Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

How to find hope in the darkness of depression

I know it doesn’t feel this way. You might not believe it. But it’s going to get better. It really is.

A day will come when you feel joy again. Maybe it will take you by surprise and you’ll wonder at the realization: this wide-open feeling, this laughter inside? That’s happiness.

Or maybe it will come quietly, a gentle slowing of the rattling inside, a stilling of the voices of worry and fear. The anxiety will soften and melt away; the wave of grief will come with less force.

A day will come when you take a deep breath and realize, I’m okay. I’m okay.

You’ll find hope in the darkness, my friend. It might be a little while off, yet. But that doesn’t mean it’s not coming.

It might be long and hard work. You’ll wonder if it’s worth it and if you can make it.

It is.

You can.

Find someone to talk to

You’re going to need others and it’s going to terrify you to open up. Do it anyway. Pick up the phone and call someone. Send the text. Say you need help. Tell them you’re hurting and scared and you worry they won’t understand. And if they don’t, if they’re not helpful, reach out to someone else. Do it as many times as you need to until someone listens and cares.

You might need to do the same with counselors and therapists and doctors. Ask around. Someone else you know has struggled with this. Read reviews online. If the first person you see isn’t a fit, try again.

Yes, I tried several counselors over the years before I found one that fit. Part of that was me not knowing what I needed, not knowing I was dealing with a medical issue. So I tried to work with “pastoral counselors,” which wasn’t fair to me or them. They weren’t equipped to understand what was going on in my brain and body, so they didn’t know how to help.

Please don’t depend on your pastor or church leaders for counseling. They can be wonderful encouragement and support. They haven’t been trained to help you get through this, wholer and healthier on the other side, the way mental health professionals have been.

Fight to get well

Don’t let money be an object. There are sliding-scale clinics in most towns and therapists who will work with you. There are wonderful, compassionate people who want to help you find that hope in the darkness of depression. If you’re a college student, there might be free or reduced-cost mental health services on campus. There are resources and tools available. You just have to find them.

Go see a doctor, too. Explain what you’re feeling and thinking. Talk about the pain in your chest, the exhaustion, the general numbness. If you’ve been on medications for depression and they aren’t helping, get a referral to a good psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are specialists in mental health and the medications/lifestyle changes that can make a difference. They’re much better equipped than your general doctor.

In the darkness, it seems like there’s no hope of ever seeing light again. But that’s not the truth. It’s hard to beat back the lies that say you’ll always feel this way, but it’s a worthy battle. Because you are worth the battle.

So keep fighting. When you hit a wall or something doesn’t work, go back to the doctor or the counselor. Reach out to your support system again. Give yourself lots of grace and rest and keep fighting.

Feed your soul good things

You may not have much energy, and that’s okay. Use a little bit of it each day on something that’s good for your soul. Go for a walk, lay in the grass and look up at the clouds, or sit by a body of water. Doodle or draw or play an instrument. Go for a run or a swim or play a game.

It doesn’t matter what it is, really. Just do something that usually makes you feel good, even if you don’t feel much right now.

I went on walks and sat on swings on playgrounds. I sat at my keyboard and played some chords and sang what I felt and sometimes screamed (sorry, neighbors). When anxiety rattled in my veins, I ran until my pulse caught up and settled it down.

And I bought myself flowers every week through my darkest days. I didn’t feel worth it, so I did it, filling my home with beauty and light. And I drew and painted and took photos. I did yoga and watched movies I knew like an old sweater.

Keep yourself safe

Do whatever it takes to keep yourself safe. Your life is important and it matters so much more than you believe. We need you, so set yourself up for success so you can keep waking up every day and moving toward wholeness. 

Know who you can call and open up to if thoughts get dark and you feel like hurting yourself. Don’t be ashamed; the disease is putting the thoughts in your head. It’s not that you really want this, but that your body and brain forgot how to make hope.

If there are items around that aren’t good for you, get rid of them. A particular book or photo that starts the spiral? Music that only makes it harder to find the light? Things that make you think about hurting yourself?

Get rid of them. Have someone you trust hang onto them until you’re better and feel safer.

This is hard to talk about, my dear friend, but if there’s something you might use to hurt yourself, get that trusted someone to keep it in a safe place. Years ago, 

when I was deeply depressed, suicidal, and self-harming, I had to give certain things to friends to lessen the likelihood of me hurting myself.

At the time, I felt so ashamed. But in retrospect, I’m so proud of myself. So don’t be ashamed. You are so brave for taking the steps you need to keep yourself safe and keep believing it’s going to get better.

Find the breadcrumbs

Surround yourself with whatever points you toward hope. And count everything good, every tiny, lovely thing. Keep a journal or a note in your phone and write them down in your darkest moments:

  • The pink of the sunset
  • A cup of coffee
  • Sunlight on leaves
  • The time you laughed today
  • Inside jokes with your best friend
  • A fresh orange
  • A cashier who smiled
  • Someone who let you in on the highway
  • The way your shampoo smells

These things are breadcrumbs that lead you back to light. They might become lifelines when you feel like you’re drowning. Good. You need some beauty to cling to in this dark.

And learn to remember all the places you’ve been where something good has come from it. Where has God shown himself strong? Where was your darkness turned to light before? He did it then and he can do it again.

This isn’t easy when you’ve been huddling in the dark for so long. I know. I remember. But God has been present every moment in your dark, whether you knew it or not. And he isn’t leaving now.

He doesn’t leave and he doesn’t lie. That’s what I know is true about God. He hasn’t left you and he isn’t about to go now. And his promise to be with you, to hold you, to walk by your side is not a lie. It’s not untrue. He’s been with you in the darkness and he will be with you again.

22 Replies

  1. Mike Dean

    Bread crumbs…? I feel like I need whole slices (if not the whole loaf)!
    Thanks for the post…it is speaking some to my struggle

    1. Oh man, I need the whole loaf, too, sometimes!! So glad this has been encouraging!

  2. Felicia

    I needed to read this today. I have been fighting so hard since January and some times I get so tired. I just want this season to be over.

    1. I so get that, Felicia. It’s exhausting when you fight so hard to keep going. Give yourself grace, friend. Make time for things that are good for your heart and soul, even if you don’t feel much right now. Be kind to yourself. It will get better and you can make it through this

  3. B

    Wish I was never born. Empty failure no purpose pain no hope wish it was all over

    1. Anonymous

      sweet B, are you still there ?

    2. Anonymous

      I totally agree with you.
      Can’t take it anymore.
      I just want out !

      1. Dolores

        Dear anonymous,
        I pray you are experiencing peace. I am struggling too and feel I can’t take it anymore. Please reach out for help. You are too precious to lose.

    3. Margaret Waine

      Totally agree with you.
      Living in absolute despondency, praying to die. I just want out of this world !!!

      1. Dolores

        Dear Margaret.
        You are also too precious to lose to depression. Please reach out for help.

  4. Mike Dean

    Yes, I have been struggling with hoping in God being painful. While I have realized that hope can grow in the midst of pain, the subset of “hope in God, not people” continues to be difficult for me.

  5. Christine

    Your blog? Website ? Is the bread crumb I needed.

    1. I’m so grateful to hear that, Christine. Take good care of yourself.

  6. Roderick Simmons

    This was just the boost I needed today. It hit so much of what I’ve been going through. Steered me in the direction of hope and im not the only one who feels like this.

  7. Manoj Nagpal

    How beautifully written it. Thanks. I will keep this page and read once a day.
    Thanks Sarah!

  8. Liza Roy

    Oh man this is the best ……

  9. Brian

    Hit the nail on the head for me…
    The trouble with my hopelessness, as I see it, is that there is no meaning in trying to make the — or a — next step. I love my faith and my God, and am so pissed at myself for not being able to connect to the strength and comfort and promise I know is just there for the taking. I felt obligated to try therapy as one of those steps, and by the fourth session my counselor and I mutually fired each other because I saw no reason to try and she saw no reason to talk if I wouldn’t. I won’t do meds because I know how often they need to change to find a good fit, and I don’t think I could take failing even that first try.
    At a meeting tonight, I took on three tasks I knew I could do well, came home and stayed up until 1 am doing all of them. Then I broke down and sobbed because these “games” didn’t do anything to fix the broken me. I read Psalm 139 to remind me that as my life was unraveling it is God who knitted me and that couldn’t be undone. I felt even less worthy and ashamed to be so utterly hopeless.
    I will read this again. And again again. Maybe the stubbornness of my hopelessness won’t keep the darkness stronger than any light. But maybe it will. Hard to convince myself to keep trying.
    But thank you, Sarah, for the perfection of your words you lovingly posted now six years ago. They got me to get in bed, soon to wake to face another day. Let’s see what this one brings.

  10. J. Earl

    Its takes more than just saying, ” oh feel better ” thats why I truely despise therapists

  11. john

    My story is that I battled my way up from a tough neigbourhood despite being oversensitive.I workef for 45 years and retired abroad.One day I was told all my savings and pension had been lost and I am penniless. Cant stay here now have no home back onUK.I hace kids needing feeding and educating.Looking at flowers wont help me I stopped eating take sleeping pills when I wake up because sleep is the only time I am not in mental pain.Even them I get nightmares​

  12. Elie

    This was probably the most helpful thing I have ever read in a depression. You were so gracious and non judgmental. It was just so lovely. Thank you.

  13. Mo

    Hi I haven’t gotten any emails from you?!

  14. Have you considered being a guest on a podcast? I am certainly interested in you. Hope Network is our podcast name on Spotify or Pandora

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