This is the third in the depression series of articles.
Depression has many triggers and it is treatable. It is a horrible disease that relies on lies, fear, and isolation to cripple its victims. Please see a medical doctor or a counselor if you or someone you know suffers from depression.
Here are the lies I am addressing in this series:
- I am not good enough
- I am not strong enough
- I am not loved enough
- I am not worth enough
- I am not needed enough
The first two were addressed last week.
I am not loved enough. This lie is a bit tougher to defeat. Unlike the previous two lies, it is more intrinsic. It is more of a sense of absence of love that hurts than the love others receive. To be clear, we are all loved by Jesus and by God. So, in that way we are all in the same boat. The issue with depression is often the human element of love is missing. This becomes a foothold for the lies that we are not lovable, or worthy of being loved and provides room for isolation to grow. This increased isolation then increases the sense of being unloved and rejection results.
The classic signs of depression feed this lie. Withdrawal from life, apathy, listlessness, physical aches and pains, changes in sleep or eating habits, and wanting to be alone all help a depressed person feel truly isolated and unloved.
One of the manifestations of this lie is that nobody cares. After all, if people cared they would do… (fill in the blank). People not caring then becomes I am not loved, at least enough for anybody to care.
Many times, we are loved, but we are not able to receive or recognize the love. Depression blinds us not only to help that is available but also to the love others have for us. To experience love, we need three things. The sender, who is the person loving us. The receiver, who is the person receiving the love. And of course, the love. This is true of all communications and a faulty message, poor sender, or broken receiver cause much grief in relationships.
In the context of depression this turns into a horribly dysfunctional dance. Many people do not know how to handle a loved one with depression and their love is disguised as bad advice (get out of the house and get back in the saddle) or judgement statements (just get over it already). These are protective stances designed to protect them from feeling helpless as the person they love is suffering. In these cases, both the sender is not acting wisely and the message is faulty.
Even in the case in which the sender knows what to say and the message of love is clear, it is still up to the receiver to understand and accept the message. This is difficult when we believe the lies that nobody cares. Healthy expressions of love are dismissed or seen as hurtful or platitudes. It is in these distortions of the message and in the rejection of the sender as being heartfelt that depression really gains ground.
The depressed person is not able to see the message or themselves in a positive light, so it is not perceived as love. Thus, depression claims it as further proof of being unloved.
This is why depression needs to isolate its victims. Any evidence that we are loved goes against the lie that we are not loved. Like any abuser, depression needs us to feel weak, alone, and vulnerable. Anything less risks exposing its lies.
So, what do we do?
We stop basing who we are on our circumstances. We are not depressed and unloved people. We are lovingly and fearfully created by a loving God. Even if you are not a Christian, you are loved by the Creator of the universe.
Look at the evidence. Just because you are not able to see love doesn’t mean it is not there. Just because people send you the wrong message doesn’t mean they don’t care. Just because people are quiet doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
We need to remind ourselves that we are loved. When depression claims we are not loved, yell STOP, as loud as you can in your head. Or out loud if that’s possible. Immediately say “I am loved!” You may have to do this several times in a row until you start believing the truth.
The greatest evidence that you are loved comes from the Bible. For God so loved you that He gave himself up on the cross to provide you with eternal life in paradise. That is pretty astounding and that is the truth. You are loved!
More in the series:
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon). He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca