Remember I told you last week this piece of the Internet has my name, but wouldn’t belong only to me? Well, I meant it…and today’s post is proof. My close friend Christa Sterken wrote out of her own experience with depression and allowed me to share it here. If you struggle with depression, or know somebody who struggles with depression, please take the time to read this.
Here’s a little more about Christa. She is: Committed to a life of purpose. Learning to live abundantly. Embracing creativity. Questioning. Delighting in the comforts of home and family. Determining not to settle only for how things are, but how they could be. You can find her online here, and really you should check out her site. Not only does she spin words into profound meaning, she also capture beauty on film as a gifted photographer. And I’m not just saying that because she was the photographer for my book either. Okay, enough rambling by me…
Depression makes people feel desperate. Alone. Failing. Defective.
My heart goes out to you if depression is dragging you down. Feeling depressed is so much different than true clinical depression. Unless they have direct experience, however, many are unable to understand the difference.
Are you putting on a smile so the world might be fooled? Think you are losing your mind because you can’t “outthink” this struggle? Confused by conflicting theories about getting well? Embarrassed by those who would say this is a pathetic plea for attention?
You might just feel desperate, looking for the way to a healthy state of mind. You want answers, hope. Someone you care about might be drowning and you want to help but don’t know what to say.
3 Discouraging Things to Say To A Person Struggling With Depression
- I know just how you feel. We don’t know just how someone feels. Let’s not insult them by saying we do. We can have empathy, understand the feeling of despair, but we don’t know “just” how anyone feels, and when we say we do, we trap them into speechlessness. Because, it becomes, mistakenly, now about “us”.
- Hang in there. Perhaps the least helpful words of all. What does that mean? For a person with true depression, that is all they are trying to do. And it is not working. Empty words rob people of hope. They know you have no idea how to help them, and they might now feel bad to bother you with their struggle. We mean well, but depressed people don’t understand that fully, because they so badly want someone to understand.
- God will take care of you (but I won’t). These words are meant to be encouraging, but often fall short. “How, exactly, can I receive this help from God?” they might think. And when they don’t see the answer, sadly they might misinterpret that to mean He didn’t care about their plight.
3 Loving Things to Say To A Person Struggling With Depression
- I’m sorry. Empathy without answers is okay. With these simple words we let people know that we sincerely care about their situation.
- I won’t give up on you. Depression causes fear that if anyone knew how “___” we were, they would walk out our lives. Reassure you are here for the long haul, but that doesn’t mean be an enabler. To walk along side someone mean we look for real, applicable ways to help.
- You are valuable, right now…no matter what. Depression blinds people to the countless other areas of value, their eyes are fogged in and they need to be reminded of their worth. Not as they were, or will be, but today.
I am a Christian. I love the community of faith, and when the model of Jesus’ love is lived out as He taught, it is a beautiful thing to witness. As in any community, people come from all walks of life. Background. Something troubles me though. We forget that we are different and attempt to answer all questions in a set format. Christians are people, and sometimes we blow it.
There is a school of thought that teaches we should just think positive thoughts, and focus on Jesus. The end. If our faith is strong enough, we might hear, then we will be healed.To this I loudly say, bull.
Those principles are indeed important and part of a healing process, but something is missing in my eyes. Compassion. Have we forgotten that Jesus was an example of great compassion? Before he said “Go and sin no more (go and be sad no more)” was he not already filled with understanding?
It is too generic to say to someone, “Just pray and God will heal you”. Sometimes He does, but this advice leads us to believe that we have failed somehow if we don’t see results. Two problems with this:
1. God might just be using your trials to form the person you‘ll become.
2. He might have answered, but in a way we weren’t expecting. So we miss it. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
If you don’t see results, don’t give up on praying. The most beautiful things can come out of the most difficult situations. I am just a human being, and could not tell you if you are doing something “wrong” dear reader, but I can advise you to do something right.
Keep praying…then, LISTEN carefully for His response. We often forget that important piece. Let me share something with you here, ridiculously vulnerable, but I know you are not alone in your question. When I began the struggle with depression, I wanted a way out. An ending. A step by step answer to life a nice happy life. Real help.
That isn’t how it works.
We can’t buy an answer, beg a solution, get to where we are going without a journey.
So, what can we do to deal with depression?
- Accept this- things won’t all make sense to you in the midst of your battle, but keep fighting.
- No one can do the work for you. And it will take HARD work, but the result can change your life. It will be worth it.
- Sometimes we give God our problems and take them back. So we give, we take back. Learn to recognize your patterns and set yourself up for success. (1 Peter 5:7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you)
- We can become weak and vulnerable when we give God our troubles and don’t fill up that space with powerful new ideas.
- Be very careful not to fall into a pit of self-pity. Depression is real, it is hard, but it isn’t the end. Refuse to live as a victim and fill your life with joy at every possible turn.
- Keep learning. Get help from a reputable Christian counselor. There are tons of great counselors that are not faith based. The difference is key here. One might encourage fighting the battle by your own works. One will remind you that though you must fight, God is the one who heals. He fights with, before and behind you.
- Study the Bible. Learn where the encouragement is; focus on those verses on the dark days. One thing I appreciate most about the Bible? It is filled with stories of people who struggled. Who blew it. Who questioned any and everything. There is nothing we deal with that is new or surprising to God. He isn’t afraid of our pain, our questions, our failed attempts. Those words are given to teach us, comfort us, call us close to Him. (James 4:8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you)
- Be careful who you surround yourself with. Remember that when we surround ourselves with likeminded people, we are influenced by their views. Be it positive or negative. I can’t state this strongly enough.
- If you need medicine to get you through while you are learning and living, there is NO shame in that. Riles me up to hear that false information. True, some use it as a crutch, not willing to do the work. For others, it is a lifesaving tool. Only you know what is right for your health.
- Be willing to be accountable. If you ask for help, and someone is genuinely helping you seek answers, be thankful. Sometimes accountability stings. Extend the same grace you hope to receive.
Yes, I did give God my struggle. But it was not an overnight healing. It involved much self-discovery, letting go of perfectionism, and hard work to become who I am today. And I am still growing.
You will too. It is a beautiful thing to “become” who you are. You can do this; just remember to fall into the arms of your partner. God.
Mathew 11:28-30 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly
If suicide is even on the mental radar, I beg you to stop. I promise things pass, read this for help. Then call someone, anyone, and ask for help.
What are your thoughts on these ideas from Christa? What would you add? Anything you disagree with (it’s okay to disagree, just keep it cordial)?