Faithfully Thinking: Dear Fellow Depression Sufferers, extend grace to those who simply don’t understand

When you wake up in the morning you feel it. A dark cloud hanging over you that you did not place there. There is a sense of foreboding that something bad is about to happen. You find yourself on edge, constantly in a state of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” The phone rings and you jump. There it is. The bad news you were dreading.

Only it isn’t bad news. It’s simply a family member calling to say “hey” and you don’t have to worry. Whew. You breathe a sigh of relief. Calm settles over you.

 For five minutes that is because you suddenly start to think about how maybe that news isn’t bad but worse news could come soon. Then you begin to list off all the bad things that could happen.

And your heart rate? Now it’s really picking up.

“Is that normal?” you think. “Should my heart be doing that?

“Good grief. Stop it,” you tell yourself. “Everything is fine.”

And it is fine.

For five minutes before the cycle starts all over again and continues until the end of the day when you collapse in mental exhaustion.

Such is the life of someone who lives with anxiety and depression. I am someone who lives with anxiety and depression. Is every day of my life like this? No, thank God and because of God, it is not.  Does my mind switch to worry after worry every day, all day? Again no. Some days are like that, though, and it’s a very scary and out-of-control feeling.

It has taken a lot of prayer and a lot of lifestyle changes to help me deal with anxiety and depression and for a short time, I also took medicine. For now, I am taking CBD oil and it is helping (even if the one I have right now is a little too concentrated so I need one that won’t make me so sleepy). I am also practicing mindfulness and positive thinking, telling myself as many times as I need to do in a day that I am fine and that whatever I am anxious about is something I can handle with God’s help.

I just want to give a heads up to those of you dealing with anxiety and depression.

Inevitably some well-meaning person, usually at church, will say to you, “What are you so down about? You have a wonderful life! Wonderful children/grandchildren, a roof over your head, food on the table. You have nothing to be depressed about! Jesus is your Lord, be glad and rejoice!”

If they haven’t yet, don’t worry. They will.

It can be hard not to be angry with the people who seem so flippant about your mental health. It can be hard not to scream “But you don’t understand!  I don’t even understand. The sadness and dark clouds are just there even when I know they shouldn’t be!”

Oh, how I have wanted to scream that so many times. I have wanted to tell them how clueless they are and how hurtful it is to tell me to simply “cheer up” when I am trying so hard to do just that. And if I hear them recite Philippians 4:6 (Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God) one more time like it is an admonishment and not an encouragement, my head might just explode right off my neck.

This week I had to remind myself of something and I want to offer it as advice from one depression sufferer to another — extend grace to those people who encourage you to not be anxious.

They don’t mean to hurt us with their comments. They don’t mean to be rude (most of them don’t anyhow). They don’t mean to dismiss our feelings. They mean well. They really want to help but they simply don’t know how. They think they are being encouraging and kind. They think you simply need to watch a comedy, walk in nature and listen to worship music and the depression will be gone. Why? Because that’s how it’s worked for them.

They don’t have a clinical depression they can’t explain.

They have a slump in their mood and for them what works is journaling and yoga and “centering” themselves.

Sometimes that even works for us hardcore sufferers, but most of the time we need much more. We may need medicine, we may need counseling, or we just might need to stop being told “to perk up”, “shake it off,” “get into nature,” “sing a song,” or “read your Bible.”

However, all of those things can help, and the Bible is needed so when someone says one of those things to you, thank them.

Thank them for their attempt and move on. If they condemn you for not cheering up the way they think you should, then maybe you can offer them a comment about how their advice is no longer needed, but otherwise, simply thank them because most of the time they mean well and some of the time their suggestions might at least take the edge off it all.

10 thoughts on “Faithfully Thinking: Dear Fellow Depression Sufferers, extend grace to those who simply don’t understand

  1. Pingback: Sunday Bookends: Winter Will Never Go Away! And other ramblings about this past week! | Boondock Ramblings

  2. Yes!! I get this, I’ve suffered from depression for many years, along with other health issues. If people haven’t had close experience with those things, they don’t ‘get it’!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh how I can relate! I don’t much suffer from depression but anxiety is a definite for me. It’s harsh and real. And when people at church or wherever ask how I am it’s hard to know how to answer when I’m struggling, because I don’t want to share with just anyone but I don’t want to be dishonest either.
    I started seeing a counselor in January (probably 30 plus years overdue)…it’s been so helpful, she’s a Christian too so that’s huge!! Prayers for those of us who suffer and for those who don’t quite understand. Mercy and grace!!❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • This sounds awful, but there are times I think it is easier to suffer with anxiety if you aren’t a Christian than it is if you are. That’s not really true, since we have Christ to rely on,but what can make it worse is the pressure we feel from the rest of the church to always show Christ’s joy and our “confidence in Christ” and there are days we just don’t feel it. Those are the days that more anxiety can result because we become anxious over the fact we are letting our anxiety show. It can be a very weird balancing act.

      I saw a counselor a few years ago and it worked out well. We’ve moved away from that area but I still use some of the techniques she taught me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes for sure! I get that!!

        Side note-the thing I’ve noticed lately is often times these younger generations are seriously abusing the terms anxiety and depression..ie: a stubbed toe does not throw you into depression!! The way something minor (unfortunate or unexpected) suddenly gets self-classified as depression or anxiety makes me frustrated-it’s hard for some of these teens to be taken seriously when there truly is an issue because others have misconstrued mental illness.

        And goodness, I can’t believe the techniques these counselors offer!! Wow!! Such a blessing and a positive difference when I choose to use them!!

        Like

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