People with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are highly susceptible to bouts of depression. Researchers aren’t certain if this results from the emotional aspects of living with the limits and requirements of these conditions, or if a predisposition to depression is a function of the various diseases themselves. Although, 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 which requires treatment and medication, so I usually fight my way out with a combination of prayer, nutrition, and exercise. However, a few weeks ago, after months of slowly sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness, the gloom lifted almost overnight giving me 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 return of energy and enthusiasm 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, but after fasting, there was a striking contrast and it lingered in my mind.
Depression feeds on itself. Even without an underlying medical cause or chemical imbalance, a case of the gloomy 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 the bad pattern is working for them and keeping them from letting go.
Depression also has a subtle payoff; while life is certainly less happy, less enjoyable, and less productive when one is depressed, 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 it may be equally true 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 if we fall, we may have enough courage to step out and seize the joy.