deconstructing depression

I have a dark companion called depression that visits from time to time and won’t say good riddance and go away. Sometimes it stays too long, once for well over a year. Sometimes it stays for a brief visit. I hope this time it’s brief. When depression visits me, it comes with its entourage of dark clouds, negative thoughts and lies, heavy emotions and fears. For me, the triggers are usually stress-related. There are people who can eat stress for a snack and rise to the occasion. I’m not one of them.

Having a good friends and families network doesn’t keep it away. Neither does a degree in theology, nor spiritual disciplines of confession and repentance. There’s undoubtedly something wrong with me, just like Romans 7 describes, and it humbles me, it shows me how broken I am, and it evokes in me greater empathy for other people’s struggles and battles.

When depression stops by for a visit, it sure gets my attention. It clouds my thinking and it feels like drowning just to stay alert. It takes enormous effort to do 1 or 2 tasks a day. When the forecast is overcast, just showing up is winning half the battle…

Experts have said that depression is “anger turned inward.” I’m not an angry person. I don’t express my rage explosively against people around me. This made no sense to me until recently. Depression is my version of taking my anger out on myself. I can get angry at the world for being imperfect. I can get angry at myself for not being what I wish I could be. I can get angry at unmet expectations, unrealistic goals, and untimely interruptions. I get angry over not being more driven, more accomplished, more clear-headed on tasks, more focused. Call it an idol or a natural disposition of my heart, but I can’t easily get rid of it by mere confession. Unlike others, I don’t run from depression by going to addictions or accomplishments.

When depression visits, it usually brings a big life lesson with it. Lessons like: take better care of yourself. Humbly ask for help. I can’t do it alone. Life is good, it’s not so serious. Enjoy a good night’s sleep. Write it down and stop thinking so hard. God loves you just the way you are, not as you should be. Do what you’re good at and what you enjoy, nothing more, nothing less. I just wish those lessons could come without having to go through those dark tunnels.

Thanks be to God that this world is not all there is, and He’ll make good on my yearning for a better world. And God will give me the grace and strength to be a part of that better world.

Plus, just found out that Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church (also a Dallas Seminary alumni) had a recent bout with depression, and lived to tell about it at a DTS Chapel (video and audio) and on FamilyLife Today and the impact of depression on a marriage.

[Caveat: depression is a complicated manner, so my story is not gospel. Please seek appropriate help if needed.]

[update 10/10] blogger Real Live Preacher eloquently shared about his bouts with depression too– Depression Part One: Admitting You Might Have a Problem, Thoughts on Depression After Five Months of Medication, and several other times

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13 Responses

  1. DJ, thank you for sharing. You and your family are prayed for even as I type this. I endured a season of depression in 2004 after the sudden death of my fairly young mom. I was in the middle of seminary and felt like a zombie trudging to church and class. The Church still struggles with how to minister to people who go through these seasons. Some hastily slap Scriptures all over your forehead and shout “It’ll pass” because they don’t want to travel that road with you. But I don’t blame them. They often don’t know what to do.

    As a person who has walked through it and walked with others as they went through it, I have found myself, like a small child, beating against the mighty chest of the Father in all my frustration, tears, confusion, and hurt is powerful—still loving Him but struggling and not being ashamed to tell Him.

    God honors that and meets us where we are. And He works through other people and this is important. You’re not alone and I know I’m not the only one praying for you. Take care, brother.


  2. Joe Chen says:

    Thanks for sharing what you’re going through. I don’t know anyone who would have shared that in a blog, but your honesty in your weakness is refreshing. May God deliver you through this dark part of life. We’ll be praying for you.

  3. Bo says:

    DJ – Brother I appreciate your courage and honesty. They are an encouragement to us all.

  4. Debbi says:

    I haved lived in the place you describe. I could almost see it as a fog rolling over me and settling down around my shoulders. The weight made it hard to move. Getting out of bed to do the simplest things were unattainable. Words and thoughts became jumbled and somehow could not be spoken. I was ashamed to let anyone see me like this.
    Diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer 2 years ago, did not bring on the disabling feeling as the depression did. Looking at my life thinking what have I done Lord to please you? Feeling unworthy. Praying to feel his arms wrapped around me to feel his love… begging for it and being swallowed up by the fog. Days and nights melt together. My husband saying he can’t put up with it any longer. And still my words did not make any since. It is a very lonely place. A living hell.
    I pray for all of you. We are all worthy because the Lord loves us. He loved us first.
    I battle daily with it. Thank-you for sharing your stories.

  5. daniel so says:

    DJ — Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly, and for not brushing aside depression with a quick, “Just pray more and you’ll get over it.” The truth is, as you have shared, even for people with a deep trust and abiding faith in Christ, depression is not easily overcome. May God’s peace be even more real and present than any darkness in your life.

  6. David Park says:

    i love who you are DJ. thank you for your courageous confession. you are such an encouragement and inspiration for me. I owe you so much. I love who God has made you to be. Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

  7. djchuang says:

    Thanks, all, for stopping by and leaving a word of encouragement, and interceding in prayer. I am doing okay right now. Did want to reveal that I have had this kind of a struggle in the past, and recognize that it may revisit from time to time. I’m grateful for a supportive family and a few friends who can walk along side of me when I feel stuck and disoriented. Thank you for being a part of my support network here.

  8. Justin says:

    Indeed, thank you for the honesty as well as resources.

  9. Lucy Lee says:

    your words so resonate with me… they capture the essence of our struggle here on earth. i’m reminded that the fall of man means that we are cursed to a bodily death; a sinful, self-centered nature; a frail, weak body susceptible to illness and disease; and depending on your translation, a deceitful, perverse, desperately wicked heart and mind. thank you for your eloquent words that express what it means to experience depression, a symptom of death, that befalls a fallen man, yet also gives testament to a God that has not forgotten His creation. thru Jesus, God loved us, made the sacrifice to cover us, to pay the heavy price for our sins, to redeem us back to Himself. and then God imparted us with His Holy Spirit and His Word so that we can walk with God once again as we did in the Garden of Eden. we look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises for a new body and a new earth. yet while we still live in our earthly bodies, though the core of our nature be renewed to enable us to live forever in the presence of God, our new nature will continue to be frustrated by the limitations of our flesh nature and by the Curse until we participate in the rapture or resurrection of the end times. DJ, you are an example of what it means to stand firm, knowing who your God is, enduring this thorn in your flesh for a better day. your humility bespeaks a man who knows true intimacy with God.

    1 Corin 15:22-26, “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

  10. djchuang says:

    What makes depression a harder thing to get one’s hands around is that there could be (at least?) 3 kinds: reactive depression, clinical depression, and bipolar disorder. The term “depression” may be generally used for any of those 3.

    Reactive depression is described as normal feelings of sadness for sad events, but the feelings go away in a few days. Clinical depression has been described as intense sadness over a prolonged period of time and disruptive to functioning in life. And then bipolar disorder has some kind of cycling between depressive (low) times and mania (high) times, some have very disruptive extreme symptoms, some have less disruptive symptoms, but disruptive nevertheless.

    It is debated how much medicinal help is necessary, and speculation on how the pharmaceutical industry might be influencing the increasing diagnosis of depression and/or bipolar. But lifestyle adjustments is pretty much always necessary, especially with help from psychotherapy. It’s a good thing to ask for help.

  11. man says:

    I started laughing when I read Lucy Lee’s post above.

    Here we are, talking about a serious topic like depression, and some commenter has the nerve to say that we deserve depression because some man who lived thousands of years before us committed a sin.

    I don’t know about you guys, but I got depressed reading that.

    The myth of Adam and Eve can be disproven by simple logic:

    If God had the expectation of man to be perfect, then he would have created man without the capability to sin.

    Since God created man with the ability to sin, then God is either imperfect, or created an imperfect man on purpose.

    If God created an imperfect man on purpose, then it is illogical for God to expect an imperfect creation to be perfect.

    Those who believe the Adam and Eve myth are sheep.