I’ve always thought about writing this post, but have never been able to quite pull the trigger on it. I didn’t feel like I had totally “earned” the right to write something as bold as “I’ve overcome depression.” There wasn’t a clear end, but it’s been several years (apart from temporary post-partum depression after my second child was born) since I’ve felt as low as I did once upon a time. However, (non)coincidentally, the week I decided that it had been enough time for me to write this post, I got some of those heavy feelings back which hung around for a few weeks.
But part of my healing has come from claiming it, and so I will not let a few down weeks redefine all the progress I’ve made. In fact, I believe these feelings have a purpose and root cause during this season (many circumstantial things that are not suitable for a public blog post), and I’m choosing not to let that get in the way of writing something that could be helpful to one of my readers.
This post is not medically or scientifically based. It’s a reflection on the various things I’ve done over the years to get to a place where I can barely even remember what it feels like to hate myself or wish that I was no longer living. Please use discretion when considering whether any of these options might be helpful to you, and please talk with a doctor or trusted friend if you feel as though you are struggling with depression or anxiety.
Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, I want to explain briefly how depression shaped my life. The first time I remember wishing I was dead was in sixth grade, because I hadn’t finished a homework assignment. These feelings continued into my twenties. It hit me during a group prayer at college that I was probably the only one in the room visualizing suicide as punishment for not progressing in my faith rather than celebrate with a friend that he had made some progress in his own faith journey.
I had been fighting depression for a few years already, but that realization was the turning point in healing for me, and I thought it was about time I shared in detail how I got to this place where I feel I can tell others I used to be depressed. (Good news for those of you tired of hearing it – exercise isn’t on this list 😉 )
Zoloft. I was SO against medication initially. Growing up in church while also dealing with chronic migraines led me to believe some funky things about healing and medical intervention. Often when I had a migraine I was encouraged to pray for healing, that if I had only a mustard seed’s dose of faith anything was possible. Yes, the bible says this, yes, I believe God can and does do miraculous things still today, and yes, all the encouragement was well-intended, but I was already a perfectionist, legalist, and literalist, and this encouragement did nothing but convince me there was something inherently wrong with me. I clearly didn’t have the right amount or type of faith to be healed since I was still getting migraines on a regular basis.
But my migraines got totally out of control along with my depression when I was a junior in high school. I remember crying at the kitchen counter for no reason at all, and my mom suggested I get help for depression. I told her no, that if I could just be a “better Christian” that my brain would work itself out. When she suggested getting help from a neurologist for my migraines in the same discussion, for some reason I thought that was acceptable, and so to the neurologist I went. He made note of my tears as I explained how it took over two hours to fall asleep every night, and he prescribed Zoloft to me for the first time. It made a big difference, and for that period in my life, I was only on it for 6 months. Later on in life, circumstances got to be too much for me to handle, and I went on it again, this time for two years.(One day there will be a whole post about the relationship between being an artist and having migraines, depression, and anxiety – but I’m already running out of words here!)
The way I describe Zoloft’s influence in my life to people who ask about it is that it was a tool which allowed me to experience a healthy thought life. Prior to the drug, it was constant self-deprecation and self-hatred. Admittedly, I was not “myself” on Zoloft. It sort of flat-lined my emotions, but I was grateful for the literal peace of mind it offered me. When I eventually weaned from the drug, it was like a clean slate. When a dark thought came, it wasn’t just joining the party and getting lost in the crowd like before. Post-Zoloft, that dark thought stuck out as an intruder and I could be proactive in kicking it out before it built a home in my brain.
Prayer. Let’s just get the two most controversial treatments out of the way, then, shall we? I definitely took a multi-faceted approach to overcoming depression. There are some who believe depression is strictly a chemical deficiency, and the way to treat it is through drugs. Then there are those who believe depression is strictly spiritual warfare or a result of sin in your life. Like most big issues, I believe both sides have some validity, but it’s not an all-or-nothing thing. In my case, I do believe the enemy used depression, anorexia, and anxiety to limit me. I have “a good brain,” and I’ve come to a place where I think I’m capable of doing great things and making a difference. If my younger self read what I just wrote, I would have been utterly ashamed and disgusted for thinking something like that. For the majority of my life I believed that I was worthless, and I believe that’s exactly what the enemy wanted and still wants me to believe.
So shortly after that encounter in college during the group prayer time, I talked with my mom who is very active in healing prayer ministry in her church. Together we prayed against a spirit of suicide, depression, and self-hatred, and after that prayer I literally felt a weight lift from me. I felt clean for the first time in years, like I wasn’t dragging around destructive baggage everywhere I went anymore. I felt like I had a chance to be “normal” (as if any of us are truly “normal”).
The bible talks about “taking every thought captive” and I had tried my whole life to do just that, but I needed the support of my spiritually mature and wise mother to guide me through the process initially. If you would like to learn more about prayer ministry, do not hesitate to ask. I would love to tell you more about it.
These two steps, medication and a deliverance prayer, were two major catalysts in sending me on my way to lasting freedom from depression. Everything else I did was in support of these steps to ensure their effects would last. Depression is complex and it affects everyone differently, but I hope that in this post and my next, you find something encouraging or interesting. Depression is a monster that needs to be attacked from all sides, but doing so is worth it. Praise God that I am living proof.