Depression: Hide And Seek

I serve a small congregation as they search for a pastor. The other Sunday as I was greeting folks before church, two people made the comment that I must have been given good news!

I was taken aback. I hadn’t had any particular good news.Then I realized I had recently had an uptick in my medicine. I have been stable for several years but lately my mood had been a little down. My wife gives me feedback when symptoms show themselves so I can quickly get treatment.  She had not noticed anything.

Even my psychiatrist had not noticed a change. We only uncovered it as we went through rating the symptoms described in the DSM.

I was hiding my symptoms. I thought. But people who have only known me for six months had seen a difference.

Surely I was good at hiding my symptoms. I was only experiencing a minor change. They couldn’t identify it as depression so, “I must have had good news.”

Shocked, all the years as a pastor I thought I was hiding my depressive tendencies. Now, I am sure I wasn’t. Now I’m sure people noticed. People search for explanations for behavior they don’t understand. Undoubtedly through the years some thought I was under unusual stress. Others that I was having a series of bad days.  Burnout was probably another explanation. Some  probably assumed this was part of my personality, that the depressive behaviors was who I am. They had no reason to think otherwise.

We may think we are hiding our depression but people notice little things. Our negative thoughts leak into small behaviors. When we ruminate it causes small changes in our speech.

Families know when things aren’t right with us and get frustrated when they can’t understand what the issue is. They may even give up on us. Sadly, sometimes people give up on themselves.

What resources does the Bible give us?

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he… “  (Proverbs 23:7 KJV) Our thoughts feed our behaviors, and our behaviors are evident to others, even if they are not to us.

“A truthful witness saves lives, but a false witness is deceitful.” (Proverbs 14:25 )  Dysfunctional thoughts are deceitful.  The truth is that you are precious to God. You are worthy of God’s love. You are a masterpiece of God’s handiwork. Truthful thinking untangles the deceit of incorrect thinking.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

These are the kinds of thoughts to use in our daily personal affirmations. These are the types of thoughts to focus on. Sometimes we need meds or therapy to help us focus on positive things. Depression is an illness that needs treatment. You are not weak when we use medicines and talk therapy. Telling yourself that you are weak when you need help is untrue. All humans need help of one kind or another. So do you.

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25)This verse reminds us of our need for community. A support group is one of the most effective things you can do in depression treatment. Finding a therapist to whom you can tell your deepest thoughts and who can give you feedback is another way of finding community.

I am not as good at “hide and seek” as I thought.

Life is so much better when I am not hiding.

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