How to Master Depression When It’s Mastering You

I was over at a friend’s house recently to have dinner and catch up because I had just gotten home from tour. I sat down at his table as he was making our dinner in his kitchen. He lived in a small apartment with his pit-bull mix, Rocky. Rocky could smell that dinner time was coming, and because of that, Rocky wouldn’t leave the side of the dinner table. My friend told Rocky to go lay down several times, but Rocky wouldn’t leave because he hoped to get some of the tasty table scraps. Eventually, my friend got fed up with Rocky’s disobedience and yelled at him in a deep low voice and clapped his hands loudly: “GO LAY DOWN!” Rocky instantly cowered down to the ground and then ran into his kennel in hopes not to be hurt by his master.


sad-dogNow in this situation who has control? My friend, Rocky’s master. He is the one who with a low voice and slapping his hands, got Rocky’s attention, frightened him, and made him run into his kennel where he felt “safe”. Rocky was being disciplined for not obeying his master’s commands to leave the table side.

While I was noticing this situation unfold with Rocky, another one of my friends came to mind. He’s someone I talk to frequently just to catch up and check in with. Every time I talk to him on the phone, I ask, “How are things going man?” His reply every single time without a doubt is, “Man, I’m just so tired…I’m exhausted…” This is always followed by something he is struggling with: finding a job, relationship issues, feeling lonely, and not feeling like he can get up in the morning. He has been talking like this for quite some time now. We’ve discussed a lot about the past things he has dealt with, and they always seem to come up in conversation. One in particular is his divorce. He hasn’t been able to forgive his ex-wife for what she did 10 years ago. He has carried this pain alongside him for a whole decade; he still wakes up and talks about it like it was yesterday. Because of this pain, he spends every day under a rainy cloud and is constantly saying out loud to himself, “I’m tired; I’m exhausted; I don’t have anymore to give; I’m tired of fighting, and nothing seems to be working out for me.” When you wake up and this is what you’re telling yourself, you better believe it has an effect on your life. When you are letting the past destructive experiences hold a place in your heart, it’s going to start to take control over you and say, “No! You can’t have that! Go lay down!”

After so many years of him telling himself this, he has learned to listen to that voice well. It doesn’t matter if he gets a full 8 hours of sleep because that voice pipes up and says, “You’re exhausted. You don’t have what it takes to make it through this day. You are not worthy, and you’ll never be enough.”

Just like Rocky, he has chosen to serve a master. But his isn’t just telling him to get away from the table. His master is depression, and it’s ruling his entire life. It tells him who he should think he is, what he should feel every day, and what he will amount to in the future. It takes away any space for growth, for happiness to be planted, for desires to be pursued, or for love to sprout because depression is keeping him in that desolate place of dwelling in past pains.

I’ve met a lot of people through HeartSupport that don’t believe they should be happy or live a life full of joy because of something they’ve done or that has been done to them. I’ve had people tell me, “I don’t think my body is important to me. Having sex just isn’t a big deal.” And they don’t realize it’s because of that voice telling them that being molested as a kid means they deserve a painful and broken sexual life. Others have told me, “Nothing seems to be going right for me, and I just don’t think it ever will.” But they don’t realize that voice is repeating to them what their parents said when they were disappointed or what that bully said in school. Both of these situations have something negative and dark in the past dictating what standards or joy could be lived in the future. Depression is their master.

Often times when we struggle, we let depression do the same thing in our minds too. When we are down and out, bummed, in distress, anxious or depressed, we have that voice that is telling us to have fear, doubt, to lose hope, or to feel demeaned or small.


Man-lookingIn order to break free, we have to find the core of this issue. What are we holding onto that planted the seed that tells us we aren’t worth it? What lie are we believing about ourselves that needs to be snuffed out of our life so that we can see ourselves anew and start truly living life? We need to heal from these roots.

[clickToTweet tweet=”What lie does depression tell you?” quote=”What lie does depression tell you?”]

One thing we can do to find these roots is to write down the things that we are feeling or the things we’re being told in our mind. What things do you seem to repeat to yourself? Or what subjects or issues do you seem to not be able to get over? Write these things down. Look over them and ask yourself, Why am I saying these things? Why does this situation still hurt? Why do I keep breathing life into this dark part of my past?

Are you full of shame because of something you’ve done?
Do you think you can’t forgive yourself?
Why do you think you don’t deserve forgiveness?

You’ve got to get all of this out on paper and clear your mind. Start digging deeper into why you’re listening to the voice of depression.

Then I would highly recommend you going to a therapist or talking to a good friend who you can fully trust and who you know loves you deeply. Someone who is looking out for your best interest and is willing to open up and be honest with you about themselves as well.

Once we’ve identified these roots and opened up with someone we can trust, we need to start changing the neurological pathways in our brains. This is basically the path that our mind has made in reacting to certain issues. For example, with Rocky, when his master yells at him with a low voice and claps loudly, Rocky cowers down and runs to his kennel immediately. He has done this so many times that he reacts that way now without thinking.

A lot of people do something similar. For some, that could be reacting to their anger by lashing out with harmful words or physical abuse. For others, that could be running to alcohol in a stressful situation and drinking the rest of their night away in anger or sadness. Still yet for others, that could be running up to their room and grabbing a small blade to cut their arm to “release” themselves from the pain.

Whatever your habit is, we need to recognize them and put a stop to them. When you feel the urge to obey these habits, you’ve got to stop in that moment and correct yourself. This is a moment for you to “have a win”! It’s a moment for you to change that habit, to change the way your brain knows to deal with things. Instead of going to that alcoholic drink, grab a seltzer and go for a walk. Get on the phone with a friend and just vent and let things out. Go play video games to get your mind off of it, or go to the gym. You’ve got to find an alternative that isn’t harmful to yourself and that can be a positive outlet. This isn’t going to change over night, though, so don’t hold yourself up to a crazy standard. We have to start in small steps and build our “wins” over time. Our habits didn’t form over night, and they probably won’t break over night either. We need to have patience with ourselves and focus on our next “win”. In order to change the way you’ve thought of yourself and the way you’ve been living, you need to stick with it over and over. You are literally making a lifestyle change for the better.

With my personal journey in battling depression, I started a habit of going to God when I wanted to listen to depression and repeat my bad habits. When I was 21, I asked Christ into my life, and after that I knew I was never going to be completely alone again because I had God to speak with, pray to, write to, think of and read His word. My relationship with God has been so clutch for me in times of hopelessness, loneliness, depression, anxiety, sadness, anger the list goes on. And many times I’ve gone to the Bible to look for Scripture that speaks to my situation.

When I feel like I’m not loved or feel as though I’m not worth loving myself or others, I read Ephesians 3:18:

“[And I pray that you] may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long, high and deep is the love of Christ.”

For me to think of that, how long and wide His love is for us… It draws me back in to understanding that there is grace for my mistakes and that love ultimately wins.

There was a night in Australia when my ex-wife and I had gotten into a bad fight, and I felt awful after we talked. I went out for some drinks and ended up getting drunk. I was so ashamed with the fact that my marriage was struggling, and I felt so helpless being in Australia. I went back to my hotel room and started weeping. I was praying and asking God for help because I had felt so small, so ashamed, so disgusted with myself. During my prayer and weeping  while I was asking God to give me some sense of peace, I had a vision. The vision was a feather in the air. I had the thought that the feather was my sin, my flaws, my mistakes, my weakness, and my poor decisions in life. The feather slowly descending into a massive body of water, almost like the ocean, and I had the thought that this huge body of water was God’s ocean of grace for me. It brought me peace to believe and have hope that God had grace for my mistakes, my sins, my flaws, my brokeness, my reactions based off of past pains, my habitual sin, my resentment, my anger, my verbally abusive behaviors. Not that it was condoned, but there was grace for it and that I could have forgiveness if I wanted. I could be redeemed. See, depression would never want us to know about the ocean of God’s grace. Nor does it want us to know that our past pains, sin, struggles, mistakes, wrongdoings are as light as a feather in the big picture.

In the end, to conquer depression and live free from that voice and the habits it drives us to, we have to dig deep. We have to be willing to change, and we’ve got to go for the opportunities to “have a win”. We have to see that what we think, what we say about ourselves, and who we follow or believe in will become the master in our mind.

For those who struggle with depression, this is what I’ve experienced and how I was able to find something else to believe in that has shown to prove it’s love and healing and redemption for me.

  • njgrenfell

    Wow, I found this blog incredibly helpful. Thank you Jake so much for taking the time to write such a great blog.
    And because I don’t think I’ve actually said it before, thank you so much for founding heartsupport and for everything you do in August Burns Red. My life wouldn’t be the same without these two things in my life, nor would I have my faith, so thank you. I just needed to stop and thank you for a moment.
    Anyway, great blog. Keep up the amazing work.

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