When you know something, you can’t unknow it. That earthly law is true for our spiritual lives as well. I was raised by my dad and a strict Pentecostal Holiness grandmother. I was taught how to dress, which included, in the South, always wearing a slip. I was not permitted to spend an inordinate amount of time with boys. I was in church every time the doors were open and for special events.
I would not trade any of that, because my brothers and I all serve the Lord today. However, because I grew up knowing what it meant not just to profess Jesus but also to serve him, the beginning of my sinful choices in the area of sexual behavior caused a tension between what I knew to do and what I was doing. I guess you might compare me to the apostle Paul in that way: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).
Depression as a Result of Choices
For me, when I began to sin sexually, a tremendous condemnation-induced depression set in and would not leave. In fact, it persisted over a five-year period. When you know what you’re supposed to be doing and you don’t do it, you can’t help but be tense and frustrated and angry. And that tension and anger and frustration turned inward is what my unprofessional psychological mind would call depression.
This depression was there when I got up, when I walked into the grocery store, and when I laid my head on my pillow at night. My brother had the room next door, as I was still living at home, and he was probably most aware of what was going on. However, neither he nor anyone else could give me the solution.
Let me pause right here. Depression is a real disease. Some people might have bouts of it that last for a little while and are induced by circumstances, but probably in my case of such frequent and even constant episodes, I would’ve been diagnosed as clinically depressed had I let anyone diagnose me. Instead, I put the record of self-hatred and worthlessness on the turntable and let the needle spin. And that’s an apt metaphor.
Truly the pathways our brain travels down over and over physically become deeper and easier to travel. The more I dwelled on something either good or bad, the more prone I was to feel that way about myself. In fact, when you’re depressed, you sometimes forget whom the thoughts even come from. You feel like God is condemning you. Or at least you feel like you’re condemning yourself. My depression was a result of choices. I’m not here at this moment to talk about what physical or genetic tendencies can lead to clinical depression. I’m certainly not qualified for that. What I want to talk about are my choices, their direct impact on my feelings of hopelessness, and how I found hope again.
What I’m about to discuss may sound juvenile, but I was a juvenile of the time my depression started after all. After high school, my world was opened up in some ways it probably should not have been. I still lived at home and I still worked a local job, but in college, you can go to school if you feel like it and not go if you don’t. Whereas one of my nicknames in middle and high school was “Goody Squared,” even a good girl’s worldviews as a Christian are constantly challenged as close by as in a small-town college.
Remember those days with me: You’re beginning to spread your wings and feel what it is to finally be an adult and be able to make your own choices. At my house, I no longer had a curfew. All of that “looseness” combined to create some bad situations for me to put myself in with my then-boyfriend-now- husband. Although I don’t believe that I need to air our dirty laundry here in the public arena, I think you will get the picture.
Every time we moved physically closer, my heart was in a cataclysm. My spirit knew to do the right thing, but my body and my soul were sinning against God. Like I said, for me that was my depression trigger. The activities in which we were engaged brought continuous attention, but then the pull of doing right caused guilt. The results? Closeness and thrill for the moment, followed by regret, shame, and self-hatred afterward.
And that cycle lasted for five years. You would think that if sexual sin was the cause of my depression, that when I got married and everything was “permitted,” my depression would’ve left. However, that is not the case. And that note gets me to the point of how I found help and how you can too.
Advice from My Journey
There are no tricks or magic beans in this road to wholeness, and you definitely need to get professional help if you have depression that just won’t go away. I was plain stupid for not doing more to get help with mine, especially since it lasted so long. But if you’re like me, and you know the cause of your depression and you know the source of help, here’s some advice that might assist you in your journey.
1. Get help from friends.
Don’t stop talking. I have the same two friends I relied for so much help during this time. They drove me around the car, took me out to eat, and let me spend the night with them as I ranted over and over about how much I hated myself and how no one liked me and how I wasn’t good enough. I honestly can’t even remember everything I said because I have always been happy. This new depressed person was honestly really foreign to me. But regardless of what I said, I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant to listen to.
I could’ve stopped talking, but by the grace of God, I didn’t. Not even when I felt suicidal. I’ll talk about that in a later post, but I want to say at this point that you can’t get help if no one knows you need it. The word “mask” is so overused in our society, but whatever it is you are wearing to cover up your depression, make sure to keep talking to somebody, and if that person won’t listen, find somebody else.
It really doesn’t matter if they know what to say even. You just need someone who is willing to listen to you and not let you talk yourself into a decision that will have lasting impact.
2. Resist old thinking patterns.
When you’re free, there will still always be a temptation to go back into the old ways. You might think it’s weird that I say temptation, but on the other side of this journey of depression, I realize that for me, it can be an occasional temptation not only to have depressive thoughts and wallow in them, but also to try to use them to manipulate others into feeling sorry for me. There you go. I said it out loud. For me, a few years ago, I had an episode that lasted about thirty minutes in a bookstore parking lot.
For those few minutes, I was captive again to thoughts that I had not had for years. This time, though, was different. I knew what it was like to be free, so I began to talk out loud in my car to my thoughts and to Satan, the originator of anything that’s not godly, and I said I would not believe those thoughts again. I was free and I was going to remain free.
Sometimes you have to say out loud like a lunatic or read from a card if you don’t feel like saying it, that you are free. Our words are weapons against the enemy, and we do not need to be afraid to use them.
You may be depressed, or you may know someone who is. If you fit one of those categories, please don’t make this post about blaming yourself for your depression. Jesus absolutely adores you, no matter what choices you do or do not make. Hear my heart, though, when I say that personal choices that violate the Word of God can cause painful mental and physical side effects.
What to Do If You’re Depressed
If you are feeling trapped, get help from His Word, from friends, from a counselor, and from processing out loud. But remember that there’s a woman here who has come out on the other side. There is hope for you. As a matter of fact, there’s some Scripture that sustained me through so many of my days. May I end by sharing it with you? Psalm 27:13, 14 says, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
You will see His goodness, friend. I’m living proof. If you want us to pray for you and hold out hope for you, please leave us a comment below. We’re all in this together.
If you are struggling with depression and are having thoughts of suicide or know someone in your life who is suicidal, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak to a trained professional. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, and the call is free.
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If you want to learn more from Suzy about depression, check out her other articles/episodes in this depression series: Avoiding Comparison That Leads to Depression and When Suicide Seems Like the Answer.
*Updated and adapted from post originally published November 4, 2017.