Speaking life into depression
This is Katie's second post in a two-part series she started in August about suffering depression while serving in missions. We received such enthusiasm for the post that she's returned to write a follow-up.
You are the game-changer.
The X factor.
The secret weapon, as it were.
Did you know that?
In a person's struggle with depression and its cousin, anxiety, a key component to health and recovery is that person's relationships with friends and family. Counseling, medication, a change in circumstances, and other outside factors certainly have their place, but often, a person needs a friend to help them take that first step of seeking outside help.
Depression is a slippery enemy, made more dangerous by the simple fact that its root cause and control is fueled by lies. These can take a philosophical bent ("I have no hope/future. No one truly loves me. God doesn't care about me") or be intensely personal ("I'm a failure. No one would miss me. Everyone would be better off without me").
No matter the lie, they all have an isolating effect. Our enemy wants us to believe we are alone. Depression and anxiety amplify that voice.
If your friend, family member, or teammate are struggling with depression or anxiety, you can be their physical voice of truth. You can't believe the lie that you are helpless. I know that lie. I've heard it many times, felt its pain, believed it. But it's simply not true.
In fact, it's the opposite of the truth. You are far from helpless. You're the game-changer.
So, what do you do to help a friend or family member suffering with depression?
Speak life and truth over and over and over. Identify the lies that perpetuate depression and combat it with the truth.
You are loved.
You are not alone. God has a hope and good future for you.
Share Scripture with your friend in practical ways: sticky notes on their desk, cards in the mail, a message with an encouraging verse. Be a never-ending fount of living water truth.
Sometimes, there's nothing to be said. Your presence is a gift. Don't let them sit on the couch in the dark alone. Don't let them push you away. Cry with them if they need to cry. Listen if they need to talk.
Depression and anxiety tends to alienate friends when that person needs them most. Resist the urge to lend platitudes or logically argue why they shouldn't feel the way they do. Just be there. Let your actions speak for you that your friend is not alone.
Make them laugh.
Yes, I'm serious. Make it a point to make your friend laugh, or at least smile, at least once a day.
God gave our bodies a natural anti-depressant that's released when we laugh. So pull out the joke book. Send that funny email. Flood their Pinterest board with crazy memes. Forward them that video of the kitten falling off the couch that your grandma sent you.
Surround them with beauty.
When depression fades our vision to shades of grey, beauty restores colour to our life perspective. It restores our sense of wonder and gratitude at all that God has made.
Take them on a walk on a gorgeous fall day. Take them to an art museum or sign them up for an art class. Give them flowers or a beautiful photograph. Point out a stunning sunset or drag them along hiking in the mountains with you.
Learn to see beauty around you and bring it to their attention.
Depression and anxiety are psychological struggles, true, but they are often triggered by circumstances. Is your friend an overwhelmed mom juggling busy toddlers and a new baby? Baby-sit the kids for awhile. Cook a meal. Do the shopping. Come over and clean their house.
Are they struggling financially? Find practical ways to meet the immediate needs and help them think through a recovery plan.
Is their marriage suffering, or are they experiencing burnout at work? Arrange to take over some of their responsibilities so they can take the time to get counseling or rest.
There is almost always something practical you can do to make someone else's load a bit lighter. Even that small lessening of their burdens can make a world of difference.
The most precious gift anyone can give a person struggling with depression and anxiety is hope. When I was growing up, my mom suffered from a severe season of anxiety and depression. It was a very frightening time for me, not understanding what happened to my cheerful, energetic mother and not knowing if she would ever come back.
I remember the doctor telling my mom something I will never forget: "We will get you through this. You will get better." That day, her doctor gave us both hope, and it helped see us through.
Never forget that you, as a Christ-follower, have a never-ending source of hope that never fails. Christ is the ultimate game-changer. Because of Christ, there is always hope.