Have you been feeling down or a bit more blue over the last several days, weeks or even months? All of 2020? Rest assured, you’re not alone. As we are all probably way tired of hearing, these are times that are anything but ordinary. But realistically, we humans just aren’t great at coping with long-term, stressful, isolating situations; especially ones we don’t feel like we have control over.
And while phrases like these are intended to make us feel better about whatever we’re going through, I get that in this case, on their own they may just not seem like they’re going to do the trick.
You’re down and regardless of how many others may be feeling the same way, you just want to get back to feeling like “yourself” again. You’re pretty sure what you’re going through is just a little setback – most likely related to pandemic stress and anxiety. But you’re sick and tired of feeling, well, frankly kind of sick and tired.
You recognize that this is not what you were created for – not how things are supposed to be. May I just say it? …blue is not your color; at least not for everyday wear. And by now, I know you know; what we’re really talking about, is depression.
So in this post, let’s begin to explore what depression is and how to deal with it.
In order to keep this readable in an individual sitting, I need to break things down a bit into more manageable, bite sized chunks; quite possibly over the course of several related posts.
And, just to be clear, right up front; I am not clinically trained or specifically certified in this area. If you or someone close to you is experiencing an unrelenting, overwhelming sense of gloom, especially if accompanied by chronic lethargy and/or fatigue, then please hear me encouraging you to seek care, wisdom and treatment from medical professionals.
Also, be aware that there is an abundant amount of information available on this subject. So if you desire the opportunity to learn more, sooner than we are able to post, please engage in and conduct some additional research on your own.
As many of us have learned from the good people at Church Initiative, the organization that developed and brought us such helpful curricula as DivorceCare, Single & Parenting and GriefShare, there are many types of depression from minor and temporary, all the way to life-threatening.
As Church Initiative founder and spokesperson Steve Grissom points out, “Some depression can be brought about by chemical imbalances in the body. Others are caused by severe psychological disorders which are commonly referred to as clinical depression.”
These must be treated professionally and are beyond the scope of what we’ll be talking about here.
Most likely you’re depressed as a result of the things that are going on (or not going on) around you…especially during the pandemic. You may be experiencing what is most commonly referred to as situational or reactive depression.
In effect, the depression you’re in is a reflection of the emotional, physical and spiritual response to the many changes, cancellations, pauses or pivots through which you’ve been asked to navigate and deal with in recent months.
Depression is like the weight of furniture on a carpet. The heavier it is and the longer it’s been there, the deeper the impression it leaves. The weight of all that is happening in your world seems unusually more difficult to bear in these times.
If you’re like many who are dealing with depression, you may be thinking, “I can’t believe I woke up with this again.” Or, “I can’t believe I’m lugging this into bed with me again.” Others of you may be having a feeling like a big hole has opened up underneath you and you are sinking down into it. You may even just want to stay away from people or you find that your mind won’t clear – like you’re unable to focus. Life may appear as though you are constantly looking through dark grey lenses. You may have to think about when you’ve last eaten or why it is that you just seem to want to eat everything in sight.
In the throes of depression, life can look so dark that it can be hard to imagine there will ever be sunny days again. Will life ever seem normal again? Are brighter days even possible? When will this end?
Believe it or not, depression like the type you’re experiencing is, by nature, temporary.
Visually, it’s like a dip in an otherwise level plain upon which you are traveling. How deep and wide that dip is can, ultimately be managed. But, as they say, the only way up and out is through it.
As you work to get there, it’s important to understand what’s happening inside you. Depression is often an indicator that you have experienced some type of profound loss. People hurt us; people let us down. Finances are tighter than ever. Things just aren’t the same as they once were. Maybe nothing seems the same as it once was. These losses, these tragedies, these challenges, these pains affect us emotionally, mentally and even viscerally. And sometimes, a depression in our regular pattern of living becomes the result.
It can be marked by sadness, by hopelessness – by feeling bad or sad or sometimes not even feeling anything at all…a sort of numbness. It’s like a physical, mental, emotional, relational, spiritual trauma all rolled into one big effect blob that depresses your very being…a sign that something is definitely not right in your world.
Clearly, depression is very difficult, whether you’re dealing with it or trying to define it.
However, it’s important that we also realize that situational (circumstantial) or reactive depression is absolutely normal and treatable. Even better; in most cases, it’s depression that won’t last forever. It’s a process. And you will have to go through the process in order to get over it.
Any time we lose something of significant value, it’s very normal to react and respond this way. Part of going through it is learning that it’s okay to allow for all of the emotions you’re experiencing. They’re necessary. You’ve got to be able to let them happen; to let them all out in order to be able to heal and move forward.
As painful and debilitative as depression may feel to you right now, it’s actually both an instructive and healing emotion. Depression, believe it or not, can strengthen us. It can help us become a stronger person as we take the time to work through some of the things that may have led to us getting depressed in the first place. It’s your body’s way of giving you a signal that says, “Whatever you’re doing is not working. Let’s try something different.”
Also, if you are experiencing these symptoms, there’s no point in feeling guilty or blaming yourself. What some experts suggest you do when working through the process effectively is to “cooperate with the depression.” As you consider your symptoms, you may want to ask, “What is my body or my spirit trying to tell me so that we can make some adjustments and move in a better direction. Dr. Archibald Hart, senior professor of psychology and dean emeritus of the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary shares, “You should never go through a depression without learning from it.”
Since there are so many dimensions to depression, you should never try to define it through a single explanation such as it being simply an emotional response, a physical disorder or even a “sin problem.”
In a separate article that he wrote on depression for Focus on the Family, Dr. Hart shares the following; “What most people associate with depression is a feeling of gloom or sadness, but there is [also] a much more important set of symptoms to keep in mind: depression is usually accompanied by a “slowing down” of the body. A profound lethargy or significant fatigue are probably both more important signals that you have succumbed to depression than whether or not you feel profoundly sad. The more pronounced the fatigue, the more serious is your depression.”
So what if it is something more serious? What are the more common symptoms of a major depression? Typically, major depression is diagnosed when at least five of the following symptoms are present during the same time period, with at least one of the first two symptoms also present. In addition, the symptoms must be present most of the day, nearly daily, for at least two weeks:
- Depressed mood
- A marked diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities
- Significant weight loss/gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (over-sleeping)
- Agitation or retardation of thinking, memory, etc.
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Impaired concentration and indecisiveness, or
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
To be clear, reactive or situational depressions can have some or all of the above, but they are usually not as constant, long-lasting or debilitating. Most people with reactive depression can continue their normal work and home duties. With the more serious endogenous depressions, people can become totally incapable of fulfilling general executive functions and normal life responsibilities.
Primary care physicians need to be alert for the signs of depression. Studies have shown that 6 to 8 percent of all outpatients in primary care settings actually have a major depressive disorder. Often, their physical complaints are a mask for the more serious depression.
Physical Complaints that Mask Depression
If you find yourself experiencing any of the following, you may want to talk with your doctor about whether or not, in addition to whatever they may diagnose from a physical perspective, you may also be experiencing depression:
- Pain — including headaches, body aches and abdominal pain
- Low energy and excessive tiredness (including claims of being “chronically fatigued”)
- Reduced capacity for pleasure or enjoyment
- Moods such as apathy, irritability, anxiety or sadness
- Sexual complaints or problems with sexual functioning or desire
Lesser forms of depression may produce some or many of these symptoms or the symptoms may not be as persistent. Bottom line: Discuss all of your symptoms and emotions with your doctor to see if you are possibly suffering from a “low grade” form of depression or if it could be something more serious.
Though you may not fully be feeling it right now, please remember that you truly are an absolutely amazing creation of God; fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Blue is not your color. Because He made you He also knows you and what you’re going through, feels exactly what you feel and desperately desires to remain in communication with you and make things better. None of what you’re experiencing is a surprise to Him and He can use it for good. The final outcome may end up different than you envision but that’s where we must continue to ask that our will be aligned with His. Stay in His word and call out to Him through continuing prayer. Believe He will see you through and that you will step out the other side of this darkness. Invite, welcome and sense His comforting presence as you go through this. Many lives may actually be positively affected for the kingdom’s sake as you overcome your difficult season of struggle. (2 Corinthians 1:4)
In all of this, as you work through the process, if you would like to connect with a pastor for additional counsel or prayer, please call the church office; ask for me and let’s set up a meeting.
Right here for you,