Most of us have experienced bouts of depression at some point in our lives. People experience depression in varying degrees. Some become saddened by an event or a situation and then manage to overcome it after a time. Others experiencing more severe depression may not be able to function in their daily lives. This is called major depression. Depression can affect a person’s physical health, emotional health and thinking. It can affect a person’s overall well being.
Friends and family might consider sleeping in late, not wanting to get out of bed, being uninterested in anything and pulling away from life as a sign of laziness. To family and friends having physical complaints of aches and pains that cannot be diagnosed or treated by a doctor might seem like that person is becoming a hypochondriac. A negative attitude, grumbling about how bad life is treating them or how worthless they feel might lead family or friends thinking this person is just being negative. When really, these are symptoms of depression.
Did you know that over 16 million people are affected by depression in the United States? Depression is something that effects the entire physical well being, the emotional wellbeing and thought processes. So, people with these symptoms might not be lazy, might not be a hypochondriac and might not just be negative. They could be suffering from the effects of depression.
Depression can be caused by a situation or it can be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. I know this because I have depression. I have gone from having a major depressive disorder to having high functional depression. My depression is situational resulting from a decade of dealing with a personal issue regarding my oldest children.
A few years ago, I asked the congregation for help because I needed to make a trip downstate to see a specialist. I had been seeing my neurologist for many weeks. I went through MRI’s, CT Scans, a spinal tap and various blood tests. He concluded that I was developing Multiple Sclerosis. He wanted me to go see an MS specialist in Lansing.
My cognitive functions were not good. I had a hard time speaking. Sometimes I could not find the words to speak. I would also mix up my words when I was talking. My memory was really bad. I would forget things I just did, or remember things I did a long time ago as if I had just done them. I had issues with hearing. I could look right at a person, even looking right at their lips and not understand what they were saying.
Their words would reach my brain in a jumble. All I would hear was words out of order or just jumbled sounds. I could ask someone to repeat themselves several times, concentrate on listening and still not understand what they were saying. I would have to picture their words in my head and reorder them to decipher what they were saying to me before I could answer.
My motor skills were affected and I had all sorts of aches and pains. Bouts of chills that would not go away. I also had extreme bouts of fatigue. I could be walking down the aisle at Pat’s grocery store and have fatigue just engulf me. All I wanted to do at those times was curl up in a ball on the floor and sleep. I was completely drained, and it took all I had to keep moving.
So, I went to see the specialist. He looked at my chart and then one look at me before he said this: You do not have MS. I know what this is. I can see it in your eyes. You have major depression. I didn’t understand how depression could affect me that way. How could just feeling sad cause all these symptoms? How could depression effect my memory? How could it effect my speaking and motor skills? How could being sad make me so fatigued? I asked him about this because I was certain he was wrong. He told me that depression can cause all sorts of physical symptoms and it can affect your entire well being even causing damage to the body.
He prescribed me some medications and told me I needed to see a therapist. I followed his advice. The medication helped take away most of my symptoms. The biggest physical symptom I have left is that when I get stressed I mix up my words. I will say the wrong thing, not what I was intending to say. My boys used to pick on me about it. Because they thought it was funny. But, when they understood what was happening to me they started to lovingly point it out to me by saying: “Mom, you are stressed again. Or, Mom you are too stressed.
Once I accepted the fact that I did have major depression, I could admit that I was standing on the edge of a deep, dark chasm. To me, depression was that darkness within that chasm and it was pulling me toward the edge. I will admit, that chasm terrified me and still does. But, as I was standing on that edge I knew I did not want to let myself fall into that darkness. I did not want to be engulfed by depression, laying on the bottom of that chasm with no strength to get back up. I needed something to pull me back, something to hold onto to pull myself away from that edge.
I found in that darkness one shiny thread of hope I could grasp onto. I grabbed onto that thin, shiny thread. As I held onto that tiny thread, I looked for more threads that I could add onto it to braid into a strong rope. Then I used that rope to pull myself away from the darkness and anchor myself far from that edge. My threads were my faith, my husband, my children, the laughter of my boys, the purring of my cats, the warmth of the sun, the moon that lights the night, the flowers in the grass in Spring. Anything that was positive, or that meant happiness or hope I used to braid that rope.
I wasn’t sure how to approach this subject in a message because it is a tough subject. Depression is not something people want to think about or want to discuss. I know for myself, I don’t like talking about it to other people because a lot of times people do not understand exactly what depression does to a person. Sometimes, it can make me feel separated from others especially when they don’t understand this is not something that can be turned off with just a change of attitude. I don’t like to admit that I struggle daily with it, even now after the issue with my children has been solved. I still am depressed that I lost so much with them. It haunts me every day.
So, I did some research to help me. I researched how others approached this in their messages and found a sermon by Chad Garrison from 2009 called You are Loved. He provided his congregation with some points that they should remember to help them when they are struggling with depression. As I was reading what he wrote, I realized that he was laying out several threads of hope that could be used as the basis for a rope to anchor us away from that edge. His sermon became an inspiration for me when writing this message. I have four threads of hope I want to share with you.
The first thread is: God is always with us. This is important because no matter where we are in our life, whether we are happy, sad, angry, hurting, rejoicing, alone in the darkest times or standing in the light of family and friends God is always there. In my darkest times, I can feel God around me. Even when I was standing on the edge of the chasm with depression drawing me into that darkness I still could feel Him there. I believe that God helped me to find that one shiny thread in the darkness. As I held onto that thread I knew I was not alone.
The second thread: In God’s eyes we are valuable. The feeling of worthlessness can be very strong in someone who is affected by depression. We might feel that we don’t belong, we are not worthy to be around, that we are nothing. But Mathew 6:26: tells us: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
I look out my window at the bird feeders hanging in my tree and I wonder how do they stay warm in the winter; how do they survive that harshness of the world? They are so tiny and seem so fragile. Yet, the Bible tells us that God takes care of them. He looks after these tiny balls of feathers. If God deems even the littlest bird of the air worthy of feeding, sheltering, and caring for, He must truly deem us valuable. So, braided together these threads mean: God is always with us because He deems us valuable.
The third thread is: God always loves Us. It is amazing to realize that no matter what we will always be loved by such a great and caring God. Nothing can ever take that away. Romans 8: 38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Just knowing that we are always loved no matter what can provide that third thread of hope to braid making the rope stronger. God is always with us because He deems us valuable and He will never stop loving us.
The fourth thread is: We are the children of God. 1 John 3:1: “See what great love the Father has for us that He would call us His children.” And that is what we are. What does being a child of God mean? As any parent will tell you, having a child means having unconditional love for that child. There is nothing you would not do to see that child is safe, happy, healthy, fed, clothed, sheltered and loved. God is there for us as a loving father who wants nothing more than His children to know that they are loved, they are not alone and that they are valuable. We can go to God in the midst of our troubles, in the midst of our sadness and He is there to comfort us, give us strength and to guide us back toward the light of happiness. He will not leave us alone in times of trouble.
Braiding all these threads together creates a very strong rope that we can use to anchor ourselves away from the edge of depression. Braided together they become this: Because we are God’s children we are valuable, we are never alone, and He will never stop loving us. We can add our own threads of hope to this each day by grasping onto more things that bring us happiness and hope. Even the tiniest of thread can add strength. The smile of friend, the kindness of a stranger, the stars on a cloudless night, the smell of flowers on the spring breeze or the warmth of the sunlight through a window on a cold wintery day. These threads of hope can shine brightly in the darkness of depression and once braided they become a brilliant rope that can give us the strength to overcome the despair, loneliness, and darkness of depression. This rope then will be a bright beacon of hope to anchor us unto firm ground, always reminding us of how much we are loved by God and that we will never be alone.
It is my hope that you will take these threads with you and share them with someone who might need them. You might know someone like me, who can put on a smile in public but in private who is dealing with the struggle of depression. Or, maybe you know someone who has withdrawn from life, who is visibly struggling and very much needs a rope to pull them back to their lives. Become someone’s shiny thread in the darkness of depression. You never know how much of a difference you may make in that person’s life by sharing with them these four tiny threads of hope. Four threads that can light the way back to the knowledge that God loves us no matter what and we are not alone.