Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
The words the Psalmist shares here could have been lifted from my diary. During the blackest phase of depression, I too skipped meals and when I did eat, I ate poorly. Although I am 178cm tall, my weight plummeted to 50kg, ie, 8 stone.
I should have gone to see a doctor and a counsellor/professional therapist, and sought practical advice to help me through that phase, even if it included taking medication. Unfortunately, I did not do so and made the mistake of soldiering on.
Eating poorly did not cause my depression, but it certainly made it worse by further weakening my exhausted nervous system, mind and body.
Due to a number of factors, including support from my family, engaging in constructive activities such as going back to work, and exercise, I was able to move on from that phase. The next phase, which lasted several months, was still very difficult, and characterized by lack of hope, constant panic attacks, and dozens of other disturbing symptoms.
Eating during this phase was still difficult. I had little motivation to eat, food seemed almost tasteless, and I often retched while I ate. The anti-depressants I was taking also tended to give me a dry mouth, making it harder to swallow.
However, a few practical things helped me to eat.
I found sipping fluids such as water or soup while eating removed the dry-mouth problem, made it easier to swallow, and even reduced the retching.
I also found that if I distracted myself while I ate, I did not notice my lack of appetite. Things that proved effective in distracting me at mealtimes were eating with my family as opposed to eating alone, eating while watching TV or eating while reading a gripping novel. I have read that health food shops may even be able to recommend natural appetite stimulants.
An important part of recovering from depression is changing our mental attitude towards the illness. Instead of making excuses why not to eat, we need to remind ourselves that as our goal is to recover, a healthy, balanced nutritious diet is crucial. A healthy diet cannot cure depression, but it does play a part in helping our exhausted nervous system, mind and body to recover.
(All verses from the NIV.)