The blessings in my life are enormous. I live with a constant sense of joy primarily because I have a relationship with Jesus and I know I am loved by Jesus. Many other things bring joy into my life as well: my husband, my kids, warm and sunny days, tulips and daffodils, chocolate, reading great books, hiking, gardening, etc. For all these things I am extremely thankful.
Despite all this, I live with a constant "thorn in my flesh." I write this post not to share my pain, but to let others know that they are not alone. You can experience healing and reach out for help. We will experience pain and sorrow in life, but we can continue to have hope and even joy.
Beginning in my teen years (if not before), I was extremely depressed and often suicidal. I shared my sadness and thoughts with no one. I didn't want anyone to try to talk me out of suicide as I thought it was really my best option. The only thing that stopped me from attempting to kill myself was fear of failure. Am I ever glad that I was so scared to fail! I withdrew from just about everyone in my life.
As a young adult I worked for a suicide hot-line. I always found it very strange that people called. I really assumed that it was normal to want to die all the time. I didn't yet understand the dynamic of being torn between suicidal thoughts and wanting to live. That understanding came later for me.
It was a few years after my employment with the suicide hot-line that I finally realized I was truly depressed and eventually did something about it. Here are some things that I have found to be extremely beneficial for treating depression:
1. Prayer and Bible reading
4. Talking to a trusted friend
5. Counseling (sometimes it is so helpful to have a neutral party to talk to)
6. Eating a healthy diet and cutting back on sugar and caffeine
7. Participating in hobbies that you enjoy
8. St. John's Wort and other herbal remedies
9. Prescription Medication - I am not fond of relying on medications, but sometimes they are very beneficial, especially if you are first trying to treat severe depression.
10. Spending time in the sun as much as possible
11. Getting enough sleep, but not too much. If you are sleeping a lot and are still tired, it will probably be most helpful to exercise.
12. Volunteering or doing something kind for a friend or family member
All of these things have helped me immensely. But by no means have any of these things cured my depression. I continue to deal with depression to some extent on a daily basis. I continue to have times when it gets pretty severe and I have to force myself to choose life and emotional health by doing something (or lots of things) from the list above.
After giving birth to my son, I experienced terrible post-partum depression that finally caused me to understand and empathize with the people I'd talked to on the suicide hot-line so many years before. I could think of nothing but death, and how I was going to accomplish it. But oddly, at the same time I wanted more than anything to live and be a wonderful mother for my children. We each have a purpose in life. Everyone of us is valuable and can do something to contribute to the lives of others. God has an important plan for your life!
In spite of the challenges that depression has created in my life, I am thankful that it has helped me to be more empathetic toward others and that it has caused me to rely more on God. In this I find great joy even in my times of deep depression and sadness.
If you are struggling with depression, I urge you to reach out and seek help. The initial step is the toughest one to take, but it is so worthwhile. I encourage you to choose life!