Depression in Midlife Women: The Healing Power of Faith and Service
Although I have been a Christian for more than 25 years, I may as well have been an atheist during the period of deep depression that started shortly after I turned 50 and lasted for more than a year. I could not feel God’s presence and had no interest in praying or getting involved in my church. Worst of all, I didn’t feel like I deserved this supernatural love that so many of my friends seemed to have no trouble attracting, experiencing, and acting out in their day to day lives.
Even if there was a God, I reasoned, I had no reason to believe He could love me. I was a bad person and too broken for that to ever happen. I spoke about the origins and false beliefs that I’m unlovable and unworthy in my last article It’s Time to Fire Your Inner Critic! Sadly, not even my faith could shake these false beliefs until I started standing up to them.
Because I found myself so unworthy, I became hostile to the things I once believed in with all my heart. I then sought out confirmation bias on the Internet and with others in-person to demonstrate to myself that it was all a bunch of hooey. My husband continued to believe all the while, something I found foolish at the time but now appreciate so much that he never gave up on me.
God Came Back When I Decided to Live Again
As I said yes to life, I could feel the calmness of what I believe to be the Holy Spirit take over my mind and body. I began to experience deep love for and interest in others, seeing their humanity and viewing them as someone God created and loves. A lifelong shy introvert, I seemed to blossom into a happy, outgoing person within days. My relationships changed dramatically for the better, something that thrills my soul because I just didn’t know how to make that happen on my own. I believe this song by Casting Crowns describes very well where I was and how God met me right there.
Church, Please Stop Shaming People for Anxiety and Depression
While I was at one of my lowest points in my mental health struggles, I heard it preached from the pulpit that anxiety is sin and nothing more than practical atheism. I can hardly describe how horrible that made me feel, considering I have battled both anxiety and depression my entire adult life. I did not need to hear at that moment that I was sinning when I was in fact dealing with mental illness with a variety of complex causes, including brain injury and childhood trauma.
It’s not that I needed for anyone to say just go on feeling terrible and don’t try to do anything about it, but what I did need was love and non-judgmental acceptance. That sermon made me feel worse about myself than I already did. It hardly prompted me to repent and stop being anxious and depressed on the spot.
I have also heard of churches being against psychiatry and medication, which I feel is wrong. Far from showing a lack of faith in God, people who reach out for any type of help should receive praise and not condemnation. After all, God gave us the science of the mind and doctors who prescribe medication for a reason.
Just as I did with my 2008 divorce when I had a pastor stop speaking to me and others judge me harshly without knowing the situation, I will preach to my dying day that we all need to stop judging and start loving. The treatment I received was almost enough for me to walk away from the church altogether and it affected me for years. Let God figure out if the behavior or belief of others is wrong. That’s His job, not ours.
This article discusses my Christian faith and how it has helped me recover from severe and chronic depression. If you don’t share this belief, please take what you can and leave the rest. This isn’t the place for arguments about Christianity. Thank you.
When Faith Seems Impossible
I understand not everyone is Christian or has any type of faith at all. I also understand it can seem impossible to trust a traditionally male God if you experienced deep wounding by men. I wasn’t ready to go back to it at first either. My hope for anyone reading this is that making the decision to stay alive will bring a strong faith in something outside yourself. The force of life itself is powerful. I just happen to believe that force is the Holy Spirit sent from God to provide comfort and guidance in everyday life and the love and power to move beyond survival to a life of extraordinary service.
Healing from Depression by Serving Others
Depression turns us inward to the point all we can think about is how miserable we are and what a burden we are to others. We become so consumed about protecting our secret of deep depression that we scarcely even notice anyone else. When I decided to start living passionately, I promised God I would use the gifts He gave me to try to help others even though it made me incredibly vulnerable and I was still suffering myself. That is the main reason I write about my depression journey in the first place. God never gave me the gift of words to keep them all to myself.
Not everyone writes for a living, but everyone has something to offer the world. I simply prayed for a discerning spirit so I could truly see and respond to the needs around me. A donation here, a kind word and a smile there is all it really takes to start making a difference. It ensures that my time on this planet counts for something other than feeding my own misery.
Of course, churches and volunteer organizations always need people to help as well. I do what I can while still devoting plenty of time to my own physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness journey. I certainly can’t give to others when I let my own needs slide. The important thing is that I get out of my own head and operate from a place of gratitude and service.
In short, having faith and loving and serving others brings me hope that I could not have fathomed in my darkest days. Regardless of what you believe about God, I feel that is very good news indeed.
Other Articles in This Series
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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© 2019 Lisa Kroulik