Excerpts from “Recovering from Depression: A companion guide for Christians”

PART 4           ALPHA AND OMEGA  

12    Emotions of the past                                    

Jane never fully understood why her emotions were so strong that they almost overwhelmed her. But again, the emotions were real and needed understanding and expression. When asked by her therapist how old she felt when she was crying tears of rage she realized the experience was like a very young child having a tantrum. Immediately that brought her some understanding of how she felt. A small child lives in the ‘now’, and what’s happening around her is all there is. If what’s happening makes her angry then she’s angry with her whole being and at her whole world. And she is powerless apart from her fury, which carries her away into a horrible lonely place. Expressing that level of rage is acceptable when we’re aged three or four but if we’re 30-something and working in an office environment it is neither appropriate nor acceptable.

13    Thinking from the past                                            

Peter, another of our acquaintances from Chapter 9, tended to think in an ‘all or nothing’ way. In his depressed state it seemed to him that everyone around him was happy and leading perfect lives. He believed that no-one could possibly feel as low and miserable as he did. And for him ‘being well’ would mean never feeling sadness, fear, anger or guilt.

Part of Peter’s recovery was about understanding that the way he was thinking was unrealistic. Most people experience some of those feelings some of the time and he needed to re-learn what would be ‘normal’ and realistic for him in his ‘After the Darkness’ time. This was quite hard for Peter, especially in the early days of recovery. It took him a while to learn the difference between the sort of ‘off day’ that everyone has from time to time and the sort of ‘off day’ that carried with it that intangible sense of heavy doom that was all too familiar to him as a symptom of depression.

14    Shaping the future – protecting ourselves 

We also need to look to the future and find ways of caring for ourselves that strike a realistic balance between being over-cautious in what we do on the one hand and reckless as to the demands we make of ourselves on the other.

If we wrap ourselves up too much in cotton wool and never move out of our comfort zone (which isn’t a large area when we’re depressed!) we will never learn or grow in mind and spirit and our lives will be self-limiting. But if we throw ourselves into the crazy hectic lifestyles that so many people seem to lead (and perhaps we ourselves once led) we risk another huge crash and yet more time in the ‘A&E’ days of recovery.

Once again, we have to find our own ways of looking after ourselves and deciding what we can and can’t do, but I’d like to offer here some guidelines which, from my own experience and the experience of other people I’ve talked to, may help as you seek your way forward, remembering always that the God whose name is ‘I AM’ will be with you every step along the

15    Shaping the future – forgiveness                

What forgiveness isn’t:

Let’s look again at my dictionary’s definition of ‘to forgive’: ‘to cease to blame or hold resentment against’.

Forgiving, for Sandra, does not mean thinking or saying that the way she was treated was all right or that the harm done to her doesn’t matter. She will not be asked to deny her experiences or belittle her own feelings.

If she forgives, Sandra does not have to let people continue hurting her and she does not have to trust them in the future. Forgiveness is not about allowing hurtful behaviour to continue unchallenged.

It’s also not about trying to forget that the hurtful things were ever said or done. Sandra may well remain vulnerable to hurt when other people’s words or actions trigger memories and touch still sensitive wounds. It will be important that Sandra is aware of this so that she can look after herself and avoid getting caught up in a spiralling build-up of hurt, anger and resentment.

Next extract