Walking in the Shoes of the Depressed
Posted Thu, 09/30/2010 - 5:23am by Mari Tollefson-Boyd
Sometimes I sit and “ponder” (one of my favorite words) on a particularly dark and cloudy day. You know, one of those days that makes you want to sleep in and not deal with life. I wonder, “is this kind of what it is like to be depressed?” As a therapist and also as someone who has loved ones who deal with this terribly tough illness, I want to understand. I think to myself “if I can just feel a bit of depression myself, maybe I can be more effective in loving and helping them.” Yet, is it possible to truly wish ourselves into the shoes of the depressed? What I am learning is if we don’t deal with it, we don’t have a clue how hard it is to deal with depression day in and day out! On a cloudy, dreary day I will always have the promise of a better day. When in the rare moment I am feeling “blue” there is always the realization that tomorrow I will be feeling different. That helps me make it through. Not so with depression.
From what I have gathered talking to people with depression, it is like living in a dark, empty place with no possibility of change. The pain and darkness of depression becomes the filter by which they see the world. It robs any joy, peace, and often a great shroud of hopelessness settles over their heart. You can’t just “wish” it away or just “think happy thoughts.” Often people with depression have prayed over and over again for release, coming to a point where they feel unworthy of being led out of this darkness. Of course it doesn’t help when some of their well meaning, Christian friends are quoting scripture at them. Scripture is always great to have in our hearts, but it is not particularly helpful when the blackness of depression causes them to feel like they somehow don’t deserve God’s help, love, and presence, etc.
Sometimes I just sit in silence next to the depressed. Though it has been tough for me, I am beginning to grow in my ability to just walk beside the hurting. Like many others I really want to “fix”, and when I can’t “fix” I find myself getting frustrated. There was a time when I would look at people with depression through my own “happy Mari filter” and not understand. Now, I find myself an unintentional advocate for those who have depression. Seriously! I get so frustrated and saddened by the misinformation out there about this illness. Simply put, depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain that affects the whole body. It changes the way a person looks at life and their ability to do the things they like to do!
If you think you have depression or you know someone who does…listen up! There is help, I promise! While praying and scriptures are wonderful, God has provided the knowledge and help to battle this illness. There are several modes of therapy and if needed, there are effective medications available that can make a difference for many people who are suffering with depression. You don’t have to do this alone, and your love one doesn’t have to live in this darkness alone.
As a friend or loved one of someone who is depressed I would say, “Educate yourself.” Know what you are dealing with. Become their advocate if they will allow it. Don’t guilt them with scriptures or make any reference to their faith. Love them, encourage them, and just be present.
Always remember, on this earth we are living in temporal, mortal bodies that are subject to illness and brokenness. One day we will step out of these bodies and rejoice in all God has done in us through all that we have faced on earth. I have hope; one day it will all make sense. Until then, I love the promise of Psalm 30:5 “…weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning. “