Hopeful depression

So I realised this morning, my mind has been astonishingly blank the last week or so. Not that I have thought nothing – just that I have thought nothing that even I find interesting enough to dwell on. I say ‘even’ I because my mind wanders onto the dullest and most bizarre of thoughts on regular occasion, so the fact that I find my thoughts too dull to ponder is really quite extraordinary.

So anyway, I have been pondering the dull nature of my thought life and wondering why, and I have come to this conclusion. I am avoiding the world inside my head.

I have depression. I get it quite badly on a regular basis and kind of cry and get tired and just generally see no hope in the world. Problem is, recently I have had hope. I am very low, very sad and yet at the same time very happy. It seems like the chemicals in my brain are at war with my circumstances ‘I am happy’ ‘No you are not’ ‘no really I am’ ‘no really you are not’. This is the current sound track to my life.

Amongst all the dull thoughts I have been thinking, I have been pondering the happy/depressed state of my mind and wondering at it. What does it mean to find hope within an illness that is doing everything possible to rob you of it?

I have friends, a nice home, a very supportive family near by, a good church, a good job, a brilliant doctor, and an incredibly wonderful boyfriend, however, previously I have had many of these things and still found myself unable to find a way out of the despair.

So what has changed? For me the change has been an increased understanding of what ‘God loves you’ really means. It goes beyond the point of a strange and distant sense ‘I know, I know, but what difference does it make’ to a point where it has given me the strength to change my mindset and outlook on life.

Now don’t get me wrong, when I am very low I still will see a black veil of nothing hanging in front of me, I will still find that point of hopelessness where there is no way forward. My brain gets full and I cannot possibly understand how to empty it or what the way forward is. However, in between these moments I find life. There is a hope that comes from the understanding that in it all, the highs and lows, the hope and despair there is truly a place where you can find peace.

The bible is my key. Reading the psalms (that oh so regularly quoted ‘you can yell at God, look’ book) I find that I don’t need to have hope every second of the day. In my hopelessness I just need to acknowledge that God is bigger than my illness and he will come through – eventually. Not always easy, but always possible. I go back to Job in the bible, again an inspiration, a man in despair, who maintained trust and faith, but not in a squeaky clean ‘all is fine’ kind of way. In fact, I don’t know that I have yet encountered a single person from the bible who did have a ‘everything is fine’ kind of life. So why do we feel we need to?

The church is the place where hope can be found, but this is only possible if the church is willing to accept that life is not always rosy. The stigma around mental health illness – of any kind, must be eradicated. The bible is full of people who screw up, who get miserable, angry, who hurt and who weep. Even Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane found life a little too much to bear and pleaded with God.

My hope comes from an understanding that life is not easy or straightforward. It is complex and frightening, but I have a God who will stand with me every step. It is just a shame that so often his people will not.

This is the time for change; if you look online you will find endless campaigns to end the stigma. I don’t want to be told that I ‘have not a correct faith’ or ‘do not understand God’s love for me’ one more time.

I have a hopeful depression. I am unafraid of my illness, I know that at times it will be unbearable, but I know in it all I am not alone. I look forward to the time when this hope is shared by the church and all those in it suffering quietly and in fear of what their friends would say.


95 thoughts on “Hopeful depression

  1. Pingback: Faith can’t cure depression. But it can offer hope, as Katherine Welby found | Andrew Brown - British News Cloud

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  6. David Robinson

    Dear Katharine, this is so thoughtful, helpful, and boldly written. You won’t remember, I guess, the one-time Succentor at Coventry; but what you’ve written reverberates strongly in me, given my own recurring blackness, bleakness and blankness, and the faith that the cathedral community there helped me rediscover. Do give my love to your dad. David.

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  12. Antony Gray

    I have been at both ends of depression. In the tunnel trying to look for that bit of light and witnessing to a sufferer who was ‘cured’ miraculously. You will notice that I put the inverted commas around ‘cured’ because you can never be completely cured of depression – it can still haunt you – testing you waiting to pounce years later at the single sign of weakness. You can feel – it’s a presence and it can move through your body – to your heart (make it race – palpitations etc.) or to your gut (Make you feel sick, loss of appetite etc!!) or your sex organs (loss of appetite – you know what I mean) or your eyes (sleepiness) limbs (weakness) shoulders (heaviness) it can also make you feel scared and confused and more scared and more confused and it can ‘Inhabit’ all of the above at the same time. The route into depression is often not the same route out so you can’t trace your steps which is why so many sufferers are long term. The biggest challenge is how it corrupts your identity. The longer it goes on the more difficult it is for those around you to separate the illness from who you are or were. If I can say one thing though. Faith played a really big part in my own recovery and as I have said I’ve also seen sufferers miraculously cured. (No inverted comas)

  13. Sam

    Thank you for writing this blog. I am also a Christian suffering with depression and church is hard. I am so relieved to come across you and your honesty.

  14. healthierfitterslimmerhappier

    Thank you! I experience depression & currently having a depressive period. I’m also a Christian, church can be tough because. Find it difficult to hear that I’m loved when I feel anything but loveable! Thanks for speaking out, I admire your courage & honesty:)

  15. Paul

    “God is bigger than my illness and he will come through – eventually.”

    What’s he waiting for? This all-knowing, all-powerful god who watches your every move, who analyses your every thought, who gazes upon your suffering?

    Are we to prostrate ourselves and give thanks for his magnificent creation. Depression included?

    1. Denise Robinson

      My greatest torment in the midst of a deep clinical depression was the waiting…why were some people “cured” while others were left to suffer? What was the meaning of suffering? I was not comforted by the bumper sticker platitudes about “God is tempering you for a greater purpose” (lucky me) or “God will use this for His redemption” (is God a sadist?!) or “Romans 8:28” (really, I don’t see the good in this at all…) The greatest help came from the genuine people of God who loved me, befriended me, did a load of laundry or cooked a meal and then actually ate with me…the folks who said “This is a terrible journey and we don’t understand this, but we are here with you on this road and we will not leave you”. That was church!

      1. Paul

        Strangest thing. I also received much help. From close friends and family members. And not one of them has ever stepped inside a church. What does the bible have to say about that?

  16. Paul

    Dear Katherine
    It is tremendously brave of you to be as open as you are about your depression. It’s a real illness and I hope that blogs such as yours give hope to others suffering with the same condition, whilst further stifling the stigma.

    Where I cannot agree is with the role of religious ‘faith’. The IDEA of external agency may well provide succour and hope. There is nothing wrong with that. But let’s be real clear. No more so than any other kind of placebo.

    You are young and still discovering yourself in this crazy and chaotic world, so this may fall on stony ground as you read. However, I found the complete opposite to be true. It was when I unshackled myself from all the religious absurdity inculcated in me by others, even more misguided than myself, that I truly started to feel liberated: from depression, oppression, the conceited wishes of religious dogma, the sheer burden of all the pious sanctimoniousness swirling around me. The relief was so overwhelming, I was staggered I hadn’t had the courage to throw off the bounds sooner.

    What you believe is your business. But don’t be under any illusions. If your god is perfect and watches over you, why did he give you depression, and what’s he waiting for?

    kind regards,
    A Recovered Depressive. (Without the help of a single god, shamen or holy book).

  17. John Marks

    Just wanted to say thankyou for sharing your thoughts on depression with others. Having suffered with depression, anxiety and panic attacks for most of my late twenties and early thirties, I can say that there is hope. It does get better.
    Learning to accept yourself helps hugely. As I look back, I don’t resent my illness in the least. It made me a more thoughtful and empathetic person.
    I’m positive that you’ll get through this. You’re an intelligent, beautiful and strong woman. You have already cracked the hardest part of the illness, which is the realization that it is an illness and admitting to others that you need their support.

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  19. my little white pills

    Just catching up on all this via BBC. The best bit you said was that there was no reason for your depression, you have a nice life as you described it. Me too! When I’m depressed, I feel crap for not being able to cope wth regular life. And members of my Church have been ace, even if the whole Church isn’t there yet.

  20. emilyatidball

    Thank you so, so much. You have such a wonderful way of explaining how I feel, living with depression and being in the church. I, too, had an experience recently of actually understanding and starting to believe God’s love for me and it has been life changing. It doesn’t make everything better but has given me hope and increased my faith.

    At the moment I’m waiting for the result of my BAP but either way I’m passionate about the church learning to support people with meantal health needs, including depression. After all, it affects so many of us.

    Sending you lots of love and hugs and many more thanks for being amazing, being open and honest and for letting God use you. x

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  24. Jordan

    Hi, my name is Jordan, and I must say this is an EXCELLENT blog. wow.
    I am a recording artist and I am diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder; I have written a song that encourages people like us to stay in the fight. My latest iTunes release, “The Fight”, states this in its lyrics:
    “Life is more beautiful than it seems,
    Though sometimes the beauty hides behind broken dreams;
    The miracle is waiting just beyond the pain,
    So don’t give up now”

    Praying that I would be able to be an encouragement to some of you blog followers out there!
    this song is available on iTunes:

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