While not everyone’s experience is the same, I found my depression to be directly connected to something traumatic from my past I unknowingly carried around.
Our first spring living in Alaska, depression afflicted me in probably the worst way it ever has. Although my first fall and winter in Alaska went well for me emotionally, when our first spring hit, with it came depression. It was as if it descended on me as quickly as a sunny morning turns into an afternoon thunderstorm.
My sky was once again gray and stormy; my mind disillusioned with dealing with it again. Only this time, new symptoms arose like panic in my chest, fits of crying, and suicidal thoughts. Those thoughts stemmed from the desire for relief from the depression wrapped around me like a snake killing its prey squeezing me until I was ready to do almost anything for relief. I didn’t know it at the time but I was suffering more from anxiety than depression this time which has similar symptoms. Getting out of bed in the morning became torturous. Even before I awoke for the day, it was as if it was right there waiting for me as I opened my eyes. As my feet hit the floor and I walked to the bathroom, I took deep breaths to try to calm myself and it was only eight in the morning!
One day I stayed in bed until eleven and finding it difficult to function, I called my mother-in-law. She listened as I struggled through tears to get the words out to explain how bad things were this time. Somehow I conveyed I was back to the place of wanting to die. Not only from seeing myself as utterly worthless, but I wanted to escape the pain that was choking me. Sensing my desperation, she began to pray powerful words that helped me to finally calm down.
After a month and a half of things continuing to get worse, one afternoon in May Jim called friends of ours in Kenai and asked if I could fly there to stay with them. The plan was for me to try to see a doctor during my visit. I didn’t like Jim explaining to our friends (even though they are our close friends and have been for many years) about my moods. When I voiced my frustration about him mentioning it to them, he said, “Marissa, I am trying to save you!”
I traveled to our friends’ house at the beginning of June and the only doctor willing to get me in on short notice was a naturalistic doctor. Within a month of taking several different vitamin supplements, I managed to get through the day without crying.
I can barely talk about depression when I am in the thick of it, but when I come out of it I am finally able to articulate to those I trust. A month or two later I was feeling somewhat back to my old self and finally able to talk about the depth of the depression I had finally come out of. In relaying it to my good friend Krista sometime in August, she surprised me when she said, “Marissa, I think that you should have people at camp (where Jim and I help out at about an hour’s flight away from the village we lived in) pray over you for healing.” Considering that this friend was nearly finished with her B.A. in social work, it surprised me to hear her mention it instead of suggesting I try a different medication.
I kept her suggestion tucked away in my mind since we wouldn’t be at camp for another month. A mission called Arctic Barnabas has a Ministry Family Retreat at the camp we go to every fall. It is a retreat for pastors and those ministering in the bush to be refreshed. At some point, I broached the subject with Jim of having people pray for me. Both of us grew up in churches that did not place a focus on healing, however, the church we attended before moving to Alaska was a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church that every few months had a time where anyone who was seeking healing could come to the front where the elders were standing and have the elders place hands on them as they prayed for the sick person and anointed him/her with oil. It was something that Jim and I witnessed but never personally had done to us (that I can remember). I believed wholeheartedly that the God of the Bible has the power to do whatever He wants to do, including healing a person from a physical ailment. So when Krista suggested the idea, I thought, “Why not? God is able to do anything.”
The time came for us to leave for camp. As I packed the day before we left, a song from an album a friend introduced me to played in the background. The words stuck out to me from the song and made me think about the vision/dream I had many years ago about God rescuing Jim and me from a certain danger by lifting us up to the heavens. I had been wondering if the vision had ever been fulfilled. The song struck me as it talked about praising God for “holding my life in Your hands.” It spoke right to my heart as I thought about how God had lifted me out of—again—my latest battle with depression. Little did I know that the most significant “lifting” was about to happen.
The following day, we left for camp. While at this retreat, I mentioned to a couple there about my friend’s suggestion to have someone pray over me. The Arctic Barnabas staff invited Jim and me to come to a prayer time they were having the next day. There were about ten people at this prayer time, and the man leading it had the women place their hands on me to pray. Just at the end of several of them praying, one of the women prayed that if my depression was spiritual or caused by “past wounds” that God would bring it to the surface. The speaker for that retreat had been talking about past wounds and I heard those two words used several times that day and the next.
God answered their prayers in a powerful way. I will not go into detail about what all happened, but I will tell what God revealed—the root of my depression all these years: repressed sexual abuse that happened when I was fourteen years old.
You can read more about my story here.