I don’t know if my father was the first in our family tree to commit suicide, but what I do know is that when it’s my time to leave this earth, it will not be by my own hand. At one point though, I felt differently.
I wanted to take my own life. It was a dark and scary time, and it was only God who prevented this act from occurring. When I was going through this period of anguish and anxiety I did not think that I would ever again enjoy the sunshine as God meant for me to enjoy it. Yet it was this dark pit, devoid of any light or even an atom of hope, that brought me to the place where I was able to reach for light from the only true source of eternal light.
I have since looked back on that time of my depression and wondered if there could have been another way that God could have reached me. I would often ask God, “Why did I have to go through that level of depression and be like a zombie for six months? God, why did you allow this to happen?” Now things aren’t always God’s doing, and sometimes there aren’t answers or even reasons, but in my case, as time has passed, it has become clearer to me that God allowed me to go through this very scary, extremely dark and gloomy time because I would not have listened otherwise. Stubborn and with an opinionated personality, what I endured allowed me to listen to God again and led me to re-dedicate my life to Christ.
I had decided when I was 18 that I did not want to be a Christian anymore.
I was 29 going on 30 years old, and I had not picked up my Bible in years, although I did occasionally still pray to God and often wrote to God in my journal. Other than that, I had cut God out of my life by deciding that Christianity was too narrow of a religion. I had decided when I was 18 that I did not want to be a Christian anymore and that I would no longer go to church. I was entering college and needed to focus on studies and concrete realities, and for me, Christianity was not included in this.
My depression started because I was extremely worried about the lack of having a career and about having dropped out of three Master’s programs. To put this in context, ever since I was 18, I knew what I wanted to do. I had planned everything out. I was going to get my B.A. in psychology and then get a Master’s in Counseling or Social Work. I was then going to find the right guy and have four children starting with the first one at 26.
I completed my B.A. when I was 23 and started a Master’s in Social Work the following semester, but dropped out after one semester because I was having second thoughts. I looked into studying law, only to be scared out of it because of the LSATs, and did some Master’s coursework in Urban Planning. Afterwards, I returned to try again at a Master’s in Social Work. While I was a part-time student, I had an internship as a therapist at a school-based program. While interning in the program, I began having anxiety attacks and my fear of not being a good enough counselor plagued me. The physical and psychological doubt raked me into paralysis and I knew I could not continue with the program. Money started becoming an issue. Since my husband was working toward his doctorate, he wasn’t making much money. I thought I needed to make money for us, so I took a real estate class and then got a job as a Loan Counselor at a bank and quit my Consumer Credit Counseling job to make more money. This position was stressful because I had a lot to learn and I had to do it quickly. It was during this time that I began to experience the beginning symptoms of depression. I was not eating very much. I had trouble sleeping and I was almost always worried. One day on the job I had to go to the bathroom and cry because I felt inadequate and was so stressed; this was part of an anxiety attack. Being a perfectionist and not allowing myself room to make mistakes was a huge contributing factor to the beginning of my depression. I ended up quitting that job. The course of these events built upon each other until I realized I could not relieve the weight of them on my own.
God’s love is like light; it follows the darkness wherever it goes and it breaks through the slightest opening. God pulled me out of my depression with His light. I reached a point where I was not able to work. I was not functioning. I was not paying bills or even cooking. I could only carry myself to the bathroom. I had lost 20 pounds in about two months. My side was aching, and I had a horrible cough, probably due to malnutrition. I was always lying lethargically on my couch, hopelessness overtaking me. My husband was working from home and probably worried sick as well.
My husband and I had just gotten off the phone with a psychiatrist and made an appointment for the next day, which was not soon enough. I was laying on the couch, wishing that I was dead because that would be the easiest solution to how to best deal with the mess I had made of my life (that’s what I thought at the time). I literally felt like a big black hole was trying to swallow me, suck me in and never let me out again; it was one of the deepest, darkest parts of my depression. As I was laying there on the couch, trying to sleep, I heard the song “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine” playing in my head. I had not heard that song since I was probably 8 years old and I definitely had not thought of that song in many years. Yet, there it was playing in my head as if I had just sung it that morning at church. It was like a large shot of adrenaline into my veins. As soon as I heard that song playing in my head, a glimpse of hope and light broke through that black hole that I was in. I got up and found my husband and asked him to take me to the beach to walk along the ocean because I needed to get outside. This was surprising to him because he had tried to get me to go outside for three days and I didn’t want to go. We went to walk by the ocean and I was beginning to feel just a little normal again and began to feel the first rays of God’s salvation.
“For you, oh Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 116:8-9
When my depression was getting too heavy to bear, God used the Holy Spirit to intervene and sing to me because I was seriously contemplating taking my own life. You probably think that after I heard “This little light of mine” playing in my head that I was sure that it was God and re-dedicated my life to Christ and started on the road to hope and happiness. But no, I’m stubborn, so I was still in the pit of depression and I decided to ask God that if He were really here for me, to speak to me through His word in the Bible. I sat down on my couch with my Bible in my hand and I asked God to speak to me when I opened it. I opened my Bible (with the Holy Spirit’s leading no doubt) and it opened to Matthew 6:22 (NIV); “The eye is the lamp of the body, if the eye is good the whole body will be full of light, if the eye is bad the whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Now God doesn’t always work this way, but this time He did. This spoke to my heart, my life and my depression. First of all it was amazing that my eyes went directly to this verse in my Bible. This verse is towards the bottom of the page and it was not underlined at the time. God was telling me that I had been focusing on the negative aspects in my life and that is why my mind and body was so full of darkness. I then read the verses, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:25-29, NIV). I wept for at least half an hour about this, because God was speaking directly to me and to my situation. He had proved to me that He was real and cared about me, and I will never doubt His existence again for the rest of my life.
My time recovering from depression was a time of renewal and immersing myself in the presence of God. Having a relationship with God at this time meant reading my Bible everyday for as long as I needed. It meant praying for at least an hour everyday and singing praise songs in the car and at home. God used different people to minister to me in order for me to become healthy. My relationship with my husband was a key element to my recovery. He was an angel here on earth for me, while I was in the black hole of depression he loved me like a mother or father loves her/his child, and I needed that unconditional love. He knew the true meaning of the marriage vow, “in sickness or in health.”
[The Holy Spirit] kept me walking in the land of the living.
Another person who showed me unconditional love was the Holy Spirit. One day I went into a Christian bookstore and I specifically went to look for a book regarding Josephus, the historian that lived soon after Jesus died on the cross. But instead, while I was looking through the books, I literally felt like my eyes were led to another book, Victory over Darkness. I totally needed this book and the Holy Spirit knew it. This book helped me to know how to start changing my thought pattern and begin to see myself as the beautiful child that God had made me. I found out about Freedom Through Christ Ministries and called a church that I found listed in the back of the book to ask about counseling and prayer. At this church I was prayed for and counseled by an awesome woman of God. She was so full of faith and words of wisdom for me. It was another ingredient that God knew I needed in order to get me on the road to being healthy again.
It has been eleven years since I experienced severe depression and I know now that I am genetically disposed towards depression and I have been taking antidepressants for many years now, with some lapses. I definitely thank God for the researchers that came up with my medication, because it has kept me enjoying the sunshine as God meant for me to enjoy it. And the Holy Spirit’s comfort, along with God’s glory and Jesus’ word, has kept me walking in the land of the living.
Why do people take their lives? Because they are completely spent; they have no hope in order to go on with everyday life and they are severely depressed. Once it’s at the point they are seriously considering suicide they are no longer living in this world. As most of us know, perhaps they are functioning—eating, working, walking down the street—but they are like flesh that has been drained of the blood. So when suicide enters a person’s mind it is quite simple to take the steps to take his or her life because he or she already feels half dead. It is one of the worst places to be: another hell on earth.
What is Depression?
According to the DSM-IVTR, a manual used by professionals to diagnose mental disorders, on WebMD.com, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following nine symptoms at the same time:
* a depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
* fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
* feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
* impaired concentration, indecisiveness
* insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
* markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
* recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
* a sense of restlessness – known as psychomotor agitation – or being slowed down, retardation
* significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)
However, depression can look differently depending on your gender, your age, and even your ethnicity, so get a professional check-up if you feel that you have similar symptoms.
What can you do to get on the road of wellness if you are depressed?
First talk to someone you trust. Tell them how you are feeling and what you are thinking about. This will relieve some of your stress and start you on the road to health. Ask Christ to guide you on your road to wellness, to bring you the right people into your life, the right books, the right music and the right friends. Ask Christ to speak to you through His word, through music, through other Christians. Seek professional help through your insurance or from a Community Health Center or even a hotline. See a therapist and a psychiatrist. Seeking help from a therapist will help you with your thoughts and emotions and the psychiatrist will help to find an antidepressant medication to help to alleviate your depression if it’s needed.
Sing, sing, sing! Play worship music, sing worship songs to God. I know you will not feel like it, but if you begin to worship and praise God, your feelings will follow, you will be uplifted, even if it is just to go from a black to a dark gray mood. These are steps you can take to walk out of the gloomy forest of depression. Some books that may also help are: Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck and Overcoming Depression by Demitri and Janice Papolos. Psalms in the Bible can be especially helpful too!
How to Help a Loved One Who Is Depressed
First of all, do not judge them or compare them to yourself. Accept them right where they are at and for who they are at the moment–their gloomy mood, dirty hair and all.
Imagine what you would do for a loved one that has terminal cancer or kidney failure, and do the same for your loved one with depression. Stay with them through the night, make meals for them, bring them flowers, take them to their doctor appointments, and love them unconditionally. Even if they tell you, they don’t want you there or they are depressed, stay with them, even if they are angry with you. Don’t listen to them about leaving, especially if they have expressed suicidal thoughts. Get them professional help if they do talk about suicide.
What helped me the most when I was being tormented by depression and suicidal thoughts was love and comfort from my husband and my sisters and love and prayer from Christians that God had brought into my life.