This series aims to promote awareness of the nature and reality of depression, encourage those who are battling depression, and equip those who want to help someone who is struggling. This post is part 3 in the series. Stay tuned for a new post each week, and find the rest of the series here.
In this post, let’s take a look at negative self-image as a common symptom of depression.
Depressed people don’t like themselves very much. They can’t imagine why anyone would like them or want to be around them. They feel worthless and, in some cases, undeserving of life. Again, these are lies that must be cast off and replaced with the truth of how beautiful and wonderful each person is—how beautiful and wonderful you are.
Every life is a vital thread in the tapestry of humanity. Yes, including yours. You are worth more than you can imagine. There is beauty of matchless value inside you. You may not see that right now. Life, circumstances, and the enemy may have caused you to lose sight of your true self; but it’s there. Deep within you, waiting to be found.
Are you willing to rediscover who you truly are?
Are you willing to chip away the layers of deception and insecurity that have covered your true self?
Are you willing to emerge from the cocoon in which your true self is hidden?
Reclaiming your true self is something you can only do by drawing close to God. Counseling, support, and medicine alone won’t do it. It is only by drawing near to God that you will find yourself again. I don’t understand fully the beauty and mystery of what it means to be made in God’s image, but I believe that it is by discovering who we are as children of God that we grow into who we are meant to become.
How do we draw near to God? This is both very simple and very complex. It is simple because God is imminent and approachable. God is always a breath, thought, tear, or prayer away. Prayer can take many forms: spoken words, silence, listening, singing, playing an instrument, watering flowers, watching a sunrise, going for a jog, holding a baby, hiking in the woods, planting a tree, climbing a mountain, helping an elderly neighbor. And there are countless others. In this sense, approaching God is very simple.
Approaching God is also very complex. Sometimes God seems elusive at best and silent at worst. We pray, but feel nothing. We reach out, but perceive no response. This is distressing and confusing, so we either stop praying or continue offering what feel like feeble petitions.
Our emotions can be especially difficult to navigate when we are depressed. We assume that God has the same negative feelings toward us that we hold about ourselves. We project our negative self-talk onto God, and this short-circuits our attempt at prayer before it begins. “Why would God bother listening to me? I am unworthy of God’s attention.” When we think like this, we don’t pray. Part of the challenge, therefore, is pressing ahead through the fog. Don’t give up. Persevere. There is light and warmth just ahead.
If you don’t feel like praying (as was often the case when I was depressed), I encourage you simply to sit with God for a few minutes each day. Just be present and attentive. You don’t even have to say anything. St. John of the Cross wrote that “silence is God’s first language.” Open yourself to God. As you become able, utter this simple, two-word prayer at least once each day: “Help me.” Even if you think God has turned away and isn’t listening, keep praying this prayer. If this is the only way you connect with God during this time, I believe it will be worth it—it was for me.
The question then becomes: How do you connect with God? What experiences touch the divine spark within you? What triggers your passions? What things cause you to feel something beyond yourself? These are the things for which God has made you. This is how God has hard-wired your spirit. This is your true self. Get to know him or her.
You are not worthless. Your value is incalculable.
You are not ugly. Your beauty is unsurpassed.
You are not terrible. There is goodness within you.
You are not stupid. Your mind is a miracle.
You are not undeserving. You are worthy of life.
Until you believe and embrace these basic truths about yourself, you will remain in the clutches of depression. Rediscovering your true self is an essential ingredient in your healing. Refuse to listen to lies about yourself. Banish negative voices from your life. Awaken the beauty within you. Cast off the shackles of depression and be free to be you, for you are beautiful and valuable.
In the next post, I will discuss some common myths about depression.
This material is taken from my book Rethinking Depression (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016).