People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are highly susceptible to bouts of depression. Researchers aren’t certain if this is simply from the emotional aspects of living with the limits and requirements of these conditions, or if it is a function of the various diseases themselves that causes this predisposition to depression. For diabetics there appears to be a clear relationship between episodes of high blood glucose and depression.
Whatever the reason, since becoming diabetic I occasionally find myself sinking into the slough of despond. Fortunately, I do not suffer from the sort of clinical depression that requires treatment and medication, so I usually fight my way out gradually with a combination of prayer, nutrition and exercise.
A few weeks ago, after months of slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness, the gloom lifted almost overnight and I was able to gain a new insight into the psychology at play in my life.
My miraculous cure was the result of a 20-hour fast undertaken as part of an attempt to get my diet back on track. I was amazed by the renewed energy and enthusiasm that resulted practically overnight. I don’t know if this would ever work again, and I’m not advocating it for people with diabetes or anyone else. I only mention it as background to my rapid reversal of spirits.
When one emerges gradually from a period of depression there is no line of demarcation between being depressed and slowly becoming “well”. With my experience after fasting the striking contrast lingered in my mind.
A day or two after my return to the light I was invited to join some friends at an upcoming weekend retreat. I’d known of the event for months and dismissed it. This time it sounded like fun and I agreed to go.
After making that commitment I finally found our new home and the move was scheduled for the Monday immediately following the retreat weekend, creating complications in my life.
It occurred to me that if I had remained depressed I would have begged off going to the retreat and avoided the problem.
Everyone knows that depression feeds upon itself. Even without an underlying medical cause or chemical imbalance, a case of the blues can turn insidiously into a lifestyle. Suddenly I was able to see that this wasn’t simply the law of inertia at work.
I’ve long maintained that people who repeatedly try and fail to overcome addictions, bad life-style choices or even bad habits, fail because on some level what they struggle to change is working for them. They derive some benefit on some level that keeps them from letting go.
Now I could see that depression also has a subtle payoff that makes it just that much harder to escape. Life is certainly less happy, less enjoyable, less productive when one is depressed, but it is also less complicated and less challenging. Opportunities for success are avoided, but so are possibilities of failure.
I once heard depression described as anger turned inward and I believe that can be true, but equally true is that some depression is the result of fear held close.
The antidote to fear is trust. If we can trust God to be our safety net when we fall, we may have enough courage to step out and take a chance.
I still have packing to do for the move and for next weekend’s retreat. I will certainly be stressed and tired from all the activity, but I trust that I’m going to squeeze enough joy out of the process to make it well worth the effort.