Like millions today, I’ve faced the demon of depression for much of my life. In fact, I’ve battled severe depression ever since I was in the seventh grade, when I would cry my way through a long day of classes with a book held up in front of my face to hide my tears. My parents didn’t know what to do with my incessant sadness, and a brief mental breakdown during my high school years raised everyone’s awareness—especially my own—that something was not right inside. Even as a leader in the worlds of faith and the arts for over 25 years, the battle has never left—but a few silver bullets have made the clouds lift more often than not.
Are You Battling Depression Right Now?
Have you known that unrelenting sadness? That inner anxiety that everything will come crashing down at any moment? I used to tell my wife that I was one bad day away from being a street person, and two bad days away from a serious attempt on my life. Today, you wouldn’t know that’s my past, but for much of my life, the specter of depression haunted me daily. As a Christian, prayer has been the staple of my recovery. But other direct attacks on depression have also lifted me in powerful ways.
It’s my hope that some of the keys I’ve discovered, from sheer desperation, over the few decades of my life, may help you. While there is no one silver bullet for anyone’s depression, in my experience, a cocktail of them can put depression out of your life so you can function and enjoy your days.
Here are four of my silver bullets in my battle against depression:
1. Name your triggers, and manage them.
One of the first things I had to do was to name what experiences triggered my spirals downward. If we never examine our lives and patterns, we will never discover the weapons we need to battle depression.
For me, relational conflict is a primary trigger. I’m fine if finances are tough, or even if I lose my job (having experienced this multiple times, the heat is off that one. See Gladwell’s David and Goliath). But whatever happened in my youth, whatever still happens in my psyche today when high emotions are expressed in a room, signals a trigger for me that I must constantly manage.
For that reason, a job that entails a steady diet of being around relationally dysfunctional people (needy, or belligerent, or hiding agendas, or socially clueless, or dismissive, or emotionally unfiltered) is not for me. I was a counselor of juvenile offenders, because my compassion compelled me there. I almost (physically and emotionally) died in the daily fray. I was a senior pastor of a local church, and while I was called to do it and wouldn’t trade that season for the world, the sustained need to be “on call” for crisis took me away from being emotionally present to my family. Some mornings I couldn’t get out of bed. Lord, I thank you for my wife.
I’m also an artistic personality, with a high bar for quality in visual, audio and aesthetic fields. I’ve noted that being in environments where the bar for “quality” is what I would deem to be low, for a sustained period of time, takes me out.
Conversely, I thrive in arenas where creativity is high, interpersonal competition is low to nonexistent, aesthetic comradery and collaboration is encouraged, and where my internal bar for quality can be exercised without being penalized or spoken of as “extreme.” (I can’t tell you how many deer-in-the-headlights looks I’ve endured because my dream is to live in a cathedral or modern castle.)
Having named a few of my triggers, I can note when an environment simply won’t work for me over the long haul.
2. Get control of your body, and keep control.
Many moons ago, when I was in one of my darkest times as a pastor, a friend came to me. Natural eating and medicine were still quite unpopular then, and my friend was a hippy in a GMO world. I had tried all the natural antidepressants everyone seemed to rave about—and they all had the opposite effect on me. I would be brought lower by using them. As I shared my struggle, he had a thought.
He suggested I try NuLife’s Energy—a unique blend of ginsengs and other ingredients that serves as a food supplement and stimulates the adrenals. I needed to take it twice daily, for 30 days, for it to build up in my system. Twenty or so years later, it daily takes me from feeling naturally “sad, tired and afraid” to feeling “normal, energetic and confident.” If I stop, I just go back to the way I was. (Note: For women, ginseng has a different affect, so be aware; and everyone should consult a naturopath if you’re considering trying it.)
For me, energy was the first real game-changer in my battle with depression. Nothing else worked for my body like it did.
That told me that my body had something definitively to do with the depression. It was not just a spiritual darkness from which I needed delivered. My emotions were being controlled, in large part, by my body’s systems. Genetics, my early diet and more were ruling me. Energy revealed the reality that if I could control my body, I could take the heat off of depression’s onslaught.