Since my own depression has been causing me some lack of focus and writer’s block lately, this seemed like a good topic.
I wanted to take a moment to talk about depression and why I absolutely despise it when people think and tell other people that if they just pray harder, their depression will be gone. Then, of course, if it isn’t then “God has a reason.”
This idea is so extremely unhelpful in so many situations. I will likely write more in-depth on this subject in the future, but here is a truncated version of my thoughts on this subject.
Different types of depression
First, let’s talk about the fact that depression isn’t one-size-fits-all. It comes in varying degrees with varying symptoms and varying causes. Here are a few:
- Bipolar Disorder
- Thyroid Disease
- Standalone Clinical Depression
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
The causes above are all caused by an underlying health issue. In some cases, treatment of the underlying condition will help the depression. In other cases, the health condition is the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes depression. With very mild cases, it can be overcome with prayer or therapy or mind-over-matter. But in others, it requires medication. I also need to mention here that what is considered mild for some might not be for others. It’s totally subjective and a sliding scale.
I’m not sure when we decided that antidepressants are anti-Christian. Or that those who use them just “don’t believe in Jesus enough.” Would we say the same to someone about chemotherapy? How about Tylenol? If we wouldn’t say “Hey, just pray your <cancer, headache, cramps, broken leg, brain tumor, whatever> away, why the hell do we treat mental health issues that way?
Depression is a health issue
These types of depression are no different than any other health problem. I cannot stress this enough – and I don’t know why people can’t understand that. There is a chemical imbalance or another underlying health concern that causes uncontrollable feelings of depression. This depression can make it nearly impossible to function. Small things like taking a shower or making dinner just seem like monumental tasks. The world feels like it’s moving in slow motion through a fog mixed with a hurricane, and there’s nothing you can do to fix it.
God gave humans brilliant brains to create medicine that treats and cures so many different diseases – including mental illnesses – and we need to remember that when we are or someone we know is suffering from depression. Those of us who are clinically depressed already feel enough shame and self-loathing, we need support and encouragement, not scolding because we finally took steps to get better, and one of those steps is medication.
Depression is a trickster
Depression likes to hide. It likes to crawl underneath the blanket of other health issues so that you don’t treat it. It’s sneaky and mean and wants you to crawl under that blanket with it and let it carry you into darkness. I know this for a fact.
I have so. many. health. issues. So many.
- Hashimoto’s Thyroid
- Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy
- Chiari Malformation
- Seronegative Myasthenia Gravis
- Occipital Neuralgia
- THIRTEEN effed up discs in my spine – ranging from slight bulges to more severe ones that are impinging on nerve roots and causing all kinds of pain.
- Endometriosis and ovarian and cervical fibroids
- Early-onset menopause. That’s right, I’m 42 and post-menopausal.
Oh, and I’m allergic to… outside.
It took so long to finally figure out all these things that my depression got buried under it all. Finally, after years of struggling and praying and feeling like a failure because I couldn’t “shake it off,” I saw my doctor and he prescribed Effexor. He also said I have Bipolar Disorder, but the mania is mild and controlled with therapy. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Not a miracle cure
No, the meds don’t magically make me happy and never depressed – hence the current stretch of mild blues that are making me unfocused. But they helped clear the fog and took away the blanket and shed some light on things. They helped give me the motivation to do the work needed to go the last mile in dealing with my mental illness. That’s what they’re supposed to do – to help “shake it off” so you can move past it. I will never apologize for taking the meds.
That being said, I do not think they should be the first response to depression. I think we tend to overmedicate nowadays and as soon as someone feels a little down about something, they ask for meds. There are types of depression that can be overcome with prayer and therapy and mind-over-matter, and those things should be the first line of defense.
Sometimes life gets in the way. Things happen that knock us off the rails and change our trajectory. Things like job loss or breakups or even a pandemic come into our lives and we become depressed by the situation. Oftentimes, this type of depression is simply temporary. There is indeed a reason for the depression and prayer and counseling and thinking happy thoughts can go a long way toward helping someone feel better.
Jesus should be the first treatment for depression. Pray for guidance, read the Bible, ask Him to take it away. And while this treatment should be ongoing and without ceasing, sometimes you need to add a secondary treatment in the form of therapy, or meds, or both.
And that doesn’t make you less worthy of His love.
If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Helpline here.
This is not medical advice, simply me sharing my experience with depression and medication.
Comment below! Thoughtful, respectful comments are welcome and encouraged.