Leaders get depressed too

It is a real encourgement to people who are struggling at the moment. "I can't really pin point when my depression began - it sort of crept in, settled down with a nice cup of tea and made itself comfy while I was busy trying to deal with other things, like life."

I remember not feeling particularly happy but I would put it down to circumstances, "when I've got a job I'll feel better.... Everything will be OK when I move into my new house.... A holiday will do me good... once this new job settles down I'll start to feel like my old self again...". I hadn't realised I'd been thinking this way for months and months until one day someone had the audacity to make me laugh. As I laughed I realised something didn't feel normal. I hadn't laughed in a long time, and it didn't feel right anymore. And that was when the tears started. Now I have to confess, I'm no stranger to tears, in fact some might say its more normal to see my crying than not - Charlene and Scott's wedding (scrap that - any wedding!), most episodes of East Enders, seeing my friends baby for the first time, Take That splitting up, feeling unwell, the messages inside American greeting cards - pretty much anything can get me welling up. But those preceding months had been different. No tears, and no laughter either; just that very clich? and very real numbness.

When the tears started it was like the proverbial damn had burst and I fell totally out of control. Some days I would be sitting at my desk, ever efficiently working away and people on the other end of the phone had no clue I had tears pouring down my face. Like a broken record in my head went the self-sung soundtrack, "I can't cope with life, I can't cope with life, I can't cope with life". Another dead cliche that sprung to life and bit me on the backside - I just wanted to die. Well at first I just wanted to sleep and never wake up - but before long I was suicidal. Suddenly, having never understood what would induce someone to such action in the past, the temptation to self-harm was at times overwhelming.

It was a horrible, horrible time. I seemed to feel only one of two ways - like I was being smashed and drowned by a thunderous tidal wave, or else suffocated by a lead blanket.

I am so thankful for the friends God has given me. Right about this time one of two very firmly and lovingly pointed me in the direction of the Doctor - who promptly prescribed Prozac and signed me off work. Scary. It was also exactly what was needed.

Being off work immediately took away all the pressure that I'd allowed my job to pile on top of me. It gave me time to rest and be with friends and family who loved and supported me and - thank God - accepted me whether it was a 'good day' or a 'bad day.' In terms of a longer-term solution it also gave me a chance to spend time with two very wise and loving people who talked and prayed with me about the depression and together we approached God and asked him to reveal what was going on deep inside me. The doctors tell me that depression isn't always necessarily caused by circumstances - it can just happen to anyone. Even so, I know I felt guilty for 'falling apart' when in comparison to so many others my life was so happy and smooth - I hadn't lost a loved one, suffered a huge trauma or received some life-shattering news. I had a roof over my head, plenty of food, amazing family and friends. It was just that everything - by which I guess I mean life - had got too much for me. In one way it was as simple as that. My time spent with this couple together before God was absolutely invaluable, as He gently revealed past hurts, unresolved issues and a bruised self-image. In that safe place God did much to heal and restore, as He always promises He will - it is in His very nature to do so. And it is no coincidence that as I allowed God into these painful places I started back on the road to recovery. Under the pressure, past wounds had split open and the only way to move on was to get them healed.

In all these months, particularly while I was still at work, I found it so hard to read my Bible or pray. Getting out of bed and just doing 'life' was hard enough. And prayer seemed too much like thinking, or acknowledging and I didn't want to do that. The only conversation I had with God was the same old, "I can't do this, I'm no good at life" mantra. During this time I was forced to accept three things:

The first is this: It is sometimes OK to sit in God's presence and say nothing. There are times when we can do no more. God is our Father and we are His children - there is a place for silence and letting His presence be your foundation and comfort. No pressure. Just me and my Dad. You and Yours.

Secondly, and it is pretty much the same as the first, we live under grace and not law. We are all supposed to know this but knowing it and knowing it is another thing entirely. Yes, in order to know God, to become like him and to live lives that please him we need be reading His Word and spending time with him in prayer. But, again, we are under grace not law - relationship and not legalism. I couldn't pick up my Bible (or any book for that matter) and God knew and understood. He just kept me close to him and I had to choose to let myself off the hook and rest with him.

Lastly, and again its pretty much just another side of the same coin, it is OK at times to let your friends do the work. If its good enough for a lame man to be literally dropped in front of Jesus through a hole in the roof by the strength of his mates (Luke 5 17-26) - its good enough for you and me. Who knows if the man was desperate for healing and pleaded with his friends to take him to Jesus, or if the friends had faith where the man's own had run out. The end result was the same - the man was touched by Jesus and healed. It was the prayers of my family and friends that supported me and carried me to Jesus. I was crippled and couldn't walk myself. It was hard to believe that that was OK, and that the Lord finds that an acceptable way to enter His presence but I know now that He does.

I'm so thankful for the gift of prayer. I'm also thankful for prozac - in my cases I needed a good dose of both. It's been a painful time and I wouldn't want to go there again. But there has been something so healthy about being in that place of weakness, being unable to cope and unable to stand alone. Something so healthy in resting in God and allowing His very presence to be my comfort and healing. I think I'll just take it a day at a time...Ali.

Ali Martin, 18/06/2007