Depression is a real human emotion and a clinical diagnosis in certain circumstances. It is also a common human experience that most of us conceal from the world around us. Despite the endless parade of symptoms and drug solutions bombarding us on television, radio and internet, we oftentimes feel ashamed of depression and view it as a weakness rather than a symptom of an underlying problem.
Many times depression is a response to an event. Happy events like the holidays can trigger what we now call the “holiday blues”. Sometimes grief over the loss of a loved one or disappointments can linger causing an underlying malaise that could be characterized as depression. Thanks to advances in neuroscience we now understand that many people have physiological deficiencies which can depress the production of neurotransmitters, chemicals in the brain which are responsible for transferring impulses to keep our brains, emotions and body in balance. Some pharmaceuticals can alleviate or balance these deficiencies. There are also natural supplements which can elevate and balance neurotransmitters without some of the harmful effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Discussing these symptoms with your doctor and doing research on your own goes a long way in helping to manage depression.
At various times in my life, I have struggled with depression. My first recollections of the feelings of lingering sadness were as a young child. Years later through counseling and spiritual inner healing, I was able to identify some experiences and events that triggered depression. With the help of trusted professionals and prayer, those painful experiences were transformed into places of healing where I saw God’s hand at work in my life.
I am a very passionate woman. I believe that my life makes a difference; I have a mission to accomplish and endless contributions to make to the world. With this passion come a deeper compassion, intuition and sensitivity to the needs of others. Spiritually speaking, I frequently know when something is not right in my life, the lives of those I love and sometimes even in the world. At those times, depression can serve as a warning that something is out of balance.
I remember a time when we were preparing for a concert at church. During one of the rehearsals, a profound sadness overcame me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and my whole being felt listless. Distracted by these feelings, I persisted in running the rehearsal, while in my heart I kept talking to God and offering these feelings as a prayer. When I got home and turned on the news, I witnessed the profound terrorist carnage by militants who had taken a middle school hostage for three days in the Besslan massacre in North Ossetia, Russia, leaving the violent death toll at over 300 victims, 186 of them children. As the images and reports poured into our living room, I recognized that I was experiencing a connection to the victims’ loss, mourning and a call to intercede for the lives of innocent victims who were being terrorized in those horrific days.
Most experiences of depression in my life are not linked to world attacks of terror. I have learned that they are symptoms of underlying imbalances in my life; body, mind and spirit. With the help of holistic doctors and a lot of research, I have learned how to supplement with amino acids and vitamins, watch my diet and exercise and assess my schedule and commitments to alleviate symptoms naturally.
I also seek solace for my spirit in spiritual refreshment. Turning to scripture for wisdom and encouragement, I have discovered that the Bible is filled with many examples of people who were struggling with depression. Many people mistakenly believe that depression is somehow a failure of faith or a sign of weakness for the believer. If you do a search for depression in the Bible, you will find many witnesses to this common human experience and tools to deal with it as well.
I read at least one of the Psalms each day. The Book of Psalms, attributed to King David, is filled with expressions of human emotions, ranging from great rejoicing, to staggering depression. I can always find a Psalm that relates to how I am feeling. Psalm 30:6 promises “Weeping comes for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” After describing an episode of terror and depression which led the Psalmist to cry out to the Lord for mercy, Psalm 30 concludes with this song of victory; “You changed my mourning to dancing, took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. With my whole being I sing endless praise to you. O Lord, my God, forever I will give you thanks” (30:12-13)!
I have also found that reliance on grace is the key to my success in this ongoing struggle. Rather than pretending that all is well, or that I am some super Christian, I am honest with who I am and what I need. I have found an example in the life of St. Paul as he wrote:
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
I wouldn’t say that I boast of struggles with depression or the difficulties that may cause them. But I recognize that God’s grace is sufficient to make up for my insufficiencies. His grace and power work in my mind and body through positive thoughts, exercise, supplements and therapeutic support and in my spirit as my soul is strengthened in meditation, prayer and daily surrender to God.
Through God’s grace and power, I believe that when weeping comes in the night, joy always comes with the dawn of a new day.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at email@example.com andfacebook.com/40DaysToFocus.