How Reconnecting With My Childhood Religion Pulled Me Out Of Severe Depression

My faith was critical to getting me through.

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As a young adult, I fell into a horrible depression. My depression was so severe I was unable to care for myself and was hospitalized for three weeks.

Now, 25-plus years removed from that experience, I live a life filled with more love and joy than I ever believed would be possible back then. Full recovery took time and a lot of work — inner work — taking a hard look at myself, and reworking my inner dialogue. An arsenal of help was also instrumental in my healing.


Medication helped, in the beginning, to get me to a place where I could function. I understood that the medication would be short-term while I got the help I needed. It certainly wasn’t meant to be the fix for my depression.

I knew I needed more. 

I saw a psychologist for several months after my release from the hospital and started endurance exercise practices, where I learned that the release of endorphins acted as a natural anti-depressant.

But I needed and wanted even more than that. And so I returned to my faith, where I found comfort and healing in the gospels and a connection to something bigger and more powerful than myself.




Though going to church was something I had to do as a youth, I always enjoyed the gospel stories. These stories came to life for me as I lay in my hospital bed when I felt like all I wanted to do was die. They helped me, and they can help you, too, if you need them.

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Three ways my faith helped heal my depression 

1. Scripture

The first gospel passage that came to mind was John 10:10. “A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”


I certainly felt as though I was wallowing in destruction and began to think of "the one who comes to destroy" as the thoughts in my head that were filling me with such negativity. The thoughts I was having were that I didn’t matter, that I was worthless and unlovable. This was a pivotal starting point for me to realize as I was getting a handle on my inner dialogue when I began therapy.

I began to separate my thoughts from those that lead to destruction and those that lead to life abundantly.

Another passage I found helpful was John 14:6. “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

Growing up, I got a lot of negative messages from others through bullying from my peers — and even some influential adults — that contributed to my sense of low self-worth. I learned that it wasn’t so much what others had said that was so destructive to me as it was that I believed what they said.


As Jesus said, "I am the truth and the life." I began to think that Jesus would never tell me the things that bullies and others had told me. Therefore they can’t be true, and I could instantly nullify them.

I also found Scripture was full of passages that affirmed my self-worth. Luke 12:7 “Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.”

There is also Jesus’s passion and death that He went through so that we could have life.

1 Peter 3:18 “Christ himself died once and for all for sins, the upright for the sake of the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body, he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to.”


The gospels are filled with stories of Jesus affirming and healing people who were outcasts or marginalized.

Scripture is also filled with many stories of people who started as weak and through faith, they turned into some of the most influential figures in history.

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2. Prayer and meditation

I prayed a lot during my recovery and still do today.

This keeps me connected to God (my higher power). Prayer has helped me to slow down my thought processes and to focus on what is positive and what I am thankful for.

For me, praying the rosary is a meditation I use when I find myself stressed or anxious. This meditation helps to calm my mind and gives me the sense that I’m connected to a source of comfort, as a mother cares for her child




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3. Community

Belonging to a faith community, the church was a tremendous support to me when I was at my worst.

It was the members of my church who came to visit me while I was in the hospital, many of whom I hardly knew at the time. But they came to offer their love and support just the same.


Many years later I was told by one of them how they got together to pray a lot for me while I was in the hospital. I was happy to share with him how those prayers paid great dividends for me. To this day I continue to attend mass on Sundays and consider the reflections on the scriptures as continuing education.

I know many suffering from depression may find it hard to even believe in a God as depression can create such a feeling of hopelessness.

But I believe an essential ingredient to recovery is to believe in a power greater than yourself. You’ve got to believe in something. Many times when Jesus healed people He would say to them, “It is because of your faith that you have been healed.” Faith is believing.

“The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17: 21). The key to healing depression is found by taking a deeper look inside.


As I have found, a faith connection can certainly help.

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Craig Nielson is a Professional Coach, Speaker, and Educator.