“What will they think?” “How can I possibly help them if I didn’t have all the answers for myself?” “Will referral sources will stop referring if they knew the truth?”
These questions, and many others like them, swirled around my thoughts constantly, invoking ridicule and shame.
I had been a board certified clinical neuropsychologist for over twenty years, treating patients with conditions ranging from depression or anxiety to traumatic brain injury or dementia. I had seen and helped thousands of patients over the years when I became deathly ill.
When my illness continued to worsen rather than improve, severe depression set in. If I couldn’t get back to work and be the doctor helping patients, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to continue living. In my darkest days it didn’t even feel like I was living, but rather, dying a slow death.
In my darkest days, I began to believe the lie that because I suffered from depression as a doctor who “should’ve had all the answers” and perhaps should’ve been able to prevent it in the first place, that God could no longer use me. I began to believe the lie that a life-threatening illness and the resulting depression disqualified me from His service.
And as long as I remained on medically-induced bed rest, unable to work, I began to believe that if I could no longer “do” for my patients or for God, then somehow, He wouldn’t love me.
When depression enshrouded my mind and my heart, I tried all the treatments I had recommended to my depressed patients for two decades: therapy, medication, diet, sleep, and exercise. They all helped but they were insufficient to eradicate the depression. That’s when I got real honest with God and cried out to Him. “I won’t go back to being a doctor if I don’t know that what I would recommend will help. Either you have to take me home with you, or you have to show me the missing piece!”
That’s when I heard His answer in my spirit: “Michelle, unless you are willing to address the spiritual root of disease, it’s like putting a band-aid on an infection and hoping it gets well.”
God was right! I had been addressing the physical, the cognitive, and the emotional aspects of depression, but not the spiritual.
Scripture says in John 10:10 that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; but I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” In the case of depression, the thief comes to steal our joy, kill our peace, and destroy our identity.
In my journey out of depression, God taught me that the way to combat that thief was with His word! We must take every thought captive and bring it to obedience in Christ. It means we have to examine our thoughts and determine if they are coming from God or from the enemy of our soul (who is only capable of lies). If those thoughts are from our enemy, we must refute them with the truth of God’s word. We have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day—that’s a lot of thoughts to take captive!
I believed that I was “joy-immune.” But Scripture promises that “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Whenever I was tempted to believe that lie, or that joy must be for everyone else but not me, I would also recite the verse, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).
I believed the lie that God couldn’t use me. But the truth is that God really does work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), and in the midst of that depression, God was equipping me so that I could offer hope to others who suffered, not only with the credibility of a doctor, but as someone who could understand from personal experience.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
I also believed the lie that if I couldn’t work, couldn’t contribute to my family or society, and couldn’t be of service to my patients, that I must be worthless. But the worth of something is determined by the price that is paid for it. Well, Scripture says that Jesus paid the price for me when He gave His life to die on the cross for my sins. So when I would hear that lie, I had to refute it with the truth in John 3:16 that says I am of infinite worth!
Recognizing the importance of addressing the spiritual root of disease like depression, and taking every thought captive brought healing, freedom, and a life transformed from a state of depression and despair to one that thrives on the hope that prevails because of Him! Because God doesn’t play favorites, what He did for me, He longs to do for you as well.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of best-selling “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She is in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of 30 years have two teenage sons, and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com
For a Free eBook on How to Help a Depressed Loved One, click here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/how-to-help-a-depressed-loved-one-ebook/
For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/10-things-to-know-if-you-have-a-depressed-loved-one/
For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-not-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/
while here are suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/
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