This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Suffering Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element of five from “Step One: PREPARE Yourself Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually to Face Your Suffering.” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events.
What is the most painful part of depression-anxiety? Each person will have to answer that question for themselves, but one of the leading answers would have to be “the alone-ness.” Unfortunately, it is hard for us to admit, “I am depressed” or “I am controlled by fear” to those who care about us.
For too many people, the dysfunctional and unspoken rules of depression-anxiety are:
- Don’t talk about it.
- Everything is fine.
- No one will understand.
It is sad that we use the same logic to isolate ourselves in the experience of depression-anxiety that is commonly used to silence an abused child or a spouse experiencing domestic violence. With our silence about our struggles we become the warden to our cell of isolation.
How do we break through the barrier of our own silence? We speak. What do we say? The following letter is a sample you could write in your own words to a friend. It is meant to be a prompt for conversation with those who already care for you. In it, we include the basic requests you might make of a friend at this stage in your journey.
Thank you for the ways you’ve cared for me and valued our friendship. That means more to me than you know. It is because of that trust that I feel like I can tell you something that is hard for me to admit. I struggle with depression-anxiety. That may not seem like a big admission to you, but it is something I have resisted telling anyone for a long time.
The worst part about not telling anyone about my struggle is that I have felt very alone with it. For some reason, I have treated depression-anxiety as if it were a secret about which I should feel ashamed. Because of that I have wondered if people would still like me “if they knew.” The implied answer was always “no, they wouldn’t.”
The main thing I would ask of you is that you do very little different when we’re together. It is would be nice if you ask me how I’m doing periodically and show concern for my response (as I trust you would). But the biggest benefit will come from you knowing and still valuing our friendship.
If there are times when I share with you that I am especially down or fearful, it would be great if you would pray for me and find a way to spend some extra time together (i.e., getting lunch, sending a card, offering to do a project together, etc…). I don’t like to ask for those things when I’m down, but they would greatly help me get outside my own thoughts and emotions.
I’m going through a study right now to help me assess how I can best respond to the challenge of depression-anxiety. If you are interested you can look over the study, you can find it at bradhambrick.com/depression (note: this link will not be active until after the live presentation is recorded).
It would be nice if I could share with you what I’m learning about myself and my struggle. I like that this study has structure and provides a process for finding hope and relief for depression-anxiety. In the first step it asks me to be more honest with friends, so I can quit believing that these emotions make me a person less worth caring for.
If there are ways I can pray for you, I would be interested to know those as well. Part of the struggle with depression-anxiety is that I think a lot about myself and my experience. Being able to reciprocate by praying for you would be an effective way for me to weaken that emotional habit.
I’m sure I’ll learn a lot as I go through this study, but, for now, I have a lot more hope that I’ll see it through to the end because I’m not doing it alone. It is probably too much to ask that I will never be down or anxious again, but I like the idea of learning how to make those emotional dips more shallow and how to maintain my trust in God during those times.
Thank you caring enough to listen to my burden. Like I said, I don’t want much to change in our relationship. But it is a big relief to allow talking to you to break the silent sense of shame I was living in. That is a great gift you’ve given me already.
How well would those words capture how you would like a conversation like this to begin? What parts would you change?
You will need to make this your own by putting it in your words. As you think about having this conversation with a handful of friends, between two and five, is it intimidating or exhilarating? How different would your day-to-day emotional experience be if you had a few people you could talk to this way?
Who are the people to whom you would send this kind of letter or have this kind of conversation?
For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Depression” post which address other facets of this subject.