“A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.” (source)
Depression can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophesy.
In a previous article I talked about the postpartum depression that I dealt with for two years because I couldn’t find the help I needed. When my daughter was about 2 1/2, God revealed a new truth to me. (Not that the truth was new, just new to me.) I had begun to slip into a depressive mood. Not just a “funk,” not just feeling a little blue: The grey clouds were coming. Before long, I was sinking into deep feelings of loneliness, apprehension, and sadness.
What God showed me in that moment was that a big part of what I was feeling wasn’t the depression itself. It was the fear of depression.
Having been depressed before, I can easily recognize when I’m headed there again. This may be true of others who experience depression. It’s so easy to become apprehensive, anxious, and fearful over what you feel is about to happen. The world stops turning and your thoughts start spinning. All of your memories from past depressions flash before you, but not so clearly that you recognize that these are memories of things you’ve overcome. It’s more vague than that. You’re just transported back to that very place where there is only darkness and, because it’s so dark, you believe that you are there to stay.
You are convinced that this is your new normal. And that is a scary thought!
The trouble is, just like with any of the devil’s lies, this fear is cleverly cloaked. We don’t recognize that what we’re afraid of is the coming shadows of depression. It feels like we’re afraid of some unknown thing, something that can’t be identified or dealt with.
Just recently, I experienced a depressive episode that seemed to come from nowhere. No physical trauma like child birth or surgery, no spiritual trauma (like I described here). Nothing. It just hit me out of the blue. One day I was fine, the next day I was in the depths of darkness. I will tell you, I was afraid. I have a friend who has dealt with depression for many years. I wanted to call her in my desperation and ask “Will I ever be well?” “Am I just going to keep getting worse?” “Why is this happening?” “Is this just how it is for me?” “How do I live if I’m going to keep falling into this dark pit?” I didn’t call. Not sure why, probably didn’t want the kids to hear me.
The next day I learned that this episode was a result of dropping the dose of my medicine too fast (which I also wrote about here). So, the truth was, that this did not come “out of nowhere.” That meant I was not as vulnerable as I had thought I was. I hadn’t just slipped into depression for no reason at all. All of that panicking served no purpose but to exacerbate that darkness I was already feeling.
Instead of dealing with the issue at hand, I added fear of depression to the reality of depression. How would things have been different if I had chosen not to panic? …if I had looked back and seen that, with each depression, there has been full healing? …if I had known, beyond any doubt, that this was not my new normal? I believe that battle would have been half-won.
I think I’m finally learning what God was wanting me to learn all those years ago.
This is not my new normal.
Yes, I’ve been depressed several times, and I might be depressed again. But I have recovered every time. If I get depressed again it will be no different. I will recover again.
The same is true for you. Don’t let those dark days become darker, or last longer because you’ve added fear to your depression. Do not believe the lie that sends you into into a panic and steals your hope.
This is not your new normal!
Now that you’ve declared that “this too shall pass,” there are some things you can do to help ensure that you don’t slip into the “here comes depression” panic.
Watch for a pattern
Is there a time of day during a depressive episode that you tend to feel worse?
- If you recognize that particular times are worse than others, then you have to recognize that the opposite is true, that there are times that are better than others. That means that just because a grey mood is setting in, it doesn’t mean it’s here to stay. You can “power through” the worst of it when you know that the clouds will break soon, even if they may return again the next day.
- You can prepare for it. Now, don’t misunderstand me here. I do not want you to start expecting it! That could turn into another self-fulfilling prophesy. What I mean is that you can think ahead and put some strategies in place that will help ease the clouds when they do come. I know that in the hours just before sunset until just after sunset are the worst for me. I don’t know why that is. But by knowing that, I can make plans to do things that help me feel better during those hours.
- You may discover something in that pattern that identifies a trigger for you. Sometimes you can’t eliminate your trigger, but many times, if you are willing to do what it takes to be well, you can. If you can’t eliminate it, you can perhaps avoid or prepare for it.
Talk to yourself
Don’t be deceived into depression or into staying there longer than necessary. Positive self-talk is crucial. Keep these affirmations handy and repeat them when you feel that clouds drifting in:
- What I’m feeling right now is the fear of depression. I will turn my back on fear.
- This is not my new normal!
- I will not let fear intensify my depression and steal my hope.
- There is healing for depression — my depression — even this time.
I mention this last because I want you to remember it:
- “In my trouble I called to the Lord. I cried out to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my call for help reached his ears.” Psalm 18:6
- God knows how you feel. Telling him reminds you that He is there and is a declaration of your faith in him.
- Ask him to keep your eyes on the truth and to demolish the lies.
- Don’t know what to say? Try this; “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
- Ask others to pray with you. Hearing the prayerful thoughts of another heart is a deeply comforting.
Homework (if you are so inclined)
- Look up scriptures that you can use to refute the lie that says you can’t get well
- Write the above affirmations where you will have quick access to them. Read them often, even when you are feeling fine. Plant these truths firmly in your mind.
- Memorize Psalm 30:5
Crying may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5a