Research shows that most adoptees suffer from recurrent bouts of depression. Although I was only formally diagnosed with the illness at around 38, once I was familiar with its symptoms I was able to identify earlier episodes in my life.
Studies have also revealed that if you’ve had depression once, there’s a good chance you’ll get it again. This is certainly the case with me. Even though I’m no longer clinically depressed, the propensity for the illness to take hold of me again has become an ever-present factor in my life.
It’s not unlike the disease of alcoholism. Even if an alcoholic stops drinking he is still an alcoholic, albeit a recovering one. The craving to drink is always there, and often becomes more intense during difficult times. Alcoholics know that the tiniest sip of of alcohol can set them off on a drinking binge, from which they may never recover.
My depression is much the same. I have to work every day at keeping it at bay. Some days are easy. On others I can forget totally that I ever had those awful dark days in the black hole.
But as it is wont to do – life happens – I experience a “wobbly” and all too quickly I can feel the dark hole beckoning. Thankfully, now I have the tools to resist succumbing to its black emptiness. And as long as I use them I’m okay. To quote a dear friend who is a recovering alcoholic: “If you don’t want to slip, stay away from slippery places.”
For him, this means anywhere where alcohol is present. As a depressaholic, it’s anything or anyone negative. I make it a point to surround myself with things positive and to avoid people who habitually grumble and complain about everything.
In every situation there’s a bright side. For every problem there’s a solution. I challenge myself to look for it, focus on it and apply it. It’s not always easy, but that’s where I have learned rely on the promise contained in Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
But He can only do that if I depend wholly on Him. This means giving the problem over to God. Completely. As my late faither-in-law often used to say: “Let go and let God.” Once I do that the relief is overwhelming, because now I know that the One who is omnipotent is taking care of it, and whatever happens will be right, because His will is always perfect. And what’s right for Him is ultimately always right for me.
I try not to wallow. Rather than dwell on the bad, I constantly strive to renew my mind, thinking on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) – all qualities epitomised by Christ, thus I focus my thoughts on Him.
Finally, while I am still able to do so, I tell myself to snap out of it – before I sink so deep into the inky mire that I lose the ability – and the will – to claw my way out and become completely engulfed in the blackness.
It’s hard work, but with God at my side I always get through it, each time emerging stronger, wiser and best of all, closer to Him.