This past Sunday, our pastor, Dr. Ronnie Falvey, shared a message on a topic that is more rampant of a reality among people today than we may even recognize. He taught on overcoming
Listening to him talk about how Charles Spurgeon, Abraham, Job, Elijah, and other men of great faith battled depression made you understand even more how the enemy of our soul targets. I even read a book recently written by Charles Spurgeon where he shared about his personal bouts of depression and at the same time, he’d also speak on just how desperately he desired to honor his Lord and be near Him. As Ronnie preached, I jotted this sentence down in my journal –
In the life of a believer, Satan will target our mental and emotional connections, not necessarily our spiritual consecration.
Spurgeon’s consecration, his devotion, to God only deepened and was made more intimate when battling depression, so to say that someone isn’t “close to God” or isn’t “trusting in God” or “they aren’t walking dependently enough on God” as the reason for their emotional struggle isn’t always the case.
Depression can come on men and women through physical challenges just as it can through relational or circumstantial hardships.
For this blog post, I want us to look at the physical aspect of depression in men and women and one of the number one reasons for depression. We would be wise to understand how physical, relational, and circumstantial realities in our life can actually be triggers to depression. But what is depression, really? Does it show itself in men as it does in women? Is depression always gloomy sorrow, sadness or feelings of grief? Let’s look at these things together…
What is depression, really? First of all, depression is a response. What I mean by that is this – depression is a very real state of being that is ‘responding’ to something. Depression is a reaction or a response to a trigger such as:
Abuse – past or present physical, sexual, verbal or emotional abuse; neglect is abuse; withholding love and affection is abuse
Certain medications – some drugs, such as isotretinoin (used to treat acne) and Cholesterol lowering medications such as Lipitor (lowers testerone levels that can cause mild to extreme depression)
Conflict – personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
Death or a loss – sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one
Genetics – a family history of depression may increase the risk.
Major events – even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring.
Other personal problems – problems such as social isolation or being cast out of a family; betrayed, rejected, ignored, manipulated, falsely accused, and expressed jealousy are all triggers for depression.
Serious illnesses – sometimes depression may be triggered by another medical condition such as high blood pressure, kidney failure, GI disorders, diseases, etc.
Substance abuse – Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression. Even if alcohol temporarily makes you feel better, it ultimately will aggravate depression. ***Webmd.com
Not only with Spurgeon, but with all the godly men Ronnie mentioned in his message are men who lived devoted lives to God and to others. They were committed and loyal men of God, serving Him and serving people faithfully. They worshipped and praised the Lord while in depression. Their consecration to God was never unhinged or adulterated. If anything, while in depression they became more resolute and more valiant in their faith. These men and many others in the Bible, walked intimately close with the Lord, so to assume that depression is a sign of someone not walking close with God is a wrong assumption. As believers, let’s dismiss that stern philosophy once and for all. In Part 2, we will look at places in Scripture where God Himself reveals just how far-fetched of a thought that would be for us to entertain.
In my life, when I’ve had bouts of depression, each time it was in response to something that was happening in my physical world and body – (being diagnosed with micro-colitis disease, alopecia, insomnia, hypothyroidism, and low hormone levels.) It was also in response to verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, rejection, betrayal, being intentionally ignored as a form of manipulative punishment for not doing what someone wanted me to do, and being bullied. Being an inward processor, when things such as these happened, I’d go “in” – meaning, I’d internalize it all. I’d internalize the struggle and absorb the wounds. (Internalizing, in time, I learned was not how God wanted me to respond. We will look at ‘how to respond’ more, too, in Part 2.)
But I wouldn’t tell a soul and I’d actually leave the house each day with a very tight fitting mask on just to make sure the “me” that people would see was the “me” I wanted them to see….just like the commercials. I know you’ve seen them…the one where the lady is walking around with a paper mask in her hand so when she walks up to people, she can simply place that mask in front of her face. That is a very creative way of demonstrating what is the reality with men and women who are depressed. Leave the house with your keys, your wallet, and by all means…your mask.
We live in a world now where it’s all about the ‘image’ we want to have out in the open; the ‘image’ we are good with that we definitely put on for the “public”. Then there’s the “private” us. That’s the one at the house. Which we all know, the private us is the real us.
I’ve always been told this:
“When we behave and speak and live like Christ in our home, then we can live like Christ in the world.” What does that mean? It’s means when you can show godly love, grace, mercy and care to those whom God has placed directly in your home, then that will transfer right into how you treat others.
Let’s look at how men display depression and what their depression can mean:
“In men, some common signs of depression can be anger, chronic irritability, pride, the need to control, aggressiveness, even arrogance can indicate a man feeling depressed or insecure. Men often need help understanding their anger. Men will sometimes know they’re easily agitated behavior is a red flag, but they may not realize it is a symptom of depression. Men often need help deepening their spirituality. Men also often need help in learning to take relational responsibility. They will perform at their jobs well, but not invest that same degree of effort into their relationships. It’s time for men to stop blaming other people for their sorrows or pain and to take responsibility for their own behavior, emotions and decisions. Men also often need help dealing with father issues. Men often need help increasing their connections with other men. Women understand the need for emotional intimacy, and men have the same need but simply may need help in seeing how to make emotional connections. If a man refuses to acknowledge needing help, his response to his own decision can be depression. God said in Genesis that man needed a helper.
“God said, “It is not good (beneficial) for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper [one who balances him—a counterpart who is] suitable and complementary for him. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man He made (fashioned, formed) into a woman, and He brought her and presented her to the man. Then Adam said,
“This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:18, 22-24
– Dr. Denney, PhD is a psychologist at Connections. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in counseling psychology from The University of Southern Mississippi. His professional associations include the Christian Association for Psychological Studies and American Psychological Association.
Some other common signs of depression are: feeling lethargic, lack or gain of appetite, stomach pains/GI issues, avoiding social interactions, and lack of creativity and genuine enjoyment.
“In women, a common sign of depression is lack of enjoyment in things she once got a great deal of pleasure in doing. It’s hard to motivate oneself when certain things no longer hold the same enjoyment they used to. The inability to make decisions is another common sign of depression in women. It’s almost like a decision paralysis. Changes in sleep – either sleeping a lot more, or sleeping during the day, or insomnia. Appetite changes usually accompany depression – either significant weight gain or weight loss. A sense of worthlessness is a very real and difficult sign of a woman in depression. Women need help overcoming feelings of shame, regret, self-doubting, and they need help in knowing how to resist manipulation. Women often need help dealing with feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. Women tend to overload their lives in trying to, “do-all-and-be-all” and they need help prioritizing their life.”
– Dr. Sonya – licensed clinical psychologist
But one of the number one triggers that cause men and women to respond with anger, agitation, or expressed feelings of sorrow, (all are forms of depression), is emotional abuse. Emotional abuse or emotional neglect is a severe form of psychological trauma – also known as mental abuse. Unlike physical abuse, emotional abuse may not leave visible scars, but it leaves deep wounds and creates overwhelming damage. What’s more, emotional abuse can cause a number of health problems including everything from depression and anxiety to stomach ulcers, heart palpitations, eating disorder, and insomnia.When someone abuses a person emotionally, they use several forms of narcissistic abuse in trying to control the person:
- the silent treatment
- condescending language
- shaming – keeping record of wrongs
- withholding affections
- anger – threats
Parents and children, spouses, family members, friends – emotional abuse can happen within any personal relationships. If you are having trouble discerning whether or not you’re in a relationship that is abusive, stop and think about how the interactions with your parents, spouse, child, friend or family member make you feel. If you feel wounded, hurt, frustrated, confused, misunderstood, depressed, anxious or worthless any time you interact, chances are high that your relationship is emotionally abusive. Abusers break down the person’s self-esteem to the point where they respond with feeling worthless and unwanted – many times, the response is depression. When someone is treated in such a way that it results in their believing that they don’t deserve to be enjoyed and loved, then they feel they’re at the whim of their abuser. The abused will often hide the mental or emotional abuse from friends and family because they are ashamed. However, there are some signs to indicate emotional abuse is happening. If you think someone you love is a victim of emotional or verbal or physical abuse, don’t ignore that intuition. Check in with them and see if they need help because this very well may be the reason for their depression. They are simply responding to the lack of genuine care and love.
Since emotional abuse is one of the triggers for depression, let’s end this post by looking at characteristics of emotionally abusive people. Some would look at these lists and say, “Emotionally abusive people are narcissistic,” and that would be correct. But that’s a whole other topic for a later time.
Emotionally abusive people display unrealistic expectations. Some examples include:
- Making unreasonable demands of you – unreasonable expectations
- Expecting you to put everything aside and meet their needs
- Being dissatisfied no matter how hard you try or how much you give
- Criticizing you for not completing tasks according to their standards
- Expecting you to share their opinions (you’re not permitted to have a different opinion)
- Demanding that you name exact dates, times, scenarios when discussing things that upset you (when you cannot do this, they dismisses the event as if it never happened or that it has any relevancy)
Emotionally abusive people invalidate you. Some examples include:
- Undermining, dismissing, or distorting your perceptions or your reality
- Refusing to accept your feelings by trying to define how you should feel
- Accusing you of being “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “crazy”
- Refusing to acknowledge or accept your opinions, feelings or ideas as valid
- Dismissing your requests, wants, and needs as ridiculous or unmerited
- Suggesting that your perceptions are wrong or that you cannot be trusted by saying things like “you’re blowing this out of proportion” or “you exaggerate”
- Accusing you of being selfish, needy or materialistic if you express your wants or needs (the expectation is that you should not have any wants or needs)
Emotionally abusive people create chaos. Some examples include:
- Starting arguments for the sake of wanting to win
- Having drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts
- Nitpicking at your clothes, your hair, your work, and how you conduct yourself
- Behaving so unpredictably that you feel like you are “walking on eggshells”
Emotionally abusive people use emotional blackmail. Some examples include:
- Manipulating and controlling you by trying to make you feel guilty
- Humiliating you in public or in private
- Using your fears, values, compassion to control you or the situation
- Exaggerating your flaws or pointing them out in order to deflect attention or to avoid taking responsibility for their poor choices or mistakes
- Denying that an event took place or that a situation happened as it did or lying about it
- Punishing you by withholding affection – rejecting you – giving you the silent treatment
Emotionally abusive people act superior and entitled. Some examples include:
- Treating you like you are inferior
- Making sure you stay beneath them because they see themselves as superior
- Blaming you for their mistakes and shortcomings
- Doubting everything you say and attempting to prove you wrong
- Making jokes at your expense
- Telling you or treating you in such a way that they communicate how your opinions, ideas, values, and thoughts are stupid, illogical or “do not make sense”
- Talking down to you or being condescending
- Using sarcasm when interacting with you; one-uping you in conversation
- Acting like they are always right, knows what is best and is smarter
Here are seven more strategies for reclaiming your life that you can put into practice today.
Make your mental and physical health a priority. Stop worrying about pleasing the person abusing you. Take care of your needs. Do something that will help you think positive and affirm who you are. For me, it’s reading Scripture, prayer and self-care. Bathing my mind and soul in what God says, and in who He says I am has always been my solace. And getting plenty of rest, exercise and eating healthy meals.
Establish boundaries with the abuser. The key is to follow through on your boundaries. A book I highly recommend is titled Boundaries. “A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances — Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions — Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others — Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator” – Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend – Do not communicate boundaries that you have no intention of keeping.
Stop blaming yourself. If you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship for any amount of time, you may believe that there is something severely wrong with you. Why else would someone who says they love you act like this, right? But you are not the problem. Abuse is a choice. So stop blaming yourself for something you have no control over.
Realize that you cannot “fix” the abusive person. Despite your best efforts, you will never be able to change an emotionally abusive person by doing something different or by being different. An abusive person makes a choice to behave abusively. Remind yourself that you cannot control their actions and that you are not to blame for their choices. The only thing you can fix or control is your response.
Do not engage with an abusive person. Engaging with an abuser only sets you up for more abuse and heartache. No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to make things right in their eyes. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. What you can do is pray for them. Love them. Honor them – to honor someone means to respect them; you may not respect their behavior and/or their choices, but you can honor and respect them as a person created in the image of God. Pray fervently for them, but then don’t get consumed with God’s work in them, to the point that you stay overly watchful to see a change. Live in YOUR freedom that Christ has called you to. Not in cockiness, but in confidence.
Build a support network. Stop being silent about the abuse you are experiencing. Talk to a trusted friend or even a counselor about what you are experiencing. Take time away from the abusive person as much as possible and spend time with people who love and support you. This network of healthy friends and confidantes will help you feel less lonely and isolated. They also can speak truth into your life and help you put things into perspective. – ****verywellmind.com