Surviving Depression–Look Behind the Green Screen

Depression

Hope and Despair

Mental or emotional depression is compared to many things. Let me add another. Depression is for the mind and emotions like the physical experience of walking through a swamp. My upbringing was in central Louisiana. On occasion, I duck-hunted in a swamp. At times, I’d walk several hundred yards through water mid-thigh, with mud sucking at every step. Wading through a swamp is muddy, messy, slow and exhausting. Similarly, depression is also muddy, messy, a slow trudge. It is also similarly exhausting.

To make matters worse, the swamp of depression seems perpetual. When a hunter is trudging back to higher land, he can see and know that dry ground is just ahead. Such is not the case with the swamp of depression. In every direction, there is the swamp extending as far as the eye can see.

It is a mental and emotional trip through the thigh-deep water with muck sucking at your boots each step.

The swamp goes forever. It seems that life does not exist beyond depression. Every sun-rise will find you in the same swamp. Walking through a swamp of depression is hard. When the swamp is the only thing, you can see it generates unspeakable despair.

The swamp of depression is real. It is exhausting and debilitating. Let me offer expanded perception.

Depression surrounds you with a “green screen”

“Green screen” is the technique of photographing or filming a person or object against a green monochrome backdrop. With the use of technology, a different image then replaces the monochrome backdrop. The person in the photo may not have traveled to the desert or mountain. Photographic or cinematic sleight-of-hand created what you see.

Understand, I’m not suggesting depression is fake. The defining characteristics of:

  • Sadness without reason
  • Lack of motivation
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of focus
  • Less energy than usual
  • No pleasure in things you have always enjoyed.
  • It being a struggle to maintain normal social activities
  • Breathing taking all of your energy

All of these, along with several other symptoms are as real as this morning’s sunrise.

Depression’s Green Screen

But there is a falsehood in depression. It prompts my “green screen” analogy. Our mind can create its version of a “green screen.” Remember, a “green screen” allows an unreal image to become part of the picture being seen.

In depression, when you look ahead – you see the swamp. It extends as far as your eye can see. Look behind you, and it seems you have been in the swamp forever. All past success has little value while in the swamp of depression. On every side is the same – more swamp. The dark, muddy, and forbidding surrounds you. Every single step is an effort. Beyond that, the “green screen” says your current struggle will be there for every tomorrow. The sense that the depression will be perpetual is debilitating.

Does this not describe depression?

Depression’s green screen lie tells you that you are surrounded by a perpetual swamp of despair. The fable is that you have been here forever and that your life has no value. That part of depression is a “green screen.

Look Past the Green Screen

Surviving depression may become a bit easier, if you can know the lie for what it is. Depression, regardless of its source seldom lasts forever. Mine never has. High ground awaits. But, the false “green screen” would have you think different. Know better!

Use your past survival as a source of present encouragement

Many readers will have already walked through this swamp. In your previous journey through depression, didn’t it also seem as though the marsh would never end? You felt hopeless back then. Remember! You felt then, just like you feel now. Most people eventually come out of the depression. Your earlier depression may have lasted six months, a year or five years. You survived. Remember that survival – it will help you make it now.

Really Think about Tomorrow

For a moment limit your feeling and elevate your thinking. By the way, what we “think” and what we “feel”  are not the same thing. Emotions can be illogical. Look at your calendar. Before you walked into the swamp of depression what coming event would have brought you joy? Is a grandchild about to be born? Maybe, college graduation is just ahead? Perhaps, a conference you have always enjoyed awaits. Possibly, some of your “laughing friends” are coming to town. “Laughing friends” is my term for the small group of people with whom we can laugh with abandon. For most of us, such friends are a rare treasure.

I know what you are thinking, “Pastor, the idea of spending time with anybody or going to any event makes me feel exhausted.” Remember, in this exercise you are not feeling. You are “thinking.” When you think about it, there is great value in the time with those “laughing friends.” Somewhere ahead there is the likelihood of better times. There is a reason to slog on. The surrounding green screen says it is not so. Remember, it is a green screen. The green screen lies!

Really Think about the Past

For a second moment, limit your feelings and elevate your thinking. Open the pictures and videos on your phone or get the box of photos from a closet. Look at the pictures. Think about what you are seeing.  Some examples from my world:

  • Pictures of Lane and Chris as boys,
  • The picture of our two grandsons (holy children to me) at three years old having a whispered conversation on the drive leading to our home.
  • The pictures of our wedding
  • A framed copy of my first published book, Daily Things of Christian Living.
  • The video clip of 18-month-old Elsie, for the first time, discovering her shadow and head-butting it.

These help me peek around the green screen of despair. My life has not been so bad. Pictures of experiences shared with “laughing friends” like Stan and Melba, Tim and Joan, Jerry and Phyllis, Perry and Loretta, or Roy and Debbie help remind me. I have not always been walking through this swamp. As you look at your pictures – remember.

God IS – There!

Job had a similar experience. Job was depressed with good cause. He looked for God in front of him and behind him and on each side. (Job 23:8-9) In spite of Job’s search, God was not to be found. Job was seeing “green screens.” What Job felt was Job’s emotional reality. But, what Job saw was not the conclusion of this. Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take . . ..” (Job 23:10). Job’s based this final conclusion on faith, not feelings. While in his dark place, Job did not know where God was. By faith, Job understood that God knew right where he was.

In conclusion, take heart – this describes your situation as well.

Depression is real.

Depression being permanent – unlikely.

Your past life having no value – nonsense.

All of that is a “green screen.” Know the green screen surrounding your depression for what it is.

Daily Things of Christian Living

 

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10 Comments

  1. Great article!
    I work full time in the Mental Health field. Depression is a stronghold,to a lost and dying world. Men and women seek for help in many ways. For example, medications for depression, voices, Hallucinations delusions and suicidal ideation. A person suffering with depression wants to feel better but ,the darkness takes them down ,into isolations.
    I am so blessed to know a God,whose name is Jesus. He answers prayer, he lifts you up, he blesses and heals our brokenness and spirits. He pours the healing balm of Gilead,, and comforts us in the HolyGhost, His songs of peace, love ,praise and so much more bring a melody of relief and recovery. God heals better than any prescription the world offers. We need only to submit to the mighty God, Serve Him Today and Always.
    Thank you Bro. Coon for sharing

  2. Bro Coon,

    Great article! If more people in the Body of Christ were as transparent as you are we would see a greater unity and more healing would take place. This a topic that is taboo among clergy and church settings. In James he mentions that confess your faults to one another and pray one for another they ye may be healed. James 5:16. By the way, I am apostolic and I am a therapist in the field of mental health , substance abuse and marriage and family and you on spot on,

    Thank you again for your transparency.

    Bro. Woodbury

    • In some ways, it may be that I am the fellow dumb enough to talk about these things. It is interesting the number of people in positions of influence will then tell me of their own challenges, and responses in this area. Perhaps our lack of being “honest to God” about emotions is a detriment to our being able to reach the world? Thoughts?

  3. Regarding the article on “Surviving Depression” I have never dealt with the depths of depression you describe, but I have known a few people that have experienced this condition. What a debilitating state, how can a person help another who lives in this condition? I have had some friends who stay in a negative, depressed state most of the time, but no positive thing I say or nothing I do brings them over to a more positive way of thinking. It is difficult for a spouse or close friend to live with a person who deals with this type of depression as they get to feeling defeated and want to give up trying to help. Any recommendations for the companion that would be beneficial to the person who has clinical depression?

  4. Pastor Coon:

    Thank you for such encouraging words. We emailed in times past and much has happened. Just before we moved from Alaska to Texas my wife took ill and passed away. This would have been our 3rd year of marriage and our anniversary is my birthday July 20. We chose that date so I would always remember our anniversary. Last year I forgot my birthday but remembered our date.

    It has been difficult for me as you detail the issues. I will not bore you with any more except to say this day I can smile and your good words helped – immensely. I am rededicating myself to our Lord and all my plans have evaporated here as it is 100 degrees hotter than I am use to living.

    Continue in His grace!
    Pat in Texas

  5. Joseph, Jeremiah and Apostle Paul likely all suffered this. After reading your blog I can say that I “have been” in this place before. Your words from your own experience are an inspiration and encouragement to me and, I’m sure, others as well. Thanks for sharing this.

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