Depression comes in various forms and with varying symptoms. Some people suffer from genetic or biochemical depression. For others, depression is situational, or trauma-informed, caused by the circumstances they face. According to studies, 1 in 6 adults in the US will struggle with depression at some point in their lifetime. But depression is treatable, so if you suspect you may be suffering from depression, please reach out to a medical professional.
Here we learn from Sav, who has dealt with depression from a young age but has found ways to healthily cope. *please note that this story contains a reference to suicide.
When you’re eleven years old and start feeling numb, you don’t really have the language to explain how you’re feeling. That was me.
Something changed when I turned eleven and I found myself with immensely deep pain that would later be diagnosed as depression. As I found myself drowning in sorrow as a young teen, I turned to things that could possibly take my mind off what I was feeling inside.
At first, it was sports. I tried out for every sport I could in middle school: soccer, volleyball, and even track. I immersed myself in sports, after-school activities, and anything else that could take up space in my mind.
But still, I would lay my head on my pillow at night silently weeping, feeling misunderstood and in pain.
As I came to know a wide range of people, I wanted to feel something more than what I was feeling, so I started abusing alcohol and drugs with “friends” to numb my pain. It started a cycle of shame I had a hard time finding freedom from, but despite my pain and running, God had a plan for my life.
I grew up in the church but never connected with the God they talked about. I witnessed my mom have faith, but it didn’t translate for me. For four years every day, I was smoking, lying, and doing just about everything to make myself feel something other than the pain. My soul felt exhausted. My body was tired from the clutter of anxious thoughts that kept me from sleeping. I kept thinking there had to be more to life than this.
At age fifteen my depression was at its worst. I wasn’t eating right, or sleeping right, and I couldn’t explain how I felt to my family. I had tried everything to make myself feel better. I had thought about suicide for years but never thought that it would be something I would actually do.
Then, on a sunny day that same year, I attempted to take my life.
Moments before my attempt I remember feeling such loss in my heart. It felt like there would be such relief for me if I just ended my life. Maybe the pain would finally stop, but hope was on the horizon
A month or so after my attempt, I got a random text from a guy I knew in middle school from church. He asked me to join this creative dance group that some of the youth group were involved with. I remember sitting on my bed reading this message and thinking why not? I have tried everything and failed. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
I went to church and found myself genuinely laughing for the first time in such a long time. I was able to dance and feel positive emotions; I was making friends with people who didn’t want something from me but wanted something for me. It was a glimmer of relief; a lifeline I desperately needed.
A month later, I found myself at a church event and gave my life to Jesus. When I said yes to Him, I found such new joy that I didn’t know was possible. There was a piece of my soul that felt healed. That day I gave my life to Jesus, I stopped doing drugs cold turkey by the grace of God. The church connected me to a counselor and I told my story for the first time. They offered a summer internship for high schoolers to serve in their ministry and I joined. I loved the summer internship so much that when I graduated high school, I did college online and joined their internship to pursue vocational ministry.
After I graduated, I got hired on staff at that same church and was working under the creative director helping create experiences and moments that point students and young adults to Jesus. A few years after that I felt the call from God to move to Chicago to join the staff of Willow Creek Church. By the mercy and grace of God I’m currently the Creative Director for Willow Students. I get to help create services, camps, and experiences that point students to Jesus. And every single time I do, I think about a student who is in the room that was just like me silently struggling, and needing some hope. I love that God has taken my story and turned it around for His good.
I want to be clear that by no means did my depression magically disappear. I’ve had some tough days. When I accepted Jesus, there was supernatural healing that took place, and there was work I needed to do to form healthy habits and find freedom.
Going to a therapist has helped me tremendously. Knowing my boundaries for my mental health is important. Inviting my community into my story and allowing them to check in on me provides the accountability and support that I need to stay grounded. I see God’s kindness through each of these forms of provision.
For such a long time I thought depression would rule my life and be a shadow lurking over me. Now that I am free from the narrative of lies that depression is all I am, I can live out fully with the truth that I am enough and that God sees me.
Whether you find yourself struggling with depression, or you know someone who does, rest assured that hope and healing is possible. Be open to the miraculous work of Jesus, and see the way God provides through counselors, therapists, pastors, medicine, and more. You are not alone. Who knows how God might use your past and your pain to be part of someone else’s healing journey?
Get insight from a pastor on what God believes about mental health: What Does God Think About Mental Health?
Ready to find a counselor? See our guide to finding a counselor and what to expect from your visits.
Read Katie’s story of overcoming the stigma of depression and how she lives with her condition now.
For more practical ways to deal with mental health issues, and stories of others who have been there too, go here for our full list of resources.