MIND OF CHRIST
Depression: My Spiritual Battle for Deliverance
By Sharon L. Fawcett
CBN.com —Walking down the long hospital corridor, I sensed that with each step I took, I was losing a piece of myself. As I passed through the door at the end of the hallway, I knew my life would never be the same. I felt defeated and confused. What’s someone like me doing in a place like this? I wondered. It was my first admission to a hospital psychiatric ward; somewhere I had never expected to be.
I had always been one of those people who had it all together, or so it seemed. As a child and teenager I was a good student and a leader in school activities. As an adult I was busy in my church, singing, leading children’s choir, teaching Sunday school, and serving on various committees. Now it seemed my days of achieving had ended; getting showered and dressed each day were my biggest accomplishments.
I had been a Christian most of my life, asking Jesus to be my Savior when I was five years old. God had blessed me with a wonderful husband, Tim, and two beautiful daughters. Lauren was three and a half and we had just celebrated Jenna’s first birthday. It seemed that I had everything to live for, but my mind was consumed with thoughts of death. I was 26 years of age.
Longing for Peace
For some reason, beyond my realm of understanding at that time, I had become overwhelmed with despondency. Instead of looking forward to each new day, I dreaded waking up. I had lost the desire to play with my children. Lying on the couch watching them play was the best I could do. I used to love talking to my girls, telling them stories and listening to their chatter, but even the sound of their voices had become irritating. I no longer wanted to talk, to listen, or to answer anyone’s questions. I just wanted to be alone.
None of my previous hobbies or activities interested me anymore. I didn’t want to leave the house, or my bed. All I wanted to do was sleep, eternally, if possible.
Struggling to Survive
My admission to the psychiatric ward was an attempt to protect me from myself—I had expressed thoughts of suicide to my physician. The admitting psychiatrist prescribed an antidepressant medication and told my husband, “In a couple of weeks, Sharon should feel well enough to go home.” I was there for eight months, and that was just my first hospitalization.
The diagnosis came easily: major clinical depression complicated by personality disorders. The cure was more complex. In the next nine years I accepted every form of treatment offered to me: twenty different antidepressant medications, nearly 200 electroconvulsive treatments (shock treatments), and many other forms of therapy. I spent 80 weeks as a patient in hospital psychiatric wards. The quest for healing became my occupation.
Life Marches On
Depression is a strange illness. Most terminally ill people have a spirit that longs to live, even though the body is dying. As a depressed person, I felt that my spirit had already died, my body just refused to follow it to the grave.
I was torn between my desire to end my own suffering and the knowledge that in so doing I would be leaving a legacy of incredible pain and sorrow for my daughters and my husband. My choice to live was not easy on them either.
My children had to deal with the reality of having a mother who could not care for them. My husband had a partner who was unable to contribute anything to the marriage. Tim became my caregiver and assumed the roles of mother and father to our girls, making a conscious effort to provide them with the affection, support, and love that they needed.
The Beginning of the End
Years passed but my depression remained. It was as though tiny bandages had been placed on a large, gaping wound; but it continued to bleed and would not heal. Finally, after nine years of medical care, my diagnosis was changed to refractory depression—depression that does not respond adequately to treatment.
I was baffled. It seemed that nearly a decade of my life had been wasted searching for a cure that did not come. Precious years with my husband and children had been lost forever. I deemed myself a failure as a wife, a mother, and a Christian. Now, it seemed, I was a failure as a psychiatric patient, as well. Refractory depression felt like a death sentence.
My doctor had given me excellent medical treatment over the years, but I began to realize that while those in the mental health profession had done all they could to treat my body and mind (by treating my brain chemistry and emotions), a key element of my being had never really been considered: my spirit. So, I took my pastor’s advice and began to see a Christian counselor.
Berys was unlike any counselor or therapist I had ever spoken to. “I don’t have all the answers,” she said, “but the Lord does.” Together, through prayer, we invited Him into the counseling process. He revealed much to me.
I learned that the roots of my depression were not biochemical or emotional, as I had assumed, but spiritual. I discovered many lies I had believed my entire life, which greatly affected my personality and influenced the way I had chosen to live. One of the most destructive untruths was that I was not good enough. As a young child I began to feel that I was somehow flawed, substandard, inferior. I lived my life trying to prevent others from discovering how worthless I really was. Lacking a healthy sense of my own value, I became dependent on the approval of those around me to make me feel good about myself, earning their praise through performing, people pleasing, and perfectionism. It became a costly addiction. I burned out at the age of 26, unable to “do” anymore.
As I sat in Berys’ office one afternoon, the Holy Spirit spoke softly to my wounded, weary soul. He told me that I was not the worthless person I had always believed I was. Sharon Fawcett was the handiwork of the Creator of the universe, made in His image.
My work was of no consequence. My achievements did not matter. What I did or who I was did not determine my worth—whose I was did. I was a beloved child of the King! Believing this truth would transform me. No longer would I have to strive for the approval of others. God’s opinion of me was all that mattered, and He loved me just the way I was. I was free to discover His purpose for my life.
Prior to beginning Christian counseling, I had lost almost all hope of ever getting well and believed that my days on earth were nearing an end. But now God whispered, “I have plans for you, Little One, a future full of hope!” He promised, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart…and I will bring you back from captivity” (Jeremiah 29:13,14). And so, I sought Him—continuously—by studying His Word, listening to His voice, and praying. God fulfilled His promise. Within three months of my initial meeting with the Christian counselor, my depression was gone. I never returned to the psychiatric ward, never had another electroconvulsive treatment, and I no longer needed medication, or the care of a psychiatrist. Six years have passed and I remain free!
At one time I believed depression was the end of life for me; I now see that it was the beginning of a new, glorious life. My despondency caused me to withdraw from the world around me and offered a rare opportunity to become intimately acquainted with myself. Desperation provided the motivation required to delve into areas of my being that had never been explored, and to make some vital changes within. Although depression is not something that I would have chosen for myself, I am now grateful for the blessings I reaped because of it: an understanding of my true identity and worth, an intimate relationship with God, and a strong faith in Him to protect, direct, and provide.
Christian television host Willard Thiessen once stated, “Sometimes what looks to us like destruction is actually what God will use for our absolute deliverance.” I believe! Through depression, I was rescued from a life lived for the wrong purpose, an exhausting existence in a dry, harsh territory and delivered to a new land, blooming with joy and watered by peace.
My perspective on suffering has changed. While unpleasant, I know that pain serves a purpose in the life of a Christian. I am also keenly aware that while our difficulties may seem insurmountable at times, there is nothing that God cannot do, and nothing He cannot use for our good.
Copyright © 2005 Sharon L. Fawcett. Used by permission.
Sharon Fawcett is a freelance writer and speaker from New Brunswick, Canada. She is the author of Hope for Wholeness: The Spiritual Path to Freedom from Depression, and stories that appear in several books such as God Answers Prayers, God Allows U-Turns for Women, and Silver Linings: Breaking Through the Clouds of Depression. For more information, or to contact Sharon, visit her Web site: www.SharonFawcett.com.
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