Feelings of depression take on different forms. Sometimes we feel overwhelmingly down, but it is short-lived, for a day or two, perhaps caused by environmental or situational factors. I think this is a part of life for all of us.
The other form is the medical and mental health diagnosis of depression, which is often caused by some mixture of biological, environmental and psychological factors, and can require medical and/or professional treatment. It can affect us for seasons of life, or throughout life.
My guess is that nearly all of us have experienced the first kind—some form of depressed feelings.
The last time I experienced this, I was traveling on one of my speaking tours. Staying in hotels by myself is extremely lonely for me, and when the lighting in my room is dim, it becomes overwhelming. One day, I suddenly felt like I was going crazy…like I couldn’t function, was irrationally sad and lonely, and couldn’t focus on anything. Interestingly enough, that was caused by my environment—dim lighting and being alone.
For some odd reason, I felt so lethargic that I didn’t want to leave my room, even though I felt like it was making me crazy. Eventually I found the motivation to go work on my laptop at a coffee shop filled with people (so I wasn’t alone) and with good lighting (because that helps me). I felt better as long as I wasn’t in my room.
That was an example of a short-lived, environmentally caused feeling of depression. But I believe what I found applies to all forms of depression:
Depression wants to cut you off from the very thing that will help.
When depression is overwhelming, we often want to sink backward into ourselves and hide. We want to isolate ourselves, so we don’t have to talk about the feelings. Even if we are with people, we want to cover up the feelings of depression so no one knows.
But the very thing that will begin to help is sharing your struggle with someone you trust, and building honest relationships.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
Now let me clarify: Depression is NOT a sin. Sometimes well-meaning people say hurtful things like “Just trust in God more and you won’t feel depressed” or “If you feel depressed, you’re sinning.” Um, NOT TRUE. It’s just not that simple. Medical depression is actually an illness of the brain, and I think we all face feelings of depression from time to time.
However, the principle of James 5:16 applies here: When we share our struggles with a fellow brother or sister in Christ, and pray with them, it has healing power. It doesn’t take away your depression immediately, but it gives you strength and courage. Here’s what I mean.
When I struggled with an eating disorder, I found that just bringing it into the light of a trusted relationship broke a little bit of its hold on me. It didn’t make everything better immediately, but it gave me the courage and “support system” (a group of people who were encouraging me) to start down the road toward healing.
So how can you talk about your depression?
1. Find someone you trust to talk with. I would recommend an adult, simply because they have far more wisdom than our peers do, and they can help you figure out the best course of action to take. Some ideas: a parent or another one of your relatives, a friend’s parent, teacher, school counselor, doctor, pastor or youth leader.
It can be tempting to think, “Oh, it’s not a big enough deal. I don’t need to bother anyone.” That is not true! If you’re really struggling, then you need to share the struggle with someone. You are worth it!
2. Talk in a private place. Find a place where you feel comfortable and safe, not where everyone is going to overhear your conversation. You may need to schedule a time to meet with the adult in a safe place.
3. Try to describe what you’re feeling the best you can. Give examples of days when you’ve felt down, and the specific thoughts you’ve had. This will help the adult understand what’s going on.
4. Ask them if they have any suggestions. Maybe they know someone else you should talk with or have resources that can help. Maybe they can pray with you and encourage you.
5. If your depression is really bad, seek professional help. There may be medications that can help, or professional counseling. Those can be powerful ways of helping.
Remember: You are not alone!
Literally millions of people live with depression, and countless more face short periods of feeling depressed. Find someone to share the struggle with. You can do it!
Note: The information expressed in this article is not medical advice, nor it is professional counseling advice. Depression routinely requires medical or professional advice. Don’t hesitate to seek those things out.