Recently we heard of a friend who had been released from her depression.  We are delighted for her. I used the word released because that it is exactly what it is like. It’s a very dark prison.

My wife Rita has experienced several bouts of deep depression over the years and we know the scenario well and all that it implies. The very word brings back memories which we would rather forget. For some it begins with the gradual rolling in of dark clouds bringing a sinister blanket of oppression and gloom.  For others, including my wife, it can happen overnight or in the space of a few hours at any time. It can be triggered by a traumatic event or even on hearing some disturbing news, usually with a personal emotional application.

Once depression arrives it brings with it a sense of helplessness. It takes over. Its demands are unrelenting for both sufferer and caregiver. Days upon days are spent with the air of despondency, of constant crying and hours of motionless sitting. Sometimes comforting arms are all that one can give.  You are imprisoned in your own house.  Occasionally even for me to leave the room caused my wife great consternation.

Depression is unpredictable as to how long it will last. Rita’s episodes were usually four months long. Few people can comprehend four months of emotional darkness. Four months living with a sense of hopelessness. It is not surprising that it brings a desire to end one’s life.

Why do I write about this now? Our friend’s recovery reminded me again of how grateful we are that it has been eight years since Rita suffered her last insidious bout with depression. Unless you have been there, it is difficult for anyone to fully understand the devastation it brings and even more the sense of guilt – especially for the Christian. It is not uncommon for people to infer that this should not happen in the life of a Christian.

Once when Rita was on the road to recovery we returned to church where she was greeted with “Why don’t you snap out of it?” Regretfully that came from a Pastor’s wife.  If that were possible why would anyone remain in this supposed self-inflicted prison?  People suffering with depression need love, comfort, understanding and support – not criticism!

How do you beat it? How do you overcome it?  Yes, there are many drugs that are used but sometimes even they are hit-and-miss in determining the right one and the right dosage.  There is no simple formula.  I spent many hours just holding my wife, talking, praying, reading Scripture and looking for the glimmer of improvement.

The whole scenario is like walking through a very dark forest. The trees are dense and block out the sunlight. The forest seems endless. The blackness is almost tangible. Then one day there appears just a slight fleeting ray of sunlight. A few days later another and then another until through a gap in the trees you see the sunshine on the side of the mountain. You have reached the other side of the valley. You walk out of the forest into the warmth of the sunlight.

Then you know it is finally over and everything is fresh and new again.  Your strength returns and you realize the joy of climbing towards the next mountain top experience.