You Can Deal with Depression
DEPRESSION is an experience common to all humans. When it occurs only occasionally it is no cause for alarm. Rather, it is a signal to do something constructive to dispel the depression. These brief periods in which we may feel very “low” are not normally the true depression. Calamities such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job, financial reverses, accidents, and so forth, are generally overcome by most persons in a relatively short period of time. But they trigger real depression in a few people.
An article on depression in Science World of December 16, 1975, cites Dr. Nathan S. Kline, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University in New York city, as saying that the most common symptom of true depression is not depression itself, but anhedonia (from the Greek), which he defines as the “absence of joy and pleasure. The inability to appreciate things which really make life worth living.”
The article goes on to say that the loss of interest in eating, resulting in weight loss, is one symptom of depression. The person finds it difficult to sleep, and even if getting a good night’s sleep, he still feels tired. He or she cannot concentrate and loses the ability to work. On the other hand, some oversleep, spending most of their time in bed. For them, sleep becomes an escape from life.
In order to fight depression, first try to analyze the reasons for your condition, and examine your own inmost feelings and motives. See if your situation is really “all that bad,” if circumstances warrant your depressed feeling. Also, since depression can have a physical cause, check to see if you have some metabolic disturbance, low blood sugar, anemia, mononucleosis, diabetes, or some other disease that might contribute to weakness and discouragement. Discern how much of your depression lies in your own mental attitude, and what influences bear upon you to produce that “down” feeling. You may even find that you are manifesting an “escapism” reaction or that, in a morbid way, you even “enjoy” your depressed state—a sort of self-pity.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
What can you do, especially if you find no medical basis for your depressed condition? While psychiatry may be able to give help in some cases, the very best and the really lasting help can be obtained from the Bible and from the Christian congregation. Why? Because God created the human body and mind and he knows the human makeup. The psalmist says: “O Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar.” (Ps. 139:1-3, The New American Bible) God’s counsel is, therefore, the best mental therapy.
The foremost need for the depressed one, then, is prayer to Jehovah God. God’s servant David was more than once in a greatly depressed state, sometimes because of his own errors, and again because his enemies were about to close in with the intent to kill him. In these situations he always prayed fervently. On one occasion he expressed his dejection in his appeal to God:
“Show me favor, O Jehovah, for I am fading away. Heal me, O Jehovah, for my bones have been disturbed. Yes, my own soul has been very much disturbed; and you, O Jehovah—how long? Do return, O Jehovah, do rescue my soul; save me for the sake of your loving-kindness. For in death there is no mention of you; in Sheol who will laud you? I have grown weary with my sighing; all night long I make my couch swim; with my tears I make my own divan overflow.”—Ps. 6:2-6.
We know from the Bible record that God answered David’s prayers and strengthened him to go ahead and accomplish something worth while. Even if we feel that no human understands, we know that God does. He says of himself: “There is no searching out of his understanding. He is giving to the tired one power; and to the one without dynamic energy he makes full might abound. . . . Those who are hoping in Jehovah will regain power. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not tire out.”—Isa. 40:28-31.
The apostle Paul counsels: “Be persevering in prayer, remaining awake in it with thanksgiving.” (Col. 4:2) But you may feel overwhelmed, everything seeming to be closing in on you. If so, recall Jonah sinking down into the sea, with seaweed wrapping around his head. His ‘soul was fainting away.’ But he prayed. Later, he was greatly angered and dejected through his own wrong attitude. He felt that dying would be better than living. Nevertheless, he prayed. In both cases he was delivered.—Jonah 2:5-7; 4:1-8.
But you may get so depressed that you feel that you cannot pray to God. You may feel that you do not qualify to approach God. For our comfort in this situation, the apostle John wrote:
“By this we shall know that we originate with the truth, and we shall assure our hearts before him as regards whatever our hearts may condemn us in, because God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. Beloved ones, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have freeness of speech toward God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we are observing his commandments and are doing the things that are pleasing in his eyes. Indeed, this is his commandment, that we have faith in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and be loving one another, just as he gave us commandment.”—1 John 3:19-23.
John here tells us that when our own heart seems to condemn us, when we feel unfit or unworthy to pray to God, God does not feel that way toward us. God can see and understand the dark state of feeling that we are in. He knows that we do not want to be that way. If we realize this, we will overcome our doubts or fears and will approach God and pour out our distresses to him. He will hear with sympathy and he will act to set our minds again in the proper balance.—1 John 4:17, 18; 1 Pet. 3:12.
However, if you just cannot bring yourself to pray, you can receive help by calling on the elders of the Christian congregation. Jesus’ half brother James tells us: “Is there anyone sick among you [in a spiritual way]? Let him call the older men of the congregation to him, and let them pray over him, greasing him with oil in the name of Jehovah. And the prayer of faith will make the indisposed one well, and Jehovah will raise him up. Also, if he has committed sins, it will be forgiven him.”—Jas. 5:14, 15.
In addition to prayer, get the good, balancing wisdom and comfort from God’s Word by reading and meditating upon it daily. If you do not feel like reading, get someone to read to you. Discussion of what is being read will help greatly to lift up your spirits.—Josh. 1:8; Ps. 63:6, 7; 77:12.
In all of this you must also have the attitude of wanting to recover from your depression. Even with the help and prayers of others, you must make some effort in harmony with faith. Jesus said to Peter, in foretelling Peter’s future denial of him and the extremely depressed state that Peter experienced afterward: “I have made supplication for you that your faith may not give out; and you, when once you have returned, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32; compare Luke 22:54-62.) Peter had to have feelings also for his Christian brothers, who, after Jesus’ death, needed encouragement and help, and he had to have the desire to help them. Interest in others is one of the greatest helps in overcoming depression. Think of those near you, consider their needs and your responsibility toward them. To some extent they also suffer as you do because of your depression. Consider how happy they will be when you recover from your dejected state.
You should never feel that your case is different from everyone else’s, and that your burden, whatever it may be, is more than you can bear. Do not feel that it is impossible to face the situation with hope for a victorious outcome. The apostle Paul described a situation that depressed him deeply. “In the district of Asia,” he says, “we were under extreme pressure beyond our strength, so that we were very uncertain even of our lives. In fact, we felt within ourselves that we had received the sentence of death. This was that we might have our trust, not in ourselves, but in the God who raises up the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:8, 9) Paul assured the Corinthian Christians, who also endured sufferings, that their tribulation was not impossible to survive: “No temptation has taken you except what is common to men. But God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear, but along with the temptation he will also make the way out in order for you to be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13) There is no situation from which God cannot recover us if we express faith.
Even if you should feel that no one understands your situation—if you feel forsaken by everyone, take comfort from David’s words: “In case my own father and my own mother did leave me, even Jehovah himself would take me up.” (Ps. 27:10) Of course, your brothers in the Christian congregation are not going to forsake you. True, their counsel may sometimes appear to you to be missing the mark—to lack understanding of how you feel. In trying to stir you to make some efforts to help yourself, they may sound too firm. But remember, they are trying to help you, and in your depressed state you are prone to be more easily offended. Listen to what they say, appreciate their interest and do what you can as they offer suggestions.
In addition, make every effort to associate with fellow Christians. They have God’s spirit and can incite you to love and fine works. Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom—freedom from bondage of depression. (Heb. 10:24; 2 Cor. 3:17) Avoid isolating yourself. (Prov. 18:1) Invite your friends to call on you. Attend Christian meetings.—Heb. 10:25.
Since depression is a state in which there is lack of joy, the depressed person must try to have joy in the good things he has and experiences. Dwell on the things for which you should be grateful and joyful; dismiss negative, morbid thoughts. (Phil. 4:8) This will help you to avoid the illnesses that depression can bring, or, if you are depressed because of illness, such wholesome thinking can alleviate your suffering. It may help you to spend a few days or weeks in different surroundings—some pleasant place where you are not constantly reminded of the things associated with your trouble. It is acknowledged in medical circles that “a heart that is joyful does good as a curer, but a spirit that is stricken makes the bones dry.” It is also true that “a joyful heart has a good effect on the countenance, but because of the pain of the heart there is a stricken spirit.”—Prov. 17:22; 15:13.
OTHERS MUST BE LONG-SUFFERING TOWARD DEPRESSED ONES
On the part of relatives and friends, they must remember that it is difficult for the depressed person to help himself or herself. It is also important to be patient, not feeling that the depressed one is trying to be cantankerous or irritating to others. Always speak with kindness and love. There are times, however, when you may need to speak firmly to convince the depressed one of the need to exert himself.
Those in the Christian congregation should do all that they can to comfort and help the dejected individual. Use good sense as to when and how often to call, but do not get discouraged if your efforts do not immediately bear fruit. Do not give the person up as being beyond help. There were depressed ones in the early Christian congregation, prompting the apostle Paul to write: “We exhort you, brothers, admonish the disorderly, speak consolingly to the depressed souls, support the weak, be long-suffering toward all,” and, “Straighten up the hands that hang down and the enfeebled knees.”—1 Thess. 5:14; Heb. 12:12.
Everyone, in his own heart, wants to be happy. If we recognize this fact, we will be sympathetic with the one that is unhappy, realizing that an obstacle very real to that person is blocking the way. With a deep desire to help, we will try to find out, if possible, what the obstacle is, and do what we can to restore happiness. On the other hand, the unhappy, depressed person must strive for a happy state of mind, accepting help in the spirit in which it is offered and making an effort toward recovery, first through prayer and then by doing what is found to be necessary.
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“You should never feel that your case is different from everyone else’s, and that your burden, whatever it may be, is more than you can bear.”
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“There is no situation from which God cannot recover us if we express faith.”