read time: 11 minutues
please note: this is my personal journey and what i experiened with depression and how i came out of it. the words that follow are not meant to replace professonal counsel. also, oh, and, btw, i never went to grad school to continue my degree in psychology — i'm not a professional, just another human whose championed to the other side.
the past twenty-four hours, i’ve really been reminded of the never failing truth — WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.
i posted on instagram a glimpse into my experience with depression— and, my gosh. i never could have imagined that it would spark so much within so many people.
after receiving direct message from so many people, i felt like i should write a blog post — for the one person who may be out there that didn’t feel like they could or should write in — but wanted to say “me too!” or “i’m in the darkest hole of my life and don’t know how to get out!”
my junior of college felt like absolute hell on earth and a lot of what happened during the course of that year was out of control. it was one thing after another that kept on punishing me in the face and knocking the wind out of me. i lost the majority of my friends who thought i was a mess and “didn’t want to be associated with me”. i had professors tell me that i was a disgrace and would never amount to anything, university administration tell me that i was a disgrace to the university and was unfit to be a leader, and a circle of friends who left me high and dry when life got messy.
growing up as a pastor’s kid, i was taught to always turn to God. but, this time — i couldn’t. this time, i didn’t want to. i was too mad, too upset, too frustrated, and too confused about why so much bad stuff was happening to me. i hid my Bible for months — not wanting to look at it, not wanting to feel guilty for not spending time with God. to be completely honest, i wasn’t even trying to “trust God” at this point of life. i was too overwhelmed with emotion to do anything more than exist
i had never felt so alone — my family didn’t really understand what i was going through, the friends that did stick around only wanted to hang out if i was going to be “fun” or “happy”, and as much as i wanted to turn to university leadership — i didn’t feel as if i could — after all, a lot of what i was going through was because of their words, their actions, and their failings.
as much as i wanted to go to counseling, it wasn’t an option for me — i didn’t have the money, the support, or the resources to get help.
for months, i’d go to class counting down the minutes that i could go back to my dorm room and fall asleep and pretend like the madness was gone for just a littlebit. i spent my nights alone at the park on 91st and riverside, crying my eyes out, journaling, and wondering how the heck i was going to get out of the dark hole i was in.
as hard as i tried to “be happy”, it just wasn’t working. the attempts to be happy felt like trying to grab the wind— impossible.
i was so sick and tired of being depressed, crying all the time, being alone — and, ultimately, being a victim. the turning point came one night — it was almost midnight, and i decided that i couldn’t live like this anymore. it wasn’t leading me anywhere good. being where i was, was only taking me to darker places.
i grabbed my Bible out of hiding, and drove to an empty parking lot and opened up my Bible just hoping that i would land somewhere that would give me hope. and that somehow God would find a way to speak to me even though i pushed him away.
i found myself in ephesians 2— a chapter that i had read a million times over since i was little. but this time, the words found me in a new way, they meant something deeper to me — “but because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, MADE US ALIVE WITH CHRIST even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by his grace that you have been saved.”
there was this “ah-ha” moment— i realized and acknowledged that i had been walking around so dead when that wasn’t how i was made to live. that’s not the kind of life that i was created to live. i was made to be ALIVE.
i can remember it clear as day, right then, i start declaring— “Lord, i thank you that i am ALIVE in you.” in that moment i made a decision, that i didn’t want to feel / act / or be dead inside anymore. that moment was the turning point for me. there were no fireworks. there was no explosion in the sky of magic. there was no immediate miracle. i left the parking lot with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart.
the next day didn’t feel or look any different. and my situation didn’t change just because i made a decision in an empty parking lot of a gas station in the middle of the night. but, regardless, on the inside — every time i felt the darkness of depression i would combat it with saying “Lord, i thank you that i am alive in you.”
it was battle— a battle to intentionally refocus my mind every time my mind started drifting into a downward spiral. change wasn’t immediate, but change did come. primavera came, hope came, and beauty rose from the ashes.
while our stories and journeys may be different, and while i hope that you can find someone that you can talk to about what you’re going through —
here’s what i would say to you:
1. make a decision that you aren’t going to be a victim of your situation anymore.
no matter what happened, no matter how everything came about, no matter whose fault it was, or who did what to you— make a decision that you are going to take control and no longer allow yourself or others to label you as a victim. when battling depression, it’s so easy to become “reactive” to everything around us. instead of reacting to everything that happens— to you and around you— decide that you’re going to be “pro-active” and that you are going to take control of what thoughts you entertain, what voices you listen to, and what happens in your day-to-day. bad things may have happened to you, life may have hit you too hard, too fast, and too many times — but you are not a victim and you have nothing to be ashamed of. YOU ARE ROYALTY — a person of worth, a person of value, a person created to rise above. remember that.
2. find scriptures that you can declare over yourself.
sometimes, when you’re battling depression, “trusting God” feels like such a lofty thing. kinda like your trying to grab the wind, but can’t… you know? find a few verses that resonate with you, bring you hope, build you up, and combat what you are feeling. begin speaking / praying / and declaring those verses over yourself. for me, it was ephesians 2:3— i kept saying, “i was made to be alive. i refuse to walk around feeling dead inside. i thank you, God, that by your grace i am alive in you.” this will take the loftiness out of trying to trust God and give you something tangible to hold onto and believe in. so, instead of trying to catch the wind, you’ll feel like you’re holding onto a rope.
3. pair your lament with praise.
it’s okay to admit what you’re feeling. i think, as christians, many of us grow up thinking that it’s wrong to admit our frustration to God. but, can i tell you? i don’t think God minds lament. your frustration, your hurt, your lament— it doesn’t offend him. learning this brought me so much freedom. i can remember being so frustrated with life and feeling like i needed to filter what i said to God. but, all of that changed when i read pslam 13 — i realized, heck!! david expressed frustration and he was God’s favored. he says, “long enough, God — you’ve ignored me long enough. i’ve look at the back of your head for long enough.” gah. the pain he must have felt. david probably had so many similar to feelings to both of us. we could have probably all formed a support group. but, what i love about david— is he didn’t end the pslam in frustration. he ended it in praise. he says, “i’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms— i’m celebrating our rescue. i’m singing at the top of my lungs. i’m so full of answered prayers.” it’s okay to lament, friend. it’s okay to be frustrated. but, what matters is that we end each of these conversations with a posture of praise — saying, “God, i don’t get why the heck this is all happening, why i feel like this, why people have abandoned me— but, regardless, i am choosing to praise You because you are my King.” praise even when it hurts. praise even when you don't understand. because, our praise will always lead us to the light – it'll always lead us to breakthrough.
journaling was my saving grace during this season of life. i didn’t always have someone to talk, especially since i didn’t have a therapist or counselor. but being able to get all my feelings out on paper and be so incredibly honest with what was going on in life and how i was feeling was so relieving. instead of everything feeling bottled up inside of me, writing things out was like a release and a detox for my soul.
5. have grace for yourself.
a lot of times, we keep ourselves in dark places by putting the pressure on ourselves to “be better”. we get annoyed and frustrated with ourselves for still being “stuck” or for “not getting over it”. when in reality, if we just gave ourselves a little grace — we’d give ourselves room to get out of tight space we are in. it’s okay that everything in your world isn’t “perfect” and that maybe it’s a bit “messy”. what is important is that you acknowledge it. don’t try to hide what’s going on in your world. don’t try to ignore it. acknowledge and identify all your feelings.
picture it like this— your room is a complete mess with clothes all over the floor, laundry pouring out of the hamper, chinese take out boxes from last night’s dinner, a suitcase all jumbled up from your vacation that was three weeks ago, and make-up sprawled out all over your bathroom counter. and in the mess — you’re trying to find your passport for your upcoming trip. ignoring the mess isn’t going to help you find your passport. and neither is getting frustrated with your mess and turning your room upside down again, throwing shirts and shoes around like a tornado. it’s just going to make things worse. what needs to happen is to acknowledge the mess and to little by little start putting things in order. maybe, you start with taking out the trash and picking up the takeout box. then maybe, a couple days later, you find time to unpack your suitcase and put the dirty clothes in the laundry. and, little by little, as the week carries on— your room gets clean. and, at the end of it, you’re able to find your passport which was sitting underneath a book on your nightstand. the same works with your soul and life. sometimes, it’s a straight up mess — and it’s not asking that we clean up and make it all better at a snap of a finger, but it’s asking that we give ourselves little grace and find hope again by cleaning up little by little.
6. remember you are strong.
it’s really easy to forget your own strength when you feel like life has been kicking you around — but, remember, you are strong. this may be the most intense battle that you have faced yet — but you are strong enough to conquer it. you conquer it by not giving up on yourself, by everyday waking up and believing you are strong enough despite how you feel.
7. keep showing up.
keep showing up for life. sometimes, getting out of bed seems like the biggest chore and you’d rather be living life in your dreams than your reality. but, keep showing up. keep getting out of bed. keep getting ready for your day. keep taking care of yourself. keep putting a smile on your face even though it feels hard. keep loving on other people even though you’re the one needing love. keep “seeing” other people even when you’re dying to be seen. keep showing up. because, one day, you’re going to show up and feel really good! and it won’t be a chore anymore.
you’re going to get through this. and when you do, you are going to be so much stronger. i know it hurts, i know it’s hard, i know you feel stuck — i’ve been there. but, God is good. he hasn’t left you. he hasn’t abandoned you. he hasn’t forgotten you. he hasn’t taken back his promises to you. they are still there. all of heaven is working on your behalf. there is light at the end of the tunnel. keep walking towards it. the shadow always proves the sunlight.
if you are walking through depression, please know, you are not alone. i'd love to talk to you, to be a friend you — email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. i promise, i'll write you back.
also, whether you have championed through depression before or not or are currently walking through it — i invite you to be a part of the conversation. my friends at link of hearts are doing some amazing work to spread awareness and start the conversation with their unique #greenelephantintheroom necklace. 20% of proceeds go to develop programs for high school and university students. i cannot say it enough — THIS IS NEEDED.