A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression.
I am afraid. The world is changing and doing so faster than I can adapt. It seems everyday a court or a government council or a major label makes a decision that is instantly perceived as anti-Christian. In the midst of my fear I have noticed I make at least three common responses:
1 -- Hunker Down, Bunker Down
If I close the door on the outside world and retreat into my inside world where I have some control, then maybe all of that nonsense will just simply go away. I can turn my attention inward and enjoy the personal toys of my mental and spiritual play room. I don't have to answer the phone or answer the door. I don't have to watch one of the liberal media news channels. I don't have to go to those websites on the internet that are not friendly to my way of thinking. I can retreat and shrink down into the center of my being and ignore what is happening in the big, bad world around me.
2 -- Redefine the Truth
I can take what is happening all around me, those things that frighten me, and I can twist them every so slightly and tweak the truth. After all, maybe all of this is just exaggeration. The world isn't really going to hell in a hand basket. What I really mean to say is this: Redefine the Truth to fit my expectations. This is called DENIAL and it works brilliantly hand in hand with bunker down/hunker down.
3 -- Become a Victim
These changes in society are someone else's fault. I didn't have anything to do with making these decisions. They were thrust upon me so I don't have to deal with them. If things get really bad, it's not MY fault! In fact, I can make you a list of all the people and institutions to blame. Let me take my precious time to criticize them and point out the faults of everone else.
Now, stop for a moment and apply these same adjustments to depression. They work just as well, don't they?
When I am depressed, I desperately want to retreat from the world. My wife knows I am depressed when I tell her I'm going to bed at 8 PM. I just want to curl up and shut the world out for a few hours. I want to hunker down and bunker down and isolate myself from any outside influence.
Before I learned about depression, whenever I would feel depressed or stressed out, I would rationalize that it was purely temporary; just a blip on my radar. Give me a couple of days, and it would just go away. I didn't have to do anything about it. My wife would beg me to get help. Get help for what? I would ask her. I'll find a book or a devotional to read for a week or so and then I'll be better and depression will go away forever.
When I am depressed, I find it very difficult to own up to the consequences of MY decisions. I didn't get there overnight. But, I can sure find someone else to blame in a heartbeat! It might be my boss and his/her unrealistic expectations. It might be my kids and the stress level I'm under. It might be my spouse/significant other. Oh, wait a minute! It's my parents' fault! Right!
Stop for a moment and let's look at the TRUTH:
1 -- Isolating ourselves is the worst thing we can do. We are called to be engaged in our culture; to be IN the world, but not OF the world. How else can we as Christ followers expose others to the message of the Good News. Mark and I are constantly reminding our readers the necessity of having a paradigm shift in their thinking about depression. Don't be afraid! Be proactive! View depression as a gift; an opportunity to make positive changes in behavior and relationships. The same can be said for our involvement in culture. Jesus gave us a command: to love one another as He loved us. Unconditionally. Forgivingly. You can’t show the world the love of Christ if you are locked away in fear.
2 -- Denial is one of the most powerful tools of the depressed. There is nothing wrong with me! I don't need help! This will go away on its own! Our book, "Hope Again" is all about confronting the reality of depression and finding tools and weapons to defeat depression. Deciding there is something wrong is the first, biggest step you can take! And, we cannot deny our culture is changing all around us. But, instead of reacting with denial and fear, realize that God is still in control and these changes do not surprise Him. In fact, over and over again the scriptures tell us these changes will come. We are warned that culture will become more "sinful" and less "Godly". If we knew scripture, we should have seen these kinds of changes coming. Don't deny it. Deal with it by viewing it as an opportunity to show the love of Christ. No need to judge or to get into endless arguments. Just tell your story of how God is helping you overcome your depression through His love and power. God's love will change the world. Not us.
3 -- In my depression, it is tempting to blame others for my depression. During my counseling, I uncovered a great deal of repressed anger towards my parents. I won't go into detail other than to say that I have learned from examining my parents' style of "parenting" that I can't throw stones until I recognize my own shortcomings as a parent. Recent studies have shown that some depressive episodes come directly from "psychological childhood trauma". However, I cannot change how my parents treated me. For the most part, my parents loved me and took good care of me and did a wonderful job in raising me. What negatives I have uncovered are small and essentially inconsequential in the long run, but I WANT to make them much more important to my depression than they are. Why? I need to blame someone else for my pain. The truth is, I am largely responsible for my pain. My depression is due to my choices and my behavior patterns. Once I own up to this, I can begin to deal with the underlying causes and heal. Stop being a victim. Take ownership of the choices and the behavior that lead to your depression! And, in reference to our culture, we are a part of this world. We can show the love of Christ to a world starving for forgiveness and grace without blaming the world for our fear. We have the greatest gift ever given to mankind and we must not hide it under a bushel of fear and victimization. Simply tell the world your story. Show the world how God has brought you out of depression; out of fear; out of sin; out of brokenness and let God worry about judging the behavior of those around us who are not believers. We are not the victims. We have the Savior!