God has done so many wonderful things in my life, giving me many stories to tell of His goodness. One story involves a battle that I have fought three different times in my life—chemical depression. I have often had background skirmishes, but three times the battle has been more intense.
When I say they were major battles, I am not saying that flippantly. Each episode had different degrees of symptoms but some overall themes were: great anxiety, strange physical symptoms, total lack of hunger, inability to sleep, feeling hopeless (and you sure need hope in this!), and inability to concentrate. My whole body would feel weird, and it seemed like I couldn’t remember feeling normal.
This particular story was during the worst episode which occurred after the birth of my first daughter in the form of post-partum depression. I hardly even want to go there to explain how dark a time period that was, but that’s also when I saw God’s hand move in a miraculous way. When you have endured several months without sleeping, without much eating, and with no peace whatsoever it can wear on you in a big way, especially when caring for a baby. We lived in Houston at the time, and my mom came to help me.
I remember crying out to God out of total desperation in my closet one day (yes, I sometimes pray in my actual closet). The next Sunday at church I met someone during the greeting time named Sandy. Our church was fairly large (a few thousand people), so I didn’t know everyone and I hadn’t remembered seeing her before. I had to leave to go to the nursery to tend to my daughter which happened so often that everyone knew my number on the screen—0012 (which I still remember 20 years later).
While I was gone Sandy came to my mom and asked her if I was going through a hard time, and my mother briefly explained the situation. Sandy replied that God had put it on her heart for several days to pray for a person named Karen who was going through great difficulty. When we had met, she was very intrigued that my name was Karen and asked the Lord if I was the one she had been praying for which the Lord confirmed. Through that encounter we talked more, and she relayed to me that the battle would end and it helped me get started on a different path. It sure wasn’t immediate by any means, and many dark days were still ahead.
Yet, I cannot describe what comfort it was to me for the Lord to reach out to me in that way to let me know that He saw my pain, that He sent someone to pray for me, and He gave me hope that I would get past this battle. He met me where I was!
God is so great and loves us so much. God not only helped me in this supernatural way, but He revealed to me some ways in the natural to combat the depression as well. When I say depression, that can mean anxiety or depression or a combination. I learned that they are two sides of one coin. They both are the result of a serotonin deficiency, and your body and personality may just manifest them in different ways.
As for supernatural means to fight it, obviously, we should first seek God to show us what we in particular need to do. Due to your brain feeling so muddled when chemically depressed, that may require the help of Godly friends (or a counselor) who will seek God with you. Here are some supernatural weapons that I found to be effective for me:
- Praying God’s Word over myself, declaring that I have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), that no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), that great is my peace (Psalm 119:165), and that God’s peace would guard my mind (Philipians 4:7).
- Praying in tongues, especially when I didn’t know what else to pray.
- Praising God! The Word says that you put on (like clothing) the garment of praise in exchange for the garment of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). This could be through music or by pouring out the praise in your heart to Him in plain words.
- Keep standing! Sometimes existing for another day is a victory and one step closer to complete victory.
As for natural weapons, medical research is making great strides in this area. (I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and I read these types of things because they are so interesting to me.) Recently, research has pointed to inflammation in the body (or even an allergy to inflammation) as being a cause of depression, but there are many, many causes, and there are many effective natural ways to battle it:
- In terms of drugs, in my three battles, one time I used a natural herb (St John’s Wort), once I stuck it out long enough that the depression eased on its own, and once I took a prescription anti-depressant. You have to do what’s right for YOU, receiving no condemnation for what path you feel is best in this area.
- Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as a prescription anti-depressant if done regularly. (The scientist in me wants to give references for this but it is pretty prevalent anywhere you want to look this stuff up.)
- Taking an Omega-3 oil supplement (or flaxseed or walnuts) is great for the brain.
- Finding out what is a trigger for you can help. In the most recent battle, my doctor and I realized that the three times that have been true battles for me were all associated with a major drop in hormones.
- Seeing a medical doctor to be tested for things like low thyroid or even food allergies/sensitivities.
- Making sure to do everything in your power to be thinking right thoughts.
- Having a good, loving circle of friends standing with you (or God can even provide a stranger like how He did for me in Houston—He’s limitless!).
- Talking to a counselor. I do think that if there are any underlying physical causes then addressing those first helps the therapy to be even more effective.
One more word to the wise: I found that everyone has an opinion about depression and anxiety. Some will say it is only caused by hormones out of whack because that is what their experience has been. Some will tell you that you are just not thinking right, and you just need to start thinking right. Others may say that prescription medicine is the only way to go.
I think of it as how different blind-folded people see an elephant—the one holding the trunk think it’s hard, the one holding the tail think it is feathery, the one holding the legs think it is like a tree. Our understanding of depression is so limited at this time and can have so many DIFFERENT causes and cures. The good news is that God can see “the whole elephant” and knows how to deliver you! Our victory is assured as we follow His pathway to deliverance!
This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here.
**Note: This is one person’s story, and not advice from a professional doctor. If you are in a place of depression, please contact the HCF offices for a list of trusted counseling resources (click here for Campus contact numbers).