Growing up, I was constantly being reminded of how “blessed” I was. I lived in a fairly decent home, I had been afforded the opportunity to private school education, never wanting for food, clothing and the basic necessities. I had, what appeared to be a better life than my siblings who were being raised by my biological parents abroad, yet I felt incredibly empty. In my young mind, no amount of material things could ever compensate for the massive void I felt from not being a part of a “normal” nuclear family. I could not see past the fact that I had been separated from my birth parents and siblings and felt deprived of the opportunity of forming a relationship with both mother and father. From the outside looking in, one would conclude that I was for the most part a normal teenage girl yet my then living arrangements created feelings of loneliness and rejection very early on that took me down a long road of unhealthy relationships and self-destructive behaviors. As the years progressed, my life became increasingly complicated because added to my already young troubled mind was the responsibility of managing the drama and most times unwanted attention that accompanied the first toxic bond.
So by the time that relationship ended, I had only added to the myriad of unresolved issues that were still buried beneath the surface. In between the years of the first relationship and getting married, my dating life was limited to say the least. During the process came two short term relationships; one that lasted a little under a year, and ended on mutual terms because of geographical distances. The other one lasting only three months and though short lived, was the very test that revealed the ugly festering sores of my unhealed heart. You see, that relationship did not end on my terms like the others did; it ended after a disagreement that resulted in the young man breaking up with me. For more than a week, he had ignored my calls, messages and attempts to reach out to him; naturally I interpreted his actions as rejection. After numerous attempts on my part to resolve the issue without success, I slipped into a state of depression that for the first time in my life led me to thoughts of suicide.
One might ask, how could a failed three-month old relationship cause someone to want to harm themselves. However, those thoughts had very little to do with the length of time that had been invested in the relationship, nor did it have anything to do with whether there were any real feelings for that person or vice versa. My thoughts of suicide had much more to do with the unresolved deep rooted issues stemming back from my childhood. Again, I had been faced with the outcome of someone else’ decision that directly affected how I chose to see my own self-worth; and it triggered those old feelings for which I did not know how to properly appropriate at the time. Not allowing myself time to completely heal from my past, woke up those sleeping demons that had been lying dormant for so long. It was only by God’s divine intervention that I was able, in that moment of complete hopelessness to shake myself out of that place to tell the story today.
Over the years, through time, observation and my own personal experiences, I have gained a certain level of understanding of depression from both a practical and spiritual perspective. I recognize the sensitivity of this topic and felt it necessary to share just a small piece of my personal experience of overcoming chronic depression so that those dealing with like symptoms will be able to relate and perhaps find relief from the information provided in this blog post.
Before I continue, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not a trained professional counselor. The steps that I am about to share with you, are simply preventative methods that I took to help me break the cycle of depression. Healing from depression is definitely not an overnight process; it took me years to fully recover from its cycle. From a practical point of view, I am convinced that beyond God’s intervention, our human will is in fact the strongest element to overcoming this mountain. Here are some of the steps that I took that helped me in the healing process.
1. Writing: I know this sounds so cliché but creating a journal is not just therapeutic, it allows you the privacy to be completely free with your innermost thoughts. You are the only person reading it, so no need for pretty articulate accuracy; you can release raw uncut, uncensored feelings and thoughts that you would not otherwise tell anyone else. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, put pen to paper and let it rip! Allow your deepest, darkest thoughts to spill onto your journal. For me, reading back through my old entries gives me an opportunity to reflect on my progress or lack thereof. It also allows me to reevaluate my thought process, make adjustments if necessary and correct old habits.
2. Music: My choice of music has always been worship whenever I am feeling down simply because its lyrics are not just soothing but directing my thoughts away from whatever I am feeling onto God somehow gives me relief. The scripture says to put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. This method of worshipping is actually my favorite and it has never failed; I call it musical therapy. In fact, some days I do this for hours, and depending on my mood, I pick one song and if the words resonate with me and the message is corresponding to what I am going through, that song stays on repeat. The objective is always to release the negative thoughts by flushing it out with positive words so that you maintain a healthy internal environment. Your genre of music might be different but make sure that the lyrics of the music that you choose to listen to are uplifting, encouraging/inspiring and hopeful. So that means opting for your Adel playlist when you are feeling depressed may not be the best decision; especially if you are suffering from a broken heart! IJS
3. Join a Support Group: During my early adulthood my single friends became my support system; especially following my break ups. We were all around the same age, all going through similar situations during that time in our lives and were able to lean on each other for emotional and moral support. However, often times we also became the outlet for each other’s frustrations; so choosing the right group is also very important as well. You want to connect yourself with people that may be dealing with adverse circumstances but is still able to understand and respect the importance of effective communication. Otherwise, you may end up doing more damage than good to yourselves and each other. Your situations may differ somewhat, but it is always comforting to know that there are others like you that can relate to what you are experiencing on some level or the other and are able to shed some positive light on your situation.
4. Seek Professional Help: My help came in the person of a mentor/spiritual advisor. I reached out to one of the female leaders in my local church following the advice of the young man that I dated for a year. Prior to that, I had never been exposed to the term “mentorship” and had no idea what the whole concept entailed. After my friend heard my story, he strongly suggested that a spiritual mother was just what I needed. During that season of my life, my mentor played a very crucial role in my healing process. She became more of a surrogate mother to me, providing a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a voice of reasoning through her advice using Godly principles. I don’t know if she had ever received any formal training for the role that she played but she was the closest I had come to getting what I considered “professional” help given my background. Going from not talking to anyone at all about what I had experienced to being able to open up to someone whom I considered an authority figure was a relief to me. Also touching base with someone else regarding my progress aided in building discipline through accountability. Sometimes, just the thought of knowing someone else cared and being able to call on that person whenever I was feeling down brought a certain level of healing within itself. It is important to note that, if you are not connected to a church or perhaps are not comfortable with the choices available in the church that you attend, there are other avenues that you can take. There are professionally trained counselors that can provide the support that you need through their services within the frame work of the medical field. Also don’t be ashamed to take advantage of the special call centers available around the clock if you ever get to a point where you feel like you have exhausted all possible options and are now at a point of taking extreme measures. What is most important is that you reach out to someone that has been trained to take on the responsibility of providing sound advice or direction for your steps towards healing and wholeness. It is critical though, that you are open to sharing your most intimate feelings so that that individual will have adequate knowledge of where you are emotionally in order to provide you with the best possible support and outcome.
5. Get Out: Getting dressed up and going out on the town with your friends/support group is just the thing to boost your mood and confidence. The mundane routine of being confined to work, school or home can become depressing in and of itself. Making weekend plans for an outing with the girls or guys or both is definitely something to look forward too. If your budget is tight, a night out doesn’t have to entail dinner at a fancy restaurant, you can find creative ways to have fun. As much as I like fine dining, some of my best GNOs were spent at a friend’s house, ordering pizza, watching a movie, just chilling and having good conversation. And if you’re a single lady with other single female friends, you can even plan a sleep over and make it a late night pamper party. It’s a really good time to connect, share laughs, tears and “Kum Ba Yah” moments together.
6. Help Out/ Volunteer: I found that joining an organization that ministered to the needs of others helped to take my mind off of my own challenges and at the same time gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. During the early stages of my healing process, I would volunteer in my local church in various ministries such as the Singles Ministry, Womens Ministry and Young Girls Mentorship Program which were geared towards meeting the specific needs of those target groups and also provided outreach programs that served the wider community. I got to meet and provide support to young girls on a weekly basis, some of which lived in rural communities and Children Hostels and had been handed the same fate as myself or worse. I also had the opportunity to accompany my women’s group to a local Old Folks Home where we presented them with some much needed supplies and spent the afternoon singing hymns to them. To know that our small gesture was serving as a beacon of light and hope gave me a sense of fulfillment. Additionally, observing and hearing the stories of some of their circumstances provided me with a different perspective on my own situation and also served as a learning experience. Of course, there are a number of none religious organizations that you can join independently that are community service oriented and meet the same objective. E.g. soup kitchens, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Children Hostels/Orphanages, Geriatric Homes etc.
7. Develop Intimacy with God: I saved this one for last because I feel like it has been the most significant step in my road to healing and recovery from depression. I would be remiss if I excluded the fact that during that season when I was dating the guy from the three-month short relationship, I had moved away from God. The biggest mistake that I made in my rededication to Christ was allowing myself to become involved with a guy that was unsaved. I let the fact that I had met him in church sway my decision to even entertain the thought of going out on a first date. He was young, well educated, socially graced, well groomed, goal and career oriented; most of the qualities that a woman would want in a potential husband. However, although he believed in God he confessed early on that he did not have an intimate relationship with God nor did he display any immediate intentions of developing one. Our views on faith were very different and I had every opportunity before becoming exclusive to discontinue the relationship on my own terms, but somehow I thought that I could perhaps convert him into the potential that I saw in my imagination. Rather, I found myself slowly changing who I was and the standards of my faith to fit into his world instead of him conforming to mine. I had lost focus, leaving myself completely open and vulnerable to spiritual and emotional attack. So when thoughts of suicide came up following the breakup from that relationship, I cannot say that I was surprised. In order to overcome that bout of depression, I had to dig myself back into that secret hiding place that I had built all those years ago. A place where, even during my darkest days, there was not even the slightest inclination to end my life because I had given myself entirely over to praise and worship even when I couldn’t find the strength to pray. There is a level of unexplainable comfort that comes from spending quality time in the presence of God. Talking to friends and counselors was helpful but expressing my deepest thoughts to my Heavenly Father brought me the greatest sense of peace. To be able to give all of my cares and concerns to God and not wonder if they were going to be misinterpreted or misused was comforting and therapeutic. Sometimes during my lunch break from work, I would drive to a nearby beach, sit in my car, and spend time alone with God. I would find a scripture that was relatable to what I was dealing with, meditate on the words after I would’ve spent a few minutes in worship then I would pray, releasing all of my cares and concerns in the most natural way. Know that talking to God does not have to be a performance with eloquent words and phrases, be completely honest and open about what you are feeling and let it all out. He can handle it and He knows your thoughts anyway so no need for pretenses! Trust me by the time you’re done throwing off your burdens on him, you will feel a whole lot lighter. Sometimes by the time I was done, I would have to reapply my makeup but the relief that I felt was worth the drive and every ounce of mascara.
If you or someone that you know is battling with depression and thoughts of suicide, my hope and prayer is that you are able to take something away from this blog and apply it to your life so that healing can begin to take place. Also, I cannot express enough, the importance of speaking up, please make a deliberate effort to reach out to someone. Know that whatever you are facing you do not have to suffer in silence alone. Your feelings matter; your life matters! Someone, somewhere is depending on you to survive. Making a permanent decision to correct a temporary problem is never ever the answer.
“Many of life’s failures are experienced by people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison