One of the hardest things about depression is that it is not readily evident when someone is afflicted by it. Depression sufferers also tend to hide what they are going through from others, one reason being that many do not understand how it affects us.
For example, in my early days of suffering from severe depression, when everything seemed bleak and hopeless, I went to see our family doctor to get a repeat prescription for anti-depressants. (The doctor who had initially treated me had left.)
He gave me the prescription, but his attitude was very condescending. He pointed out that his previous appointment was with a family with two mentally challenged children. He said that this family had real problems and then left the sentence hanging – his unspoken point was that there was comparatively nothing wrong with me.
The fact is that depression is real and one of the most crippling illnesses that can afflict us. That it cannot be observed by others only makes it harder to bare. Whenever I saw someone with a visible injury, disease or handicap, I often wished I could switch places with them so that others could see what was wrong with me.
I penned these thoughts into my diary, as below:
15th Sept 1990 –
The Invisible Handicap
I have a handicap - but no one can see it.
I am not like someone who is crippled, whose handicap everyone can see.
I am not like my friend, who was born with his fingers deformed.
But like them, I do have a major handicap.
My nervous system is over-sensitive, and has been so all my life.
For the past nine months, it has developed a nervous habit,
Of over manufacturing fear related adrenalin,
Causing physical and emotional side effects.
But no one knows, no one can see it - only the couple of people I have told.
Sometimes I wish I had a visible handicap, and then people would know –
Know what I feel like and what I'm suffering from.
I have managed to pinpoint the main area of conflict,
That manages to cause so many problems in me.
The conflict lies between what I think I can do,
And what I really can do.
Because I have a capable and analytical mind,
Which can visualize me doing many things,
Yet only now I have finally learnt,
That my emotional system is mega-sensitive –
Over-sensitive, in fact.
It bruises and bleeds so easily, and affects me in so many ways.
I never realised that all "these" things that happen to me,
Have all been caused by this one thing.
I did not realise anything was wrong, and kept going.
The other problem is my lack of physical energy,
My mind never considers it when pondering what to do.
Note that since recovering from depression, my nervous system, though still sensitive, is no longer hypersensitive as it used to be. In the process of recovering from depression I learned coping techniques that helped me to overcome anxiety before it took a deep hold of me. I learnt to rely upon Christ and His strength instead of fighting and fearing what I was going through. John 14:1 became the theme verse of my life. “Let not your heart be troubled, trust in God, trust also in Me.”
Prayer and Biblical counseling also set me free from past traumas that had previously tripped me up time and again.
The above diary entry also shows when I finally learnt the difference between what I thought I could do, and what I could do. Since that time, I have been careful to pace myself.
In closing, although many do not understand depression and how it afflicts us, I praise our loving Heavenly Father for giving us a High Priest who can sympathise with us and comfort us in such difficult times.
Hebrews 4:14-16 ‘Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’