No More Secrets–Defeating Depression

Last week, my post was light and airy and funny. Today’s different. It’s about clinical depression. If you’re struggling with it now, or if you know someone who is, I’m writing to you straight from my heart.

Because I care.

Because I’ve been there. 

Because there’s hope. And help. And healing. 

Clinical depression feels like the emotional flu.

You wonder if you’ve been dropped off in a strange, unfamiliar world–a place without color, or taste, or seasons. Without joy or anticipation. And you only experience one emotion. FEAR. 

The worst part–you think maybe God’s forgotten you.

Sort of like a certain tree in our yard. This morning, I noticed her dangling leaves, her thin, fragile arms.

I could relate. I used to be like this tree.

The first time depression hit, I was 34. I wrote about it here. After stumbling my way out, I thought, Whew. Glad that’s over. Maybe it’ll never happen again. 

But it did. In 2012. Almost twenty years later.

Both times, I prayed to get better quickly and quietly. On my own. Without help. So no one would find out. I was afraid I’d lost myself-the real me–and that I’d never find my way back home.

Remember the little tree in our yard?

With her on my mind, I drove through our neighborhood and noticed all sorts of trees. This one is small, but to me, her leaves are sparkling rubies. 

It’s how you feel when you begin to recover from depression. You’re small but hallelujah! You have leaves again. 🙂

You begin sleeping and eating and sometimes even laughing. You’re still afraid to glance over your shoulder at the minefield where you’ve been, but that’s okay. Baby steps. You’re learning to be gentle with yourself. To love yourself.

Then one day, the miracle tiptoes in–

In all its Glory!

You look in the mirror and there you are! Strong and tall. A tree full of leaves!

With God’s help, and medication, and prayer, and caring friends and family, I’ve been restored twice. 

I’m so grateful. How could I keep this secret to myself? 

My second depression story will appear in December Guideposts, “A Sliver of Light.” If you read it, here’s a P.S. I didn’t stop writing in 2012. I took a break, finished the novel, and signed with a literary agent. 🙂 I share a little more of what happened in this video below. If you can’t see it, click here.

If this post hits home, don’t keep it a secret. Get help. Today. If you know someone who’s struggling with depression, please forward my blog link. 

Thoughts? Questions? 

Love,

Julie

Comments

  1. Patricia Martin says:

    Beautiful post and true as my family has a history of depression on both sides. That tree is a symbol of hope just like the book, “The Legend of the Three Trees.” Please keep Maddy in your prayers, Julie, as she is having surgery right now!():
    Xox
    Patricia

    • Patricia!! Hey! I went in and commented on last week’s post to be sure you knew I was praying. Maddy’s on my calendar.

      How is she???

      And thank you, my friend….for letting me know it’s in your family too.

      So much love.

  2. “Perfectionists are always focused on themselves”…WOW! Life changing…xooxoxox thank you Julie- this is so powerful! and I love the video! ox

    • Love you. Thank you. Waving at your smiling face opening your front door for me. Wish I were there right now, walking inside. And we’d drink lots of coffee and laugh and talk and talk and talk.

  3. debi says:

    Beautifully done… I suffer from depression . Now almost 2 years. I am opposite in I rest all the time. No desire to get up.. and do anything.. I am on medication now and I hope I see some difference. But just recently I realized that fear was behind the depression.. Fear is not of God.. So thank you for the reminder that this is true..

    • Hey, Debi.

      You’re absolutely right. Fear is NOT of God. With this second bout of depression, I finally went deep inside my heart and let Him do some healing. There were some lies I believed about myself. I let Him do surgery and remove them. 🙂

      Sounds like depression hits you in the opposite way–with the sleeping and eating. From what I understand, it’s either one way other the other.

      Thank you so much for reading and responding. Right now, I’m saying a prayer for you. Keep on keeping on. You’re worth it. I’m cheering for you

      XOXOXO

  4. Julie Gilleand says:

    Julie, I loved your GP article and am so glad you shared about it. I’m in my 3rd bout with depression. Or is it the 4th? Not sure now. But this time around has been the heaviest. I love your analogy of the trees because I have noticed how drawn to lone trees and sometimes barren trees I am. I feel one with them and like I relate to their alone-ness or coldness and barren-ness. I didn’t realize I did this until one day at a yard sale I was drawn to a wall-hanging of a tree fully in bloom (still a lone tree though) with the sun’s rays shining brilliantly through its leaves and a scripture at the bottom “He makes everything beautiful in its time” (Ecc. 3:11). As I stood there with it in my hands, I realized I was like that tree. God was bringing me out of that particular bout with depression, which I called my desert, and was starting to come back to life again — like the tree in my hands. So of course as I read your blog today, I relived that moment. I look forward to coming back to life again — in His time.

    Thanks other Leafy Julie 🙂

    • Leafy, of course you know I had you in mind when I wrote this–what with the leaves and the trees.

      Right now, I’m raising one hand and praying for you. It’s one thing I can say, “I understand how you feel.”

      Interesting that “your tree” was a lone tree. And as goofy as it sounds, I couldn’t forget about that poor little tree in our front yard. Each day, a few more leaves fall off.

      Hugging you from here.

      All my love, Leafy. And thank you for being you.

  5. Anna Haney says:

    Oh, sweet friend. There have been times when I knew God was speaking to me through your blog. There is NO DOUBT today.

    My current bout of depression has been accompanied by torrential rains. When I left work yesterday, it was a heavy downpour. I was wearing a dress and the water was standing in the parking lot that by the time I got to the car (at least I found it yesterday), I was cold and wet and wanted to just go home and hide and that I did. Finally when my husband got home, he asked if I was okay and I broke down and said I wasn’t. He has learned that sometimes it’s best to just let me get a lot of this out.

    This morning, I wanted nothing more than for him to just hold me and to stay home. It’s really a challenge to come to work and be an advisor when I feel as if I cannot do anything anyway. I was late due to a crying jag. Had another slight one just a few minutes ago.

    Thankfully, I know that like the red tree, I will shine again. Meanwhile, it’s still a struggle.

    You have have planned to do this blog today anyhow. But I feel that you wrote it for me and I thank you dear one.
    Love you
    Anna

    • Anna, I prayed yesterday when I saw your post—wondered if it was the Big D. 🙁

      All I can say is…I understand. And I’m sorry. And I care. You have the sweetest husband. Please tell him I said so.

      I’m praying this blog saves lives. Sometimes just to hear someone say, “I care. Don’t give up,” means so much.

      Praying tomorrow will be brighter. And hopefully no rain? Although it’s been drizzly in ATL all day…probably rain tomorrow.

      So much love, my dear, dear friend. Take care of yourself tonight.

  6. Julie!!! xoxo Just beautiful. I so loved the video … so sweet to see you talk, to hear your sweet voice. I’m so glad to know your testimony, to tuck those pieces of armor under my belt. I have never experienced that … but I can so see me feeling that way when my girls leave home for good. You just helped me see that I need to be on guard more than ever. To protect myself, provide for myself … with God’s help and guidance. I love you more than ever.

    • Shelli….. I’m going to say it again. One day we’ll meet! And we’ll be instant friends. For one thing, we’re both so Southern Soundin’ and we both have girls and we’re both writers…with tender hearts.

      I pray depression never hits you, but if it does, you don’t have to be ashamed like I was for so long. And there’s life after depression.

      So much love, Sweet Shelli!

  7. LOVE this Julie, thank you for sharing! I believe and have found that when we are honest about our deepest darkest secrets and the redemption we have found that this is our greatest gift to others. God is our hope and we can give His hope to others! Someone needs our hope TODAY! I am praying your wonderful video and blog touches those needing the life changing understanding you have found. Blessings as you give away what the LORD has shown you. Thank you!

    • I know, Tom! I can’t believe it! I shared my ugliest secrets and people have been so kind. Just blows my mind….to find out I can be my real self and still have friends.

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

      I didn’t worry one time what anyone thought/thinks about me. When you’re Free, you’re Free Indeed! And I know what I am without Him. No other way to live but depending on God.

  8. Hearing your story and seeing you tell it blessed me so much! I went through a similar struggle at age 35, mine triggered by repressed anger. (The lie I believed was that feeling anger was a sin.) my journey lasted two years, when finally the gray bubble I lived in burst. I’m grateful to say that while circumstances have gotten me down for a season, I’ve not lived in that gray world since.

    • OOhhh, Elizabeth…the lies we believe. And you and I were close to the same age that first time for me.

      I wasn’t ready to get all the ugly parts out until I hit 52.

      So, so happy you haven’t gone back to the gray world. It feels like The Shadow is on your heels, doesn’t it?

      Thank you so much for letting me know you understand. And you’ve been there.

  9. Cathy Mayfield says:

    Oh, Julie, what can I even say… Four days ago, my closest friend on this earth left to go play fetch with Jesus forever. Grief-induced-depression rips a hole in our spirit, allowing Satan’s darts to attack. Family members’ words and actions hurt more. Friends’ posts…prayers…nothing stems the tears soaking their way through a box of tissues. Past grief compounds…like losing my dad all over again…you understand that, I know.

    But the Comforter says, “What about My people? Read…hear…listen to their hurts, their needs, their hearts. Listen…and pray.”

    Sweet merciful Jesus, Your people hurt…cry…scream in silence. They need You…Your touch, Your healing, Your comfort. I lay these children of Yours at Your feet: Patricia, Robin, Debi, Julie (and Julie!), Anna, Shelli, and Tom. Lift their spirits, soothe their hearts, give strength to their bodies. Even those who are not struggling with depression still need Your moment-by-moment presence, grace, and love. Here they are, Jesus. I will continue in prayer as You meet each one…

    • Cathy….

      Thank you, so much. And Lord, I’m lifting Cathy to you–You heal the brokenhearted. Please hold her extra closely today. Give her an extra measure of Your tender mercy. Ohhh, how she loves You.

      So much love.

  10. Carm Russell says:

    After thinking I had survived my battle with peri menopausal bits of depression and breast cancer and thinking my husband was well on his way to getting better with the dr’s permission I got off my medication. And did great for two yrs! I went back to work full time but my husband never got to 100%. Close but not there. Then it became apparent that he may never get to 100% and with working full time, those oppressive feelings came back. And I found a dr who recognized that my main issue was not depression but anxiety. As the two go hand in hand she treated me for both. Loved her and thanked God she recognized the anxiety in me. However after 2 visits in 2 months my third visit found me looking for a new dr as she left the practice. I still remain grateful for the diagnosis of anxiety she made. But this began a longer journey that would get even more difficult and take 3 yrs to get to where I felt like I was more than just surviving. The first part was the ups and downs of finding a new dr. I tried several before finally going back to the office of the first one and the treating MD had a new female dr coming on board and he want me to see Dr Gallo. Love her. She got me through the darkest time in my life…the illness and loss of my husband. After he passed I thought the worst was over but the numbness of grief took almost a yr to wear off and dealing with an estate did not make it any easier. Just last Spring 2015 I had smelt down of sorts precipitated by a student calling me racist and an problem with getting money to pay my taxes into my account. I need to say I never wanted to die and still don’t. But the stress and anxiety got so bad I had a couple of days where I was hitting myself ( slapping myself in the face). I already had a dr appt but it was 2 days away so I called two vey trusted friends in case I wanted to hit myself again before seeing the dr. I think I understand cutters. You just want the pain to go away but not necessarily through death. Been around youth long enough to know though you can get to the point where cutting or in my case hitting myself would not be enough. So we ( Dr Gallo and) tweeted my meds and with her help
    was able to get a medical retirement from work. I finished the school yr and move away to a home I had purchased earlier last Spring in prep for my retirement that was to have occurred in Fall of 2017. I was well on my to dealing with my grief and depression & anxiety. But there was a small bump in that road as well. Finding a new dr after my move was not easy. It took almost 6 months and I was even willing to drive to my old dr over 4 hrs away but she had left the practice after 2 yrs. She was truly a gift from God on this journey. And I knew my time with her wasn’t not wasted. So I forged on and in finding a PCP, I found my new crazy dr ( I have to find some humor so crazy dr is the name when I’m being treated for the anxiety. No disrespect to anyone is intended.). Many small town drs will also treat anxiety & depression depending on severity. I was on my way to visits every 3-4 months with meds adjusted as needed. Finding a PCP who will also prescribe and monitor my anxiety meds was the answer to that small bump in the road. Dr M has my next visit in 3 months. Just after the 2nd anniversary of my husband’s passing on 2.14/2014. With God at my side always, the support of my two friends, and some wonderful drs I am making a life for myself. And I love it!⚓️

    • Carm Russell says:

      And thank you Julie for being so open about a still closed subject!

      • It took me a while, Carm, before I could write about it. I had to heal and get a little ways past it. It happened in 2012 and I couldn’t even look backwards for at least 2 years.

        XO And you’re so welcome!

    • Carm.

      You’re so brave. And so kind. And so honest. And I’m SO grateful you shared your story. I’m sitting here in my little office clapping for you and whispering, “Thank You, Lord. You saw her pain and you brought help. You didn’t forget about my friend Carm. You were there all the time.”

      I’m so very sorry about your dear husband. I’m hugging you from here. I hope it reaches you…

      Some of what you’ve experienced—I can feel it in my heart for you as I’m reading this and thinking about you, and can I just say, “I’m soooo proud of you!!” This depression stuff isn’t easy, and to just be open and honest about it is soooooo freeing and healthy.

      NO MORE SHAME. WE’RE ALL DONE WITH SHAME.

      We don’t have to live tiny embarrassed lives. When we’re honest, we help set others free!!

  11. Wow, Julie, what powerful and much-needed advice for those struggling with depression. Thank you for your transparency. I pray many will see the Light through your words today!

    • Thank you, Vonda! I’ve just been praying all over this blog–praying it brings hope. Helps end shame. Brings Light!

      Love you.

  12. Julie, how well i remember—the depression and the perfectionism. (and that beast, math!) even now, the niggling taunt when i rest or treat myself whispers at me! i know now to silence it, even better i know >>how<< to silence it—with the Word of God! and yes, my greatest criticism came from my family at the thought of taking medication! "But, Robin, what if you have to take that for the rest of your life?" what if i did? for me, at the time, it was God sent, and helped me thru my therapy. I have not had to continue on Rx, praise God, as i learn my identity—and value and worth—in Him. i hadn't realized i hated myself until (relatively) recently. i always hated my name (love birds, and robins are my favorite…) playing with what to name my blog, i realized i no longer despise my name and wondered what changed. what changed was, i no longer hated myself. and am even learning to love myself!

    • Ohhh, Robin! You too???????? No wonder we’re friends. 🙂 I had no idea. Thank you, sister. 🙂

      So sorry you had to experience criticism about meds. I think I was my toughest critique about that.

      I so wish we were sitting together talking. Your beautiful name–it’s my BFF of 40 years, it’s her name too. It’s one of my all-time favorite names.

      Ohhhh, the lies we believe. The prayer at the center of my heart is this, “Lord, I’m willing. I’m ready. I’m Yours. I want to help others break free.”

      I love you. Thank you, Robin. And it’s taken me 55 years to begin to understand who I am in Jesus.

      xoxoxoxoxox

    • P.S. Robin, here’s the ironic part. I was the HS valedictorian and was still afraid of college algebra. I traded places with the girl in line behind me and took salutatorian so I wouldn’t have to give a speech. :/

      And now look at me…. 🙂 Telling my story without shame!!

  13. Shelley Elaine says:

    Julie, as someone who has also struggled with clinical depression more than once in my life, THANK YOU. Your description is so accurate…especially about FEAR! I have used the minefield analogy when attempting to describe it to someone. Thank YOU for your transparency Julie. Love you sweet, honest Friend!

    • Ohhh, Shelley……

      I’m tearing up with JOY again…these precious comments. Ladies opening up and telling the Truth.

      It’s just so freeing and healing, isn’t it? We DON’T HAVE TO BE ASHAMED.

      Lord, use it for Your glory. I had no idea you’d been there too. Thank you SO much for sharing, Shelley–makes me feel like we’re sitting on my porch talking.

      Love you. <3

  14. Becky Boyd says:

    Julie….you are a true inspiration to so many people thru all of your stories. But to put yourself out there exposed for everyone to see shows not only true courage, but your love for any and everyone suffering from depression. You have given hope to so many by sharing your experience. The only thing that bothers me about watching your video and reading your story and the feedback from others is that I’m sure I need to stick with waterproof mascara! I just bought regular and I guess I didn’t really realize how easy I cry and feel for others until I started using regular mascara. So back to waterproof. Thank you for all that you do for so many. The Lord is blessing you for blessing so many others.

    • marci says:

      I so agree with you about Julie, and thankful for her. Thankful for each person here. I hope you wont worry too much about regular mascara– I think having so much empathy is a gift. To care so much about others when they suffer. God Bless

    • Becky,

      Oh, Becky. Maybe God brought us together through the kindness of your daughter. She reached out to Katie when she was going through a rough time. I’ll always, always be grateful, and now YOU, my friend.

      I just came to a place in life, after I healed, I realized the only reason I wouldn’t share this would be pride. And to finally get over myself and not care what people think, well, IT’S AMAZING!!! I just want to jump up and down and say, “There’s another way to live!”

      We can be FREE! NO matter what we’ve done (even wasting so much time trying to be perfect), even trying to fix/control people, even caring more what people think than what God thinks—-

      No matter what, He forgives us. He loves us.

      Hugging you from here. And thank you. Great tip on the waterproof mascara. I should copy you!

  15. Mary says:

    Thank you, Julie, for speaking up about a hard subject. It is an ongoing struggle with me, tied closely to anxiety. When I read the comments above, and I see everyone opening up with THEIR struggles, it makes me want to give everyone a big ol’ hug! We are not alone in this!!!

    It takes one brave person to open up and say, “This happened to me,” and that makes an opening for the rest of us to say, “Me, too.” Thanks for taking that step, Julie. I hope this helps other people, too.

    Mary

    • I know, Mary!!!!!!!

      And I hope this makes sense and doesn’t sound weird, but sometimes I think the enemy wants us to live tiny, fearful, shameful lives. But that’s not God’s way.

      He died to set us free. FREE INDEED.

      It took me 55 years to finally be able to share this, and I just have to say, it’s brought me so much JOY…the things I thought I had to hide.

      Thank you, so much, for letting me (us!) know we’re in this together. And we don’t have to be ashamed. And God is big enough and He cares.

      XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXXOXOOX

  16. Patricia Martin says:

    Thank you for all your prayers, Julie!(: I read your comment from last week and my family sends a great big thank you to you! Maddy finished her surgery several hours ago and is recuperating in the recovery room. So far so good. Doctor is just keeping an eye for any possible infections.
    Hugs (:

    • Ohhhh, Hallelujah! Thank You, Lord.

      You watched over Patricia’s precious Maddy.

      We love You. We’re so grateful.

  17. marci says:

    Oh, dear Julie, How helpful this is.. I have gone through bouts of sadness. and times I felt no joy. It is a wonderful feeling to feel again. I am glad I am not alone in the love of trees and the connection. Our family went through a very difficult time. During that time we had a bad ice storm. We were without power for over 2 weeks. The tree in the middle of the yard lost the limbs on the north half. I connected with that tree, called it Mother Tree, and knew if it could heal, I could heal. Also I noticed that when trees are bare it looks like they are raising their arms (limbs) to heaven and praising the Lord. — in the winter, when they are stripped down, the weather is cold, and the wind blows. And if a tree can praise God in all circumstances….
    I know your words are helping many of us, and I beleive also some that may not even post comments– but still your words are touching them. .. I had tried to write earlier but got knocked off line, and hope this time it will post. God Bless!

    • Marci’a,

      I’m sitting here smiling. The trees? You too? And also Other Julie (Leafy) she’s the same way.

      I’m so grateful Our Father speaks to us uniquely and individually, in ways we understand. Even if it’s through trees.

      Thank you for writing and understanding, and for your kind, kind heart.

      One day, you and I will meet. I’m sure of it!

      So much love to you and yours~~~~~

      • marci says:

        I am so glad I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings — the kinship with trees! I have even watched them dance! and then read a Bible verse about trees dancing…
        And you saying ‘uniquely’… I recently read in a devotional- I think an Advent one?… It said, “You are unique……. Just like everyone else”. And I had to smile at the truth in that. Your blog helps me to know that we really are not alone and we are more alike than different. What a wonderful thing to realize.
        How wonderful, just the thought of meeting you! That makes me smile too. 🙂 God Bless you dear Julie~

        • Julie says:

          Means so much, doesn’t it, Marcia–to know we’re not alone. In anything!! Especially our thoughts and feelings.

          xoxo

  18. Amazed at what God is doing in your life…..he has such a unique and marvelous plan, more than I know you ever allowed yourself to imagine. I’m applauding Him this morning and your story builds my faith.

    • Kellie!!!! I was just thinking about you—-seeing you soar, whipping stories out left and right–our kind of stories! xoxoxo

      Happy Tears.

      This crooked, confusing, broken path brought me to my knees– to where I was finally ready to say, “Okay. I give up. We’ll do this Your way. I’m Yours.”

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