I Can’t Be Depressed. I’m A Christian.

WARNING: The following post may be lengthy, convoluted, angsty and just plain lousy.

I have always been a pretty happy person. Things never really bothered me, I got along well with just about everybody, I was usually good for a smile or a laugh. I’m still that same person, but something has changed over the last couple of years.

Depression is just not something I’ve ever had to deal with. Oh sure, I’ve been sad – I suppose I’ve had situational depression. I would guess everybody has that at one time or another. But I’ve never suffered from clinical depression. Even when I was diagnosed with cancer; even when I was going through chemotherapy; even when Todd was living 1200 miles away – I don’t think I was clinically depressed.

Now? I’m not so sure. Not ever having experienced it before I’m not positive what I’m going through. The word depression has flitted through my conscience, but I dismiss it as soon as it shows up. I’m hesitant to go see my doctor about this because I fear he’ll take the easy way out and say, “Yeah, you’re depressed. Take a happy pill once a day and you’ll be fine.” Now I’m not opposed to that if it’s what I truly need, but I want to be sure before I start popping pretty colored capsules on a regular basis.

A friend of mine used to suffer from severe clinical depression complete with feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. She fought professional help because she had been told one time or another that good Christians didn’t suffer from depression. She also tried to kill herself. Thankfully she has since gotten the help she needs and today she is a happy, thriving, GOOD CHRISTIAN, who manages her condition with medication and counseling. I remember feeling so angry on her behalf that she would have such baggage. Real depression is a physical condition, not a weakness of the mind.

What I’m struggling with in no way mirrors my friend’s struggles and yet I find myself thinking, “If I was just closer to God I wouldn’t be feeling this way.” Makes me want to smack me. Now don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe Jesus keeps me stabilized. In fact, I KNOW Jesus keeps me stabilized. I’m sure my emotions would be even messier without Him! But there’s definitely something else going on that hasn’t before.

So what IS going on? Is it because my hormones have been totally out of whack for the last few years? I suppose it could be. I’ve also read (but I can’t remember where so I don’t know how reliable this source is) that chemotherapy can cause the chemical imbalance which, in turn, causes depression. I know it’s not a thyroid issue (which can cause similar symptoms) because I get that checked every six months.

But I’m always tired and run down. We missed a party last weekend because by 4:00 my head felt like it would explode and I just wanted to sleep. We made it to a different party this past Friday, but as much as I wanted to go (and did have a great time), I would have been content to stay at home and chill on the sofa. Today I was going to go into Philadelphia with a friend of mine for fun and a free photography lesson (she’s an awesome photographer). I had to back out because I’ve been “too tired and distracted” to finish up something I’d committed to do a while go and it needs to be done by tomorrow.

My house is a wreck and I hate it like this. I’ve never been an exceptional housekeeper, but neither have I ever been as bad as I am now. I care and yet I don’t care. I want it to be clean and tidy but the effort is too much. For a while I just figured my cleaning skills were stagnant from being waited on so much during treatment. That was over three years ago, however, so that excuse has gotten pretty thin. I’m just plain lazy. Except I was never this lazy before.

Most of the time I don’t feel sad so I can’t be depressed, right? I’m just always tired. Unless I’m busy doing something. I love my job and I don’t seem to have the lazy or tired problem there. But when I get home I’m too exhausted to do much of anything. If only I would eat better; exercise regularly; pray and or study my Bible more I would feel like I used to, right? If I would lose weight I would feel better about myself. If my house was clean I would feel better about myself. If I would accomplish something worthwhile I would feel better about myself.

This morning as we were getting ready for church I complained to Todd about having a headache and being tired even though I had a good 8 hours or so of sleep last night. Very cautiously he said, “I’m going to tell you something and I don’t want you to get defensive. I just want you to think about it. You might be depressed.” Instead of getting defensive or thinking about it I told him I thought he might be right.

We talked about it more this evening and I’ve decided to call my doctor tomorrow morning. Todd came right out and said I’ve not been the same for a while. The funny thing is I was fine during the year from hell. So why am I not fine now? Who knows? I suppose I don’t have to know.

There’s a part of me – a fairly large part of me – who hopes I am depressed. It would explain so much of my behavior that I don’t like at all. My laziness, my lack of concentration, my inability to stick to any type of exercise regime or eating plan – things I never had problems with before. Gosh! Maybe that’s why I don’t read like I used to. If there is a medication that I could take temporarily and would help me straighten out my wonkiness that would be great!

But here’s my fear. From the minute I was diagnosed nearly four years ago I became the sole object of Todd’s focus. He treated me like a queen, doting on me every second. When I had my mastectomy the following week he would hardly let anyone near me. He emptied my drains, bathed me, Veeted my legs, brought me food, set me up in the chair or in bed, made sure I was comfortable — you name it, he did it. I worried that as soon as he was left alone and given time to think about our situation he would have a breakdown. Ten days after my surgery he got in his truck and left for the 1200 mile drive.

The first day was fine and he drove to Bristol, Virginia. The next morning after about an hour or so of driving he ended up in an ambulance on his way to a hospital with heart attack symptoms. It all caught up to him and he was put on an antianxiety and an antidepressant. After we were reunited as a family and everything was good again he tried to go off the antidepressant. Turns out the withdrawals from this particular medication are as bad as the original symptoms. So he’s on this drug indefinitely and he hates it. I’m afraid of that happening.

I hope this post hasn’t given the impression that I’m always sad or mopey or distraught. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not severely depressed – I don’t feel hopeless and I’m not having suicidal tendencies AT ALL. It doesn’t effect my job or my marriage or my parenting (I don’t think, anyway). I would guess most people I know have no idea I’ve been having these struggles, though there were a couple people at church this morning who could tell something wasn’t right. But that’s because all of this came to a head today.

So why tell you all this? I’m not sure. Maybe for some wise words from those of you who have similar struggles. Maybe for prayers. Maybe because writing all this down is good therapy. Or maybe just to say that even a good Christian can be depressed.



  1. Gretchen on March 22, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    God love you, Jen. I’ve been there. I’ll email you. There’s nothing weird at all about what you’re describing. Both the symptoms and the delay. Sending hugs and love. And don’t apologize for being who you are. This is your blog. We are blessed that you let us take a peak inside your thoughts. xxxooo

  2. beans on March 22, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    It is nice to see all of you . . .not just the funny all together parts. after all, you are human and even YOU can have feelings–depression is no joke, and can rob you of a lot. i am so thankful that todd was honest with you and that you recognize that there just might be something there to address. you have had a lot of stuff happen to you, and going through it i would imagine it was like being on autopilot . . now that all that is stable it is kind of like now what. that’s kinda why so many moms and dads find that they are miserable after the kids leave–they spent so much time focused on the kids that when they left they were left only with each other. you are left now with yourself, with no drama, and that can take some getting used to i think. give yourself a break and be gentle with yourself. just my three and half cents . . .hugs friend.

  3. His Girl on March 23, 2009 at 12:11 am

    funny, you’ve been on my heart lately… and when I read this it totally felt like, “oh, yes, of course that’s why”praying, sis… and am available any time you wanna chat, too 🙂

  4. CindyS on March 23, 2009 at 1:26 am

    I’m thinking I should e-mail you or I’ll take up all the comment space ;)Good on you for figuring it out and going to ask for help.CindyS

  5. Lori on March 23, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    You aren’t alone at all in this Jen. I have these feelings of just generally being overwhelmed all the time. I don’t know where to start, and so I just do nothing. I used to be so good at multitasking, and now? Yeah, not so much. I thought it would get easier when the kids were older and self-sufficient, but it’s not. Everything is harder.I tell you this so you know you’re not alone. I hope you find the answers you’re seeking. If it is of a physical origin, I’m so glad because you’ll get the relief you’re seeking. If not, then I hope that your faith and your family’s love will see you through these tough times and that you’ll find the relief that you need in another form – whether it be by seeing a mental health professional or whatever else you choose.Either way – I’m so glad you’ve decided to be proactive. Good for you!

  6. Mollie on March 23, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Depression has no rhyme or reason, not even for “Good Christians”. My Aunt who I would say is one of these “good Christians” to the nth degree as a matter of fact. Yet, the past year she has been struggling with severe depression. She is in her 60’s/70’s (not sure which) and this is the first time she has ever had something like this. Who knows what causes depression. Oftentimes it appears to make no sense whatsoever. You will be in my prayers.

  7. The Daily Bee on March 23, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Jen, Reading this does not change my view of you in the negative sense. It reminds me of something I learn everytime I read your blog – what a strong person you truly are. To be so open with what you’re feeling… you will pull through this, I have no doubt. I’m praying for you and yours.

  8. Anonymous on March 23, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I have felt tired, rundown and cranky for over two years. And every time someone mentions depression to me, I poo-poo them. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. When I’m alone with my thoughts, I wonder if it is indeed depression.At any rate…Thinking of you.

  9. Bookwormom on March 23, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Jenster~ Hugs and love and prayers to you & yours. I'm glad you're going to the doctor to ask for help. Except for the illness and moving, many similar thoughts have run through my mind recently- you're not alone (as you can see from the number of ladies who have commented here).

  10. Barbara on March 23, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    Jen – I have been and are with you right now. You have made the right decision and if you ever need someone to talk to you know how to find me!

  11. a saucey snow chik on March 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

    ((( HUG )))i understand babe. we’ll be seeing eachother real soon and can talk then.love you

  12. Cheryl Wray on March 24, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I think that we Christians..and the world…need to better recognize the struggles that Christians have. My aunt just emailed me about a tragedy at her church…her pastor committed suicide and his congregation didn’t even know he suffered from severe depression. So sad. And especially sad that he wasn’t able to share his struggles with others, so that they might have helped him.Keep your chin up, girl. I know how positive you are…and love your honesty!

  13. Pink on March 25, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Jen Sweetie, you are so not alone! I have been treated for depression every since my chemo days! Please know that I am praying for you! Keep your chin up and know that I am here for you if you need to talk! Please, keep the dr. appt. and talk to them about treatment.Terry

  14. Spruce Hill on March 25, 2009 at 8:48 am

    In the last month or so I have been feeling the same way. I have been taking anti-anxiety meds. I was really beating myself up over it. Until one of my friends said”You have been through a lot in the last year it’s ok to take something to make you feel better” So I decided it is ok, and now I am not feeling so bad about it.

  15. Becky on March 26, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Depression happens to even the BEST Christians…just like diabetes and any number of other medical conditions that require medications do. I do believe that hormomes can affect it, as can a number of other factors. My sisters and mom have all struggled with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which is apparently in the depression ‘family’, and during the dreary days of winter especially feel down in the dumps. Being Washingtonians (and avid gardeners) they have to cope with all that rain and gray gloom for months of the year, and spring seems forever away. I understand this also happens to Alaskans and other folks who have long, long (cold and dreary) winters. Special lamps to mimic sunlight seem to help my sisters, as do boning up on Vitamin D, but all of them just feel much better when on meds. And all are good Christian gals. ;)My mom was helped simply by taking an Evening Primrose Oil supplement from the health food store for a while (her ‘change of life’ hotflash issues played into her symptoms quite a bit. Talking to her doctor and then visiting a few specialists really helped her sort it all out. I honestly think the only thing that kept me from being in that same boat is that I have a whole lot more sunshine than they do living where I do. Serious…when we lived in Washington for a brief year when Jericho was a baby…Jeff even suffered from it. As a kid, I watched tons of families move to our ‘beautiful’ state (Washington) from California…and two years or so later, move back. They just couldn’t hack the grey dreary weather. Jeff vows he’ll never live in Western Washington again for that reason.All that to say, it happens. And it’s treatable, and you can feel your usual pep and vigor again. Getting in to see your doctor will really help.In the meantime…I’ll be praying for you!

  16. Shauna on March 26, 2009 at 2:15 am

    Jenster, you are so brave to share your thoughts and feelings and I admire you greatly for that. I’m sending you a personal email.

  17. Cora from Hidden Riches on March 27, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I’m so glad you visited my blog today and left a comment — just so I could find this post this morning! You know, I used to say I was born depressed. Ever since I was a little kid, I was aware of this cloud above my head and I could never rise above it. Like you, it was not bad enough to mention it, and life went on into adulthood with the cloud following above me. Sometimes I really believed that my thinking and my attitudes had become “habit” and that I could just kick it. I’m still a quiet person, more contemplative than others, and can easily slip into the more depressive thoughts. It’s hard to separate a quiet personality from being depressed sometimes. I only know that as your relationship with God deepens and you get to know yourself better, the more you can deal with what is normal personality and what is depression. I do hope your visit with a doctor helps you find answers. I’ll be praying for you!Cora

  18. cubmommy on March 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Sheila Walsh who is one of the speakers of Women of Faith, went through clinical depression and has even written a book called Honestly about it. I feel she is a strong woman of faith and has survived a lot. God is there to help us work through our issues and to learn from them. I believe everything happens for a reason and it is to make us stronger and closer to God.Praying for you!

  19. radioactive girl on March 30, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Last year I was tired all the time. My doctor screened me for depression several times and kept saying I didn’t fit the depression profile since my only symptom was the tiredness. Eventually I convinced him to put me on something just to see what would happen. He did and I have felt so much better since. I am not saying you are depressed, and I am not even saying I was because mine could have been fatigue from the undiagnosed rheumatoid arthritis and sjogren’s but I feel so much better on them that I had to share with you just in case. This cancer thing really takes it’s toll. Even when you think you are done and should be fine, for me anyway, things just keep popping up and catching me off guard. Good luck!

  20. Sing4joy on April 4, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Ha! Been struggling with this too and like you, chalked it up to lazy, being overweight, not spending enough time with God, etc etc. I will be watching to see how God works this out. Ps. I spent a season on happy pills after I came to the swamp and successfully stopped taking them – just let your doctor know that that is a major concern for you.

  21. HUMANHOOD on April 6, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Resolving personal issues whatever it may be should not be handled alone. There are communities who are willing to support all the way to keep up the motivation. Just reach out and let others help to surpass the difficulties that you may be experiencing.There’s actually a support group wherein anyone can join, their Facebook page can be found at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=141691450036

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