Most of us will experience depression sometime in our lives, but some will experience a deep depression. Being outside our home culture can delay recognizing what is wrong or make getting help difficult. Margaret got us thinking about depression as a topic for Peter’s Wife when she sent an article by Dick Innes called Overcoming Depression.
Depression can be an occupational hazard for PWs. We live outside our home culture without many of the support systems the average woman has. Lacking the feedback of friends and family we can turn a molehill into a mountain or slowly, inch-by-inch, slip into a deep depression.
We will take a look at some of the causes of depression frequently encountered by PWs.
Physical exhaustion topped my list early in our time in Malaysia. I tried to keep my tropical house like I had kept my American house. With windows always open and fans on, my battle with dust and grit was never ending. Shopping, cooking, washing and ironing all took more energy than at home. Hiring a local woman for two mornings a week freed countless hours and energy for the jobs I really needed to be doing. As my exhaustion decreased, my mood improved.
On the other extreme is lack of exercise which, just as surely leads to depression. After trying to take a brisk walk in Africa the local pastor said, “Sister, this just will not do. You have everyone worried and upset. They cannot finish their chores while they worry over why you are rushing around in circles. Please, for everyone’s peace of mind, go home and don’t do this any more.” So ended my brisk walks for exercise. Many of you, for a variety of reasons cannot exercise as you did at home. See if there is any type of athletic club you can join. Many of these are quite reasonable. Especially in the tropics it is hard to make yourself get proper exercise, but for your mental health you must find a way.
Chemical imbalances from simple pre-menstrual stress to thyroid problems cause depression. After the birth of a baby and when menopause nears, we can have hormone imbalances that cause mild to serious depression. The next time you have the opportunity to have a thorough medical check up, make the appointment and keep it. Treatment is simple and usually fairly inexpensive.
Emotions can cause depression. Lacking meaningful work and worthwhile goals, not using one’s abilities, unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams can all happen to PWs. Usually our husband has been called to the work he is doing overseas. We, however, may be there only because we are his wife. Keeping a home and raising a family in another culture may not seem like meaningful work and worthwhile goals. But we must know the truth. Raising our children to love God is our highest calling during that stage of our lives. When our children are away at school or married, God will give us new dreams and goals to fulfill. Knowing our time of life and being content with where we are leads to joy.
“Faulty thinking is another cause of depression,” says Dick Innes. “Many counselors believe that feelings follow thoughts. That is, negative feelings follow negative thoughts while positive feelings follow positive thoughts. While we may not have control over many of life’s circumstances, we do have control of our thinking.” I have been reading the best-selling book called, Feeling Good by David D. Burns, M.D. If you are dealing with depression or anxiety problems, get this very helpful book. Reading it on your own and following his clear directions can turn your life around without the use of medications.
Last, but certainly not least, are spiritual causes. Unresolved guilt, rejecting God’s call to follow Him, or resisting His will can also cause miserable depression. Jim McNutt in From a Single Journey tells us to “Talk to God. Tell Him where you are in your thinking and feeling. Pour out your inner fears and anger to Him. Talk to Him all day long–He’s listening with concern.” This is such good advice. Sometimes when we are depressed and angry with God it is hard to make the first step. Maybe writing a journal to God would make it easier to start. Run to Him and pour out your heart. He knows how to heal the broken hearted.
There is so much more to say on this topic. But my hope is that you will not suffer alone. If you are hurting and need help, please write to Diane