Lorr's Hope in Depression
I didn’t know what was wrong. For several days following my 16th birthday, I had been weak and tired. Then one morning, I didn’t even have the strength to get out of bed. After a couple days of sleeping around the clock, I was taken to the doctor and I got my blood taken. I waited the recommended amount of time in the office then walked to the car. I was mostly inside the vehicle before I promptly fainted. When the blood test came back normal, I received my diagnosis: depression. I had always thought that depression meant sadness, but I didn’t feel that sad. In fact, I felt that I was in a better, safer place than I had been in years. There was pain though, a trauma that had just occurred and a build up from childhood abuse, and that internal pain took a toll on my body. It took weeks to recover from that season of depression and even though there were many days I wanted to return to school, I simply lacked the strength.
I cycled through bouts of depression for many years after that first episode. Though less severe than the first one, it was common that I was depressed to the point of being bedridden for a few days in late fall and then again in late winter. This continued until after my pregnancy in 2000 when the postpartum set in and then it didn’t end. After a year of postpartum depression, the medical team that was helping me recommended hospitalization and so I went.
The hospital was a good experience for me. It was there that my hope was renewed for the first time in a long time. I met other depressed people, and one in particular suffering with identity loss due to job loss who felt she had lost all her value and purpose in life. Her situation understandably looked truly hopeless. But, God used her story as a wake-up call that reminded me that my true identity was in Christ, as a child of God, and that God still had a purpose for my life despite the fact that I royally messed up. In the hospital, I was also given medication that helped my thinking become clearer, but even before the meds began to take effect, my hope was being restored.
I left the hospital with a new diagnosis, Bipolar II rapid cycling, and a new medication, Lithium, to control the mood swings. I took the medication for about a year and then through a misunderstanding about the blood tests needed for these meds, I accidentally ended up in withdrawal. After prayer, I decided not to renew the medication unless the Lord made it clear to do so. I went for over a decade without a major depressive episode, thanks to God and thanks to his work of being discipled; a process that helped me in my everyday walk with God to draw near to him and remind me of my hope in him.
In 2014, I had a very noticeable swing from 3 days of being hypomanic and then an immediate drop to deep depression. The descent into the pit was quite shocking because it was like someone just flipped a switch and then the ground opened up and swallowed me. Over the next month, I fluctuated between low-grade and deep depression, but I did seek to stay very near to God. Though it was difficult to concentrate, I tried to read my Bible regularly, even if it was a very short passage and pray, especially during my lower times. On one night during that month, I went to bed moderately depressed, and then awoke a couple of hours later to discover I had slipped deep down in the pit. Since it was early morning, I decided to get up for some water to help me feel better, but by the time I arrived in the kitchen, I couldn’t recall where the glasses were and I couldn’t figure out how to search for them.
The confusion was great and I quickly moved into despair. I couldn’t pray because I couldn’t even form words in my head, so I just crumpled to the floor in a brain fog. I don’t know how long I was there for, but at some point Psalm 13 was suddenly in my head in perfect NIV. I hadn’t memorized it but I had heard it earlier that week at a school chapel. This lament psalm says, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? Give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death.” When I recited the last line I really meant it. I was going to die like this if God didn’t do something to lift me out of the pit. Thankfully, God heard my prayer, the lament he must have put in my mind, and I got up off the floor. Though I was still in a low-grade depression, it felt very good after where I’d been. I was overflowing with joy and hope even in the midst of depression because God himself had miraculously reached inside of my head and helped me.
There have been many other times, though perhaps less dramatic, that God has reached down to me in times of depression. Another time, he used the words of Psalm 23, to remind me that “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death that he is with me and that his rod and his staff, they comfort me.” It was the truth that I needed to give me hope that God doesn’t expect that I will never become depressed but that he walks through the depression with me and comforts me.
God has graciously walked with me through a recent season of depression that lasted about 4½ months. Although, I am definitely headed to a psychiatrist to look into my mental health and determine if it is time to reconsider medication, God certainly used this time to reveal his love and care more clearly to me. By his grace, although I went into the pit, I never felt hopeless. He carried me through one day at a time and actually made me more hopeful of the day when I will see him face to face and there will be no more sadness, no more pain, no more depression.