Living with my dysfunctional companion…part 6 (final)

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.

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5 thoughts on “Living with my dysfunctional companion…part 6 (final)

  1. Mike…. these 6 posts are the most touching I have ever read from you on your blog… your transparency, openness and willingness to share your insights and learning for the benefit of us who read the padre is so refreshingly unusual. I find myself disappointed that I was not more aware of all you were going through here in HB during the Farra Era. You already know I was one of the 4 out of 500, but I sure wasn’t as aware or helpful a friend as I could have or should have been. I have a bit more to share, but I will have to find a more private method to do it…. maybe when we are there for Ryan’s wedding.

    Dan

    1. dan…i was pretty much in the dark as to what i was going through at the time. it was only afterward that i began to unravel the mystery. during those days, i think i was just running on instinct…and not talking about what i was feeling. sheesh…i didn’t understand what i was feeling! your friendship and loyalty during that season meant more to me than i’ve ever expressed. looking back has plowed up some darkness…but it also made me remember some of the incredible good. thanks.

  2. For some reason I missed the daily posts on this thread but caught up with it in the weekly summary.

    I appreciate you sharing your journey. I think we all have been there in some way.

    I faced depression when my grandfather died my senior year of high school, various times throughout my first marriage and then divorce and then this year out of the blue with no real “biggie” thing to account for it just the accumulation of hurts over the previous years mingled with current stressors.

    I’m glad I was able to talk to you and answer the questions you presented to me. I also additionally sought out a life coach / family counselor who could help me identify some of the depression-friendly patterns in my life and change them.

    I’m better for the both of you…and God…and realizing that I’m human, imperfect, forgiven and with a cool purpose in life.

    I love Wanda and you…and yesterday wasn’t flat. In fact, I have one quote from your sermon that sticks with me and that you said “If it is weighing you down, let it go!” =)

    1. wendy…your words are kind and gracious. thanks for your friendship and constant encouragement! glad to see progress in your journey…

  3. I read these really late, but thank you for sharing your story. Cathartic or not, it must also have been pretty difficult. We all do need to understand depression so that we can be compassionate to others or even gentle with ourselves. In my experience, that one-in-ten statistic seems kind of low – it seems nearly everyone is touched in some way, directly, or indirectly through a loved one.
    I hope this is a very short valley for you.

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