Depression is a debilitating illness, and it is normal for someone suffering from depression to withdraw from life, doing little more than hiding and waiting. This is especially true during depression’s darkest phase.
This is what I wrote while in that phase:
What is this storm that rages within me?
Why won’t it abate, why won’t it subside?
It comes in like a storm, and devours me.
And it won’t go away. It’s near four months now.
Four months of doing nothing, just hiding, hiding, and waiting.
In my previous post I spoke about the foundation for my recovery that had been laid during those dark months. This included going onto anti-depressant medication to dull the pain, counselling from a Christian counsellor to help me to face and find the correct perspectives regarding the deep fears and traumas in my life. Many other things also played their role, such as physical exercise, pursuing hobbies and interests, and so on.
In July ’90, after eight months of despair and hopeless, I read “Self Help for Your Nerves” by Dr Claire Weeks. Everything changed after that, as hope returned to my life, I finally understood what was wrong with me, how I had gotten into such a state, and had a strategy for recovery.
In October ‘90 I went to see my counsellor again. Since reading “Self Help for Your Nerves” three months earlier, many of depression’s symptoms had gone, while most if not all others had reduced in severity and duration.
I was not better, though, not by a long shot – that would take another four years. At this stage I still felt uncomfortable or slightly disturbed most of the time, I was still suffering from fatigue to the extent that I needed a 45 minute rest every day when I got home from work, I still struggled with anxiety, had occasional panic attacks and heart palpitations, and felt pretty gross when I woke in the mornings.
However, in seeing how much I had improved compared to what I had been like earlier in the year, and noticing that a spring had returned to my step, my counsellor told me that her impression of me was that I was hiding behind Jesus like a small child hides behind his father’s legs, watching the world but too cautious or scared to get out there and experience it.
She told me that although I was still suffering from plenty of depression’s symptoms, she said that I was better enough to stop getting counselling and to get back out there.
Had she said this earlier, I would have been terrified, but as she gave me this advice, I knew she was right. I felt the Lord confirming that it was time for me to stop hiding and waiting and get back into life.
It took four more years for me to recover from depression, but I spent those four years living an almost normal life. I accepted the remaining symptoms of depression as being part of my life, and was content to let them be there like background music to my day, and got on with living.
After that final meeting with my counsellor I joined a new home fellowship group and became the group’s pianist. I joined all the social activities this group ran such as jazz and badminton nights – all things I could not have done even a few months previously. A few months later I started teaching Sunday school again. I asked if I could be a helper, but the organiser laughed (he had more confidence in me than I did) and put me in charge of an entire class, a responsibility I was able to handle with ease.
Everyone recovers from depression at their own rate, there is no formula. But it is encouraging to know that we do not have to wait until we have completely recovered before we can get back out there and enjoy life again.
And the good news is that we do not have to do this by our own strength. Jesus is there, ready to help and empower us with His divine strength.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
I love the way the Amplified Bible says this:
I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]. Philippians 4:13 (AMP)
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
But he [Jesus] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10