I was a slave to my depression and it almost claimed my life. I looked for answers but found nothing. But in the end God showed me a way through my illness and He gave me an exceeding joy that even my depression couldn’t take away.
The thing with depression is that it comes in many different forms and affects people in many different ways. Because of this I assumed that there was no way to beat it. I still believe that there is no universal “key” to beating depression. I don’t even believe that “beating depression” means the same thing for every person. But I do know that the promises of the Bible are true one hundred percent regardless of any mental illnesses a person may have. Even if the way to salvation isn’t the same for everybody, I do know that it is there. This is my story, which I hope can be of help to others experiencing similar trials.
My descent into depression
Depression was a toxic voice in my ears, whispering lies to me. You can never be happy. You are powerless. Nobody else understands. Nobody else has ever experienced anything this bad. Nothing is worth getting up for. Nothing is worth living for. Hopeless, terrible thoughts and yet I believed them. I believed in these lies and because I believed in them, it made them true.
As a Christian, I had read countless verses in the Bible about rejoicing, even in the midst of my trials, (1 Peter 1:6) but I never believed that it was possible for me. I thought that somehow my depression meant that sometimes I just couldn’t be joyful, that my illness was too much even for God to fix.
Depression drained my motivation and participation in life faster than you could say “chin up, it’s all in your head.” I dropped out of college twice in one year, quit just as many jobs and stopped socializing with my friends. I couldn’t eat; I couldn’t sleep. I was a zombie. Going through the motions of life but never really living.
I waited for some sign; some clue from God that life was going to get better just around the corner. That somehow, my depression would magically be cured and I would be allowed to feel happiness like a normal human being again. I didn’t understand why God would tell me to rejoice in the midst of my trials and then make my trials too difficult to rejoice in.
Eventually it got so bad that I knew I couldn’t go on living if something didn’t change. I saw a doctor and he prescribed a number of different pills. I started exercising, forcing myself to go jogging three to four times a week. It worked to a certain extent but every day the pills had less and less of an effect. After a while they stopped working altogether and I began to spiral again.
A new low
After a few long months of being miserable I sank to depths I never thought I would reach. Satan used the poison of depression to cloud my mind so the future seemed endlessly black and hopeless, and because I believed it, this became my reality. And I wanted to make an end to this reality.
When in the deepest depths of depression, those terrible thoughts can make suicide seem to be the only answer. After all, nothing can be worse than the hopelessness and despair I am feeling now. But God’s Word says otherwise.
It is God alone who is the giver and taker of life. He created me as I am, with an eternal purpose. Even in the “valley of the shadow of death” God is with me, wanting to do a work in and through me, using those very circumstances. Suicide is terrible unbelief in God’s love and almighty power. It is thwarting His plan and giving in to Satan’s evil schemes for death and destruction – jeopardizing my entire eternity.
But in my wretchedness I couldn’t see the light and I gave up. I was done with life. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again. Then, in the deepest darkness, when it was almost too late, God reached out His hand and I took hold of it. For reasons I couldn’t explain I didn’t finish it off that night. It slowly became clear to me that God had intervened somehow. That for whatever reason, He wanted me alive on this earth. But if God wanted me alive, did that also mean that He had a way for me to be free from depression?
An answer to prayer
I started searching through my Bible, looking for the answer. But the problem was there’s not a lot written about mental illness. I found a lot of verses about being free from sin; but depression isn’t sin, I thought. It’s a sickness.
No, the sickness is not a sin. But giving in to the symptoms of depression – the hopelessness, the despair, the unbelief in God – was sin, whether they came from a clinical illness or not. And that meant that I could get victory here!
It is written in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I had read this verse before but I had never really understood it. “God will make the way of escape.” This doesn’t mean that God will take my trials away, but rather that He will give me strength to go through the trials and get victory over the things that plagued me. I saw that God needed me to be on His side in order to help me get the victory. I fought to lay hold of faith and started to really strive against my depression.
I still got bombarded by a sea of evil thoughts, thoughts of despair, self-harm and worse that seemed to crash on me in endless waves. I was still tempted by depression. It told me that it wasn’t possible. That I was too far gone for even God to help me. But it is written in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
Every time the thoughts came into my head, I tore down their arguments. But this time, I didn’t try to use my own mental strength. I knew that “mind over matter” wouldn’t work here. I gave myself to God and He gave me power to take these thoughts captive. It was a battle and I had to constantly say, “No, the Bible says I can rejoice; I will not listen to anything that says otherwise.” I learned to be in tune with God and follow His voice in everything, also in practical things. That was the only way to victory.
For example, God wanted me to take care of my body and health. My depression was a medical condition, and I had to listen to my doctor and do everything he said, starting with going back on medication. Because exercise is also an important part of recovery, when I sensed that I ought to go for a jog, I knew that this was also God’s will, so I went for a jog. If I sensed that now I needed to read my Bible, I read my Bible. If God put it on my heart to go out and socialize with people, then I did that too. These were never things I felt like doing. In fact, a lot of the time it felt like the most difficult thing in the world! But that’s what it means to fight. It means complete and utter obedience to God. And when I was obedient to fight against depression, God was faithful to “make the way of escape” and give me victory over my temptations. And when I got the victory, then I felt a genuine joy in my spirit.
Life with depression
I still have depression. I have come to accept that. I feel the tiredness and the slight emotional detachment that accompanies a spell of depression but the sin – giving in to it – is now under my feet. My feelings can be down in the depths of depression but in my spirit I have joy.
There is now a clear separation between me and my illness. I am not a slave any more. I can be happy in my spirit even if my body feels depressed, no matter what happens in my situations. It is a journey, but I have started on this road and through it all I have learned a lot.
One of the lies was that nothing was worth living for and that ending my life would also bring an end to all of my problems forever. The truth is that you can kill the body, but not the spirit, which must still appear before God. God stopped me, and I learned that He has a plan for my life and will also fulfil it. I learned that suicide is never a way out, because God is always mighty to save.
Now I know that I am not too weak. I know I am not powerless. God is on my side and with Him is all the power in the universe. I know that others have experienced depression before, experienced it and become free from it. I know that it is possible for me to be completely freed from this too, and I know that it is possible for me to overcome and be happy. I know this because I’ve experienced it. And I continue to experience it.
I am not yet the person I need to be but I am far from the person I was. Depression may have stolen years from my life but it hasn’t ruined it. I may have once been a slave to my illness but God is on my side. God is on my side and I have all the hope in the world for a better and brighter future. Now my body can be used in God’s service. My life can be to His praise and glory and a testimony to His mighty power to save and transform even the most wretched of human beings.
It can feel hopeless to begin with, but there is hope. There is always hope. God is not unfaithful but in order to save me from depression He needed me to first come to faith myself and be obedient to His Word. God’s Word is true. Believe in God’s Word. Believe that God can set you free. And you need never be a slave to misery and despair again.