By Peter Stone
My descent into depression accelerated towards the end of 1989. Exhausted by chronic insomnia and frequent panic attacks, a massive shock finally pushed me over the edge. My mind unravelled to the extent that, for the next several days, I did little else but lay on my bed and rock from side to side as I tried in vain to pull myself out of the terrifying obsessive panic attacks. I described that week in my diary, 28th Feb 1990:
“I fell apart emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I could barely think a complete thought.
I could not find peace whatever course of action I considered.
All day long I lay curled up into a ball.
And I could not get away – it would not stop.”
It is significant to note that my parents were absent during this week, having gone to attend an annual Christian convention. Fortunately, my brother was there. He made sure I kept eating and tried to help and support me in other ways.
When my parents returned a week later, upon finding me laying on my bed in that terrible condition, my mother sprang into action. She bundled me off that bed, encouraged me with kind words, and in no time sent me outside to wash my car, which was a very hard thing to do considering the state of my mind. Yet even so, I could not help but notice that the activity of washing the car lessened the inner pain slightly. She and my brother also came and prayed for me, and my mother continued to give me menial tasks to do every day such as watering the garden, helping serve dinner, and also encouraged me to watch TV with the family every evening. The fears assaulting my mind continued to scream at me while doing these things, yet I noticed the intensity of those fears was less during these times than when I was laying on my bed all day. The activities my mother gave me were a good distraction.
So it was because of my mother that I was able to get off that sickbed. Mostly, she was simply there for me. She never told me to snap out of it, never made any demands. This non-demanding, supportive human contact helped to pull me out of that blackest, unable-to-move phase of depression.
The Bible tells us that when God created Adam, He looked at him and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18.
Although it is a normal reaction when depressed to want to hide from any human contact, this reaction is harmful. It is not good for someone who is depressed to be alone. We need to be with close family members or close friends who will simply be there for us, providing emotional support. We do not need to tell them what we are going through in detail – they probably would not understand anyway – just being with them helps a lot.
Not everyone has close family members they can turn to, and for those who are ill, disabled or living in the country, even finding friends can be difficult. In which case, here is some wonderful advice from Sherry Castelluccio. “Are you lonely? Call that friend you haven’t spoken to in months. You will both be glad you did.” Another option is to join a supportive Christian forum, such as The Cypress Times , a Christian social networking site, or the Faithwriters forum , where any Christian who dabbles in writing is welcome to socialise. (And if you are reading this blog, you probably dabble with writing too?)
Another very important source of human contact is available through a local church. Gary R. Collins, Ph.D. shares, “The church, and other social institutions, can become therapeutic communities where people feel welcome and accepted. A concerned group of people who have learned to be caring can do much to soften the trauma of crises and provide strength and help in times of need. Aware that they are not alone, people in crises are able to cope better and thus avoid severe depression.” Christian Counselling, Word Publishing, 1980.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching.’
Please note that while small churches can provide caring, family-like atmospheres, this is noticeably absent from larger churches. If we are attending a larger church, it is imperative to join at least one of that church’s small groups, such as a women’s or men’s fellowship, home group (cell group), youth group, prayer group, and so on.
Around ten months after my descent into severe depression, when I had finally regained hope for the future, the Christian counsellor I was seeing encouraged me to stop hiding behind Jesus, join a home group, and get back into ministry, such as playing the piano in the home group I was to join.
I took her advice and joined a midweek home group run by a couple in my church. Having been lonely for so long because of depression, this midweek meeting soon became one of the highlights of my week. I played the piano for the group and made some good friends. It was wonderful to simply be with other believers and enjoy their company as we fellowshipped and worshipped God together. I did not tell anyone in the group that I was recovering from depression, but it may have been a good idea to share briefly what I was going through with the home group’s leader in order to receive prayer and pastoral care.
In conclusion, although depression seeks to isolate us, we must not allow it to do so. Spend time with close family or friends, and join a caring Christian small group as soon as we are able to do so. It is through the church, Christ’s body, that we can receive encouragement, support and strength.
1 Corinthians 14:26 ‘What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.’
(All verses from the NIV)
Peter Stone, a Bible College Graduate, has an international marriage and two children. Suffers from epilepsy and otosclerosis. He teaches Sunday school and plays the piano in church.