why all the heaviness? Because it’s okay to share when you’re not okay. Let’s talk about depression and take the stigma away. I’m not ashamed depression is part of my story. I’d be ashamed if I didn’t share what God has taught me through it. Who can I talk to about depression? Anyone who needs or wants to hear. In part two of this post, I’ll write about my experience telling others about my depression—the good and the bad.
“When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, with your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now.” Psalm 138:7-8
*Depression looks different for everyone. This is my story and should not be used in place of a clinical diagnosis.
*If you or someone you love are in a suicidal crisis, call 988. If you or a loved one are experiencing depression, there is help and hope available. Ask for prayer, connect with a counselor in your area, and seek help from those in your life.
Talking About Depression Takes Courage
Early on, I needed to tell someone what was happening with me. The label of depression felt like a weight around my neck, and if I thought if I could share with one person, the weight would lighten just a bit. I decided on the friend, practiced the conversation, even deciding to use the word depression and everything. Still, the idea of having an actual talk about depression with someone felt terrifying.
But, I mustered the courage and decided to have a conversation with someone about my issues. You know those creepy jack-in-the-boxes in a scary movie that won’t quit popping out at someone and laughing? Unfortunately, that’s what the conversation was like. I shared my heart, and the jack-in-the-box popped out pummeling me with gems like: if I prayed harder, I wouldn’t have any problems; I was being dramatic; and everybody has bad days. I basically melted into my chair, oozed across the floor, and got away from that conversation asap.
Lesson learned: choose who you share your heart with carefully. Ask God who to talk with—people who will honor and love you. He’ll bring people into your life to care for you. And realize, they’re not God’s final word for you. Keep talking even if you have one bad experience. Persevere and find someone who will listen and encourage, not only spew platitudes. And remember, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Some of the conversations that meant the most to me were the ones that lovingly challenged my ways of thinking.
You may be thinking, “That’s great for you, but I’ve got no one. So, what about me?” Oh, friend. I’ve been there. It’s the worst to feel like you’re all alone. It’s like you’re an extra in the movie of your own life … you feel you just don’t matter. I remember telling my counselor I had no one to talk to, no one who wanted to hear about me. But there’s a difference between being alone and feeling alone.
I felt alone, and I was keeping people out of my life. Partially, because of my illness, but partially because I was ashamed and scared to let people in. So, I chose to keep people at arm’s length.
You are not alone.
Maybe you are alone. Not just feeling it, but you literally have no one. The incredible news is that you’re reading this post. And now you know someone who knows what it’s like to hurt like you hurt (me!), and cares for you (me again!). Honestly, there’s an entire church full of people behind this post who care for you and want you to find friendship and life through Christ.
God loves you so much He’s pursuing you through a blog. Let Him in. Ask Him to show you how to open up to others. It may be awkward, a bit uncomfortable, but what if you find life, not just existence?
Remember earlier how I told my counselor I felt I had no one? We were looking back on my journey (I’m still in it, just on a different page), and she said, “Jess, you came here feeling so alone. And when I asked you who you have in your life now, you gave me a paragraph of people without even thinking!”
I’m not healed of depression. Maybe someday, but I don’t focus on someday, I focus on now. And now I know I’m not alone. I’m surrounded by a God and people who love me. It’s like that feeling of someone grabbing your hand and keeping you from falling. You may still bump the ground, but you’re okay. That’s what it means to live life with others. In part three, we’ll turn the focus to you!
So be content with who you are, and don’t put on airs. God’s strong hand is on you; he’ll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 MSG
How to start talking about depression.
Now let’s talk about how I found people I could trust and began my journey out of the darkness of my depression. I believe it will help you open up and begin your journey toward healing, too. Because, that’s what it’s all about, right? You don’t have to wonder anymore, “Who can I talk to about depression?”
God intends for us to use our experiences with Him, even the hardest times of our lives, to help others who are going through similar situations. We don’t go through things like mental illness just to mark it as an experience hopefully forgotten.
Working on your mental health is a partnership with God. If you expect Him to do everything for you, it’s like praying for a healthy body while eating donuts. It just doesn’t add up. You must do some of the heavy lifting.
Okay, but what does this look like? We’re about to get really, really, practical. Here’s what helped me:
1. I started with therapy.
I’ve described depression like living in a snow globe. I’d describe therapy like an ice pick. It slowly chipped away at false thinking and replaced it with truth. The chips became cracks in the glass, but the cracks were painful. I saw my therapist once a week for a long time. That’s because the glass cracking and repairing took a long time. I realize that therapy isn’t available to everyone, and may not be an option for you. That’s okay! God still has a perfect plan for you to get better.
2. I took time every day to spend with God.
Even when I didn’t feel like it, I made prayer and reading my Bible a priority. Jeremiah 33:3 says: “… ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’” This Bible Plan encouraged me not to feel guilty about working on myself and my well-being. Shame has no part in this journey.
3. I allowed my family [back] into my life.
One of the scariest parts of depression is losing people you love. You push them away and honestly don’t know why. I came to a place where I stopped allowing the shame of depression to run people out of my life. I (slowly) let them see what was going on, invited them into my world, and did my best to love them.
4. I started serving outside my comfort zone.
I began serving in LifeKids (the kids ministry at Life.Church) every week—holding babies is completely out of my norm— but I 100% fell in love with those little boogers. Serving is one of the best parts of my week, every week. God knew the plan there, but it took me taking the first step to make it happen.
5. I moved on.
Remember the friends I had a hard time with? I asked God for friends with whom I could share freely, laugh, and grow spiritually. He’s been faithful to bring them into my life, but I had to be open and willing to receive them.
I shared my story because there are people reading this post suffering with mental illness looking for next steps. If that’s you, please hear this: you are not labeled by shame. You are not damaged goods. You are not less than anyone else. You are: loved by God—valued so much He sent Jesus to die for you, equal in His eyes to others. Friend, don’t succumb to lies and labels of this world. Fight! Fight for freedom and renewing of your mind. God has labeled you as wonderfully made, and He’s fighting for you.
… And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:18-19
Pastor Craig’s message series, Divine Direction, is all about how to partner with God in your life. Week 4 is particularly helpful for how to take a first step even when you’re not sure about the big picture.