This Week on Soul Talks
As we go through various trials in life, we may experience different types of depression. This can cause us to turn our anger inward, judging and shaming ourselves into loneliness and isolation. But friends, our Risen Savior goes ahead of us always, and we are not alone. One of the hardest but most crucial things the Lord wants for us in our depression is to take action!
Tune into this episode of Soul Talks, where Bill and Kristi share vulnerably about their experiences with depression. Be encouraged and filled with hope as you learn powerful, Biblical tools and practices to help you lean into an emotionally honest faith, receive empathy and support, and care for others around you who may be struggling.
Resources for this episode:
- Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke
- Journey of the Soul
- Soul Shepherding Network
- Soul Shepherding Institute
- Focus on the Family
- American Association of Christian Counselors
Care for Depression Transcript
Bill & Kristi Gaultiere
Hello friends. Thanks for joining us for this Soul Talks conversation. We are so blessed to follow Jesus with you.
Today we’re going be talking about caring for discouragement, depression and low self-esteem.
This is a topic that you and your loved ones all need help with guidance and prayer.
These are our tough times that we live in today.
And as we go through various trials in our life, there are issues that we all face, in the universe of depression.
We’re gonna talk about the different types of depression and how you can get help with that.
Bill, you and I just returned from being with a group of missionaries in the Paraclete Group.
We got to lead them in a Journey of the Soul retreat, and to give them the model for spiritual and emotional growth that’s been so helpful to us.
And it was just awesome to be with these men and women of God, and get to know them and hear about their ministries and be a part of what they’re doing.
One of the things I love so much is that these are people that are called to come alongside people in ministry.
And that’s what we need when we’re depressed.
We can’t do it alone.
If we try to do it alone, we’re going to end up depressed at some point or anxious, burned out, or something.
But God didn’t mean for us to do it alone.
He called for us to come alongside of each other to minister, to each other. To have other people who are Soul Shepherds to us, Ambassadors of Jesus to us.
All these are the same kind of terms.
And especially when fighting depression, we need somebody else who can be there for us. Who can empathize with us.
I have shared with you that Bill has struggled more with anxiety, but I have struggled more with depression in our life together.
That’s been the mental health challenge that I tend to fall into: having enough energy, having enough motivation.
I also struggle with depression because I will turn my anger inward.
Instead of being angry at somebody else, I turn it against myself.
I’d rather be angry at myself because if I’m angry at myself, then I’m responsible for what happens with that anger.
But if I’m angry at somebody else, I can’t control their reaction to my anger.
I think this is an unconscious decision that I’ve made my whole life, I’ll turn my anger inward and it causes depression.
Anger Turned Inward
Yes. Let’s talk more about the anger turned inward.
That’s a basic deep understanding of depression.
A lot of people don’t realize that when we’re depressed, so often we’re angry at ourself, judging ourself, even hating ourself.
By “self,” I mean our emotions, our needs, our inner being. In places of vulnerability, sensitivity, and weakness.
So when we are impatient and unkind with our own self, that’s a force of depression.
Yes. And I wrote a lot about that. Chapter Five of Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke is my story there.
And we gave tools that have been helpful to me in Journey of the Soul.
I told some of my story about depression, self-hatred, turning on myself, shame, and condemnation.
That’s definitely a big part of it when I am depressed.
I’m usually under a lot of shame and usually I’m not conscious of it.
I’m usually feeling pretty bad about myself.
I’m usually also projecting some doubt onto God.
I’m having trouble with confidence in God.
Well, say more about not realizing that you’re turning your anger against yourself.
It’s a very striking statement because you’re a therapist. You’re very self-aware.
You’re very conversant, understanding, and insightful about matters of Christ-centered psychology and spirituality.
And yet even you, Kristi, sometimes don’t realize that you are judging yourself.
You’re starting to spin down a trail of negative thinking and feelings that have a sense of hopelessness in it.
Well, a concrete example would be yesterday.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day and I was sick and couldn’t be with any family.
I felt depressed all day. I was sick, not able to go to church, not being able to be a family who were gathering together.
The kids didn’t send a card or affirmation or a gift. I did get texts, you know, that they love me.
I wasn’t able to be with my mom because she has cancer and I couldn’t risk getting her sick.
She has terminal cancer, so it was likely her last Mother’s Day.
So I was very sad and depressed about that too.
I was really struggling with some depression.
But as I confessed with you, as I processed it I went to a place unconsciously of turning on myself and thinking, “Well, I must not be a very good mother.”
“I must be failing my kids.”
I was turning on myself and I was feeling shame.
You didn’t realize it until you talked it through with someone in confidence — me, in this case.
Then you realized what was going on.
Yes, I have to process and I’m an external processor.
It really helps me to do that out loud, sometimes with journaling and prayer.
I can do it that way, but oftentimes I need more.
And one of the things I really need is empathy for what I’m feeling.
I need to feel safe, where I can get emotionally honest and aware.
Then I need to receive some empathy so that I’m not just feeling abandoned, alone, and turning on myself.
Yes. Well, it’s an honor for me to listen to you and care for you.
I know your friends feel the same way, and so appreciate your honesty about that.
You’re not alone.
I know many of our listeners have struggled with discouragement, low self-esteem, shame, and depression.
Some of you have struggled with chronic depression or biological depression. We’ll get into some of those differences later.
Even though I have more issues with anxiety than depression, there have been three periods in my life where I was dealing with some significant depression.
Reactive depression, not like a major depression where I couldn’t function.
In my adolescence in high school, I was pretty depressed. A lot of times depressed means repressed, like your personality is repressed.
Your energy, your gifts, your best self is repressed.
In my case, I just felt like I didn’t fit in.
I felt isolated.
Like you were just describing Kristi, I turned on myself and judged myself.
And then in graduate school, when I was getting my doctorate degree in psychology, particularly in the second year of my studies, I fell into probably the worst depression I’ve experienced.
I was able to keep functioning and continuing in school and work and so forth.
But I was quite bleak and gloomy. Negative about myself, my studies, and very disoriented about God’s call in my life.
Feeling again, like I didn’t fit in the culture there in the school that I was in.
Some of the things that were being stressed by my professors, made me feel like I didn’t fit in that culture.
How I felt as a Christian.
How I wanted to integrate my faith, scripture, and prayer into my work as a psychologist once I would get licensed.
So I endured some judgment from a few professors and felt ostracized.
It was a very hard experience for me.
And so, that went on for some months. I was not my best self.
The story I tell in our book Journey of the Soul, about my “wall” experience in midlife in my late thirties, where I burned out, there was some depression associated with that.
It was localized around my career at the time and feeling frustrated and held back.
I wasn’t fulfilling my best purposes and feeling stuck in that and disoriented.
I was not really understanding what God was doing with me as it related to that.
So I had some depression then too.
I think one of the things that’s hard about depression is that it does tend to isolate us because of that shame piece and not feeling understood.
And we feel like nobody wants to be with us when we’re depressed.
We feel a low energy about us.
We oftentimes don’t even have energy to engage with other people. It’s very hard to have energy, to take initiative with anyone and ask for what we need.
It’s very hard when you’re depressed.
It often feels like you’re just slogging through deep, heavy mud, and every step just takes so much energy.
It’s like, you just see things through these dark colored glasses. You hear the phrase, rose colored glasses, but it’s like black colored glasses you’re looking through.
Everything looks distorted by the depression.
It’s so hard to find motivation. And one of the things that’s interesting about depression is that depression actually paralyzes us.
But action is curative when you’re depressed.
When you’re depressed, one of the most important things that you can do is to take action.
It’s the hardest thing to do.
Lament Vs. Complaining
I need to take a walk, exercise, get out and be with people.
Find some work that you can do and feel productive or some friend to be with, to talk with.
It’s very important to get moving and to get some sort of positive momentum. To piggyback with a person that can sort of give you some energy or some positivity.
And certainly the thing that we talk about so much in Soul Shepherding is seeking empathy.
I think it’d be helpful Kristi, if we unpack the difference between lament and complaining.
This relates to depression a lot.
We also have a tool for this that’s in our Soul Shepherding Network, for the members that join our Network.
You’ve particularly said this has been very helpful for you personally. The Bible study that we did looking at the Psalms of lament and healthy grief, healthy expressions of sadness.
We could sort of call that a good depression.
That’s emotionally expressive and relational and getting worked through versus complaining that tends towards a bad depression.
What we think of as depression as being unhealthy, gloomy, and stuck. Feeling bad about myself and isolating.
So lament versus complaining.
Really important distinction. I’m glad you brought that up because we can, in our fear, in our shame, try to shut it all down.
Shut down all our emotions.
All our emotions. And be afraid to share our emotions with God, with anybody, because we feel so much shame about it because they’re negative.
Negative emotions don’t feel good.
We assume nobody wants to hear them or be around us because we don’t want to be with ourselves when we’re that way.
But actually it can be really important.
So that’s part of yesterday I did a lot of grieving and lamenting because I knew I needed to express it. I needed get it out.
That can actually also be very helpful and very cleansing and very orienting.
In the Psalms, we see very often these Psalms where the Psalmist expresses the lament and the confession of all the negative emotions.
Then finishes the Psalm in a reorientation, a reignition of faith in God and praise, expectation, and hope for good.
When we lament, we’re reorienting back to that.
We’re clinging to God.
“But God, you are my help.”
“You are my rock.”
“You are my shield or you’re at my right hand.”
We’re re-fixing again on that. That hope and the presence of the difficulty and the pain.
We’re not denying the pain and repressing it and just making statements of faith.
We’re processing through. We’re being emotionally honest in our prayers.
Yes. The real faith moves through the dark tunnel towards the light at the end, rather than denying that it’s even there.
This is a tricky thing because a lot of times you’re implying this Kristi.
We sort of slap Bible versus in this case with depression or discouragement.
We would just put these positive Bible versus on top of it to be cheery, optimistic, and have faith.
There’s something about that that can at least for a short term, elevate our mood and give us energy.
But it’s not a real cure because it’s not emotionally honest. It’s not part of a true trusting relationship where there’s vulnerability.
Faith in God is not just believing positive things more to the point.
Faith in God is bringing our deeper, true self with our needs, our brokenness, our sins and our emotions. Bringing that into relationship with the Lord.
That’s important to do with depression. Not just putting Bible verses that are positive into our thinking and claiming them over and over and over again.
The other thing is that sometimes we sort of minimize our emotions when we need to express those emotions. We go to the opposite extreme and the emotions control us.
We find ourself in a place where we’re just really negative around what we’re thinking. We are negative in our attitude and we let that control us. Self pity, judgements, and pessimism overtake us.
It’s a tricky thing because on one hand, when we have experiences of discouragement or we’re not feeling hope, to feel those emotions and talk about those emotions it is very helpful when we can receive God’s comfort, when we can receive compassion from a friend.
But on the other hand, if we let ourselves just be controlled by those negative emotions, that’s not going to be healthy either.
So we need to sort of find the midpoint between those, which is what an emotionally honest faith is.
Another thing that’s really been helpful to me with depression has been the Stations of the Cross in your book, Unforsaken.
Being able to connect with Jesus and his pain and his suffering because the way that you designed that book with the devotions, it prompts me.
It provides for me to interact with the Lord in a way that I can receive his empathy.
And I need that when I’m depressed.
It helps me to bond with Jesus and trust Jesus when I’m depressed or I’m facing suffering, because suffering is something that triggers depression in me.
What you’re illustrating Kristi is that whenever we’re going through something difficult, like depression, we can bring that into our relationship with the Lord.
Because the cross of Jesus, his passion, how he suffered as he was mistreated, as he was rejected, as he experienced very, distressing negative emotions, he felt alone.
But the father met him there and he found strength in the father.
So Jesus goes ahead of us.
So when we’re depressed, we feel alone but we’re actually not alone.
Jesus experienced the forces of depression, weighing down him, burdening him, putting his soul into a travail.
He leads us through darkness.
He leads us through hopelessness, abandonment, sin, shame.
He leads us through with grief, recovery, forgiveness, healing reconciliation with God.
And so it’s through Jesus that we ultimately find our expression of our best mental health, our best freedom from depression.
Of course sometimes this includes the need for medical treatment, psychotherapy, these sorts of things.
And we do need to differentiate between the kinds of depressions, there’s major depression, where you are having difficulty functioning in your relationships in your work for six months or longer.
And life is in a vegetative state.
There might even be psychotic features with that.
Major depression requires medicine that requires supportive psychiatric care and therapy and a highly structured life with ways that you’re finding support.
And then there’s this dysthymia, which is another clinical diagnosis for depression.
Dysthymia is a long term depression, usually more moderate but is significant in affecting our ability to function in our work and with the people that we live life with.
And that can last years.
Yeah, it can last a lifetime.
Dysthymia also requires medicine and psychiatric care therapy.
There can be a genetic component,
There can be a biological component in issues, even side effect of medications can cause some depression.
Or things like low thyroid.
There’s physical conditions that can increase depression, from low iron to other hormonal things that can all be a play a factor in our emotions of depression.
Yeah. So working with the right medical doctor is important.
Even a homeopathic doctor, there are natural routes for many things affecting our bodies.
With all issues of mental health, it’s largely physiological and that’s certainly true with depression.
According to Johns Hopkins University, ten percent of Americans have a diagnosis of depression that would be major depression, or dystymia.
Now additionally, there’s reactive depression, which is more the kinds of things that you and I have experienced that is more time limited.
It’s a reaction to a particular stressor injury or hurt.
It’s usually less biologically based and more about the circumstances and is much more treatable.
Whether it’s therapy or meditation, spiritual direction, coaching, different exercises, there are different things that we can do that are helpful.
Most people who are experiencing feelings of depression, it’s more in that category of a reactive depression.
It’s different to have a feeling of depression versus a clinical diagnosis of depression.
Examples of Depression
Bill, I just want to say to you, our friends, if you struggle with depression, I want you to know that I actually am drawn towards people that struggle with depression.
I find them to be safer in general than people who have never suffered a depression when you’ve experienced depression.
When you’ve suffered with that kind of pain, I think it makes you a more sensitive and a safer person for people.
There are people that I can recognize just by their face that they’ve suffered with depression.
Sometimes we carried in our faces and you could tell just by looking at somebody.
I remember with someone that I was journeying with who had depression, telling me about her favorite Christian musician and saying the reason why is because he’s a wounded healer.
Because he suffers from depression, can you see it on his face.
When she said that, I noticed that about that musician.
I was like, yes, I can see it on his face.
And yes, I love his music too, because he even sings about it.
Often he isn’t afraid to be articulating in his songs the struggle, and yet also the faith.
It’s like the healthy lamenting and healthy, grieving, not the unhealthy complaining and grumbling.
His music has actually ministers to my soul because of that.
That’s so good, Kristi.
I’ve never heard anybody say that someone who’s been through depression is more emotionally safe and available and likely be more compassionate.
Yeah, there are so many examples.
Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher from England, he suffered with depression and he’s one of the most prolific, godly preachers in history.
In the Bible, Jeremiah struggled with depression.
The book of Lamentations by Jeremiah is, is, is full of his laments.
Job struggled with depression.
The book of Job is filled with many depressive statements and we see how Job and Jeremiah both work.
They have very different reasons for their depression.
Job is personally suffering.
Jeremiah is personally suffering too, but a lot of Jeremiah’s suffering is as a prophet on behalf of Israel.
They both lead us through a process of lament and reorienting our faith in the Lord.
That’s very encouraging for those of us who have struggled with depression or are struggling with depression.
There is a possible benefit here, a softening in our personalities and in our hearts.
A sensitizing around our relationships that we can be sort of deeper, more reflective, caring people.
Compassion for the Suffering
A number of years ago, a woman at our church invited me to speak.
She asked me to speak on depression, she shared with me in confidence because she suffers with it.
And I was really grateful for her heart.
She had a real heart for people because she knows that she isn’t alone.
As I spoke on that, she thanked me and I have seen her a number of times in the last 20 years since she asked me to speak on depression for her group, just in our community.
And I would say probably a quarter of those times that I’ve seen her, I’ve actually been feeling depressed.
Just seeing her has ministered to me because it’s reminded me I’m not alone.
Just seeing her has also reminded me of her courage to fight this.
Because I respect this person. I love her.
She’s a wonderful, godly woman.
There’s another one out there who is following the Lord faithfully and fighting this battle.
I’m not alone.
I think she’s had a lot harder struggle with depression than I have, but she’s an inspiration to me.
She encourages me.
I pray for her every time I see her, because I know about her struggle.
Nobody else would know that looking at her.
She’s beautiful. She’s godly. She’s a leader. She’s wealthy. She’s got a nice house.
People wouldn’t know this about this woman.
They probably idealize her and feel inadequate.
She gave me a gift, she was vulnerable with me.
And it’s ministered to me now for a couple decades, and it’s prompted me to pray for her multiple times.
Yes. So many of you who are listening are like Kristi’s friend who are struggling with discouragement and a degree of depression.
You’re basically functioning well in your life, but there this underlying sense of not having the hope or the energy or the self-esteem that you really need.
And that can be very debilitating, especially if we shame ourselves over it.
That’s one of the things we’re really trying to do in these podcasts during the mental health awareness month is to really just try to help us all be more conversant and more compassionate around this issue.
Compassionate with other people in our lives who struggle with mental health challenges so that we don’t judge people.
And so that we help people with listening and with prayers, in the extreme depression is extremely serious because obviously it can lead to suicidal feelings and tragedy.
Suicide’s such a painful thing.
It’s people just suffering with debilitating depression and feel like they can’t get out of it.
And in a reactive time just end it all.
And they’re suffering.
What that leaves behind for loved ones is so much hurt, so much grief.
So many questions, and maybe anger and shame. It is so hard.
Depression is a life threatening illness.
The importance of getting that diagnosed when it’s debilitating, when it’s causing hopelessness, suicidal ideation, where you’re not wanting to live, especially if someone has plans for attempting suicide, it’s what you always wanna do.
If a family member, a friend, a coworker is struggling with depression, and you sense that there’s a hopelessness and, maybe a not wanting to live, the loving thing to do is don’t avoid it.
Don’t skirt the issue.
And in a general way, just ask, “It seems that you’re feeling depressed.”
“Tell me more about that.”
“Are you having thoughts of wanting to die and have you had any feelings of wanting to kill yourself? “
“Do you have a plan?”
I mean, you ask these kinds of questions because then people feel cared for, and they’re a lot less likely to attempt suicide.
Yes. So friends, please hear again: depression, if you’re struggling with it, you can’t navigate this alone.
You need help.
You need support.
You need people.
You need empathy.
You need someone who isn’t afraid and uncomfortable to go there with you and to listen to you and to pray for you and to support you and to help you activate it.
Take action and get the help that you need.
If you’re somebody who lives with somebody who’s depressed, that’s gonna be hard for you.
There’s just gonna be times you’re not gonna be able to do that for that person.
So you need other people, you need a team of people.
You need other resources.
There’s all times when we don’t wanna be with somebody who’s depressed.
It’s just honest.
There’s just times that we don’t wanna go there.
It costs us too much. We don’t have it to enter in with somebody else.
But that doesn’t mean that you’re bad and you don’t need or deserve somebody to enter in with you.
It just means you need to go to somebody else who does have it to be there for you and your depression, at that time.
If you or a loved one are struggling with clinical depression that’s debilitating, you need to talk with a therapist or a psychiatrist and get a referral.
You can call Focus on the Family at 1-800, the letter “A” and the word “Family” or you can contact the American Association of Christian Counselors, a membership that Kristi and I belong to.
At AACC.net on the website, on the internet. Those are sources of therapist referrals.
If you have a depression, that’s more reactive, and it’s more in the category of discouragement, loneliness, feelings of shame or self hatred, social operating.
We can help you.
One of our coaches or spiritual directors would be happy to talk with you.
You can go on to Soul Shepherding website and talk to somebody today.
If you want, who will be Christ ambassador to you, listen to you, pray for you, support you and make a referral if you need further and deeper help.