When Depression Isn't Just the Blues

I’ve written about feeling overwhelmed, and many of you shared your own experiences with the same types of emotions. But what about when the feelings go deeper?

Have you ever locked yourself in the closet? Fallen face-down onto the bed and wept uncontrollably… for hours? Felt despair so deep you couldn’t shake it? Had panic attacks? Experienced frightening and rushing thoughts you can’t control and that shock and even horrify you? I can ask these questions because I have experienced all of the above.

A few years ago, I noticed I felt on edge. I ignored it and kept going. My edginess soon gave way to panic attacks. At first, they only came on while I drove over the river bridge. My extremities would go numb, my heart rushed, I felt lightheaded and dizzy, and I worried I would lose consciousness. But I used my usual method of dealing with issues: I ignored it. Soon, the panic attacks came on during intense moments in TV shows and movies (and when I say intense, I mean even the fight scene in “Kung Fu Panda”).  Still, I ignored it.

The panic attacks gave way to feeling so overwhelmed, I couldn’t get things done; even a sink full of dishes was so overwhelming that I had no idea where to start. Then I locked myself in the closet a few times and sobbed uncontrollably. Still, I ignored it.

Then the thoughts started. Rushing, hateful thoughts — mean things even directed at God, which I never would think on purpose. But I couldn’t control them. My brain had frozen like a skipping CD on thoughts I hated. Tears fell while I banged my head on the wall to make them stop, but still my thoughts raged. In a panic, I called my parents — the only phone number I could remember. I told them I wanted to shoot myself in the head just to make my thoughts stop. My mom tried to sound normal, but I could actually hear her waving my dad onto the phone. I was afraid to live, afraid to die. Afraid God would reject me for what kept going through my head. I was paralyzed by fear.

That was the day I knew I needed help. My dad explained that rushing thoughts is a normal reaction to stress. (Rachel was diagnosed with severe autism a few weeks after.) My dad went on to remind me that God loves us far more than we love ourselves, and Jesus died on the cross for all sins. There is no fine print about Jennifer’s thoughts. Also, see Paul’s thoughts on the subject in Romans 7:15–8:4.

I sought a Christian counselor, which helped a great deal.

Later, my doctor prescribed an antidepressant. Even though I had fears about taking medication (Would it change me? Would it disappoint God? Would I be a zombie?), I agreed. I’m so glad I did. It took a few different meds to get the right one. (One of them did zombify me; others made me feel nauseous, but I stuck it out.) My panic attacks have gotten a lot better. I handle stress better. I also sleep better and have less muscle and joint aches.

I would encourage anyone who experiences anything as I did to stop and take action at the early stages. Don’t let fear stop you. Panic attacks and the rest are normal physical reactions to stress. There is no shame in getting help and seeking professional medical help; and/or Christian counseling is a much better method than self-medicating through things like food and alcohol.

{Editor’s Note: Singer, songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman’s wife visited MomLife Today; see this interview with

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7 Comments

  1. As a Major Depression Disorder sufferer I was only able to remove the shadow of shame when I attempted suicide and found myself committed to a mental health hospital.

    When one is stripped and on their knees before the Heavenly Father you are ready to listen and accept the truth.

    Months later I'm on a round of medications that brings me peace and calmness. Ah, it feels so good.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your experience. I relate to so much of it. God is using this article for me, I just know it.

  3. Thank you for your courage and willingness to share your life with others. I know you are a blessing. You have definitely blessed me.

  4. I’m so glad you shared. Depression is…well I don’t even have a proper word for it and for how it attacks us and effects us. Its so hard too because there are so many different causes for depression that there is no “box” so to speak, that a Dr. can put you in, to explain what’s happening to you. Along with that, the best way to figure out what the cause is, is to talk with others and seek help. Sadly, though, many are afraid to talk about it, to seek the help they need, or just don’t know where to go.
    I have struggled with depression off and on over the past four years due to the effect of hormones during pre-menopause while at the same time, dealing with difficult things that a few of my kids went through. I also have dear friends who struggle with even deeper depression then I have from completely different causes, so I’ve seen it’s face in other lights also.
    I’ve had the severe anxiety (over writing a grocery list even), panic attacks, uncontrollable crying, and definite feeling of withdrawing from normal activites during different periods of time. The struggle with remaining rational even when I’m telling myself that “its really ok, this really isn’t anything to be upset or concerned about.” The longest time period without a break was about 6 to 8 months. Since then, it comes and goes…a few weeks at a time or month to a few months at a time.
    Its so important to talk to others and seek help because many times, the treatment you need can be dependent on the cause of the depression. Is it from something physical, trauma, hormones, emotional, stress…and sometimes the reason can’t be found…its just there and happening to you. But that’s why its so important to seek help and talk with others!
    If a Dr. tries to tell you nothing’s wrong but you really know there is, seek someone else til you find the Dr that is willing to really listen and figure out what is best for you. I found that once my husband and I figured out what the cause of mine was, it made it much easier to work through during those times. When I would be in a time of struggle, we would change some aspects of our life so that I didn’t have to carry anything that was not necessary that added to stress or anxiety. I needed more rest and we would make changes needed so that I could get that rest. If you’re a mom of young ones, ask for help! Ask friends to help give you breaks so you can rest, or help with cleaning the house to conserve energy. Whatever it takes….
    Prayer, prayer, prayer! As those of you struggling with this know, for reasons we don’t understand, God doesn’t usually lift our depression overnight and sometimes, He never does. So find a group of women who you can emial when you’re going through it so they can faithfully pray for you.
    Please never stop calling out to your heavenly Father over and over, even if all you can say is “God help me!” I would often say, “Lord, get me up today out of this bed and move me one step at a time and one thing at a time.” I found a few verses that ministered to me and clung to those. If you hit a day where you can’t even do that, pick up that phone and call someone who understands and let them pray for you and minister to you.!! Please, don’t try to walk through your depression alone! I also would remind myself that others of God’s chosen people fought with depression….David, Moses, Job. Because we are emotional beings, depression is not abnormal for us to deal with.
    I could go on longer because I know the ache, have seen the ache in others and therefore feel so deeply in wanting to encourage and help others who are dealing with depression. However, I should probably end for now.
    Sent with much love and prayers for all you who are in this battle!

  5. What a wonderful read for me today! I have been suffering from a sudden onset of anxiety, panic and depression for about a year now. While it has been incredibly hard, it has also brought me so much closer to my family and the Lord that I often wonder if it wasn't my wakeup call! I'm still fighting the fight and it's wonderful to hear from others and know that you aren't the only one!

    Thank you!

  6. Marshelle says:

    I'm defintely not at this level but wonder sometimes if I'm going there. Thanks for what you've shared. Maybe it'll help me see the signs if/when they happen. No panic attacks or anything like that right now but I do feel overwhelmed at things I used to be able to handle with ease. Not being SuperMom lately.