In my last post, I admitted to battling clinical depression for the last few years, and that my exhaustive search for answers led me to a certain medication and to a deeper prayer life. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback on the subject, but I know that there have to be some negative responses that are still unexpressed. Am I suggesting that taking a pill will make everything in life okay? How can a believer be so shallow as to even entertain such thoughts? Can’t you just “get over it”?
I can’t answer any of those questions from my own experience because mine is…mine. So, hear from some prominent Christian women who have their own battles with depression and how it played out in their lives.
Grammy award-winning singer, Mandisa, fell into a deep state of depression after the death of her best friend. Mandisa seriously contemplated suicide to rid herself of her hopeless feelings. She also gained over 100 pounds from an eating disorder that accompanied her depression. In an interview on Good Morning, America she said, “It got pretty bad — to the point where if I had not gotten off that road I would not be sitting here today…[I] was this close to listening to that voice that told me, ‘You can be with Jesus right now, Mandisa. All you have to do is take your life.’ “It almost happened,” she continued. “But God … saved my life quite literally.” An intervention, orchestrated by some of her friends, helped Mandisa decide to seek professional help.
Mary Beth Chapman, wife of Christian musical artist Steven Curtis Chapman talks of her bouts with depression. “Ten months had passed since Maria, our five-year-old daughter, had died in a tragic accident at our home,” Mary Beth said. “Slowly my grief had turned to anger, then to a hopelessness that refused to lift no matter how I struggled against it. I fought with all my strength, to no avail. I recognized it for what it was: depression, an illness I’d battled most of my life.”
Christian comedian Chonda Pierce has also battled depression for some time. She speaks and even jokes about her struggle. In her book Laughing in the Dark she writes about seeking help by numerous trips to doctors, beginning with her gynecologist. She writes, “I entered the exam room, slipped into one of those gowns they give you … climbed onto the, uh, recliner, (and by the way, the “cup holders” are still in a very awkward position), and then stared at the new ceiling tiles and light fixtures while I waited.” Only she could look at such a trying experience with humor, but she does not diminish the seriousness of her illness. She is coping now using medicine and stress management.
Three women with different experiences—all believers willing to talk about their weaknesses—hoping that their encounters with depression can help others to cope with mood disorders.
Obviously, this problem (and its solution) is an inexact science.
In these three women, however, there was an event that brought their conditions to light—the first two in the loss of loved ones. Chonda’s problems began in childhood. In an article in the magazine Psychology Today Dr. Michael Miller, editor of the Harvard Mental Health Letter and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says that grief and depression aren’t necessarily the same, but that circumstances can trigger or at least bring clinical depression to the foreground.  Sadness and anger are natural forms of the grief process, but going through those difficult times and staying in a state of despair for an extended period of time could mean that you need to seek professional help. Each person and situation is unique, so don’t give up and don’t expect a quick fix.
Besides depression and grief, an oppressive environment can make us feel worthless. Thank God my husband and family are such positive influences in my life (in that they believe in me and tell me so often) so I don’t live with negative vibes in my home. However, I have felt worthless in other arenas regarding my job, my education, and my age in places other than in my home. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I have often reminded myself of this quote whenever my environment (and Satan’s lies) seemed to work against my sense of value. In my work environment, like in the music industry, feelings of relevance can ebb and flow quickly as younger, more talented, more dedicated, and more influential people come up through the ranks. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood in a group of “industry” folks and felt invisible because I didn’t have a cut on a big country record, or have a killer voice, or known by famous people. But moving away from the Nashville scene didn’t change my sense of value entirely. In fact, those same feelings of inadequacy followed me here as I went back to school and then became a university professor. I don’t come from academia, I don’t have a PHD, and I have never taught at the college level before so I was jumping out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire. Let me hasten to say that most of those fears were dispelled by the embrace of this incredible community. Though I came into this environment with so many insecurities, my colleagues and students have helped me to see that I have a place to work and serve that needs me. So, there it is. Being needed is an important part of our sense of worth and we’ll deal more with that later as we see how the natural life cycle can deal pretty heavy blows to a woman’s sense of value.
 Pierce, Chonda. Laughing in the Dark: a Comedian’s Journey through Depression. Howard Books, 2015, p. 98.