By Lisa Huddleston
As I approached the door to the sanctuary this Sunday morning, I saw two of my friends smiling and chatting away. One was a long-time pal and the other a fairly new acquaintance, but as soon as their eyes hit mine I could tell that my new friend wanted to talk to me–and I knew what about.
You see, the last time Chuck and I attended our home group, I spontaneously announced to everyone there that I had serious depression and had even struggled with the idea of hurting myself at times. What the heck??!
Well, the group was very sweet, and I could see their concern, but their reactions were awkward for me because I felt a little misunderstood–my fault of course. The leader suggested by asking a question that my depression could be a spiritual difficulty. Since I know that prayer helps in any situation and that was kind of what I was requesting (although I meant prayer in their own homes as they thought of it), I agreed to have the group pray for me right then. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by genuinely, loving believers placing their hands on my back and shoulders and voicing requests for my peace. It truly was well-intentioned and kind (and possibly/probably even very effective), but I am at best a socially-awkward introvert and felt a little freaked out by this reaction and the amount of attention I endured. (To anyone from this group–I LOVE YOU DEARLY! Please, no offense.)
Therefore I knew what was on my friend’s mind; however, I was pleasantly surprised when she began an inquiry of depth and openness that I truly appreciated. I want to write this post to say thank you to her for taking the time to ask some uncomfortable questions in order to understand what I and other depressives are going through.
First, she asked me if depression is a spiritual problem. I answered as honestly as I could that depression is a term used to describe many emotional and physical situations–and that while I believed it could sometimes have spiritual causes–I did not however believe that to be my current situation. My healthcare providers, my personal and family histories, and my symptoms all point toward my experiencing major clinical depression. I did share with her that depression definitely dampens my ability to worship, to pray, and to hold on to faith (thus affecting me spiritually), but that I have been reminded in many ways that it is not my faith that saves me but God’s. My prayer is that when I cannot hold on to Him that He will faithfully hang on to me. And so far, He has. My experience is that my depression is not caused by a “spiritual issue or battle” any more than any other disease is (or is not.)
My friend also asked if depression was the same as feeling sad. Again what a thoughtful question! And my answer is no. When I am sad there is a reason for me to feel that way. I’m too fat for my favorite jeans. One of my cats is missing. Or maybe I have learned of a dear friend’s passing. But depression is much more generalized than sadness. When battling depression, I feel exhausted and disinterested in most things. Sleep is my best friend, and very little can be done to make me less irritable or discouraged about my perception of the hopeless condition of myself or any other life on this planet. My brain feels like either mush or a bouncing pin ball, and I frequently wish I could either simply shut down or completely disappear. Depression is very different from the emotion we call sad.
This thoughtful friend asked me a few more questions–all equally good–offered her help, promised her prayers, and then it was time for us to take our seats. I just want to say thank you to her for taking the time to ask me how I really felt and to listen to my responses. I intend to follow her great example in the future when I have a friend facing a difficulty I know very little about.
Oh, Father, give me ears to hear.