HEALING OUR BROKENNESS

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How to Effectively Understanding Depression

To effectively understand depression requires taking the time and making the effort to do some research on mental health. Most other illnesses are socially acceptable, even spiritually tolerable, but suffer from depression, you are labeled as being mentally ill. Some people expect that one who has fallen beneath the massive wheels of mental illness will never rise again or live a productive life.

Staunch Church attendees often can’t comprehend Christians with depression. The sufferer of depression is accused of lacking faith, having hidden sins, laziness, or unbelief, which is to say you aren’t a Christian at all. Those who have never suffered the debilitating effects of depression can’t begin to understand the complexities of the illness. They brush off the symptoms as being manufactured through too much time spent feeling sorry for themselves.

However, if those who are so quick to judge would take the time to open their Bibles, they would find several stories of mighty men of God who surrendered to the overwhelming sorrow of depression. Elijah and David are two examples who promptly come to mind. Many of David’s psalms are filled with anguish. Elijah, after a great victory over the prophets of Baal, begged God to take his life.

Statistics show that one in five people will suffer for an extended period of time from depression at some point in their lives. These statistics include those with clinical depression as well as individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress. The symptoms vary from mild to debilitating. The causes are as multifaceted as one’s life experiences. Effectively understanding depression involves studying the individual’s history- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Richard O’Connor, a psychologist who has written extensively on depression, writes in his book, “Undoing Depression,”

“I realize now that no simple, single-factor theory of depression will ever work. Depression is partly in our genes, partly in our childhood experience, partly in our way of thinking, partly in our brains, and partly in our ways of handling our emotions. It affects our whole being. [Richard O’Connor, Ph.D., Undoing Depression, (New York, NY: Berkley, 1997), p.8]

The Symptoms of Depression

The symptoms of depression can vary drastically from mild to severe. In many cases, the symptoms seem to progress in frequency, intensity, and duration. Feelings of sadness, irritability, sleep-disorders, self-isolation, changes in appetite, anxiety-attacks, uncontrollable crying, and phobias are all signs of mental distress. A combination of such symptoms can result in a severe incapacitating disability. Monitoring the signs and symptoms aids in understanding depression.

Depression Can be Inherited

Understanding Depression That is InheritedDepression can be inherited through your genes and be part of your temperament type. Your outlook on life as to whether you are an optimist or a pessimist affects how you respond to difficult situations. If you are a deep-thinking, deep-feeling, artistic, perfectionist, you will most likely struggle with depression.

Depression can be a learned way of responding to stress. If you were raised in an environment where one of your parents reacted to disappointment and stress by means of depression it is most likely that either you or one of your siblings will develop this way of responding to anxiety. Effectively understanding depression may require investigating generational mental health.

To Effectively Understand Depression Through Memories

If a person struggles with low self-esteem or poor self-image, he or she will undoubtedly battle depression. If your self-acceptance is based on what others think or say about you, daily anxiety and despair may shadow you. We all want to be loved and accepted for who we are, but some individuals live for compliments and accolades.

If you carry damaged emotions from childhood abuse or trauma, you will respond to adult situations through the emotions of the wounded child within you. Your feelings may be excessive and your responses disproportionate to the circumstances. You will find relatively mild situations overwhelming, resulting in hopelessness, despair, and depression.

When you have not dealt with, or taken the time to heal past wounds, you will be susceptible to triggers and feeling flashbacks. Present experiences tap into an immense reservoir of past emotion resulting in exaggerated emotional outbursts. This occurs when the pain of past wounds travel forward and connect with present situations. When more emotion is expressed than what the situation calls for, you are experiencing a feeling flashback.

False guilt and shame often accompany the after-effects of childhood trauma. Adult survivors of childhood abuse and neglect often carry around false responsibility for what happened to them. They feel guilty for not preventing it, for not being lovable enough to prevent it from happening in the first place. False guilt and shame lead to feelings of rejection and worthlessness. Effectively understanding depression may involve revisiting traumatic childhood memories and taking note of the damage done.

Effectively Understanding Depression Associated with Greif

Man Grieving DepressionLoss is a major contributor to depression; in fact, depression is recognized as one of the phases of grief. Individuals grieve over various losses. It may be the loss of a loved one through death or a severed relationship. Financial reversal or missed opportunities cause sorrow. It may be the loss of childhood or innocence.

Grieving and mourning are gifts you give yourself. Grieving allows you to feel the emotions of your loss. Mourning is the outward expression of your loss through sharing memories or disappointments with friends. Permitting yourself the time and energy necessary to experience the full ramifications of your loss allows you to move through the grieving process at your own pace.

If you suppress your feelings and do not allow yourself the privilege of grieving your losses as you experience them, the combination of such losses may merge into one major loss. The resulting severe depression will debilitate the sufferer and may produce a need to grieve each of the past losses individually.

Depression & Diet

Poor diet contributes to depression. People who consume large amounts of sugar or caffeine may find themselves craving more, or depressed when the sugar or caffeine high wears off. Allergies to ingredients of processed foods may also cause emotions to plummet. Food cravings, lack of exercise, and insufficient sleep also promote depression.

Understanding Depression Spiritually

Another concern that causes depression is habitual sin. Few are the individuals who are more miserable than one who loves the Lord yet gets himself caught in one of Satan’s traps. Some of the most powerful strongholds are ones that no one else sees, such as pornography and emotional affairs. Other stealers of happiness are envy, comparison, and obsessions. Such sins may be kept hidden from peers, but the desire for what someone else has drags individuals into bondage.

This is how Satan works in the lives of God’s children. He tempts them mercilessly until they give in, and then harasses them ruthlessly with feelings of worthlessness, shame, and disgrace. His goal is to move his victim beyond guilt to the point of shame so that they become enslaved to him. The victims are too ashamed to ask for help so they struggle on their own while sinking deeper and deeper into the pit.

To effectively understand depression in relation to how we view God, gives us another dimension of self-awareness. Our perception of our Heavenly Father affects our emotional and mental health. If we have a faulty spiritual belief system we will short-circuit our relationship with our Heavenly Father. If we do not have a healthy understanding of who God is, and who we are as His child we will not be able to trust the love of our Heavenly Father. We will limp from crisis to crisis wondering if God truly is good and if He does care. We ask repeatedly, “where is God when I’m in pain?”

Do you know how your relationship is with your Heavenly Father? Ask yourself:

  • Do I know how He feels about me as His child?

  • How does God feel about me when I pray?

  • How does God feel about me when I have disobeyed Him?

  • Do often tell my Heavenly Father, I love Him?

  • Do I thank God for loving me?

A healthy spiritual life will require an in-depth study of the love God has for us. The best way to build your self-image is to meditate on and interact with Scriptures that express God’s heart for His children. This should be a daily practice until these beliefs become part of who we are. My books, “From Victim to Victor” and Healing Emotional Wounds (nine-book series) provide a plentiful source of such healing Scriptures.

When we feel secure in God’s love, we will learn to love and accept ourselves the way He made us. Then we will not be concerned about other people’s attitudes toward us. Freedom from “people-pleasing” opens us up to become the unique person God created us to be. When we are happy with ourselves we are more content in difficult situations.

Depression & Bitterness

Bitterness is another major contributor to depression. The attitude of “you owe me”, eats away at your soul like cancer, burrowing you deeper into despair. You feel helpless in obtaining retribution for your losses. You spend hours trying to figure out a way to get even. Yet, when we choose not to forgive, all our other relationships will be contaminated by our bitterness, and we will inevitably hurt those we love most.

Forgiving our offender is giving up our right to demand retribution. By forgiving the one who hurt me, I am not saying what he did was okay. Nor am I saying I am over the emotional pain. Forgiveness simply means I am willing to live with the consequences of his sin against me. I let him off my hook, but he is still answerable to God. When we choose to forgive, we are opening the door to allow God to change us as an individual.

Forgiveness is a fundamental and necessary step to healing. It sets us free to move through the healing process and continue to grow as a person. Forgiveness is the key to healing all emotional wounds. When we set our offenders free, we find freedom for ourselves. We dump the baggage and feel lighter in our outlook on life, and in the process, we experience a higher level of mental health.

To effectively understand depression involves examining the ongoing stresses in every area of our lives. Over-extension of our energy, painful memories, low self-worth, change, insecurity, interpersonal relationships, death of a loved one, financial reversals, deteriorating health, destructive compulsive behaviors, addictions, and bitterness all contribute to depression. These stresses which cause excessive anxiety for a prolonged time, sometimes result in the depletion of chemicals in the brain. The outcome is diagnosed as clinical depression and is treated with medication.

The Cures for Depression

For those suffering from depression, there is much you can do to bring healing to your memories, thoughts, and emotions. Even for victims of clinical depression, medications become more effective once the emotional baggage is dealt with.

  • Seek help in learning how to handle stress in healthy ways

  • Maintain a healthy diet, get sufficient rest, and exercise

  • See a counselor or join a support group for assistance in processing past emotional trauma

  • Forgive and ask for forgiveness promptly

  • Build your self-worth by inserting your name in healing Scriptures of your Heavenly Father’s love and meditating daily on them.

  • See a doctor to determine if medication is necessary.

Recovering from depression can be a long difficult journey. But with a better understanding of depression and the help of your Heavenly Father, you too can have a healthier, happier life.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior, and my God. Psalm 43:5(NIV)

Let me state again, for those suffering from depression, there is much you can do to bring healing to your memories, thoughts, and emotions. Even for victims of clinical depression, medications become more effective once the emotional baggage is dealt with. I encourage you to contact me with your concerns, your pain and struggles. I have been there and am here for your questions

Grace Gayle at Healing Our Brokenness Ministries

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How to Effectively Understanding Depression