SOME THOUGHTS ON DEPRESSION
I have suffered from clinical depression and anxiety for more than thirty years. I am thankful to say that medication has been very successful in my situation. Nevertheless there have been some very dark days.
With the tragic death of Robin Williams on everybody’s mind, I have decided that without going into all the details of my experiences which included thoughts of suicide and hospitalization, now is the time to put some thoughts on paper that have proved very helpful to me over the years.
The most important thing to me has been to remember that DEPRESSION LIES. It tells us that life is not worth living; it’s never going to get any better; the pain is never going to go away; nobody cares if I live or die; it’s just not worth the effort; I can’t face another day; I’m not worth anything to anyone. You name it. Whatever it is that causes you to despair or give up that is the depression speaking.
Dennis Miller recently said that it is as though you come to a corner in the road and you just can’t get round that corner. Where you are is the dark place and you find it impossible to see what is really around that corner except more of the darkness. That is when you come to the place when there seems to be no way out. But remember, depression lies!
For me it has been the conscious work of many years to distinguish between what is the real me talking and controlling my life and what is the depression taking over. On my good days I worked at recognizing the real me as the basis of what I really am. Then when depression controlled my thinking, I gradually learned to recognize that the chemicals in my brain were taking over. There are two sides to this person that I am, and I’m NOT talking about a ‘split personality.’ There is the ‘me’ that I remember as the person I want to be and have been in the past, and the ‘me’ that is distorted by my brain chemicals making me someone I’m not. You see, depression lies.
The brain is an organ of the body, just as is the heart, the pancreas or the liver. We know that organs can develop health issues that affect the whole body. We have no problem treating diabetes with a chemical to bring that organ back into balance. So it is with the brain. The brain chemicals can be brought back into balance. However it is not always a quick or easy fix to find the right mix and amount of the chemicals. It requires the expertise and understanding of a psychiatrist and patience and trust in him. It is simply amazing how far medicine has come in the last thirty years in identifying what part brain chemicals play in keeping us balanced.
Yes, I mentioned that dreaded word psychiatrist, which for those of us in the older generation has a stigma attached to it. Today, a cognitive psychiatrist doesn’t have you go back into your childhood and try weird things. He takes you as you are now, and first begins by finding the right medication (chemical mix) to bring the organ of your brain back into its normal balance. It is then that he works with you on changing the faulty thinking and behaviors that may have contributed to your depression. Just as anger and bitterness can make you a different person if only temporarily, often an over emphasis on certain events, circumstances of your life and the way you deal with difficulties become personal habits which contribute to the imbalance of chemicals.
For those of us who are believing Christians, the idea of tampering with our brain chemicals and who we are, just cuts right across our beliefs. Yet we must remember that we are who God made us to be. There is a normal you and me – the normal person with good and bad. Yet each is created very differently from one another, though we are also tainted with sin. We are who we are because that is how God created us and allowed us to become. But just as Christians are not exempt from illnesses such as diabetes, nor are we exempt from real life circumstances such as abuse, physical deformities, accidents, and more, yet it pleased God in these last years to give us medical treatments that were never dreamed possible a couple of generations ago. Most of us don’t hesitate to take advantage of these modern day medical miracles such as insulin, vaccinations, knee replacements, heart medication etc. So having established that God knows who we are and what we are really like (the basic ‘me’ if you like) we can prayerfully and with God-given wisdom find a psychiatrist who respects our faith or even has faith such as ours who we can trust; not as we trust God, but as we have trusted doctors all our lives.
An especial thought here for Christians who suffer from depression. More than likely you will be tempted to think in your suffering that God doesn’t care, that he has closed the door. But he hasn’t. He is still there and He still loves you. Somehow you must hang on to the thought that God is good all the time – all the time God is good! Remember, depression lies.
I realize that this subject raises all kinds of questions that I am not qualified to answer. I’m not a doctor. I have just shared with you what I have learned along the way – and left out much more. Many readers will disagree with me, but I ‘m not prepared to get into an argument on this topic because it is based on my experience.
I know that some Christians will differ with me and wish that I had said so much more, especially about the work of the Holy Spirit, but now is not the time and place for me to do that. I know that God has worked in me and used me through this illness – for His glory.
I don’t intend these thoughts to be only for Christians. God loves everyone whether or not they believe in Him. The blessings, especially medical ones, that He has allowed to be discovered in this world, are available to all and that includes those who suffer and those who don’t believe as I do.