The Most Depressing Day

image courtesy of Eggybird via flickr
Today is supposedly the most depressing day of the year.  That is based on a mathematical equation from Dr. Cliff Arnall at Cardiff University.  This equation is based on factors such as:
  • Distance from Christmas
  • Length of time until next holiday
  • Increase in debt level (presumably from Christmas shopping)
  • Poor weather
  • Failing New Year's resolutions

Whether or not science and math can accurately determine the one most depressing day is maybe not all that important.  It can be called Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Or, "winter blues."  Whatever it is, most of us just know that this is a hard time of the year, whether we see it in ourselves, or in those around us.

The Resurgence blog has a series called God and Depression based on Psalms 42 and 43.  If you or someone you know is struggling with any level of depression, you need to read this.  Here are summaries of the posts that I've read so far, which talk about causes for the Psalmist's depression:
  1. Lost His Sense of God.  It is normal, but extremely difficult, to have seasons where God seems to hide His face from you.  But this is a time to grow, a time where your heart is tested.
  2. Lost His Community.  "Just as it is in God's nature to thrive in partnership, so it is with us."  It was God (not Adam) who decried that it wasn't good for man to be alone.  But building community, and lasting in it, takes effort.  "You can either close yourself off and avoid connection with people, or be like Jesus, pushing through and making it work."
  3. Lost His Job.  Men and women are given roles, gifts, and passions.  To not be able to use them can leave us confused and depressed. 

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Why am I interested in this topic?  As a scientist, I know that the brain is probably the most complicated organ we have.  We cannot fully understand how it works, and how all the body's hormones affects it.  Depression and mental illnesses are real, and we must figure out how they line up with life and with the Gospel.

As a friend, I have more friends and family members than I can count on my fingers that are struggling with depression.  I want to know how I can love them and minister to them.

But mostly I am interested because it has affected me personally.  I have had seasons (even going back to my teenage years) where on the outside everything seemed to be going my way, but inside I was struggling.  The most recent season was about 12-14 months ago.  I knew that I wasn't doing well, but couldn't figure out what it was, until I read Silent Suffering: Pastors and Depression.  A light went off in my head, and I knew I needed help.

God was gracious to carry me through the season, and helped me take some steps that I would recommend to anyone else:
  1. Pray.  I had to realize that I needed Him more than ever.
  2. Talk to your spouse.  The day I read the article, I printed it and gave it to Joanna, and we talked about what was going on.  I could not have asked for a better partner in life.
  3. Get others on your team.  I didn't broadcast it to the world, but I did confide in a few close friends.  Friends who are close enough to love me, and even tell me hard things that I needed to hear.  Friends who could help me live by repentant faith.  Being depressed means we need true community more than ever.
  4. Go to your church for help.  This may mean a pastor, and this may mean your Small Group leader.  Probably both.  I sure hope you are already in Biblical community.
  5. Get professional help.  I talked with a counselor, who, after listening to my situation, was the first one to say, "Yeah, this sure does sound like depression."  If you are in the Greenville, SC area and want a reference, email me.  
  6. Get rest.  I knew that I needed to be more intentional to Sabbath, on a weekly and monthly basis.  I needed to be able to pause, even momentarily, and look at the great things God was doing.

Most of all, I learned that my feelings (of despair, sadness, depression, blues, whatever you want to call it) were a tool that God was using to help me grow in Him.  Though I did not enjoy that season, I'm glad that I went through it.  God showed me how much more I needed to love and trust Him, and how much more He had for me than I was receiving.

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1 comment :

  1. Joey, I live with depression. After our 4th child's birth it got really, really bad. In 2006 I saw a doctor and went on some meds for it, but I still have low periods. Although I was in a church at the time (not Grace) I didn't feel that there was anyone I could reach out to, because I was so afraid of being judged by others. It sure would have helped to have the community I have now when I was suffering so badly. I share my story with anyone who will listen, because depression is nothing to be ashamed of; it is an illness like any other, and the right medication can help. Thank you for sharing.