What is Depression?

By Karen Boerger

My first caregiving role was when my husband was diagnosed with depression.  During his lengthy illness, I struggled to understand the “why” of his despair and spent hours looking for answers to my question, “What is depression?”

We eventually learned that various factors influenced my husband’s depression: sleep apnea, Seasonal Affective Disorder, his parent’s deaths, and work overload.  Any one of those factors would be a cause for sadness, but having all at the same time caused him major trouble.

At some point over 28 years of his becoming depressed, I noticed that every November (as the amount of sunlight decreased) he would began to slowly retreat within himself.  He would close his eyes to the world, stay in bed for long hours and wouldn’t talk except for one word answers to questions. He would cry at times and thought about suicide.

Depression affected each member of the family, not just him. I became a nervous Nellie and hovered over all three of our teenage children as well as my husband. I was the caregiver trying to keep the children’s lives as normal as possible, but it was difficult to do.

We lived on a farm, and my husband was no longer able to take care of the dairy herd and the other livestock.  Our children were often late to school because all the livestock had to be taken care of first. Bless the school principal for his understanding of the situation. Yet even though my husband’s depression was emotionally difficult for all of us; I knew that if I were to lose him to suicide, it would be absolutely devastating.

To gather strength to get through the lonely days, I would read the Bible and pray. God was my constant companion, and I could tell Him anything and everything.  David wrote in Psalm 6 about symptoms of depression:

  • “my soul is greatly troubled”
  • “my bones are in agony”
  • “I am weary with my moaning”
  • “all night long I flood my bed with weeping”
  • “I drench my couch with my weeping”
  • “My eye wastes away because of grief”

WOW!  Even King David suffered from depression!  We can be honest with God even when we are filled with anger or despair because God knows us so well and always wants the best for us.

We Found Hope and Help!

Our family trusted in God, sought help from a Christian psychiatrist, and was supported by our many friends. Medication helped, as well as getting to a sunny place in February, which gives him a boost so he’s able to make it into spring with energy. It’s amazing to me to see the difference in him even now after a couple days in Florida sunlight after a gray Ohio winter.

Today my husband is a thoughtful, loving man with purpose in his life and he enjoys his family. Praise the Lord for the help he received in his time of need.

Had he taken his life, my best friend wouldn’t be sitting in his favorite chair, joking with me, trying to make me laugh, or  able to chat with me about the world situations. He wouldn’t be able to play with our seven grandchildren and enjoy their silly antics. What a loss it would have been for all of us!

For more information about What is Depression? watch this video: