You’re a Christian. You have depression. Some of us grow up in a church that tell us those two things can’t coincide. Sometimes we’re taught Christians aren’t “allowed” to be depressed. I’m here to tell you – those are complete lies. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re perfect, and it doesn’t mean you live in a world without problems. In fact, Jesus tells His followers to expect trials and troubles. So why do we walk around believing we have to be okay, and then feel guilty when we don’t feel okay? Christians with depression struggle just as much as non-believers, and it’s time to stop feeling guilty about that. He Himself tells us He understands these feelings:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
How do I know if I’m depressed?
There’s a difference between feeling a little sad from time to time and struggling with depression. You may feel sad occasionally. As the Rembrants have told us in their song I’ll Be There for You, made famous by the TV show Friends, sometimes it just isn’t your day, your week, your month, or even your year. But those ups and downs are common in life. Clinical Depression looks different. Signs of Clinical Depression may include:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, or suicide attempts
What if I have these symptoms?
Struggling with depression doesn’t have to be a lifelong process. Sometimes, it could be that you don’t know how to handle the struggles you’re facing in your own life. And that’s okay. Maybe it’s a chemical imbalance. That’s okay too. Living with depression can sometimes feel like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a lot of resources out there to help you on this journey. In fact, many people have found relief from their symptoms of depression with counseling.
Counseling isn’t a dirty word, and going to counseling doesn’t make you “crazy”. It just means that you’re looking for answers and you’re going to a safe environment where you can explore the challenges you’re facing and learning how to process them properly. Going once to a counseling session won’t solve all your problems, but really committing to the therapeutic process can help you learn to manage the symptoms over time. Counseling actually has the highest success rate over any other type of treatment for depression. And Christian Counseling for depression helps you to reconcile your faith with the challenges you have – the two are interwoven.
Do I need medication?
In most situations, medication treats only the symptoms and not the root cause of your depression. Is medication necessary? Sometimes yes. Is medication for depression over-prescribed? Also yes. I see many clients who have been prescribed medication for depression, and while they may feel a little “better” for a short time, the issues causing depression still aren’t being dealt with. Over time, the medication may seem to lose its effectiveness, because the root cause isn’t being taken care of.
Sometimes I work with individuals where medication may be beneficial. For those who have a chemical imbalance, depression medication may help to level-out some of that chemical imbalance so that we can work together on achieving your goals of getting to the root of the problem. The need for medication is as unique as each individual – and your current situation. But if you’re feeling blue, I find it highly unlikely that medication alone will solve all your problems.
Again, medication isn’t necessarily a bad thing – and if you find yourself using the medication, it doesn’t make you less of a Christian. God gave doctors and scientists the knowledge and wisdom to discover and use these medications – for us. We use pain medication after a surgery, so why wouldn’t we take advantage of medication for depression if it’s really necessary?
How can I handle these feelings?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that not everyone approaches and deals depression the same way. Many of us have heard that we have the choice to be happy or sad. For some people, that may be true. For others, however, it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. Moving from sadness to happiness may be a long process for many, and for some, it may feel impossible. Before completely giving up hope, however, consider the following:
For many people, their mood follows their thinking process. So if you’re feeling sad, angry or upset, it may be because that’s what’s taking up most of your thoughts. Consider thinking about the blessings you have in life, and the things you are grateful for, or the things that you know just make you happy. I don’t mean to oversimplify that — but it really can be that simple. Changing your focus can change your mindset. In fact, that’s exactly what we’re encouraged to do in Scripture:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8
Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay there.