In this article I discuss something else that played a significant role in helping me to cope with and recover from depression. The diary entry below reveals something that helped dull depression’s intensity:
28th Feb 1990 –
But those two weeks haunt me.
They do not make sense.
The first one ended after eight days,
But I knew it was the eye of the storm.
Sure enough, two weeks later – blam!
And this second week lasted six intense days,
And it never finished.
It is still going, nine weeks later.
But it is not as bad as it was then.
But that’s probably because I’m busy at work.
As soon as I start to look, I start to sink and say,
“What’s happened to me.
I can’t believe what’s happened to me.”
As mentioned previously, severe depression had left be bedridden for six days as terrifying fears immobilized me – a phase that only ended when my parents returned from a week’s holiday. My mother had bundling me off that bed and busied me with menial chores around the home, as well as providing me with much needed support.
Two days later I had to return to work. My mind was still lost in a miry pit of churning fearful thoughts and I did not want to work, nevertheless, I refused to shirk my responsibilities and risk losing my job. So off to work I went, and as you can see from the diary entry above, being busy at work dulled depression’s intensity.
That is an important aspect of coping with and recovering from depression – keeping ourselves gainfully engaged in constructive activities. This could be a full time, part time or casual job. If this is not possible, we could volunteer to help a charity, such as the Salvation Army or an opportunity shop. We could even volunteer to work in the church office a couple of days a week, or help a family member who runs a business.
Regular work gives us purpose, a routine and keeps our mind busy on things other than the fearful thoughts that demand out attention whenever our mind is idle.
I know that this can be hard to do, but Jesus is there to help us take this step.
‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Philippians 4:13 KJV.
My wife and I used to visit Chika Honda, a Japanese lady, in the Deer Park Metropolitan Women's Correctional Centre. In October 2000, the government took over management of the prison. While this transfer of management was being implemented, the inmates were placed in a state of lockdown where they could not leave their self-contained units. Chika asked our church to pray that the lockdown would be ended as soon as possible so that she could go back to work in the prison’s workshops. Being stuck all day in a unit with other inmates with nothing to do was unbearable, whereas the job gave her a sense of purpose and achievement.
A special note here - we must be careful not use such activities to run from the causes of our depression. It is imperative to seek help from a Christian counselor or therapist to deal with the issues and fears that caused or are associated with depression.
Let us now read Luke 19:13, where Jesus is seen giving gifts to His servants.
So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.” Luke 19:13
This ‘money’ represents the gifts which God has given us. Putting these gifts into action is another activity that assists with the recovery of depression. To focus on God, and on the needs of others, is a healing balm all of its own.
Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Before depression destroyed my life, I had been an assistant pastor and a church musician. Ten months after my descent into depression, when it was clear I was on the road to recovery, my counselor pushed me back into ministry. At her advice, I started with something small – playing the piano in a home group. A few months later I started teaching Sunday School too. After I recovered from depression, I became even more involved using my spiritual gifts in serving the Lord.
Let us take another look at Luke 19:13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.”
Along with spiritual gifts, God has also given us natural talents, in areas such as sport, music, writing, painting, gardening, and so on. When God created us in His image, He also placed in us the desire to be creative. So let us also develop and pursue the talents and hobbies that God has given us – they are a gift from Him.
One of the greatest pieces of advice that helped me in the early days of severe depression came from a friend who had been down that same route. He said, “Find anything that you enjoy, and pursue it. Just try to have fun.”
“Have fun, when I’m like this?” I thought to myself, yet I pressed on and embraced his advice. I bought a computer, played engrossing computer games, and over the next five years wrote three novels and pursued other hobbies too. I also joined a gym. These hobbies helped to keep my mind productively occupied and were a significant factor in breaking my mind’s habit of thinking fearful thoughts.
My friend Sherry Castelluccio, who suffered from severe post-partum depression after the birth of her daughter, offers this advice – “Are you bored at home? Pick up that hobby you put down. Are you lonely? Call that friend you haven’t spoken to in months. You will both be glad you did. Is your body physically sick? Go sit outside in the sun for a few minutes. Find the one thing that makes you smile and drink it up. Surround yourself with children, rent a comedy, finger paint. You are here because God put you here with a purpose. Find out what it is, make it your ambition to find out what you can do to bless others. I have found that the fastest way to bust Satan in the teeth is to do something for someone else. It puts a stop to the feelings of sadness and makes you feel alive and full of purpose, all at the same time. Make yourself laugh. It’s the simplest, most inexpensive cure there is and the most readily available. It changes your whole outlook.”
I have always loved the way which the King James Version translates Luke 19:13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, “Occupy till I come.”
What wonderful advice - keep ourselves productively occupied until He comes. So let us work as we are able, serve God with the spiritual gifts He has given us, and pursue engaging hobbies. Keeping occupied with such productive activities can be of great assistance in helping us to recover from depression by taking our focus off depression’s fears and symptoms that try so hard to immobilize us.
(All verses from the NIV unless stated otherwise.)
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(All verses from the NIV unless stated otherwise.)