My parents often recount stories of how I was a bubbly little girl with fire balls of energy that exudes happiness all year round. I grew up to become a rather quiet and introverted lady. Till date, my parents still wonder what led to my present disposition. This is because they had always thought I would be one handful teenager due to my extroverted nature as a child.
But alas, puberty saw me becoming rather quiet, soft spoken with erratic mood swings. I kept to myself most times all through secondary school and made only a handful of friends. It was therefore not shocking when most of my high school mates thought I was a ‘snub’ (based on comments in my Year Book).
That would be the first time I would take an introspective look at myself and try to understand why I was not only an introvert but also try to figure out why I couldn’t seem to get my mood swings under control. A couple of times, my mum or aunties will scream at me: “Stop Sulking!” “Stop frowning or you won’t find a boyfriend. “Stop looking like the problem of the world is tied round your neck.” As I grew older, the mood swings got worse… it was all over the place and no one seem to get me. Hence, I turned to books to understand what was going on in my head… to understand why one moment I was so happy and the next moody and sometimes towing between borderline sadness and depression.
In my quest, I stumbled on the book: ‘Why You Act The Way You Do” by Tim LaHaye. From the book, I learnt that my erratic mood swings was due to my ‘temperament’. Tim LaHaye labelled such emotional disposition as the ‘melancholic’ temprament. What this means in layman’s terms is that people who fall under this category of temperaments have erratic mood swings and generally fall in and out of moods. That is, one minute they are in high spirits, gleeful or happy and the next minute, they could become very sad, moody and quick to become depressed for no apparent reason.
With this in mind, it has been a battle trying not to let those moody emotions get the better of me. While there are weeks and sometimes months when I seem to be in high spirits, yet every now and then, something ‘snaps’ in this head of mine and I realise I have once again fallen into that dreaded rabbit hole of moodiness, sadness, and depression. Why this happens is a mystery. In search of answers, I have read both secular and Christian articles and books on the subject matter. Personal studies and research on this matter revealed different factors that could potentially make Christians fall into mood swings or depression. Top on the list for me include:
A) The guilt and shame of sin: The guilt of sin can sometimes weigh a Christian down and if prolonged, or if such sin is repetitive could potentially lead to depression. Especially we feel ashamed to ask for forgiveness and obtain mercy from the throne of grace. Adam, Eve, Cain, King Saul and David all had to deal with depression which resulted from the guilt and shame of sin. However, the bible tells us that:
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9—NKJV).
B) Hope Delayed: The bible tells us that
“hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Pr 13:12 NLT)
A good case in point is Hannah who was barren and trusting God for a child. In spite of the devotion, love and affection showed to her by her husband, Elkanah, Hannah was so consumed by sorrow and depression. So it is with most of us, after one or two months of seeking Gods face regarding a particular situation, we often tend to easily throw in the towel and lose faith. We forget that Abraham, who is regarded as the man of faith, waited for 25 years before he received the promise of God through the birth of Isaac.
C) Past History: Unpleasant memories such as traumatic experiences, family breakdown, domestic violence, abusive relationships, lack of acceptance by one’s parents, and low self-esteem have all been identified as common triggers for mood swings and depression. But the bible makes us understand that we (Christians) are a new creature, old things have passed away and all things have become new (2nd Cor 5:17). So no matter what you have gone through in the past remember and confess that:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
D) Temperament / Emotional Imbalance: Individuals with melancholic temperament have been described to be very dark, moody and analytical individuals, inspite of their uncanny ability to be self-sacrificing, gifted, perfectionists and overtly sensitive and emotional beings. They are the kind of people who just become moody or depressed for no apparent reason and often not justifiable. It doesn’t also matter that they are having the best of days or the worst of times. It has been said that it is linked to a chemical reaction in the brain or emotional imbalance caused by genetics.
I have also thought about how the delicate subject of mood swings and depression (especially the kind that leads to acute depression, self-harm and ultimately suicidal thoughts) should be approached by Christians or within the church. Should a Christian even admit that he/she is dealing with this issue? Should the church be silent or should it be incorporated in its teachings on a regular basis?
It is not all the time one hears a sermon on how to cope with depression right? But teachings on good Christian living is popular and it is what most people look forward to on a Sunday morning (including myself). Personally, there are days that I just want to hear about the raging battle in my head and mind and how to better manage my emotions as child of God. This is one battle I have come to understand is common to both believers and non-believers alike.
This is because erratic mood swings and depression affects most people and it is no respecter of age, gender, social status or spirituality. You will find examples both in the old and new testament of prophets and people who had their share of depression. Jeremiah, Elijah, David, Saul, Jonah and Paul are good case in point (just to name a few). While the degree of depression or mood swings vary from people to people, it does exist and perhaps its high time we (Christians) talk about this just in the same manner we talk about Christian living.
To be continued …