Sunday, May 4, 2014

Depression Is a Taste of the Agony in the Garden

Depression is a taste of what Jesus experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The profound sense of feeling worthless, useless, unlovable, unwanted, unneeded, rejected, abandoned, judged, condemned, on the verge of despair, lonely, in so much pain you just want your life to be over.  These emotions come together in a way that completely overwhelms the sufferer at times.
It’s the utter loneliness and desperation of feeling isolated, cast aside; that the people closest to you seem millions of miles away—far too distant to comfort you in your time of affliction no matter what they do or say. 
A painful ache and brokenness remain in the head and the heart that keep the person from thinking about forgiveness, mercy, or redemption.  All that’s present are the past mistakes, indiscretions, injuries inflicted on others or by others, as well as those which have been self-inflicted.  Thoughts and feelings swim around creating a vortex of negativity spinning out of control, becoming increasingly powerful as each sin, pain, hurt—emotional, physical, and/or spiritual is sucked into the abyss feeding the frenzy of fear and helplessness.
Time moves painfully slowly.  The seconds go by, but the clock’s ticking is the sound of a time bomb about to explode.  Neither friends nor family nearby can comprehend or alleviate the suffering.  Past sins and recent mistakes loom large and appear overwhelming, a heavy crushing weight bearing down. 
It is wanting desperately for the pain to cease while feeling stuck—that there’s nothing anyone could do or say to bring you around.  The only way beyond it is through it.  Any brief glimmer of hope, inclination to smile or laugh is sucked out of you, leaving no trace of mirth or even a clear memory of it.  Each moment is empty, devoid of pleasure, joy, or consolation. 
Dark shadows lurk in every corner and black clouds block the sun’s light and warmth.  Worry consumes until unfettered panic sets in.  The tiny, pitiful spirit within screams, but no sound comes forth.  The warmth of someone’s hand, the gentle tenderness of a kiss, soothing words mean nothing, can’t reach the ache deep inside.
I wrote this reflection on Holy Saturday of Holy Week, March 30, 2013.  I have suffered from bouts of depression ever since the age of 9 years old.  I know many people who are struggling or have struggled with some type of depression at some point in their lives.  Often people in the midst of it feel that they are isolated and alone, that their life is useless and worthless, but it's not.  If you're alive, then God can still work in and through you, whether you feel or think that's the case or not.  
Here are some of the books I have found to be most helpful and hopeful in dealing with depression and/or in being a loving presence to someone who is struggling with it:

Surviving Depression by Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Holding on to Hope by Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP

Healing Life's Hurts through Theophostic Prayer by Dr. Edward M. Smith

Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy by John Janaro

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

Home Tonight by Henri Nouwen

Fresh Bread and Other Gifts of Spiritual Nourishment by Joyce Rupp

Burst: A Story of God's Grace When Life Falls Apart by Kevin Wells

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic

Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic

My Personal Prayer for Depression Sufferers: Lord, draw close to Your heart all who have all but lost the will to live, who have lost hope, and/or who can see no reason for their lives, no greater purpose or significance.  Help them reach out in honesty and truth to those around them.  Give them the courage to voice their thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes to someone they can trust.  Open the hearts and minds of those who are in a position to offer them help, hope, encouragement, support, and prayers.  
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