It’s OK to come into the light

Depression is not a black and white issue. It's a very real thing that affects millions. I'm choosing to shine a light on the subject.
Depression is not a black and white issue. It’s a very real thing that affects millions. I’m choosing to shine a light on the subject.

Anyone who knows me realizes that I’ve received many a diagnoses in my life. I was born with Spina Bifida and I have four auto-immune diseases. What some may not realize is that one of the most profound diagnoses of my life happened when I was 18.

I was diagnosed with depression.

I had known something wasn’t right for a while but didn’t know how to best verbalize it. I was taken to see a mental health professional when I was in high school and finally I had answers for the constant confusion, “dull-headedness,” sadness, anger and even a general achiness.

Various prescriptions have been used to control my physical symptoms since that time, now half my life. I had to stop each one for various reasons but seem stable on the one I’m on now. I’ve also worked through many issues in talk/behavioral therapy over the years with the most successful work happening in the last decade or so. Another major component of this is my involvement in the program Celebrate Recovery.

Why share this story?

I’ve known for a while I was supposed to share my story of living with depression but wasn’t sure what the message was supposed to be. I’ve prayed, considered and tried to listen to God’s voice in this matter. What I believe to be “the message” is not as spiritual or ethereal as one might think.

The truth is, many misconceptions still abound about depression. There’s still a stigma and that means people who need treatment don’t get what they need to heal. We are created by God and I firmly believe we are to take care of our “temple” … be it mind, body or soul. So why are we so afraid to recognize when we have a mental illness and to receive treatment for that ailment?

We as a society and as humans feel the need to ferret out the source of every problem, every issue. Depression has been blamed on sin, on personal decisions, on family history … or treated like it doesn’t even exist.

As we’ve learned more about depression, the physical chemistry component has taken forefront in a growing number of people’s minds. “It has nothing to do with spirituality or emotions. It’s just some misfiring in the brain. You can’t do anything about that” is the common thread.

The whole person

Depression is like being in a fog. It's like having a giant animal sitting on your chest, cutting of your air. It's like losing a piece of who you are.
Depression is like being in a fog. It’s like having a giant animal sitting on your chest, cutting off your air. It’s like losing a piece of who you are.

As someone who has lived with depression and studied it from a medical, behavioral and spiritual standpoint, I firmly believe that depression affects the whole person. God created us to be interconnected human beings both within our own bodies and with each other. When one part of us is out of kilter, the rest of us is “off” too, even if we don’t realize it at the time.

I do believe depression can start as guilt from a bad decision or a sin. But that doesn’t mean that all that needs to take place is a quick trip to confession and reading one’s Bible. That guilt will eat at a person until it affects their ability to function mentally. It will also take a toll on their body and, I believe, lead to chemical imbalances in the brain.

Or, depending on the individual, depression could start as a chemical imbalance in the brain. The effects of that cause confusion, unstable emotions and so much more. This wears on a person after a while and it is not uncommon to doubt one’s faith and to see definite changes in behavior.

My point is that no matter where it originates, depression is a vicious, vicious circle. No matter what the cause, each part of the person needs treatment, needs healing. Just as the body works together (mind, body, soul), so should the treatment plan.

Participating in therapy and seeking spiritual guidance from a trusted person of faith are not going to be as effective if the body’s chemistry is still screwed up. Just like taking medicine is only treating part of the problem if we don’t deal with the mental and spiritual issues.

Join me in the light

sign-of-hope-1400206-mI hope that by sharing my story, someone who secretly lives with depression will realize it’s OK to come into the light. I hope and pray that they will seek ongoing treatment without shame.

My prayer is that whoever is reading this will see there is hope.

25 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Jaime, this is your best yet! I congratulate you for being willing to be so transparent about such a sensitive subject. I am joining with you in hoping that this will encourage those who are still living with depression and have not received help. You are a true inspiration!!

  2. Thanks for sharing! Sometimes we can feel alone in our struggles. I think it’s important to open ourselves up to help us as well as others! Depression is one of the things I inherited from my family. I try really hard to deal with it but it’s not always easy.

  3. Jamie, You never know what another person is going through. I can see your post encouraging those that feel alone to reach out for help. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a brave and encouraging post! In addition to my travel blogging, I am a full-time writer for a psychiatry and mental health site and applaud when anyone moves forward and says, “this isn’t something to hide” but is something to talk about and treat. Sending over big hugs!

  5. Jamie, this is such an encouraging post, and it takes away that stigma that truly does exist. A church I used to attend a long, long, long time ago basically taught that a person just needed to “be right with God.” And while depression can stem from guilt, as you mentioned, I agree…. it’s a whole person focus that treatment needs to take into account. Mind, body, spirit…. they all go together. Thank you for being willing to share your story.

  6. Thank you, Mel! Yes…I think many people and churches think that they have to either “just get right with God” or “just think happier thoughts” and it will all go away. It’s just wrong.

  7. What a terrific post, and such courage to share it with the entire world. And you know, you nailed it on the head about “just get right with God”. I wish it was as simple as that, half the world would be out of depression. Considering what you’ve been through, your honesty makes it even more wonderful.

  8. I love that you are courageous enough to post this openly. Despite being a real issue, too many people feel ashamed or worried about saying anything about depression out loud. Just a few years of SAD has given me a tiny glimpse into feelings out of my control. This is what I love most about blogging… connecting and telling others that they aren’t alone.

    1. Yes, it is a very real issue that part of me says “what if someone reads this and won’t hire me.” But you know what? I don’t want to work for someone like that. So it’s a good thing 🙂

  9. Thanks for sharing so candidly and competently. Depression is such a tough nut to crack, but if we don’t have these open and honest conversations, it will continue its hold on people who can’t fight it alone. Thanks for being such a blessing to others!!

  10. You are so brave to share your story. Even though depression is more openly discussed than it used to be, I think many people still do not want to admit they might need to see a doctor to find out if they have it. Hopefully, others will read your story and will know they are not alone.

    1. Thank you, Karen! I agree that many do not want to admit, especially in the work place. If you think about it though, that makes no sense. At least if you look beyond the depression. The depression lowers a person’s ability to perform well so it seems more logical to have people think you have depression that is being treated than some unknown reason that you are underperforming. But I know from experience that dealing with a mental illness is not really conducive to logic 🙂

  11. What courage you have Jamie. Talking about depression will bring it out of hiding. I have this disease in my family. It is not easy to love someone with depression. To help understand the viewpoint of someone who has lived with it so long is a brave undertaking. Thank you for sharing your story and I will walk with you into the light always!

    1. Thank you, Rebecca! Yes, I think the families also suffer from depression even if they are not the ones living with the illness themselves. I know I appreciate my husband very, very much!

  12. Thanks for sharing! We have just realized my 21 year old daughter is suffering from depression, and are starting to get her help. It is nice to hear a positive story about someone who has been through this and been successful, because right now it seems overwhelming and scary.

    1. Anne-depression is definitely hard anyone who loves the person living with it (just ask my parents and my husband!). I’m glad you are supporting your daughter in her quest to wellness. Depression for me is an ongoing battle that must always be managed (mine tends to start with the physical and start affecting the other parts). Blessings!

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