"You Don't Look Depressed..."

    February 13, 2019 | Tricia Eshleman

    I remember the first time I shared with a stranger about a big secret in my life. I was young, in college, and worked part-time at a bookstore. A customer approached me one day and asked if I knew of a book that could help her with depression. Much to my own surprise, I told her about a book that helped me with my depression. I had shared with this stranger my big secret. At that point in my life, very few people knew my diagnosis and I worked my hardest to hide it. Her response was, “Why would you need to read a book about depression? You don’t look like you are depressed.” Back then I looked at other people through tinted glasses often thinking they are so normal, they have it all together, and they would never struggle with what I struggle with. I didn’t tell this lady many details about my depression, but I want to be authentic with you so we can see one another through God’s eyes, not those tinted glasses. I want to share my story so you can see how God helps me to fight daily something that Satan wants to defeat me with—depression.

    I have had symptoms of anxiety and depression as far back as I can remember. I was officially diagnosed at 18. I still clearly remember the day that I had hit one of my lowest points. I had a plan, I was going to end my life. As I was about to swallow a bottle of pills, I felt a tug to go and read my Bible, something I didn’t do often. As I was crying on my bed, I opened my Bible to Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous, do not be fearful do not be discouraged for I am the Lord your God and will be with you wherever you go.” God was with me. He always had been and always would be with me. It was then that I realized God was my Father who would never leave me and through Him I could be strong enough to go on living the life I was drowning in. That night, God won. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I put on my helmet of salvation when I chose to open up my Bible and not give in to Satan’s plan to end my life. 

    I would love for the story of my depression to end here, hand it to you in a pretty wrapped box, and say “I lived happily ever after and the depression disappeared.”  But I can’t. I can’t say “that’s it, I became a Christian and life was so pretty after that.” It’s not my story and if you are a Christian more than likely you have discovered that as well. Over the years I have experienced short bouts of depression but recently I fell into another extended time of deep depression and anxiety. I struggled with knowing the why. I now had a husband, family, and good friends—so why was I once again in this extremely dark place? I went days without sleeping, tried numerous medications, had constant headaches, was fearful of doing social activities, and had suicidal ideations. Thankfully my husband intervened and we worked together so I could once again get to a place of managing my depression and anxiety. 

    God doesn’t promise a trouble-free life and does not sugar coat what it means to follow Him. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Life will be hard and full of battles. 

    I can now look back at my depression and see it as a stronghold that Satan has and is still using in my life. By definition, a stronghold is a created resistance to the truth. When battling depression, my mind creates a resistance to the truth. Paul writes about this thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surprisingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it 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.” We don’t know exactly what this thorn was in Paul’s life, but we do know that it kept him on his knees. He had to fight the thorn, his stronghold, but in turn, Christ’s power was revealed in his life. 

    Sometimes, this stronghold of depression, this thorn in my side, is too difficult to fight on my own. Counselors, psychiatrists, and medication are tools that God has given me to help fight this stronghold in my life and take my thoughts captive. In the past, I believed the lie that I am not a good enough Christian and that is why my depression hasn’t gone away. I have Christian friends, with the very best intentions, tell me to pray and read my Bible more and my depression will be cured. We can’t always fight the battle alone. If you are diagnosed with any other type of illness, yes, you pray and draw close to the Lord, but you also seek medical care. It takes courage and is sometimes a challenge to get help from the resources God has given us, but when it helps to break the stronghold of depression, it is worth it.

    A word I often repeat to myself to fight depression is temporary. Depression might be something I struggle with the rest of my life here on earth but when I remember the word temporary, I’m reminded life with my Savior is eternal and these battles with depression are only temporary. It helps me know that living this life full of battles is totally worth it.