West Virginia Morning: When You Love Someone Who has Depression

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This morning, the world gleams, scrubbed clean by an overnight washing. Amidst the whispering grays and muddy browns I caught a glimmer outside my door, and I was captured by the shine. The air smells like earth and Bonnie thinks the flooded out earthworms that line our street a delicious snack.

This week, I cleaned out my garden boxes, pulled up stubborn weeds and gathered the maple leaves that have collected in the corners. I tilled the soil and broke up any large chunks with my fingers. I took an inventory of seeds leftover from last spring and made a mental note of what is still needed. But I held off in the planting, enjoying the look of the smooth, flat surface of the beds. I love to dream about what will happen in that sleeping soil. The anticipation is part of the joy.

Though my greens still wait to unfold from shell, I have planted other, not so lovely seeds these past couple days. Wounding words from someone I love sit heavy in my heart and they are taking root. I am watching this happen and I cannot seem to pull them up out of the soil of my heart. Things have been dark for so long and I am tired. I do not feel safe to speak for fear my words will be twisted, ridiculed, turned against me in some way. So I have been quiet, praying inwardly, loathe to let my voice escape.

Last night I searched the concordance for scriptures on depression. I need more arrows in my quiver. My reading kept bringing me back to the book of Joel, and I was broken by what I read. This unknown, undated prophet describes “the day of the Lord,” a period of judgment in which strange and terrible things will come to pass; things like, days covered in darkness, armies that invade like consuming fire, and the moon turning to blood. As I read, this dreadful prophecy, it seemed an apt metaphor for what mental illness can do to a family.

What the locust swarm has left the great locusts have eaten; what the great locusts have left the young locusts have eaten; what the young locusts have left other locusts have eaten.” (v.4)

This is the kind of empty I have been feeling. So much has been taken from us by this locust-depression. Who can describe how it devours and steals all that is light?

A nation has invaded my land, powerful and without number, it has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and ruined my fig trees. It has stripped off their bark and thrown it away, leaving their branches white … Surely the joy of mankind is withered away.” (vs. 6-7, 12b)

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 350 million people worldwide experience depression. It is an epidemic. Although there are effective treatments for depression, less than half of those diagnosed ever get treatment. When we talk about depression, we refer to more than the normal ups and downs we experience on a day-to-day basis in response to life’s hassles. Depression is a cluster of symptoms that occurs for an extended period of time that can be a serious health risk.

Is it okay to talk about this here? We’ve been navigating this thing alone. Some weeks are better than others but some days, the locusts swarm and I feel like I am eaten alive. My West Virginia morning posts have been part of my therapy, a way to find beauty in this not-so-beautiful place we are in.

The prophet Joel says,

‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

I have been unable to pray this dark time away. I have worked in mental health now for over twenty years, but this experience feels like a millstone around my neck when it comes to helping someone I love. I cannot control how another person seeks healing. So I will be sharing the journey through the eyes of the other—the one who loves and sees and keeps trying. The one who grows tired but still can look out over the soil of a relationship and dream about seeds.

This coming week, this is my memory verse:

the locusts

Comments

  1. says

    Deeply stated, Laura. The disease depression entered the life of our family like an earthquake – completely changed our landscape years ago. Today seeds planted in therapy sessions, rehab centers, AA and Al-Anon rooms, and mental health centers have put out roots and reached up through the dark and the damp, yet giving, soil. God is restoring those years. I pray the same for countless others who face this unfortunate and misunderstood twist in life. You, special lady are a delight.

    • says

      Van, how nice to see you here, my friend. It gives me heart to hear about stories such as yours, those who are in restoration. I know what you say, how you describe it as an earthquake. We have been shaken. Thank you, for speaking up here, for helping to shoulder this burden. Such a gift.

  2. says

    Depression is a very hard and dark place. I was depressed for many years before my ‘healing came’… i was pushing inward lot’s of trauma and it took it’s toll on my body and my brain. I functioned but I was not fully alive. I was a walking mess. Therapy eventually helped. Jesus through the Holy Spirit did most of the internal work. It takes lot’s of time and lot’s of patience.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      Time. And lots of patience. I am taking these words of wisdom to heart, Sharon. Thank you for opening yours to me. It means so much to hear the stories of others who have walked this path.

  3. says

    Laura, Just this week I read statistics on depression & it also used the word “epidemic” in its findings which I found both shocking and sad. It may truly be time for there to be more open discussion on this topic. May we stop losing this battle but come alongside of one another to carry others across the victory line. What I have always found interesting about those verses in Joel is this – there are swarming locusts (those that overrun), crawling locusts (those which creep all over), consuming locusts (those which will absorb & eat away) and chewing locusts ((those which will crush & grind down). But the effect is the same – attempts at destroying the harvest. But God can overcome the locusts and former times of sorrow and pain be erased. Such hope to be found in our God & in prayer. Blessings to you & yours!

    • says

      When I get a chance, I want to read other translations of these scriptures, Joanne. As I was reading last night, I was struck by how beautiful the restoration is described. Yes, God can overcome the locusts. Thank you for your sweet encouragement.

  4. Ro elliott says

    laura…. So glad you are stepping out here…it’s so important to step out of the shadows….even though it can be scary… This is important…. This is real… I am close to a young family who is walking in this land too… These scriptures do tell the story… Blessings and much Grace to you as you walk this journey in the quite places and here on the blog!!!!

    • says

      I am learning that there are so many whose lives are touched by depression, Ro. The numbers are so sterile, but these stories beg to heard. Thank you for being the listening ears for the young family you mention. I know you must be a wonderful blessing to them.

  5. says

    Laura, I will be reading, following, praying. Yes, we need to talk about this, to walk through this together as the Body of Christ, to stand with one another in love and compassion for as long as it takes. Thank you!

  6. says

    Oh sweet friend. This brings tears. I know a bit about this feeling of helplessness in the face of such darkness. I want to learn too.
    And just yesterday, in our little prayer circle, a young woman cried out for help for this very thing. She has PTSD. My heart hurt listening to her speak through tears about crying out to God and feeling as though He has turned a deaf ear. I wish I had answers that work like miracles. We offer her our love and our prayers. But there must be more.
    I’m going to be praying for you, Laura. Please let me know if there is more I can do. xoxo

    • says

      Prayer is the best gift. Thank you, Linda. There are so many hurting. It’s scary to share so openly, but the enemy thrives on secrets. We are facing the light and standing together. Love you.

  7. says

    And He will, Laura — repay for the years the locusts have eaten. I have to remind myself that’s on His timetable, not ours; in His way, not ours. A powerful memory verse for the week. Thanks for sharing, Laura.

    • says

      Yes, thank you for that reminder, Laura. God’s timing is perfect. I know he is prospering my heart through this, that he uses it all for glory. I’m praying for stronger faith. Thank you for the encouragement, Laura.

  8. BJ says

    Thank you for going there, Laura. It’s hard. So, so hard. We need more discussion about depression. For those caught in the darkness and thosr who love the ones caught.

  9. says

    My heart goes out to you, dear Laura. In this time of darkness keep running into the Light. And keep sharing. A burden shared is less heavy. Peace and love and prayers, my friend…sheila

    • says

      Thank you, Sheila. Yes, we have already felt a lightening of the load from this sharing. I’m so grateful for the kind encouragement of others, especially right now. Much love.

  10. says

    Laura, we have battled (and continue to battle) both mental illness and clinical depression in our family. I hear that heart pain in your words here, and I want to jump through my computer to hug you and pray with you and for you.

    A verse that really encouraged me during my personal season of darkness was Proverbs 23:18: “There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” On the darkest of days, it’s hard to imagine how God is going to fix the seemingly un-fixable, but a dawn of hope is surely coming. He restores broken things.

    Praying for you and yours today, sweet friend. Much love

    • says

      Ah, Lyli, thank you so much, sweet friend. I know you have walked a hard path too. I’m sending a hug through my computer to you as well :). I’m going to print out that verse. Hope is always a good thing. Much love to you.

  11. Lynn D. Morrissey says

    Laura, I’m so very sorry for the depression you are experiencing, and the wounds of a loved one. I’ve experienced them, and I’ve known depression. Looking back I realize that my first experience with it was when I was around eleven or twelve. . . . but not the kind that gripped me later, causing me to want to end my life. Mercifully, God’s hand was on me, and His compassions are great. I have never again experienced those depths of depression (really despondency and despair), but I still undergo depression at various times in my life. You’ve mentioned key things in this post that can help, and I’m so glad that you are making yourself vulnerable (not just for your sake, but for others’). Depression still has such a stigma, sadly especially in the Church, so this post combats that. Transparency helps to overcoming depression.And transparency is a form of expression. Depression literally is pushing down, and expression is pressing out. Pressing your words into a blogpost or in your journal will greatly aid the expression of your angst. What is hidden cannot be healed. For me, God’s gift of journaling has been absolutely essential to my healing. You, in the professional health field, are likely familiar with the work of psychologist and researcher Dr. James Pennebaker and his studies regarding therapeutic, reflective journaling. His research results were stunning. Participants of traumatic episodes underwent remarkable healing by just writing for twenty minutes each on for consecutive days. Four days! Imagine healing Christians will experience when their written words are directed to the Lord, who ultimately is the only One who can comfort and heal us in our depression. Joel says it well to return to the Lord with all our hearts. And he expresses that it is good to mourn. The Lord loves you so much and carries your burdens. He collects your precious tears in His bottle. And may we collect them in ours. I’m so grateful you are writing about this. Bless you, dearest one.
    Love,
    Lynn.

    • says

      Much love to you, Lynn, in your journey with this illness. Writing has always been a great source of healing for me. Thank you for the kind encouragement in that endeavor. The research you cite is indeed astounding! The challenge we face when it is one we love who is going through the depressive episode as opposed to ourselves , is that we have little control over the seeking of help for that person. Finding the right balance between surrender and action has been a difficult one for this fixer-type person. I’m grateful for this community who has helped me feel loved and supported and given me a safe place to share the hard parts of the journey. Much love to you, sweet friend.

      • Lynn D. Morrissey says

        Thanks so much for this sweet re;ply, Laura. You know, when you write, I couldn’t quite tell if it were you or another for whom you care that is actually depressed. I sense now, the latter. And you are right….you can’t make someone get help. But I will say that when I underwent severe depression, it always helped to have someone reach out in love with a kind word, a touch, a prayer. And oh my! The power of prayer! God will help this person and give you the insights and understanding you need to help too. lifting you up, dear Laura.
        Love
        Lynn

  12. says

    Laura,
    I have been where you are, and I know how helpless it feels to be there. When God is quiet, it is easy to think He isn’t listening. He is more than listening; He is working. Keep trusting; keep praying, and if the one who is struggling seems to be pushing you away, refuse to go. These are important stories to tell. Despite the common assumptions, they can happen to anyone. Praying for you, Laura! Be encouraged! Victory and joy are possible!!
    Shaunie

  13. Lori says

    Thank you Laura, for the honesty, and the hope. I experience at times debilitating anxiety. I remember after it came upon me flying in a airplane and wishing it would crash. I couldn’t find, see or hear God. Scripture was dry and parched. The major part of my healing came from medication. But I have had to learn how to live life differently with more calm, less activity, more quiet (reap lugs always with me), mor contemplation less talk. The ocean, my garden and my hammock are my healing places. I tend to mostly read Psalms and always find comfort in David’s struggle .

    • says

      I’m so glad to hear how things have changed for you, Lori. It gives me much hope. God works in many ways, yes, even through medication :). You offer wisdom here about living a quieter life. This is what gives me sure footing too, and perhaps I need to take a pause and re-evaluate some things. Much love to you, friend, as you continue seeking God in your healing.

  14. says

    The Word works. HIS leading to Joel is encouraging.

    “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
    The crawling locust,
    The consuming locust,
    And the chewing locust,
    My great army which I sent among you.”

    Only God, the Creator of time, promises to restore the years that have been taken. And the most encouraging part, in my opinion, is the end, “My great army which I sent amoung you.” God’s restoration is complete, even if we planted the garden. Even if it was our own fault. He’d never send an army without cause, but, HE says, even still, I will restore.

    So, seeds of guilt, regret and shame He pulls out by the roots leaving nothing to remain but fertile soil, fit for The Master’s use.

    I love that verse.

    You & God are in a good place as together you clean out garden boxes, pull stubborn weeds and gather old leaves that have collected in the corners of your heart, to prepare and restore the soil of your heart and soil.

    ipray4u

  15. says

    I like what Sheila says about running to the light. That dark tunnel of blame, anger, fear, self pity, and self hate is so black and heavy as it presses down to smother those who are effected. Jesus is the LIGHT of LIFE and in His Word is fullness of joy. We would like to fix those who hurt and although we try, it must come from a power outside of you and me. The supernatural visitation of the Holy Spirit with the Angels of God surrounding your loved one to bring about peace. Begin to softly under your breath – claim that presence of peace, when you are close by your loved one. I understand, and pray for you – your family and your loved ones.

    • says

      Yes, thank you, Hazel. This, “it must come from a power outside of you and me.” I have to keep arriving here over and over again. Much love to you, Hazel and thank you for these words of encouragement.

    • says

      Wow, Dr. Michelle (may I call you Dr. Michelle? :)) I would love to hear more about your work and the book you are writing. I sent you a message on Facebook. Thank you for your kind encouragement.

      • says

        Laura, I keep coming back to this post. By 2020, depression will be the greatest epidemic worldwide. We must do what we can to collapse the stigma and help people find God’s help and hope. I’m so proud of you for being vulnerable and sharing from the heart. It is truly by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony that will draw others to Him! Keep up the good work my friend!!

  16. says

    That verse has is full of hope and promise. You — and your words — are beautiful and a light. Keep shining, keep hoping. The Lord is always, always, good, even when circumstances aren’t. Prayers and hugs.

  17. says

    Oh, sweet friend. I do love you so and pray for Jeff and for you and for your boys in the midst of this hard time. Lord, have mercy. Hear our prayer. Bring light and hope and healing. One step at a time. That’s all I know to do.

  18. Mary Gemmill says

    Laura, you cannot imagine how your words have affected me.
    Thank you for having the courage to write them and share them.
    I would value a private conversation about this, should you have both the time and the inclination?
    gemmill.mary@gmail.com.
    I have a struggle that I cannot share publicly, so maybe we could share the help we both receive, with each other.
    I wonder if you could write a Wings of Klaio book about this, because such a book could help vast numbers as depression becomes a 1 in 10 issue for people in this generation.
    Are you exhausted ?
    Overload often manifests as depression, telling me I need a BREAK~!
    Prayers for the right help for you, from the Father who created you, who knows BEST what you need to bring you relief from this present suffering.
    I know that whatever He has allowed this for will be used beautifully in the future to help others, as He always redeems our suffering some way, some how.
    Love you, Laura. xx

  19. says

    Laura,
    Praying for whoever has the depression – that the healing hand of our Lord will be placed upon him/her. Our family too has dealt with this and recovered. It is certainly necessary to pour out love, patience and all the fruit of the spirit on the person. It is hard to tell in your post whether the person is you or someone close to you. No matter – we pray for God to lift their soul to the heights and to lessen the burden and the darkness.
    Blessings,
    Janis

    • says

      Janis, thank you so much for your prayers. Though I am not the one experience depression, this standing by place is a very dark place to be. I’m so grateful for you and your prayers and encouragement. Much love to you.

  20. A Mom says

    Thanks for sharing, Laura. We are walking through this valley of the shadow of death as well with our young adult daughter. After keeping it to ourselves to not disturb our daughter, we have brought it up for prayer in our church family, and it has helped us not feel so alone in bearing this burden. Now others know what weight we are carrying, as our daughter has attempted suicide but was mercifully stopped by the interruption from friends. As we pray and wait, praying for God to resurrect and bring life out of the feeling of death, we are thankful that His Hand can be seen in the small blessings that have come along in the midst of the trial. It has felt as if God brought different people to encourage me along the way, to help me not lose hope. May your community here lift you up to His throne, and together may we see the mercy of God in our hurting homes and world. God does mean it for good.

    • says

      Bless you, my friend. I am adding my prayers to yours for your dear daughter. I’m so sorry for these struggles. God can resurrect even the darkest parts of our lives, yes. May the One who breathed life into being breathe new life into your daughter’s heart. Waiting and praying with you, beloved.

  21. says

    Thank you Laura, for bringing darkness to light. It’s SO hard when someone close to you struggles with something you feel is not yours to name – it almost feels like they steal part of your story, part of your ability (writing) to unfurl and move toward the light. I’m glad you’re finding ways to tell it. Praying that grace will open wide around you and yours.

  22. says

    I’ve experienced episodes of deep depression, my longest lasted two years. During that time it felt like my whole world turned the color gray and I was isolated in some kind of bubble where the love of and connection with others and feelings of joy couldn’t penetrate. I don’t know why God allowed it or why, after two years, a light came on in my dark tunnel. I do know that, while depression has come knocking when circumstances are hard, it’s never gripped me like that since. Praise be to God! I think it’s horrible to be the one struggling with depression, but I think being the one who helplessly stands next to and watches a loved one struggle has to be even harder. My prayers for God’s peace and comfort and wisdom for you and His healing and deliverance for the one struggling.

    • says

      Oh, Elizabeth, thank you for understanding! This standing by has been such a hard place to be. I’m sorry you’ve had this particular struggle to journey with, but grateful you have been in a place of light recently. I am sending my love and gratitude to you, dear friend. ((hugs))

    • says

      I never had read Joel from this perspective either, Megan, but the words just seemed to jump off the page at me this time around. I love that about scripture. It really is a living thing. Love you back.

  23. tinuviel says

    Oh, Laura, I’m so sorry you have to walk through this trial too. Several people I love are dealing with depression and other mental illness. Some are responding well to treatment; some aren’t. And then there’s the added locust swarm of “self-medicating.” Sometimes it feels like watching a car accident. You see disaster coming but are powerless to avert it. God is not powerless, but when He delays in visibly responding, it’s tempting to lose heart.

    One time, years ago now, when I taught a journaling workshop and shared about lament in Scripture and for ourselves, a participant pointed out that Psalm 139:11-12 could apply to spiritual darkness as much as physical darkness:
    11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
    12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

    So, my friend, remember that the Lord is with you in the darkness, though you cannot see Him. He is with your loved one in the darkness, too. He sees the pain. I think of Psalm 23’s dark valley as well.

    There is still such stigma in many churches about mental illness, even though Elijah (at minimum) illustrates it in the Scriptures. I appreciate your courage to share here. May the Lord heal and protect your family and strengthen you for the journey. He is with you in it.

    • says

      Ooh, thank you, C, for sharing that verse and that insight. I’m especially looking for scripture to pray right now and that one is perfect. So many, it seems, are impacted by this illness. I”ve been touched by the encouragement and support. I pray my words might encourage someone else too. Much love to you, my friend.

  24. says

    Psalm 25:16-17 “Turn to me and show me Your favour, for I am lonely and oppressed. Relieve the troubles of my heart and lead me out of my distress.” Praying for you and your loved ones, Laura.

  25. Pamm says

    Laura, your loved one is blessed to have you to love them, understand, and walk this dark night of the soul with them. Many, even Christians, are suffering in silence. They are told to put their “Super Christian” cape on and get over it. It’s not that simple. It takes ministry to the spirit, soul (mind-will-emotions), and body.

    I’ve been in the pit of depression and you feel as if you’ll never feel joy again. All hope is gone. In my case, I even felt as if God had turned away from me. Suicide knocked on the door of my soul. Thankfully, I had a dear friend who walked with me down that dark road and prayed for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. The only thing in the Bible (Living Translation) that I found comfort in was the Psalms. David said and prayed the words I could not give voice to.

    Psalm 40 is my testimony… 1I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

    Laura, thank you for your openness and honesty in starting this much needed conversation about depression. May God give you His grace and bring help and deliverance to your loved one.

    • says

      Pammy,

      I’m sorry you’ve had to walk this road, but I am grateful that you have such a good friend to intercede for you. I pray I can be as faithful for my loved one. Psalm 40 is a beautiful song. Thank you for sharing this little bit of your story here. Much love.

  26. says

    Thank you for sharing the darkness you’re walking through, inviting us to see your determination to shine the light of truth. Makes me think of John 1:5, the light shines…the darkness does not comprehend/understand/overcome (or can never extinguish) it. Such different choices various translators make with that word. Given this context of the darkness of mental illness–of depression, specifically–creates some thoughtful possibilities of how to read this line. My heart is aching from some intimate news related to this struggle you’re in; I’m finding I’ve been in it, too…I just didn’t know it. Let us love with the light; and let the light love.

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