Ali on Depression
Ali on Depression
A number of years ago Ali suffered with depression...
I can't really pin point when my depression began - it sort of crept in, settled down with a nice cup of tea and made itself comfy while I was busy trying to deal with other things, like life. I remember not feeling particularly happy but I would put it down to circumstances, "When I've got a job I'll feel better." "Everything will be OK when I move into my new house." "Once this new job settles down I'll start to feel like my old self again".
I hadn't realised I'd been thinking this way for months and months until one day someone had the audacity to make me laugh. As I laughed I realised something didn't feel normal. I hadn't laughed in a long time, and it didn't feel right anymore. And that was when the tears started.
Now I have to confess, I was no stranger to tears. I knew enough about myself to know that I cried at everything from soppy adverts on TV to cheesy greeting cards; it didn’t take a lot to make me well up. But those preceding months had been different. No tears, and no laughter either; just a numbness.
When the tears started it was like the proverbial damn had burst and I felt totally out of control. Some days I would be sitting at my desk, efficiently working away and people on the other end of the phone had no clue I had tears pouring down my face.
"I can't cope with life"
Like a broken record in my head went the soundtrack, "I can't cope with life, I can't cope with life, I can't cope with life." The feeling that I just wanted to sleep and never wake up, progressed to feeling like I wanted to die. Suddenly, having never understood what would induce someone to such action, the temptation to self-harm was at times overwhelming. It was a horrible, horrible time where I felt like I was being smashed and drowned by a thunderous tidal wave, or suffocated by a lead blanket.
I am so thankful for the friends God put around me. As things got worse one or two of them very firmly and lovingly pointed me in the direction of the Doctor - who promptly prescribed Prozac and signed me off work. Scary. It was also exactly what was needed.
Being off work immediately took away all the pressure that I'd allowed my job to pile on top of me. It gave me time to rest and be with friends and family who loved and supported me and - thank God - accepted me whether it was a good day or a bad day. It also gave me a chance to spend time with two very wise and loving people from church who talked and prayed with me about the depression. Together we approached God and asked him to reveal what was going on deep inside me.
But my life has been so good!
The doctors told me that depression isn't always necessarily caused by circumstances - it can just happen to anyone. Even so, I felt guilty for falling apart when in comparison to so many others my life was so happy and smooth. I hadn't lost a loved one, suffered a huge trauma or received some life-shattering news. I had a roof over my head, plenty of food, amazing family and friends. It was just that everything - by which I guess I mean life - had got too much for me. In one sense it was as simple as that. My time spent with this couple before God was absolutely invaluable, as he gently revealed past hurts, unresolved issues and a bruised self-image.
In that safe place God did much to heal and restore, as he always promises he will because it is in his very nature to do so. And it is no coincidence that as I allowed God into these painful places I started back on the road to recovery. Under life’s pressures, past wounds had split open and the only way to move on was to get them healed.
I couldn't read my Bible or pray
In all these months, particularly while I was still at work, I found it so hard to read my Bible or pray. Getting out of bed and just doing life was hard enough. Prayer seemed too much like thinking, or acknowledging what was going on, and I didn't want to do that. The only conversation I had with God was the same old, "I can't do this, I'm no good at life" mantra. During this time I was forced to accept three things:
The first is this: it is sometimes OK to sit in God's presence and say nothing. There are times when we can do no more. God is our Father and we are his children - there is a place for silence and letting his presence be your foundation and comfort. No pressure. Just me and my Dad. You and yours.
Secondly, and it is pretty much the same as the first, we live under grace and not law. We are all supposed to know this but knowing it and knowing it are different things entirely. Yes, in order to know God, to become like him and to live lives that please him we need be reading his word. But, again, we are under grace not law - relationship and not legalism. I couldn't pick up my Bible (or any book for that matter) and God knew and understood. He just kept me close to him and I had to choose to let myself off the hook and rest with him.
Lastly, and again it's pretty much just another side of the same coin, it is OK at times to let your friends do the work. If it's good enough for a lame man to be literally dropped in front of Jesus through a hole in the roof by the strength of his mates (Luke 5 17-26) it's good enough for you and me. Who knows if the man was desperate for healing and pleaded with his friends to take him to Jesus, or if the friends had faith where the man's own had run out. The end result was the same - the man was touched by Jesus and healed.
It was the prayers of my family and friends that supported me and carried me to Jesus. I was crippled and couldn't walk myself. It was hard to believe that was OK, and that the Lord finds that an acceptable way to enter his presence, but I know now that he does.
Prayer and Prozac
I'm so thankful for the gift of prayer. I'm also thankful for Prozac; in my case I needed a good dose of both. I stayed under the doctor’s supervision and they helped me to slowly come off the medication as I got better. It was sometimes a bumpy ride and there were days when I felt like I’d hit rock bottom again. The temptation was to see the depression as inevitable and to believe that I was never going to get better, but the truth was that, over time, the bad days became fewer and the good days increased.
When I look back I can see that the depression was not from God but in his kindness he allowed things to get to the point where I couldn’t ignore the pain anymore. The depression brought things to a head and helped me find healing. For me (and I understand this is not the case for everyone) it feels like the freedom I have found in this healing made the depression a worthwhile journey, not least of all because it’s given me a far greater understanding of the pain that other people go through.
While I was depressed I couldn’t see any hope but there was hope for me and there is hope for you. God’s intention for each of us is to draw us towards wholeness and joy. If you’re in the midst of depression know that God is not cross but compassionate; he understands where you’re at and he has patience for your journey towards healing. Take it one day at a time and know that no matter how bad things seem, he always loves you and there is always hope.