To those of you who are walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, can I just tell you how brave you are?
You might not think of yourself as being brave at the moment, but you are. You are brave to get up day after day and interact with people. You are brave to be honest with yourself (and, at times, us) about how you are.
Having been down this long and winding path with more folks than I ever imagined when I first put my foot on foreign shores, I’ve gathered some resources and offer them here — not to fix you, but to walk with you.
1. To those not in the valley — The biggest “resource” we can offer to our sisters is prayer and our presence. If you are aware of someone who is in the valley, write her name on a piece of paper and place it where you’ll remember to pray for her. As you cook, fold laundry, commute, brush your teeth, let’s pray for one another.
2. At times our thinking can get out of whack when we are depressed — and it becomes so automatic, we don’t even notice it. Scripture reminds us over and over how important our thoughts are because out of them flow our feeling and reactions/responses. (This isn’t meant to shame you and say, “Hey, get your thoughts right!” It’s meant to give you some context :))
Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS) help us to figure out where we might need to change how we think/talk to ourselves. Give someone you trust — spouse, good friend — permission to point out what they hear or read (if in emails) from you. You might be using “all” or catastrophizing in ways you didn’t realize. We can’t change or pray about things we’re not aware of.
3. If it is available, you might want to go to the doctor and have a check up to be sure nothing else is going on. When you are in the Valley of the Shadow of Death that probably sounds too overwhelming to navigate. Can you have a friend be your advocate and figure out the steps for you? Or set up an appointment? Sometimes medicine is easier to get in a foreign country –if the doctor thinks your blood chemistry may have gotten out of balance a bit of medicine can be a resource. And medicine alone isn’t going to solve the problem — find a confidant (friend, counselor) to help you untangle and sort out some of what is going on in your head, heart, and soul. God is in the business of restoration, though not always quickly.
4. Just needing a place to start, I like this one: Coping with depression. They offer small practical steps.
5. The Anxiety Centre comes highly recommended by a trusted friend who has used their services in remote areas of the world and had truly life changing results. There’s lots to look at for free, but then membership is required for access to all their stuff. Memberships can be monthly, semi-annual or annual (and of course, the longer the membership, the cheaper put month it is.) I think it’s reasonable and worth it! If you have sessions with one of their coaches, you’ll be free access to the full website for the duration of your counseling time. The counselor costs are reasonable, too. They can meet with you by skype or other methods.
They not only deal with anxiety disorders, but have info on OCD, PTSD, panic attacks, and other related issues. Even though there isn’t a special section on it, in the body of their main info, they have some helpful tips for depression, and they’ve noted a connection between anxiety and depression.
6. If you or a loved one (spouse, child, or friend) will be traveling while walking this path, this is a helpful list.
7. Advanced Global Coaching –-they are trained to know when someone would benefit from coaching and when they need to look into professional counseling. Sometimes, valley times are not full-blown depression, but seasons of confusion and lack of clarity as to the next step(s). AGC is a place that can help sort out which path you’re on. I know several people who work for them and everyone we’ve encountered has been top notch.
7. Another coaching resource is: Coaching Mission International. Coaching for missionaries is very reasonable. For more info, check out the Bridges program.
8. These two articles are by people with personal experience with depression. All the way down is by Parker Palmer and The Spiritual Dimension of Depression is by Elissa Elliott. A book from “the front lines” is Henri Nouwen’s The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom.
I don’t mean to overwhelm you with resources, this is more of a starting point. What other resources have you heard of or found to be helpful?
We here at A Life Overseas are not “professionals,” but we are professional carers! Thank you for enhancing our community by offering a piece of yourself.
A version of this first appeared on Velvet Ashes