It’s the time of year when the weather is cooler and the days get a little darker. During this time, many of us go through a bit of a seasonal mood swing. If you didn’t know already, seasonal depression is a REAL thing. Although I’ve dealt with depression on and off over the years, I’ve found that this time of year is where I battle with it the most. I wanted to share with you how I combat seasonal depression and how you can too.

In my own personal experience, depression has felt like drowning in a river while tied down to cement blocks.  I’ve felt immovable and lifeless during this time. It can sometimes feel like I’m walking around with my own personal cloud hovering over me. Many times, I never really realized I was depressed until I was in too deep.

Here are a few of the main signs of depression:

  • Low mood or loss of interest in things usually enjoyed
  • Lack of motivation
  • Significant changes in sleeping patterns
  • Significant changes in eating patterns or weight changes
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Repeated thoughts of excessive worry, guilt or death
Woman standing in the dark

Depression can occur in any woman at any time for several different reasons.  It can be caused by abuse, medications, conflict, death of a loved one, genetics, major events, personal problems, illness, and substance abuse.  When it comes to seasonal depression, for some, it may be a specific time of year that may be more triggering in recognition of a monumental moment that may have caused trauma.

According to an article from Mental Health America entitled Depression in Women, “approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year and about one in every eight women can expect to develop clinical depression during their lifetime (2017).”  Some are more susceptible to depression than others and it can take a toll on all aspects of one’s life.  Depression is NOT a normal part of life and it must be dealt with, but delicately.

Enlist support from others

Attempting to call for help can seem like I’m yelling at the top of my lungs, but only the sound of silence reaches the tip of my tongue. 

As difficult as it may seem, having the support of close friends or family members is so beneficial when combating seasonal depression. You need someone to be a listening ear as you deal with any pain or frustrations you may experience during this season. Whether it is someone silently holding space for you or just calling daily to say hello and hear your voice, it makes all of the difference.

Go to therapy

In many cases, speaking to people we know may not be the most comfortable thing to do. What was helpful for me was going to see a licensed therapist. This was someone I didn’t know and she didn’t know me. I put aside the stigmas of society and took the leap. I was able to lay out everything on the table and breathe. My therapist helped me to do some inner work that was so necessary my healing in this season.

Seek God’s Face

Being depressed can really mess with a person’s mental and spiritual state. During a time of depression, a person can get off track in their spiritual walk with God in a major way.  Each day that they fall deeper, they can find themselves further away from Him.

Of course, the ultimate cure for depression is God.  He is always the answer and the cure. During my times dealing with this, God and His word were the furthest things from my mind.  I found it easier to just sit and sulk rather than to push through and lean on His word. I would feel the spirit tugging on me to get on my knees and pray or dust off my bible and see what the Lord had to say about my situation and I would turn a deaf ear to it all.  

woman sitting down reading the Bible

Between molestation during my childhood, divorce, diagnose of disease, stress, doubt, and low self-esteem, I felt completely broken to a point where only God could put my pieces back together again and He has… one by one, piece by piece.

Through many trials, I had to realize that my life did have a purpose and I was needed. I had to pull through the pain, hurt and frustration in my life and turn it into something I can use.  I realized that all I was going through was a test and I needed to pass in order to see a true breakthrough in my life.

Now, I’m not at all saying that breaking out of a depressed state is easy, but what I am saying is that with God there is ease.  His word is the complete handbook for the ins and outs of our life’s daily struggles. I find so much release and relief in His word. 

Daily, I would take baby steps to find my way back on track. I would immerse myself in song, journaling, and devotion to keep my mind steadfast.  I’ve used sticky notes around the house with positive reminders and scriptures to get me through the day.

I constantly reminded myself that the storm I was going through was temporary and that God would pull me through as long as I had faith in Him.  I wouldn’t allow the devil the satisfaction of using my soul as his playground. I smiled through my rough days and encouraged others as I encouraged myself.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t think for a second that you are alone in this.  Regardless of your situation, God is available. He is listening to your prayers and requests.  He hears your cries. Be encouraged and keep pushing through, whether it be a loss of a loved one, difficulties in your marriage, or issues in health, He is the only way out.  

woman biting her finger
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Get up and Get out

During my darkest moments, I would lay in my bed as long as I could. So much so that I would end up with bed sores and permanent dent in my mattress. I thought of my bed as my energy source, but in reality, it was actually draining my energy. I would come straight home from work and just lay in my bed with my work clothes on for hours. I would cry, nap, and think all in rotation. One of the most difficult things for me to do was to actually get up. This seems like such a simple task, but for someone battling with depression, it can feel almost impossible to do.

Getting out that bed to bush my teeth, shower, and put on a fresh set of clothes helped to awaken my senses. I would feel refreshed and more willing to be productive to take on the day.

Brighten your day

Beyond actually getting out of bed, getting out of the house to enjoy the daylight was necessary for me in order to combat my depression. During the dark fall and winter days, those times of sunshine were priceless. I would go take a nice long walk and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. It would place me a in a refreshed mood.

I’ve even found it to be helpful to replace the light bulbs in my home with daylight bulbs that provide much brighter lighting. I feel more productive and have more of a willingness to move around the house with better lighting and it’s helped me to combat seasonal depression.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” 

Jeremiah 28:11-12

God’s plan for your life does not end here in this moment.  If you have fallen in depression because of fear or guilt, please know that God is not mad at you.  Your mistakes are not who you are. They are a testimony of where you have come from, not where you’re going.  He created you for a purpose whether you see it now or not. You are needed. You are loved. You have purpose.  You are capable. You are enough. Trust, believe and know these things.

Six months ago I began going to therapy. I can truly say that it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life; right next to uprooting my family and moving across the country. I decided to break the stigma I always knew of black Christian women not going to therapy. It was so taboo for so long and we were expected to just be strong and keep pushing. There was just entirely too much I’d carried that was worthy of unpacking and I needed to let it go. I came to the realization that it is okay to pray for healing and go to therapy all at the same time.

It took me years to find the courage to admit that I even needed therapy. I had been through child molestation, loss, domestic abuse, navigating through divorce, and a few toxic relationships among other things. It took even longer to decided to finally research a therapist that would fit my needs. After that, it took much more time to actually make that first phone call.

I took everything I thought I knew and threw it away

Many of us were raised to conceal our emotions and just keep moving, bottling up everything inside of us until we explode. This is not healthy at all.

Growing up while black and growing up in the Christian community tainted the idea of therapy or any type of counseling being a necessity in my life. I was simply taught that prayer was the “end all be all.”

I really believed that I had the ability to just pray it all away until I realized that I couldn’t. I wasn’t some kind of magician that could wave a wand and “voila” all my troubles were gone.

Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). So I had to rid myself of the ideology that I could just say a prayer and God would remove whatever trauma I’m experiencing without actually putting in the work. I don’t know if you knew this or not, but therapy is work ya’ll. Whew, Chile! I had to tell myself that just because I was going to therapy didn’t mean that I was watering down my faith or that I believed Jesus any less than the day I gave Him my life.

I decided to leave everything I knew at the door and work on taking the steps necessary to begin my healing.

blank notebook and bible on table

I created a list of criteria

  1. My therapist had to be a black woman. There was no question about this one. I wanted to feel comfortable and I wanted to feel safe. I wasn’t going to feel either of those things spilling the tea to someone who would never be able to relate to my personal traumas as a black woman.
  2. This black female therapist had to run a faith-based practice. My walk with Christ is important to me and I wanted to ensure that Christ was in ALL of my details. I wanted to be consistent with making sure that scripture and prayer were being used in this new chapter of my life. Y’all can keep the crystals and I believe sage belongs in my food (dat’s it!).
  3. This therapist and her practice had to align with what my current needs were. She also had to be able to understand my short term and long term goals with therapy. I wasn’t planning on going to therapy for the rest of my life. I also didn’t want to have my therapist on speed dial for every moment I was going to have a breakdown. My end goal was to heal and unpack. I needed to have the ability to cope with future issues on my own with the tools she provided. The only one I lean and depend on Christ!

I finally made the call

I had been holding on to my list of criteria for a solid minute. To be honest, I didn’t have much intention on proceeding after that. I made every excuse in the book not to call someone. I kept telling myself that I could fix it all on my own, but I was sadly mistaken. With the push of one of my best friends who kept me accountable, I finally made the call and scheduled my first session with the therapist I had been researching for some time. She seemed like the perfect fit for me and indeed she was.

My first session was not what I expected

Girl, I thought I’d be broken down on her couch teary-eyed while unpacking 30 years of trauma like it was a Lifetime movie in the 90’s. I was ready to let ALL of my frustrations out in the first session! To be honest, my therapist told me exactly how our first session was going to go, but I still had this animated expectation in mind going into it.

We spent fifty minutes going over my personal goals and expectations for therapy. She also discussed her approach based on my needs. My therapist let me know that I was in control of each session. She would guide me if needed and allow me to discuss whatever was on my agenda that day. She would assist me in unpacking the baggage I had been carrying for so long.

Her intention was to provide me with short term therapy. Her goal was the same as mine; to equip me with the tools needed to survive on my own and not depend on outside help. She believed that if I were co-dependent on my therapist, she wasn’t doing her job properly and I agree. I see it like taking an anti-depressant for the rest of my life. It’s not helping the issue at hand at all; just prolonging it.

Close up of sunflower

I began to show growth and healing

In addition to continuous prayer, each therapy session came with much healing and a bloom I had never seen in myself before. I was no longer wilted or watered down. I regained confidence in myself as I blossomed into a new creature.

I learned to create healthy boundaries to protect my mental and emotional health. I routinely held space for myself and not just everyone else. I discovered how to navigate through my anxieties even when my back seemed like it was against the wall. I learned to smile again. Most of all, I was determined to let go and to live, love, and let love reside in me; however that may look.

The baggage that I carried for so long silenced me in more ways than one. So, during this process of going to therapy, I started to pray out loud again. I unsealed my lips and stopped thinking that the Lord had good enough ears to only hear my thoughts and silent whispers. I broke my silence and now I make sure He hears my cries, my shouts, and my worship.

Prayer by itself wasn’t the route to my healing. I needed to seek help and I did just that. I needed more than prayer. I needed a therapist too.

What’s holding you back from seeking the help you know you need?