Defeating The Stigma of Depression
So many people in American society have placed a stigma on depression - and all other negative emotions for the most part - and treat its victims as if they've committed a crime; or worse, like they're abnormal. Growing up in the African American community, I somehow sensed early on that this type of stigma existed and was strong. It causes many to lift their heads and walk pompously as if walking around in the heavens while ignoring the fact that their bottoms are dropping out. The ground beneath their feet is slowly eroding and caving in like a sink hole and their only concern is making sure that no one sees them languishing in a pit of emotional despair. Hide the tears. Don't let them see you sweat. Kill that noise. This is especially the plight of men. Most men are trained from an early age to believe that a show of emotion indicates weakness - and depression is an emotion. Hold up, I take that back. There is one emotion men are allowed to get away with displaying: anger. As long as you look like Ice Cube from the 1980s, you're alright. Smile too much and someone is going to think you're either sneaky, sissy-fied, or childishly naive. Maybe this will help clear the air - and no, this isn't an article outlining strategies for handling depression and other negative emotions; no, I will not be lecturing you on the causes and solutions for depression; instead, I want to do one thing: dispel the myth that depression is a form of abnormality, that experiencing depression indicates that you're different, strange, wierd, and should be isolated, placed in a cage, sent to a laboratory and analyzed by a group of scientists as if you're an alien from the Pleiades. No, you're not an odd ball. You're not wierd. You're not alone. Let's get that straight right now! And with this should come the ultimate revelation that you shouldn't be embarrised about feeling depressed. (Now, if depression is persistently plaguing your life, that's when you need to seek out for help; however, we all get depressed at times.) Yes, there are some who will avoid you like a plague should they ever find out that you're battling with thoughts of depression. They actually believe that depression is as contageous as the flu virus - talk and they may catch what you have. I find that such individuals have a hard time adjusting to reality; often times, they delude themselves with pictures of a perfect world and live in this idealistic reality while hopelessly aiming to escape the bleakness all around them brought on by...sin. This is a jacked-up world, but realistic, spiritually mature Christians who know the truth don't look for an escape; they look for the darkness, understanding that only a weakling relies on their surrounding to provide for them a sense of solace and security. When we mature in Christ, we stop secretly praying that everything around us will change to eliminate our fears and insecurities and cater to our desire for comfort and we start openly praying that we will abandon our search for comfort zones and change to impact our surroundings by shining like lights in the darkness. Don't worry about those who run from you - they're running from more than just you; they're actually running from something within themselves. Hey, God got depressed. The New Living Translation of Genesis 6:6 says, "So the LORD was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart." Heartbroken? God? Yes! God experienced the same grief, heartache, and pain that we feel. God told His servant, Hosea, to marry a prostitute named Gomer for one reason: He wanted someone - ANYONE!!! - to experience what He was experiencing in His marriage to the Israelites just once. That's interesting: God wanted someone to feel what He was feeling so that they could communicate His emotions and feelings to the world. It hurts to be depressed and disappointed, but when you add being misunderstood to that list, that's even worse. And you don't want to know what emotions Jesus was experiencing in the Garden of Gethsamene just before His crucifixion. Anytime you literally sweat blood, you're going through...mentally and emotionally. You feel it. I feel it. God felt it. We all feel it. If they're honest, even Mr. and Mrs. Optimism feels it. Depression. We get down. We feel like giving up. We feel as if we're waisting our time and energy trying. We get that overwhelming sense of futility from time to time. We sometimes find ourselves being left in the cold with a bag of negative emotions in our hands, not knowing where to dump them or what to do with them; so, we bury them in our chests only to suffer from the weight and heartburn they give us. Alright, I will give you one solution...maybe two. Go to the gym, or for a walk. Do some physical activity to get that tension off of your shoulders. Secondly, talk about how you feel and find a funny movie quick rather than meander alongside the river Styx, inhaling the poisonous aroma of negative thoughts as they permeate the air all around you. Lastly, this is something I've found to be the greatest help - remember those spiritually mature Christians I told you about earlier, well, get around them. The spirit of depression can't stay in an anointed atmosphere for long - it will get depressed and leave. I've experienced the worse feelings of depression anyone could feel, the kind that leaves you listless and panting after death just to ease the suffering, and believe me when I tell you: going to church during prayer service that night per the instructions of the Holy Spirit (yes, He was talking to me even while I was severly depressed and suicidal) was the best thing that ever happened. I walked in one way and left out a totally different way. In fact, as those prayer warriors gathered all around me and prayed over me, I LITERALLY felt a weight - a physical weight - of depression lift off of my shoulders. After that, I couldn't stay depressed even if I wanted to. When you're under great spiritual attack (and yes, depression is a spiritual attack against your mind and life), run to the house of God, not away from it. Don't worry: there is always someone in God's house who possesses the wisdom, discernment, compassion and power to get that devilish monkey off of your back; and they won't judge you for wrestling with the issue because they know...you're only human...much like themselves. Furthermore, they know that this, too, shall pass.