“The Easy Fix”

There is this religious long-time understanding of humanity as a broken and in need of being fixed by a savior. The idea that people are messed up and only a third party intervention by a deity is going to make them good and perfect again. In this understanding, people can try all they want to fix themselves, but in the end the only thing that is going to redeem them from their inherent awfulness, is a savior.

I used to think of any human attempt to get help as similar to slapping a band-aid on a gaping wound. They were trying to treat the symptoms, instead of dealing with the root problem and solving everything once and for all.

For example, in my mind at the time, taking an Advil for a headache was pointless, because it was just masking your symptoms instead of getting to the root of the problem by drinking some water, getting some rest, examining your diet and possibly changing it. Today I still think that one should try to discern what is impacting their health in negative ways and make changes. However, I am skeptical about “getting to the root of the problem” and I have come to question that basic premise of needing a savior. I reject the attitude which says fighting symptoms would demonstrate a lack of faith and I refuse to live in complete denial that the problems are even there.

 

When I wrote about my depression back in 2010 it was a huge breakthrough for me. I was acknowledging that my depression was there, and getting help for the first time. I also recognized for the first time that I might never find the magic cure-all. I had been completely devoted to my beliefs, I had tried denial, and done everything I could to “get to the root of the problem” which I believed was sin in my life and my need for a savior, and I was not cured. Acknowledging that this was not my fault, that it was not from lack of faith that I was not healed, and that it was OK to get help, was life-changing. Over the next year and a half after that I experienced the greatest climb out of depression I had ever had, and in the process, I think I forgot that I was no longer trying to find a cure-all. It was so exciting to feel as great as I did, that I started to wonder if I had left depression behind me for good. Perhaps I had found “the root of my problem” after all.

 

Enter reality. People who have had one major episode of depression are highly likely to have another. Depression has multiple causes and symptoms. In making huge strides towards wholeness and happiness, I had begun to fall back on my old magic cure-all mindset.

When we moved and began the process of coming out, I knew it was going to be hard. I literally could not imagine what kind of reactions we were going to get from some close relatives, others I could imagine very vividly, but I hoped I was wrong. I knew we were going to get hammered, and yet I felt so at peace that I was sure that it would all roll off my back and leave me unscathed. And at first I tried to pretend like it did. I clung to the idea that I had found the root of my problem of depression, and therefore it was never coming back.

The peace remained, but that didn’t stop the wave of sadness and pain that surfaced after the hurtful words and actions. I know that I feel safe and grounded in my marriage and my family, that I am succeeding in my job and building a new community. But that didn’t stop the hurt from the accusations of failure and the marginalizing of my spouse.

Depression. Again. And I was angry about it. How dare this resurface in my life just when I was taking such great strides? How could I still let the opinions of people who were never there for me affect me in this way? This time though, instead of hiding it, trying to have more faith, or beating myself up too badly, I remembered what I had discovered a couple years back, I don’t have to be afraid anymore. It’s OK to get help.  And I have found what feels to be a major difference between my old approach to human frailty, and my approach today.

I no longer see getting help as an “easy fix” or wimping out. I don’t think needing help means I have failed. Since I am no longer thinking of myself as a flawed being in need of a magic-cure all (or savior figure) to fix me, I don’t have to sit around waiting and hoping to be redeemed. Instead I wake up each day and deal with the challenges of that day, and learn how to treat and manage my symptoms, whether that means medication, counseling, surrounding myself with people who love me and are there for me and limiting interaction with people who only drain me and cause me pain. I no longer see these things as an “easy fix” or the band-aid on a gaping wound. Instead it feels like being willing to make the whole meal from scratch with the help and support of those around me, instead of waiting helplessly at the front door for delivery from a supernatural being. It’s as if letting go with that idea of complete redemption from an outside source, has made me OK with being human.

 

  • Alexandra

    Thank you for sharing this, Melissa! Depression is too taboo of a subject, and brave people like you talking about your struggles helps us all.

  • Drea

    I really like this post. Like you, I suffered with depression for a long time, and didn’t want intervention for it. I felt like my thoughts/feelings/emotions were part of who I am, and I was worried that medication would overshadow my inert self. To my surprise, medication has made me more whole, not the other way around. I feel like I can handle life better, which makes me feel happier, which allows me to be my bubbly, natural self. And when I do get down, it’s more of a bad moment, not a bad day/week/month. I’ve discovered that seeking help is strength, not weakness.

    By the way, I applaud you and your spouse for being so brave. I can’t think of two stronger women, and I admire you both.

    Drea

  • http://www.flatheadmama.blogspot.com Rebecca

    Thanks for this post. I think the teaching you were receiving was horrible theology and I have been a victim of it as well. When I was a teenager and suffering from anxiety and depression, spiritual cures were constantly offered to me. Trust in God. Read the Bible more. Confess to your “spiritual head” (ugh…barf!!!). It was NEVER suggested that I go to a counselor or a doctor. Why would I? The problem was obviously spiritual! And I didn’t get better. I believe that God is behind the means of healing, whatever they are…but usually depression is physical not spiritual. God can work through the gifts He has given doctors and counselors. Why weren’t these offered to me?

    It’s counter-intutive, but really the teaching you and I received is not so much that GOD will heal us…if it was, we would submit to the means He has provided. It is that WE can heal ourselves. I see now that as I faced continued depression into young adulthood and stubbornly stayed on homeopathic medications even though they weren’t really fixing the problem, I was basically rejecting the means of healing God had provided. I was trying so hard to be so strong and prove I could do this and had it figured out. Until I stopped sleeping after I had my daughter. Then I reached my rock bottom and had to go on meds. They have helped tremendously. But you’re right, there are still flare-ups. There are still triggers. And living a basically healthy and yet human life means availing myself of help and not being stubborn. THIS IS HARD. So hard.

    It makes me so upset to see Christians who don’t avail themselves of the help that is out there. Some of them even do really dumb, risky things because they are doing it “in faith.” Well, God doesn’t want us to jump off a bridge and expect Him to catch us. He wants us to use wisdom. I had a light-bulb moment recently about healing. In the Bible, usually the people Jesus healed were ones who had tried everything else. They had availed themselves of the medicine and doctors of the day. They had reached out and used the means God had provided. And they still hadn’t gotten well. So they threw themselves on His mercy. God can choose to heal or not. He is sovereign. We do what we can to get well with the tools we have been given and we pray and ask Him to heal. It’s foolhardy to reject medicine and doctors and then beg God to heal us.

    I know this is a lot of God talk for an agnostic blog…but…just wanted to share my perspective and that you are absolutely right that we do need to use the gifts of doctors. And to relax into the reality of being human. Acceptance. I think there is some grieving too for not being able to have the even moods of “normal” people…That’s tough to accept. BUT…most of the interesting people I know struggle with depression and anxiety, anyway, so there’s that.;-)

    I hope you are able to journey out of that dark pit soon. Hopefully it won’t be offensive to say that you will be in my prayers…because I know how painful it can be.

  • Lauren F

    I’d been wondering where you were! Thank you for posting this. I really needed to read it today. Like Drea, I’ve suffered depression for a long time and didn’t want any medical intervention for it – thought I could handle it just with counseling, and in fact thought I HAD handled it and that my serious depression was in the past. Except that it wasn’t, and apparently it’s been with me all this time and medication probably would have really helped a long time ago.

    I definitely identified with the hope for a cure-all and the feelings of, well, feeling good again. I wasn’t really sure meds would work, but was finally willing to try because beating myself up for being lazy hasn’t worked for the last twenty years and I had run out of other options. Then when they did start, it was like OMG THIS IS AMAZING!! Except we still haven’t found the right dose, so now when things get bad they can be pretty bad, since now I know where I am…. But at least now I have confidence that things can move forward.

    Rebecca, I have to admit that more often than not lately the phrase “you will be in my prayers” does rub me the wrong way… but adding a “because” on it makes all the difference. My head spun how much difference it made for me. I just wanted to give you a big hug for the whole thing then.

  • victoria

    Hi, Melissa. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through this. I am a sometimes-depressed person myself, and I have a lot of empathy for anyone who’s depressed with little kids. It’s really rough.

    This isn’t something that you need to answer here (of course), but do you have — are you holding on to — the belief that there is something about SSRIs that compromises your identity or your values? This is an incredibly, incredibly common belief and it seems to be especially common among people who were, for whatever reason, either discouraged from seeking medical help for depression during adolescence and/or raised in families where there was skepticism over the very idea of depression. It’s a belief that I think can add guilt or shame where there ought not to be any.

    You mention medication near the end of the article and I hope that is working out well for you. If there’s a component of PPD to what you’re going through, that is especially responsive to medication. I know it can take awhile for it to work and it can be difficult to get the right dosage/choice of medication but it really makes a huge difference.

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    I read your story. Interesting. It gives a Catholic something to think about. I wrote a post on it here
    http://ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca/2012/09/one-woman-deals-with-sexual-disorders.html

    I love your honesty. I hope you get well soon.

    • Dave Pearce

      Randy, I followed your link and immediately regretted it, although I did read the whole thing. It is a shame your honesty isn’t on a par with Melissa’s, as it appears your post here is nothing more than an attempt to garner more hits on your blog, and what you write in that blog is diametrically opposed to your comment above.

      And I’ve got to say it, I just cannot get my head around any belief system or philosophy that could lead to the statement ‘Suffering, when it is done well, can have meaning in its own right.’ (from your linked post). As a humanist, I just find that sentiment inhuman and abhorrent.

      • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

        Dave,
        Thanks for reading. I was not trying to be as honest as Melissa. She shared a lot. But people say my world and life view has no answers for cases like Melissa’s. The answers are not easy but it does not simply fail in cases like hers. A hard road does not always mean a wrong road.

        I get what you mean by “inhuman and abhorrent.” Jesus going to the cross was inhuman and abhorrent. Sometimes things feel really wrong. They are wrong. We are meant to walk through them anyway. Intense suffering that appears meaningless either proves there is no God or it does not. If it does not then all suffering at least has the potential to be meaningful.

      • Persephone

        Dave, thanks for saving me from following the link.

        Mother Teresa was a great believer in suffering. She’s held up as an example of caring and kindness, but she actually forced suffering and misery on those in her care. It was an extremely screwed up belief system, and typical of many forms of Christianity, not just Catholicism. The idea of suffering as piety is sickening.

        It’s interesting that, prior to the Jews, the Gods were usually viewed as overbearing, meddling, dangerous, parental figures. You didn’t expect to be saved by them; you mostly hoped they ignored you and let you live your life. You could sacrifice as a thank you, and as a way to ask a favor, but it was generally considered best to minimize contact with them.

        I often use the “desert religions” reference in regard to the Abrahamic based religions because their form is fully based on their lives their worshippers led: mostly desert nomads, living on the edge at all times, limited resources, limited possessions, little respect from other people, etc. What is the one thing these people could use to show the extent of their faith? Even more denial. Living even more minimally. Giving everything over to their God, even their wills. Death as the ultimate form of worship. The only joy to be in service, not in living life.

    • Alexandra

      Wow, this is horrifying. The whole blog just ruined my day.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Thanks for this post. I really needed to read something like this.
    Sometimes it’s so hard to take things baby step to baby step and instead try to do it all at once and you fail and beat yourself over it so it’s very nice to read this and remind yourself to take things slowly working towards a solution one day at a time.

  • Rosa

    Been thinking about you since i read this.

    The thing that really is easier about asking for help is that if it doesn’t work, you’re allowed to try something else – if you ask for support from one friend and they don’t give it, you can ask another. If you try an antidepressant and it doesn’t work, you can try another. If you go to a doctor and you don’t click, you can switch.

    If you pray for help and it doesn’t come, the only advice is “pray more”, and there is nothing so demoralizing as doing something over and over and over when it doesn’t work.

  • Tyler

    While I cannot say that I have gone though what you have,

    Please don’t give up on Jesus. He never said that if you believe in Him that your sins or brokenness symptoms would go away. He said that your root cause would be cured. The results of this come out over time and after we die. you know that you are broken and don’t like it, you want to fix the problem.

    1 John says that a person who claims to be without sin is not a Christian – no Christian is going to lose his or her symptoms of brokenness, we can only confess to them and be forgiven. We Christians sin awfully every day. But we can be forgiven because of Jesus. Even the verse that seems so harsh isn’t: ” 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.” Walking in the light, but being purified from all SIN……..

    If you try to live the Christian life for Jesus but fail sometimes, but are trying to walk in light, aren’t you?

    Also, someone said this “As we walk in the light, Jesus’ blood also cleanses us from sin. That which we hide in the darkness cannot be cleansed out of our lives. But as we come more fully into the light in the earnest expectation that we will become like the light, we will both purify ourselves (since we are now able to see where this must be done) and will be continually cleansed by Jesus’ blood. I John 1:7 & 3:3. Being inwardly full of light already, we will ultimately become outwardly just like him also. Matthew 6:22; I John 3:1-3

    FINALLY, Jesus himself was a man of sorrows. He was familiar with suffering. It says so in Isaiah 53:3

    “New International Version (©1984)
    He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

    Almost all the people recorded in the Bible suffered a lot in their times, but they looked to God for hope in the future.

    Please do not give up on Jesus because of what has happened to you.

    Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

    5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all[b] sin.

    8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

    • Karen

      Tyler, let me edit your post to say what you probably should have said:
      “While I cannot say that I have gone though what you have, FULL STOP. END OF POST.”

      You haven’t gone through what she has, and what she’s discovered is that your somewhat-to-very dysfunctional religion MADE IT WORSE. All the Bible-quoting (Or Quran-quoting, or Torah-quoting, or what have you) in the world won’t change that.

    • http://freiheit86.blogspot.com/ Georgiana

      Stop glorifying suffering and misery. Just. Stop. These sorts of glib passages are the worst sort of bandaid on one’s spirit and offer nothing but thin wishes and dreary hopes. All the words in the world can’t fix an illness, which depression actually is. A good doctor and modern medicine win every time.

  • wild little fox

    Thank you for your openness and honesty. It is really nice to find someone else who has been through what I have (repeated clinical depression) and has ended up with similar conclusions.

    I’ve found peace in accepting myself as I am. I realized that I too was looking for a savior. For whatever reason God is not going to save me. I found that the more i depended on God the worse it became. Bible reading and prayer did not work for me. I have to do it myself. I am learning to take responsibility for my own mental health and to accept myself for who I am, as I am. I’m not perfect, but that’s okay! Finally it is okay to be ME!

    I’m on a new medication that keeps the debilitating anxiety, depression, and my emotional instability under control just enough that I still feel human and I can function.

    One of my biggest downfalls is thinking I am not good enough, that I don’t measure up and the reality that my very best is not enough. Maybe I am deluding myself in accepting that my best has to do when it falls so short but it is the only way I am going to survive this life.

  • http://michelle-endlessstrength.blogspot.com Michelle

    I’ve read your stuff for a long time and over and over again, I am jaw-dropping (sometimes) shocked at the things you have gone through.

    I’m so glad you are taking care of you! I, too, am on a journey to take care of me. It’s not weakness to take the steps to help yourself function in this world. I think I am strong for being gutsy enough to answer a questionnaire in the doctor’s office honestly. I think you are strong for doing what is best for you and your family, and withstanding the cruelty that comes your way. Continued prayers….

  • Danny

    YES ! I agree, I used to think my depression and problems in life were because I wasn’t close to God. So I found Christianity on my own when I was 19, several years later I realized “Jesus” is a tool I used, and I now recognize being employed by others, to avoid dealing with their real issues. I’m not saying spirituality doesn’t help anyone, but if you associate personal problems in life with nothing less complicated than not being close enough to god, reading your bible more, or praying more… Common really? When I first sought out a counselor, he helped me so much by facing my real issues. He was shocked at how I was asking a lot of questions at 25 he found more common in his 40 year old clients. when we spoke about faith, he told me the bible does say says seek wise council: (here’s one verse)• A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel. (Proverbs 1:5) . Funny how so many Christians forget that , and seek their own deluded solutions to problems, thinking psychology, medication, and counseling are for the “worldly.” You live in the world, duh.

  • Pingback: Sunday Reading: A Year in Jail for Not Believing in God, “WTF Isn’t it 2012 in the U.S.A.?”, more… « Just The Messenger


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X