A 30 Day Plan for Conquering Depression.
I recall driving by Opryland several years ago. The entire complex was under water. It was the great Nashville flood of 2010. Not a year passes I don’t hear about flooding somewhere in the United States. Videos surface of homes under water with people crouched on their roofs. Helicopter rescues take place with people hanging desperately from tree branches or perched precariously on their car tops. Bass boats, ski boats, kayaks are shown trolling down the center of water choked streets as people cruise past submerged houses, cars, and stop signs.
I live in Shreveport, Louisiana and we are undergoing the worst flooding from the Red River in 70 years. Water flowing down the Red River from unprecedented rains in Oklahoma and Texas is overflowing the river banks and backing up into bayous. A bayou is Louisiana for a large creek, stream, or a small river. Yesterday, we tried to drive across our city from north to south along an interstate that is now closed from flooding. The traffic was backed up for miles down Interstate 20, the east west corridor. We had to drive through downtown Shreveport. Normally, our fair city has a quiet downtown area with sparse traffic. Yesterday it looked like downtown New York City during a traffic jam!
Going around the downtown area, we passed by neighborhood after neighborhood with flooded streets and homes. Cross Bayou and Twelve Mile Bayou are overflowing their banks from flood waters backing up from Red River. The riverfront area of Shreveport and our sister city, Bossier City are underwater. The local news from the three major network channels are trying to outdo each other with “human interest” stories.
There is the man living near the riverfront who refuses to leave his home. Video feeds show him walking around his home in the knee deep water while sand bags keep the red flood from entering his home. He refuses to acknowledge that his home is in danger. And, remember, we have lots of snakes and lots of alligators in Louisiana! Another story shows a woman standing on a street overlooking her home now six feet under water. She has “lost everything” in the flood and will have to find a new home.
Another video shows a street under water with a sign reading “Deep Water”. The neighborhood supplied by the street has been evacuated and all but one home is under water. Finally, a developer in the area built a wonderful new upscale neighborhood on the river side of the Red River levee. Now, a levee is placed to protect the city from flooding. If you build a home on the river side of the levee, well, guess what? Your home may be flooded one day. These huge, palatial homes are surrounded by four foot walls made of sand bags. One home has now flooded and the others look like Monopoly hotels sitting in the middle of a red pond.
As I watched this drama unfold, and my prayers are with those suffering from this, I recognized some typical human behavior. I see this same kind of behavior in myself when I am suffering from a wave of depression.
First, a river flood is NOT a tsunami. The flood waters don’t pour over the banks in a huge wave. A river flood creeps its way slowly and insidiously into your neighborhood. In fact, if you’re not paying attention, you will wake up one day to find a foot of water in your home. Depression is like this. My depressive episodes don’t usually hit me like a ton of bricks. The onset can be insidious. I didn’t get depressed overnight! If I’m not vigilant and looking for the creeping rise of the flood waters of depression, I will wake up one day and find myself drowning in depression.
Therefore, I look for the warning signs that a depressive episode is coming. This means you have to be familiar with these signs which are unique to every individual. If you have to, write down the feelings you experienced right before you realized you were depressed. Look for trigger events like I mentioned last week that may lead you into depression. Be vigilant and watch for those creeping flood waters of depression and put up the sand bags to protect yourself. In our book, “Hope Again”, Mark and I give you plenty of these tools, or “sand bags” to surround yourself and protect yourself from depression.
Second, like the man in denial about his flood, if you deny you are suffering from depression you can wake up one day isolated and alone in a dark, flooded home. I was in denial for years. My wife begged me to get help and being the stoic, self sufficient man that I was, I ignored her pleas. There was nothing wrong with me (slosh, slosh through the ankle deep water). I can deal with this myself (slosh, slosh through knee deep water). It will pass in a couple of weeks (slosh, slosh in chest deep water). Finally, I experienced a debilitating break down and ended up broken and afraid (Help, help, I’m drowning!). The key to my salvation came when I realized I was depressed and I reached out and found a Christian counselor. The first thing he told me? Bruce, you realize you have a problem and you are asking for help. You’ve just won 90% of the battle!
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, get help! (Our book, “Hope Again” has a test in the opening chapters. Take the test and see if you are depressed.) Like the flood in Shreveport, help is multi-factorial. Sand bags. Evacuation routes. Water diversion. Getting help with your depression means you will need a good physician to look for a physical cause for your depression. And, you will need a counselor or psychologist to help with behavior modification. Finally, you will need spiritual support from a Christian friend, a church, or a support group. Don’t be caught in the flood waters because you are in denial. Get help today!
Third, sometimes you have to “lose everything” in order to realize how much you can gain. Losing a home and “everything” in that home makes you realize there are more important things than possessions. Time and time again, on these videos I hear people thank God that their family and loved ones are out of danger. Time and time again, I see men and women who vow to rebuild and to be strong and work through this loss. They realize that failure can lead to a road filled with triumphs and victory. It will be a long, hard road. It will be a painful journey. But, reassessing what is important in life gives us new perspective, an eternal perspective on this broken world in which we live.
If you are suffering from depression, you think you have lost it all. There is no hope on the horizon. But, Mark and I want you to have a change in your point of view. Look at your depression as a gift. That’s right, a gift. Depression is caused by something that is not right, a river that is overflowing its banks. Depression forces us to find the source of our pain. It forces us to grow, whether we like it or not. As C. S. Lewis wrote “pain is God’s megaphone to man”. God allows us to experience pain as a natural consequences of our actions in order to get us to sit up, pay attention, and listen. Depression can put your life into perspective. It strips away the superficial and unimportant. It is hard to see this in the midst of depression, but Mark and I are here to tell you there is hope. Focus on that. Focus on casting off the dross and debris of a life lived in this broken world. There is a Far Country that is fair and warm and filled with the light of God’s love. We can glimpse it if we look up from our misery. We can feel the stray rays of warmth of God’s light if we can walk out of the flood waters of depression and fall upon that distant shore. There is hope in the midst of your despair. Stop and pray for a change in perspective. Use your depression. Don’t let it use you!