Dealing with Depression: God Cares Even When We Are Suffering in Silence

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” - (Deuteronomy 33:27)

Recently, I saw a video on Depression and in this video a woman was talking about how she does not believe in Depression. In her mind Mental Health did not exist at all. Being a huge advocate for people in need it really dawned on me how we still choose to see Mental Health as nonexistent especially in the African community. We have so many children and young adults who are afraid to speak out because they are afraid of how society will see them or what people will think about them. It's almost like society is content with putting individuals in a box and forgetting that we were ALL created by God. God loves all of us equally! Everyone seems to be going through one thing or another and I know for a fact that I have dealt with depression to a certain degree. So, what makes us think that we are better than our brothers and sisters who may be suffering in silence because we refuse to accept them in with LOVE. Colossians 3:14 says, "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." 

Depression can be a very complex topic to talk about. That is why it is important for us to educate ourselves and put ourselves in other people's shoes. Research shows that more than 300 million people of all ages are suffering with Depression. Let that sink in for a moment. I want us to realize how deep that is because Depression is one of the leading reasons why people think of committing suicide. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 years old's. So, the next time you decide to make fun of someone's mental state or decide to remain ignorant think about how many people are being affected by this daily.

What is Depression?

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness (I don't like using that term) that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person's ability to function at work and at home. 

For so many years Mental Health has been poorly understood. In the Nigerian community it can be seen as a weakness, a bodily fluid imbalance, demonic possession and so on. Not realizing that we are only causing others to remain isolated, being harshly treated and feeling separated from mainstream society. Enough is enough!  I am here to say that if you are a person dealing with Depression or any type of Mental Health I want to let you know that what you are going through does not define who you are and do not be afraid to speak your truths. Stand up like the kings and queens that God has made you and talk about your experiences. Influence the public's attitude about Mental Health and promote public awareness. Never forget that, "God is the shield around you, He is your glory and the One who lifts your head high."- (Psalm 3:3) 

Many things about your life may seem difficult right now. Things you are used to taking for granted like a good night's rest, having goals and looking forward to the future seems to be out of your reach. It doesn't help that you feel alone because people who you love may not understand what you are going through. That is why every single day we should give thanks to God for his glory and mercies because the God that we serve is not silent when we are suffering. The bible has great examples of how God's children dealt with depression by finding the courage to hope again and seeing reasons to live again. 

"That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever." - (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). 

Honestly, as a society we have to learn how to stop bringing each other down, but instead improve the quality of each others lives. Let's all break down the barriers of Mental Health and start promoting wellness. 

Tips On How To Deal With Depression:

1. Come to God and let him know that you are suffering within: The greatest part about being in the presence of the Lord is that he has the abilities to renew our minds. In the moment of suffering it may seem like God is far away. You may believe that He exists, but in your mind you feel like he is too busy or He doesn't care about you. Don't believe in the false lies of the Devil. God is powerful enough to end your sufferings. You have to realize that God did not promise to explain everything or announce what He can or can not do. Instead, He encourages us to lean on Jesus Christ. After all, Jesus is the Son of God, and He is certainly loved by God. But remember that Jesus also went through more suffering than us on earth. 

I encourage you all to read the Bible and encounter people like Job, Jeremiah, and the apostle Paul to understand that God comes close to those who suffer, so please keep your eyes on Him.

2. Allow God to speak to you through His words (Read your bible): Keep your heart and minds opened to the fact that the Bible does have a lot to say about depression. Here are a few Bible passages you can read. I recommend that you read one each day and fill you mind with these positive verses as you go about your day.

  • Read about how Jesus suffered in Isaiah 53 and Mark 14. How does it make you feel to know that Jesus was a man who went through sorrow and grief for us? 
  • Use the Psalms to help you find words to talk to God about your heart. If you're struggling please use Psalm 86 and Psalms 88 as your prayer point. 
  • Be ALERT and know that spiritual warfare does exist! When you are depressed you become vulnerable (a target) to Satan which makes it easy for him to tell you that "God does not care about you." But remember Jesus dying for us on the cross proves that God loves us dearly. Please read Romans 5:6-8 and 1 John 4:9-10.
  • Do not think you are alone. Many people have walked in your path before and they can testify to you that God never failed them. Please read Hebrews 11 and 12
  • You have a purpose for living. There's a reason why God created you. Please read Matthew 22:37-39, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 5:6.
  • Learn about perseverance and endurance. Please read Romans 5:3, Hebrews 12:1, James 1:2-4.
3. Take it one day at a time: I know this might seem like an impossible task, but I believe practice makes perfect. Before you know it you will start to see living a normal life as a possibility. As you take it day by day you will start to remember the importance of using what God has taught you about perseverance through your hard times. Every moment you spend in the word of God counts. God needs to redefine how you see love. Love, for you, must become an active commitment to patience, kindness towards those you love and surround yourself with. 

4. Watch the company you keep: who is feeding into your depression instead of helping you through it. I recently put up a tweet that said "Do not hesitate to delete or stop talking to people who trigger negative behaviors."Look carefully to see if your depression is associated with the type of people you hang out with. Surround yourself with positive people that bring you joy. Research also shows that happiness can be contagious. People do not understand the power of friendship. Choose your friends wisely!

5. Self Care is very important:
- Start from where you are: Self-care is not all about going to a spa or on a vacation. You have to start off simple and develop coping skills that you could use throughout the day. 
- Pay closer attention to yourself: Self-care starts with noticing how you feel physically and emotionally. 
- Use breathing techniques (take deep breaths all day every day)- Deep breathing is linked to relaxing the muscles, increasing circulation and releasing endorphins. Try it, it might help.
- Try to notice one thing you love about yourself: Positive affirmations is the key!
- Practice Mindfulness: You have to learn how to find peace in the midst of your pain. 
- Take a personal time out: Short breaks or brief walks outside is needed. Your well-being matters.

6. Seek counseling if needed: Although I truly believe that God is the first person we should seek out... I also believe that God puts other people in place to help us such as physician, mental health practitioners, social worker and so on. Wise people do seek out counseling and wise people also do not make decisions without praying. So, if seeking help from other professional is something you feel in your spirit to do then please go to God about it and ask him to guide your steps to the right people that can help you. 

7. Medication can be an option: the reason why this is the last thing on my list is because severe pain of depression can make a person welcome anything that brings relief. As a previous Mental Health Practitioner and professional Social Worker I have seen the benefits and side effects of taking anti-depressants. But since I am not a licensed Physician  I recommend that you go to a qualified Physician or your Family Doctor to further educate you on the type of medications that are appropriate for you. 

Coming from a Christian background, the choice to take medication might make it seem like the person is weak in their faith. But in all honesty it is not about what is right or what is wrong. It's about what is the best and wise decision for you? Seeking help or medication does not make you less of a Christian nor does it mean you do not have hope in the Lord. In fact, Medication can be a blessing when it helps, but also do not limit yourself to just that. Use all the resources and tools God has provided for you. If you choose to take medication, please let family, wise counsels, those you trust or even church members know so that they can be by your side praying for you. 

I want you all to always remember that God is good, by God's grace you will find the strength to know his love and the love of others. JOY is near even during this stage of your life.  Depression does not rule you! REMEMBER THAT :)

Suicide is not an option!
God's love for you does exist.

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