What the Doctors Missed: My Experience of Depression and Spiritual Disconnection

What the Doctors Missed: My Experience of Depression and Spiritual Disconnection

Depression tempts us to curve inward rather than reaching out to God. We easily succumb to this temptation because, after all, it is the ordinary human condition is to curve in on ourselves. In my experience, during the later stages of my depression, I became tired of calling out to God and soon became skeptical about the benefits of waiting on God. Eventually I gave up on “spiritual warfare” and chose merely to survive each day.

The first therapeutic assessment in my record, from July 2021, reads: “47 y.o. M with history of trauma and anxiety, with symptoms of PTSD, GAD, and depression.” In other words, some of this and some of that: post-traumatic stress disorder, general anxiety disorder, and depression. With a tip of the hat to my recent crisis, I am “prone to catastrophic thinking, presenting loss of interest, and exhibiting racing mind and heightened nerves.” There’s also a visual: “He is dressed casually in T-shirt, jeans, and flip-flops. He makes good eye contact, is pleasant and cooperative, and communicates calmly, though sporadically tearful.”

Indeed, anxiety and depression slept together in my bed. But toward the end of my recent two-year struggle, depression eventually moved to the center, pushed anxiety to the side, and stole the covers.

I experienced depression as a dark cloud hanging over my life, sometimes emitting thunder, other times pouring down rain, still other times merely darkening everything in sight. It seemed to me that the cloud would never dissipate. The more I prayed, the worse things got. Or so it felt.

For me, as for many others who experience prolonged depressive symptoms, depression is a form of acute suffering. It affects us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. After all, we are psychosomatic beings. Whenever one “part” of us is negatively affected, the other “parts” of us feel the pain in one way or another.

Turning to God as Revealed in Scripture

For the first eighteen months or so of my two-year depression, I struggled daily to find spiritual reinforcement. I read through the Psalms twice, journaling my way through a devotional Psalter (Crossway). The Psalms gave me some hope. I especially resonated with the Psalmist when he wrestled God to the mat, when he expressed his feelings to God in a raw and vulnerable manner, when he cried out for the Lord to deliver him in the here-and-now.

I read through Hebrews 11 slowly. I gained some strength from heroes of the faith God delivered from immense challenges and trials (11:1-35). I tried to gain strength from the stories of faithful men and women who God never delivered in the here-and-now, who managed to be faithful even though God never gave them visible victory (11:35-40).

Turning away from God and toward a False Savior

Eventually, somehow and for some reason, I gave up. Though I am not aware of having made any such decision consciously, in effect I threw my hands up. If God would not lessen the nearly-unmitigated onslaught of negative circumstances, if the Great Physician wouldn’t provide any peace for my racing mind or balm for my frayed nerves, I would have to seek help elsewhere.

I turned to alcohol. I knew exactly what alcohol would give me. One drink would give a bit of relief to (what I now know as) my PTSD symptoms.

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