I’ve been a chaplain for 9 years and I’ve been married for just as long to my wife, the Rev. Jessica Shields. We have two vibrant, engaging daughters: Abigail, 6 and Morgan, 3. I enjoy my life, my vocation, and I still live with depression.
My depression first surfaced for me in high school, the year my older sister went away to college and my best friend moved away to another school. At that time, my only understanding of mental health treatment was the “padded room” I saw in my elementary school, to keep children with special needs and some with mental conditions from hurting themselves. I thought, “I don’t need a padded room; I just don’t care if I wake up the morning.”
Fortunately, my parents were paying close attention to my behavioral changes and sought help from family, friends and our pastor. Thanks to our pastor’s recommendation, I began a medication and therapy regimen with a psychiatrist to help me manage what was diagnosed as acute depression.
While in college, I believed that God did not desire for people to have depression and that God would heal me, so I stopped taking my medications and receiving treatment. I strongly discourage this behavior. After a significant life event in 2009, I could no longer deny that I still lived with depression. I sought out a new psychiatrist, psychologist and medication regimen, and have been managing my depression with my team ever since.
I still don’t believe God desires us to have depression; God wants us to have life and life more abundantly! But as a chaplain, I also know “God’s grace is sufficient.” Getting treatment doesn’t mean I am depression free, nor do I long for God to “take it away,” or try to speed through depressive episodes anymore. Like Paul, I am learning to be content in all things; I accept that I live with depression and try to see what God wants to teach me through each experience.
One of the ways I accept depression in my life is by praying. When I feel a heavy gray cloud hovering above me, I begin to pray for myself, for my wife, my children, and all others who live with depression. Here are a few of my prayers. --Rev. Brian A. Shields
O God, as I am feeling depressed, may this heaviness speak to me. Help me listen to what depression may have to teach me at this time. I am depressed. Guide me to a person, a place and resources to support me during these moments. I feel deep sadness to the point of not wanting to be around people and not wanting to do anything. Like Your prophet Jeremiah, I question my own existence and value. Is my life worth living? Console me, Holy Spirit, when I feel undesirable and unlovable. Amen.
God, lifter of bowed-down heads, help me recognize Your presence with me in this depressive time in my life. May someone come and hear about my pain either by showing up, emailing, calling me or messaging me. My heart needs some human connection today! In Your holy name, Amen.
God, I do not like it when I’m depressed. It slows me down and makes me feel what I don’t want to feel: immense sadness for myself, others and our world. Sustain me in this time and hold me close. Amen.
God, in Your mercy, hear my prayer. My spouse (or significant other) lives with depression, and I don’t know what to do. I feel powerless and inadequate to help. This is frustrating because it can be so unpredictable. Help me find the resources that I need to be with my spouse (or significant other) during these times of pain. In Christ’s name, Amen.
Dear Holy Parent, hold all Your children who live with the mental condition of depression. Send Your love through people--therapists, pastors, friends, family, etc.--that they may be assured of Your love in their dark hours. In Your holy name, Amen.
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