Depression is… and is not…


Depression Is:

  • Real – it has been scientifically and medically proven to exist – it even shows up on brain scans; it’s not just “all in your head.”
  • An illness – but it is invisible to onlookers.
  • The result of a fallen sinful world – this was not part of God’s original perfect design for humankind.
  • Exhausting – some days, it can take all of my energy just to get out of bed.
  • Endless – it feels hopeless, like it will never end.
  • Different from sadness – it’s deeper, darker, heavier, more debilitating.
  • Isolating – I want to be alone in my despair; it’s too hard to pretend to be okay around others.
  • Common – 1 in 3 people will experience at least one episode of depression in their lifetime.

Depression Is Not:

  • My fault – I didn’t do this to myself, and there is no one to blame.
  • A sin – it is not disobedience to God, nor is it punishment from Him.
  • Easy to overcome – healing can be a multi-faceted process, and sometimes a long one.
  • Simple – it’s complicated by circumstances, genetics, brain chemistry, and more.
  • Discriminatory — it can affect anyone, regardless of age, income, gender, or race.
  • The same for everyone – that’s part of what makes it so complicated to treat; though there are common symptoms, everyone responds differently to the disease and it’s “cure.”
  • A choice – anymore than I could choose to have diabetes or cancer.
  • A sign of weakness – in fact, the strongest folks may be those with depression who keep waking up each day.

Depression is a complicated illness, a mess of the wrong amounts or kinds of brain chemicals. It’s not something I can just “get over.” In fact, the longer I wait to get help, the longer my recovery will be.

If you or someone you know suffers from depression, don’t be afraid to seek help. Tell  your doctor or medical professional. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-talk).


My “Why”

Watch this first (it’s short):

Michael Jr. Comedy – Know Your Why

My “why” – to reduce the stigma of depression, especially in Christian circles.

My “what” – to lead a support group for Christians struggling with depression; to blog about depression within and for the Christian community; who knows what other “whats” I have!

Lord God, let me follow your leading in my pursuit of this passion.

(Thank you,, for the link to this significant video.)

Naming My Blog

I’m in the midst of a 5-day blogging bootcamp. Our first assignment is to come up with a name for our blog, which is causing me to rethink mine: Gray Clouds, Clear Skies; I am not my depression.

I’ve been blogging for a couple of years, in fits and starts. Not with any schedule, but more as the topic or mood hits me. I participated in several “classes” through, my blogging host site, which I greatly enjoyed. I may even retake one or two, just for the discipline of it.

I’d like to get better at this blogging thing, develop more consistency, maybe reach more readers. And now I’m wondering about my blog name.

I really like my tag line: “I am not my depression,” and maybe that would be a better description of my blog, but it’s not available as it’s own .com website; that domain has already been taken.

I might be able to rename what I have, and keep it here on I like that idea, because WordPress has great tools and support, especially to me as I am still finding my way in this blogging world.

Or I could build my own site, with a suffix other than “.com.”

Any suggestions?

Not much to say

“They” say that women use 30,000 words in a day, while men use only 10,000. This sets up quite a difference of communication patterns between the sexes!

I used to talk a lot. It was an ongoing joke that the moment my husband shut off the lamp for sleep, I’d want to talk, tell him about my day, ask deep philosophical questions. Sometimes, he’d even turn the light back on in hopes I’d wind down!

But since my experiences with depression, I am much more quiet. I’m content to listen to conversations going on around me, and don’t feel the need to chime in at every opportunity. I’m happy to observe – I don’t need to contribute every thought I have.

It’s been a noticeable change. Several friends – especially those I don’t see regularly – will ask me if I’m ok. They’ve commented that I seem so quiet. Even my husband will ask me if everything is alright if I don’t say anything for a while.

I think the change is due to several factors:

Firstly, I think I’m a better listener than I used to be. I’m content to hear about others’ successes and troubles. I’m much quicker to pick up on subtext – those behind-the-scene  feelings. My therapist once told me that I’d find myself able to spot depression in others, since I’ve been through it myself. I think this is true – I sense a person’s unspoken sadness or struggle. So I find myself listening instead of talking.

Secondly, I simply have less to say. There’s just not much going on in my day-to-day to share. My hours are pretty quiet, and often silent. If I have lots of thoughts, I try to write them in my journal, so I don’t seem to have the need to verbally share like I used to.

Lastly, I’m more content with silence. That’s a benefit I gained from depression – being still. I pray, I journal, I don’t need noise to fill every moment. In fact, I usually look forward to my down-time, the peace that comes with silence.

On the Myers-Briggs test, I used to be an extreme Extrovert, which means I get my batteries charged from being around other people as opposed to being alone. But since depression, I’ve moved from the far extreme to closer to the Introvert, where my energy comes from my personal down-time. On the continuum, I’m still an E, but much closer to an I than before. I still need people, connection and community, to recharge my energy, but I’m more content being alone than I used to be.

This past week really tested that observation. My Tuesday small group was cancelled due to weather. I had to cancel my therapy appointment – where I talk most of the hour – due to illness. So my week was much quieter than normal. I still had my students/work, but that’s not socializing or even real conversation. By Friday, I was feeling the silence as loneliness, and I was crying because of it. I felt so alone – way past enjoying the silence. Instead, I was craving that connection and community I mentioned earlier. I journaled pages about feeling lonely. I cried out to God, and reminded myself that He was with me – I wasn’t completely alone. Still, it took me several hours to adjust to a week’s worth of quiet.

Then my husband got home from his business trip, and let me “talk his ear off.” And I felt so much better!

Thinking about the Past Can Cause Anxiety

I met with my therapist last Thursday. Overall, it was a good appointment. We talked about some tasks I had tackled over the previous week – investigating book clubs, knitting clubs, volunteering at a local Adult Care Center. It felt good to be proactive, and it was nice to share that confidence I felt with her.

We discussed my previous experience in participating and then facilitating peer-led support groups for folks suffering with depression. I told her how I would love to do that again, and we brainstormed some ideas on who to talk to about such a group. I’m excited to be thinking about such an opportunity. It’s been such a long time (3+ years) and I’ve really missed it.

We also talked about my darkest times – including the first time I told Chris I was suicidal.  She asked what I remembered about that moment, and I recalled it vividly – could picture myself at the counter in my pajamas and robe. I had just turned around from making a cup of coffee as he was walking towards me. I told him to come closer and hug me. I began to cry, and told him that I was thinking of hurting myself. Chris pulled back from me, his hands still on my arms, and I watched his eyes fill with tears as he told me he couldn’t bear it if anything happened to me. I felt his arms go back around me as he hugged me and I told him I needed help. He whispered, “We’ll get through this.”

Funny, I don’t really remember what happened next. I know my first trip to the hospital emergency room was soon after that (same day? same week?), when I experienced a sudden weakness in my whole body. But I don’t remember the rest of that day’s detail.

I shared with her, too, about the other time I told my husband that I needed help. I recalled the ensuing trip to emergency, waiting in a small room with a couch and examination bed – just me and my husband and the nurse who came and went, turned on the tv, brought water, checked on me. I remember the social worker coming in and telling us there were no beds available in the psych wards in town, and we told her we couldn’t go 2 1/2 hours away to the nearest hospital. She came back in the room and helped me write “a safety plan.” I told my therapist about my doctor friend, Jim, who came on call as I was getting ready to leave the emergency room, and how he assured me that he would take care of us if we needed to come back.

Anyway, after I shared those two stories with my therapist, we went on to talk about how hard it is to say those three words, “I need help.” And our appointment continued from there.

I haven’t thought about those two scenarios in a long time, and as I walked to my car at the end of our session, I suddenly felt anxious. That deep in the gut hollowness of anxiety.

I know that thoughts of the past can be positive or negative, pleasant or difficult. I was just surprised by my physical response to thinking back. It took the rest of the day to shake off that nervousness in the pit of my stomach. But now I know – memory is a very powerful thing.