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Feb19
2015

More Than My Depression

By Sharon Babu

Sometimes I wonder if I can be anything other than depressed. After all, dealing with depression is a full-time job for me. It requires putting in an absurd amount of effort in order to simply survive, to do things others find natural and simple. Being diagnosed with depression and going to therapy has improved my life drastically, but in confronting my mental illness, I seem to have made it my sole identity as well.

Lately, I feel like I’ve lost parts of myself that used to be essential to who I was, and this is mostly because I’m not sure if those parts of me can coexist with my depression. And that doesn’t just extend to my personality but to my beliefs as well. I’ve been especially challenged in my faith. I’ve always thought of myself as Christian; there have been times where I’ve been unsure, but when it comes down to it, that’s what I believe. I love so many parts of the Christian faith, but others can be isolating. Sometimes I feel my faith doesn’t seem to take into account those with mental illness.

Earlier this summer, I was at a retreat with my church. I was listening to the speaker when suddenly the topic of depression came up. The way he saw it, depression was a lack of faith. He felt it was a consequence of a choice that I had made not to trust. Later that day, someone challenged him; he then took it back, saying that there are certain cases where that may not be true. It didn’t matter though. Not to me, at least. I could feel the guilt and shame eating away at me constantly for the next few days. It was my fault that I was depressed. I was selfish. I didn’t have faith. I was a bad person. 

That wasn’t the first or last time I’ve heard mental illness categorized as a wrongdoing or sin. I don’t think Christians, or any other group of religious people, come up with these things to hurt or shame people, but they do. Instead of encouraging me to have faith, it causes me to doubt my identity and myself. Am I not allowed to be a faithful Christian and struggle with depression? Am I somehow a bad Christian for allowing my anxiety to influence some of my choices?

This is just one example of how I felt I lost a part of myself after being diagnosed with depression. Some parts that slipped away were like my faith, where I wasn’t sure how to be both depressed and something else. But I’ve come to realize that no matter what anyone else says about depression and ideals, I can make the choice for myself of who I want to be. And I can make the choice to be the same person I was before being diagnosed and face my depression at the same time.

I will not allow myself to be trapped by my diagnosis. It’s about knowing that yes, I am depressed, but that’s only a small part of who I am. I am more than just depression. I am a student, a Christian, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a confidante, and a fighter. I am talented, funny, compassionate, sassy, empathetic, and strong.

I don’t want to continue making the mistake of allowing myself to believe that I can’t be anything other than depressed. Because if I do that, if I continue treating myself like the only thing I’m good at is being depressed, it’s highly possible that one day that’ll actually be true. And I refuse to let that happen. I am more than my depression. And so are you.

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Comments (52)

  1. Katie

    Amen Sister!

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    1. Brandi

      I loved reading this. I’ve been dealing with depression for some time now, and lately I’m getting to the point that I just can’t stand it. The random depressing thoughts, being so pessimist about everything. This gives me hope that I can push myself to be much more than just depressed. 🙂

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      1. Mattea

        The Lord has promised a peace that passes all understanding. Which is incredible. You are incredible because you are a reflection of God.. You are more than that though. You are his beloved daughter, a princess, heiress to the kingdom and sister of Jesus.. Jesus is your big brother and he’s got your back.. There are two songs which helped me alot with my recovery. Break every chain by Jesus Culture and Shackles by Mandisa.. Remember you are greatly loved and highly favoured.. lord bless you

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  2. Dee

    I experienced a similar response from my church. I was told that God would heal me if I just had more faith. I was diagnosed in my early teens and struggled a lot. Needless to say it did not end well. I went off of my medication under the advisement of an elder in the church and immersed myself in prayer and Christianity. I learned several lessons from it. The number one being that I needed medicine and that I needed to find another Church.

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  3. Christina

    Thank you. This is where i am as well. I find it challenging to find that motivation. Also, some of the most well-known Christians struggled with depression, such as Luther. Depression is not a sin.

    Reply  |  
  4. Grace

    Good job love! This was so good 🙂 This is so amazing!!

    Reply  |  
  5. faith

    This is pretty much exactly how I have felt in my struggle with depression and in my Christian walk. I have been told the same things as you have by other Christians, but they are simply not true! God sees us as His children, who He loves unconditionally. He loves us 100%, all the time. Depression can’t separate us from the love of God. And He says that we are not defined by our struggles. Our identity is found in Him, and who He says we are. I appreciate you writing this blog so much, and I just want to encourage you keep the faith and surround yourself with people who can come along side you when you are struggling. God never intended us to go through this life alone. Don’t forget that you are extremely loved, and you matter so so much. You are beautiful child of God, and He is going to do some amazing things through you <3

    Reply  |  
  6. KB

    Congrats homie! Keep being funny, sassy, compassionate, and just plain freakin awesome!

    xD

    Reply  |  
  7. Bethany

    Thank you for posting this… I am truly blessed to have a faith family that embraces and supports me with my battle with anxiety and depression. I am sorry you didn’t find the same but know that God loves you, all of you. You are not alone.

    Reply  |  
  8. Becca

    Blessed by this post.
    It’s easy to get frustrated when Christians assume depression is due to a lack of faith. Depression is not a sin, just the way any illness isn’t. Unfortunately not everybody understands this, but I’m glad it no longer affects you.
    I hope you’ve kept your faith, as God can truly deliver us from anything. May you find comfort in the shadow of His wings and confidence in His Son – who is our Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace.
    Thank you for your encouragement,
    God bless <3

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  9. Cora Dugan

    Keep praying that the demonic spirits leave your mind! Get into more scripture! Declare that you have the mind of Christ! The mind is a battlefield and satan wants to get thoughts into our heads because he knows how powerful we are if we operate in Gods power! Depression may be where you are, but it’s not who you are! Keep fighting the good fight!! With Christ, we can do all things!

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  10. Anonymous

    Earlier this summer, I was at a retreat with my church. I was listening to the speaker when suddenly the topic of depression came up. The way he saw it, depression was a lack of faith. He felt it was a consequence of a choice that I had made not to trust. Later that day, someone challenged him; he then took it back, saying that there are certain cases where that may not be true. It didn’t matter though. Not to me, at least. I could feel the guilt and shame eating away at me constantly for the next few days. It was my fault that I was depressed. I was selfish. I didn’t have faith. I was a bad person. <<< These words spoke the loudest to me, because I understand completely. Very insightful words. Sometimes, yes, it does seem utterly impossible to be anything other than "someone with PTSD", because the PTSD often keeps me from fully living--more like merely existing. There are other days, though, when I am a funny, strong, brave, intelligent, compassionate person....who happens to have PTSD (with depression being a component of that title). Thank you for giving me your valuable insight.

    Reply  |  
  11. Anonymous

    I am a Christian and struggle with severe and chronic depression. Depression is the same as any other progressive illness, it grips people physically as well as emotionally. People who say things that shame people with depression are just ignorant of the disease, regardless of their faith or lack of. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply  |  
  12. Hope

    Well said ! Felt like I could’ve written it, all of it…so THANKS ,you let me know I didn’t fail at Church or fail as a Christian….we need to educate church leaders how to HELP SUPPORT their fellow Christians :). We are so much more ! Cheers and AMEN 😉

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  13. jaymee

    I am blessed with this 🙂 me too.. a christian , struggling with depression as well

    Reply  |  
  14. Jessica

    Thank you for your post! I needed to read it this morning. ❤️

    Reply  |  
  15. Mikayla

    This spoke to my soul and is something that I struggle with being a Christian with depression. Thank you.

    Reply  |  
  16. Tayler

    I more or less lost a friend in high school because I felt she wanted me to pray my way out of a major depressive episode (there were certainly other issues in the friendship around and after that period, but that’s what I think of as the main cause). And I remember feeling for years after that time in my life that the church had a similar stance and did not respect psychology/psychiatry. I know now that, as with most things, some do take that position but others don’t. I think it’s still largely an unaddressed issue though and I wish more churches and religious organizations would make an effort to reach out and have positive conversations about mental illness.

    Reply  |  
  17. Hannah Kaps

    I’ve been struggling with these same thoughts recentky. And honestly no one truly knows the answer, it’s God’s place to judge. But everyone else thinks it’s their place.

    Reply  |  
  18. Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this. Really puts thing in some perspective for me. Praying for you, dearest friend! ♥

    Reply  |  
  19. R. Adams

    I agree completely that mental illness should not be considered the consequence of a lack of faith. However, as someone who deals with depression and anxiety, I have found that cultivating my faith and choosing to trust God has made a huge difference in how well I cope. That said, medication and counseling have also been essential.

    Reply  |  
    1. Nora

      I am definitely there with you. I dont think spiritual leaders should have a say in the matter though. But I also find that even though it is EXTREMELY difficult to trust God when the pessimistic/depressive thoughts just wont stop. Once I am able to rest in knowing that HE is in control, my anxiety reduces significantly. It is still a struggle. Prayer and meditation help tons. Faith, as I see it, is a coping skill. A rather irrational one, but very strong. Faith brings hope, which is the ultimate goal

      Reply  |  
  20. Ian G

    No matter how far down depression brings us, no matter how uninformed people are that speak on it, no matter how we are treated, we will always have brothers and sisters who understand and are willing to love. Jesus follower or not, we are always here to support one another. We define ourselves by those we love and by learning to love ourselves, not by the aching chasm that is depression. *hug*

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  21. Melinda

    My opinion is: depression isn’t what the Church sometimes makes it out to be. It’s not a character defect, a spiritual disorder or an emotional dysfunction. And chief of all, it’s not a choice.

    Asking someone to “try” not being depressed is tantamount to asking someone who’s been shot to try and stop bleeding. Such an attitude can dangerously appear in the Church as, “if only you had enough faith.”


    Having faith in God’s ability to heal is hugely important, and personal faith can help ease depression. But to deny medical or psychiatric treatment to someone suffering from mental illness is really no different than denying them to someone with a physical illness. The difference between the two is that the former is invisible.


    I personally found help in therapy. CBT techniques helped me with my illness. For anyone interested here you can find an article about this therapy: http://understandingdepressionandanxiety.com/destroy-depression/ .

    Reply  |  
  22. Emmy

    So true!! Depression is a diagnosis not a definition.

    Reply  |  
  23. Rachel

    Thanks. This really speaks to me.

    Reply  |  
  24. Anonymous

    So powerful and amazing! Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply  |  
  25. Anonymous

    Well said. Stay strong, and stay true to yourself.

    Reply  |  
  26. Adam - knowingpsychology.com

    We need more posts like this to inform everyone about the true nature of mental illness. Without this the stigma towards mentap health will just keep growing and more people will suffer unnecessarily. Thank you for posting this

    -adam

    Reply  |  
  27. Stacey R

    As a Christian I am appalled that someone made you feel bad and guilty for having depression, and I am sorry for that. Would they tell a diabetic to stop taking their insulin, or a cancer patient to stop treatment? No, probably not. People just don’t understand that mental illness is just that, it’s an illness in the brain that needs treatment too. God loves us, illness and all! Those that say that depression is a sin will have to stand before God someday and have some explaining to do! LOL keep your head up, and thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply  |  
  28. Anne M

    I’m not a christian but I get the feeling you’re addressing.
    Sometimes I got the feeling that people only believe me that I have problems by showing them all the time. it’s like I’m not allowed to be happy for one moment… because how could I be happy, how could I smile if I’m depressed? It’s like they asking me to choose: Either I’m depressed all the time or I’m fine. I wish that people could understand that I’m both: in one moment I’m fine and in the next I reached my breaking point

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  29. Jea Castrop-May

    ive had depression all my life. I am now 52 and doing very well. I’m living proof that it does get better with treatment, both medication and therapy together. Through it all my faith in God and Jesus has remained strong, I feel it is my faith and prayers of many that helped me get this far. I too have heard sermons making me feel like it’s a lack of faiths, etc. the truth is its their lack of knowledge about mental illness. Depression and othe mental illnesses are a physical disease just like diabetes, heart disease, etc. we don’t CHOOSE it. It’s also hereditary. There are many churches that will embrace you as you are just as God does. Keep looking until you find a church community that will love you unconditionally. I belong to one now. It’s not Gods fault that people don’t get it. He loves us more then we can imagine. Stay strong in your faith, you won’t ever regret that.

    Reply  |  
  30. Kate

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing your struggles and strength!

    Reply  |  
  31. Kristina

    I spent most of my childhood years in southern Utah, where all of the kids, except one Catholic kid, on my bus were either following their beliefs in their Navajo heritage or were part of the LDS church. I struggled with the LDS church a lot as I entered my teenage years, I started to see the judgement of the people I went to church with. My father smokes cigarettes, which is impure and prevents my dad from entering the temple to have his marriage to my mom sealed for all eternity (by the way my parents have been happily married since 1987). My teenage brothers and their friends played Dungeons and Dragons with me and my mom, a game that many members of church considered to be “the Devil’s game” and they began preventing their teenage children from coming over to our house. As I became a teenager I started to hate the church, then I started to see that the human interpretation of the scripture was what I really disliked so much. The scriptures were not the problem, the people were. The church’s design of community support and closeness was never an issue with me, but the judgement of the people in the church bothered me a lot. Who were they to say that my parents weren’t soul mates and that their spirits would not remain together in heaven just ‘cuz dad couldn’t go in the temple? Who were they to say that a roleplaying game with imagination, creativity, and good, adult monitored fun was a bad thing?
    What I’m getting to is that “depression is a lack of faith” is a human’s interpretation of a faith. One person’s interpretation of a faith is not the same as another person’s interpretation. Faith is something that is very personal, beliefs are very personal. You interpret your faith and belief for yourself. It’s up to you to see the challenge of living with depression in a different light than the speaker at the retreat.
    I see living with depression as a challenge that the powers that be chose my spirit to be strong enough to endure. I believe the reason for living is to learn, grow and experience. Our spirits are in this world to learn something, to grow in some way or another, and to experience the challenges necessary for us to learn and grow. Some of spirits are challenged with mental or physical disorders, some of spirits are challenged with poverty in life, some are challenged with too much in the material world. Every walk of life has something to teach our spirits.
    Just have faith that God chose your spirit to be strong enough to live this life with such a challenge as depression, God chose your spirit to learn all that you can through this life knowing you will succeed in learning, growing and experiencing. You can still succeed while living with depression and still live your life without your depression ruling you.
    And on a side note, don’t be afraid to explore faith without a church. Read the scriptures without someone else’s interpretation, pray and meditate, choose for yourself how the holy text feels for you. You can still be a Christian without a church, you just need to believe in God and Christ. When you find what you feel without the a particular church influencing you it’s easier to find the church that works the best with your own beliefs.
    Blessed be

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  32. Rachel

    It was when I was a teen that I really started to struggle with depression – and it was mostly in those years that I thought my faith was suppose to be enough to “beat” depression. But I have grown to learn a couple of things…1. It is “religion” or the flesh that shames, humiliates, accuses and 2. that God is the one that loves us, covers us and protects. Good on you for knowing depression is not your identity and for sharing a piece of your journey with us. If only the flesh could be better at truly sharing who our God is instead of misrepresenting Him….and could love, support, and struggle alongside one another like our God does.

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  33. L K M

    I loved ready this. Fortunately I have been blessed with a church family that’s extremely supportive but I have also found my depression taking over who I am. I’ve suffered with it for many years but recently it has been harder and more frequently. Thanks for writing this and giving hope to so many others including me to know it doesn’t have to consume us.

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  34. alivia

    Iv often found that if you label depression as ‘the’ depression rather than ‘my’ depression youre removing it’s power and the control it has in your life. So basically saying that you’re not the problem, the depression is the problem. I also agree with u on the church front, I also believe that God has given us all our own challenges to face, I also believe there’s a way through it, with God 🙂

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  35. Anonymous

    I think the mistake many Christians make is forgetting that no matter how a person fell into depression, being bashed for it is not going to help them get out of it. Even if they were wrong. Even if it was their fault. There is an endless grace that God offers us that we so often forget to offer to each other. As Jon Foreman said, “the Father’s conditional love does not exist.” It is a long, hard journey of learning how to give grace to each other and especially to give grace to yourself. Keep on keeping on=)

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  36. fil_sj

    i appreciate all that was written in here. thank you so so so much.

    Reply  |  
  37. Anonymous

    I am so sorry that you had that experience with the youth leader. I just want to encourage you that Depression is like any other illness and you seem to be doing the right steps to help it. Therapy and medications. I am a Youth Director and I deal with depression that is genetic. I can understand how hard it is sometimes to just get out of bed in the morning, but I also know that God is there with me though it all. Praying for you!

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  38. js

    My faith is strong. I did not ask to be born with these chemicals. This is exactly why I left the church & why I’m done trying. My last pastor told me that I “must not be right with God.” He wasn’t the first. I will never be a part of any church again. I’m quite sure this breaks His heart.

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  39. morte

    i remember living like this for many ears untile i dicide that i wasent going to let anything take my hope dreams and life aways so i set my mind i was going to be better then my depression and live m
    my life

    Reply  |  
  40. Abby

    I love that you mentioned being a depressed Christian. I’ve been struggling with that for a few years now. It is difficult because a lot of the Church doesn’t understand mental illness. A lot of them do this it’s a lack of faith or that you don’t trust God enough or something along those lines, and I suppose sometimes it is. But other times, it is just a chemical mix-up in your body that you can’t help. I’ve been reading “Christians Get Depressed Too” by David Murray to help understand all of this. I suggest it to any Christian who struggles with a mental illness or loves someone who does.

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  41. Tricia

    Two book suggestions for a HELPFUL Christian perspective on depression:

    Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness and
    Jesus Wept: When Faith and Depression Meet

    Reply  |  
  42. pandachu

    Reading your story was related to me at one point. Then it made them realize that most of the teens have a mental illness and they needed help. So don’t give up your faith. Keep your head hail high.

    Reply  |  
  43. J. Sidney Fox

    I enjoyed your article. At least as much as one depressed soul can do reading about another depressed soul. Really, it was brave, articulated well, and honest.

    Depression has nothing to do with faith. It is NOT a choice. The speaker may have meant well but he was very poorly informed on the subject. Depression is a fault or series of faults within the operating system of the brain. You don’t choose that. You were either born with it or a traumatic event/s triggers it. Medicine can subdue the effects, but not cure it. It usually takes both medicine and training to control it to a point it no longer controls you.

    I do believe God can heal it. I have personally observed God heal all kinds of ailments, from cancers, to crippled limbs, MS in a fairly advanced stage (that one blew my mind- a year later the lady is still improving and has almost all her bodily functions back from being unable to walk, take care of herself, feed herself), blind eyes restored, deaf ears restored, and serious PTSD and all the associated mental illnesses eliminated in a moment! And faith has little or nothing to do with healing. Everyone that came to Jesus was healed. Check it yourself. Most of them never knew who he was. They came because they had heard about what he was capable of. They came hoping it was as good as they had heard. They certainly were not Christians, they certainly had sin in their lives, and I doubt they did much praying before they arrived.

    Don’t give up. You worship an awesome God that loves you just as you are. You are fully accepted. He sent his son to die for you. Again, just as you were. You have no need to justify yourself or your mental condition to Him. He knows everything about it anyway. He can heal it. You are not lost or without hope. He loves you.

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  44. Donna Nicolosi

    Expressing how you feel about depression helped me to understand what my brother was going through and he didn’t share his darkest side.Instead he took his own life. I realize now the signs that led him to run out of options.Its a horrible disease.The right medications can help if the providers monitor the patient weekly with talk therapy. When weeks go by with out close observation it can be fatal.To all those who are reading with depression keep searching for the right doctor to search for the right meds and therapy even if your appointment is two weeks away hang in there keep the lord in your heart because you are never alone. There is always an option ALWAYS.Faith is the hope of knowing and waiting on its arrival.There is always HOPE.GOD LOVES YOU!!!

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  45. Jessica Burk

    This is so beautiful and true. Live and love your truth, because it’s what makes you…you. Prayers for you as you continue to cope with this small puzzle piece of your life…you’re so strong!

    Reply  |  
  46. Amanda Green

    Thank you for sharing, I’ve never read anything where someone else in this world, has had the same exact feelings and thoughts that I have…

    Reply  |  
  47. Sophie

    I’ve struggled with depression for over three years and I always just saw myself as the depressed girl. I never thought about all these other parts that make me who I am. I realize now that i’m not just my depression and that there is so much more to me than I ever thought. Thank you for making me realize that there’s more to me than just my depression

    Reply  |  
  48. Rosie

    I read your blog today thank u Sharon I will not let depression Rule my life.

    Reply  |  
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