The sun starts shining through the gap in the blinds. I roll over and bury my head in the pillow. I just don’t want to get up today. Everything seems so pointless. I feel so tired. I just want to hibernate. I’ve got soccer tonight. I don’t care. It just doesn’t seem fun anymore. The thought of breakfast makes me feel ill. I don’t think I can face uni today. I doubt anyone will notice if I don’t go.
It’s felt like a long night. I was awake at 3am and now again at 6am. I get out of bed and go for a run. The whole time I’m running I have thoughts racing around in my head. I keep replaying the conversation I had with my tutor yesterday. I can’t believe I was so stupid to ask that question. I should have known the answer. I feel the butterflies in my stomach as I think about going to uni today. I’ve got so much to get done. I have no idea where to start.
Many of us will occasionally have days like these. But for someone who suffers from depression or anxiety as a mental illness, this can be a daily experience. These thoughts or feelings may last for weeks or months.
How should we think about depression and anxiety? And how can we get help? The following thoughts are by no means comprehensive, but you might find them helpful as you think through these important issues.
Firstly, depression and anxiety are illnesses. There is no more guilt or shame entailed in being diagnosed with a mental illness than if you were diagnosed with something like diabetes. Mental illness is one of many struggles we face living in a world that is damaged by the effects of sin. Romans 8:20-23 speaks of the whole of creation groaning as it waits for a time when everything will be renewed. The renewal of all things will include new bodies for those of us who belong to God (1 Cor 15:42-43) and with this we look forward to new minds as well – minds free of illness.
Secondly, depression and anxiety can be treated. Doctors and psychologists are more and more aware of the symptoms and treatments for depression and anxiety. There are a number of different medications that can be prescribed. Psychologists can be very helpful in giving you skills to re-educate the way your mind works so you can learn to say ‘no’ to unhelpful thoughts and replace them with constructive patterns of thinking. They can also help you with skills in relaxation and time management. Find a good GP and go from there.
Thirdly, good friends make a big difference. If one of your friends suffers from depression or anxiety, you can help by being faithful. You can help your friend by always being there for them, being a really good listener and by speaking the truth in love to them. Remind them often of the truth that God loves them and is in control. Pray for them and with them.
Fourthly, God cares. We look to the cross to make sense of everything. How much does God love us? He sent his only Son to die for us. While we may go through all kinds of difficulties in this life, the objective truth of God’s love never changes. God cares and he listens when we cry out to him. Reading the Psalms can be a great reminder of this. Not only do they remind us of God’s faithfulness, but they teach us to cry out to God in our angst and sadness. Keep listening and talking to this loving God.
For more advice on dealing with depression and anxiety visit www.beyondblue.org.au