i have battled low-grade seasons of depression since that ride in the back of the truck in the philippines in 1989. i have had two major bouts…one lasting about nine months and the other about five months. i continue to have episodes a few times a year that last a few weeks each time.
depression is my dysfunctional companion. here are a few things i’ll pass on:
depression is more common than you think. conservative statistics say that over 10% of american adults struggle with depression. that’s what people report to their doctors. my guess is that doesn’t include a lot of men.
depression looks different in everybody. it has a variety of symptoms. it looks different in men than it does in women. it is exacerbated by different personalities and related health conditions. here are some symptoms:
* sadness or “down” mood
* loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
* poor appetite or overeating
* trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
* feeling tired or having little energy
* feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach or guilt
* trouble concentrating
* moving or speaking very slowly, or the opposite, being fidgety or restless
* thoughts of being better off dead or of hurting oneself in some way
depression is complicated, but you can learn about it. read. read. read. learn about it. for yourself. for the ones you love.
depression is not a sign of weakness. it’s not the scarlet letter. it doesn’t mean you are weak or wimpy or a sissy-man or an over-emotional woman. simply not true.
depression is not a sign of spiritual immaturity. just because you can’t pray away a problem doesn’t make you a spiritual weakling. evidence of weakness should never be equated with a lack of spiritual depth. sometimes it is the divine pathway to the presence of the almighty.
those who get depressed are more susceptible to recurrence. not great news, but reality none-the-less.
understand the connection between mind, body and spirit. we have to take care of all three. sometimes when one is out of whack, the others will suffer. exercise and diet are incredibly important to fighting depression.
don’t be afraid of counseling. it’s amazing to me that we still live in a christian culture that sees counseling as a black mark and that it is only for losers. get over it. if the plumbing leaks…get a plumber. if you need brain surgery…get a surgeon. if you need your transmission fixed…get a mechanic. if you are having emotional struggles…get some counsel. sometimes a trusted friend. sometimes a trained counselor. whatever. stop doing this alone.
sometimes medication can help. i have never taken medication for my depression. it doesn’t make me more mature than a person who does. i know many people who i respect who take controlled medication for depression…and it helps. it’s not a sign of spiritual weakness. it is not prohibited in the bible. it should not be your first or primary plan.
hear this. in spite of my personal journey with depression and my sensitivity to those who walk the same path, i am confident that the ultimate response to depression and personal health and well-being will never be found completely in counseling or medication or a diet/exercise plan or reading books or sitting at the feet of a personal guru.
right living…right responses…right relationships…right outlooks…can only be found in a right response to god and to his word. period.
other things can help. they cannot substitute.