So this morning in the moments between preparing child #2 and child #3 to catch the bus, I picked up a book on the side table and read a chapter. I’m not sure where this book came from. We have had about a half dozen or less young women come trough our house over the summer months; someone must have left it behind.
About 6 or 7 pages in I wanted to throw the book in the trash. That is what I thought of what this woman had to say….It’s trash…simplisitic Christian crap that the church has been throwing around and espousing for years. The kind of crap that makes me want to take a machine gun to something.
I am SO sick of Christian books and teachers that act like anti-depressant medication is concocted in a meth lab or is laced with cocaine….or that doctors are handing them out like candy on Halloween to any patient that is sad. It is arrogant and makes a mockery of the medical profession and all those who truly have depression.
So hear is my view from the other side of the street. God fearing Christians who love Jesus die every year at their own hand. Yeah, you got it…they commit suicide while the church stands by and keeps shouting about the evils of prozac.
And an even larger number suffer in silence, either not going to church or not sharing their struggle with other believers because they have been told that they just need to repent or have more faith. Shame on us.
It’s time for the church to stand up, confess how it has failed these Children of God and start advocating for them. We need not just clergy who can offer them hope and a place to struggle well, but lay people as well. “I’ll pray for you” just isn’t going to get it.
First, we need to acknowledge that depression and sadness or grief are not the same things. For those suffering with true clinical depression, sadness may be a minor part of it. Check out what are commonly accepted as symptoms of depression.
Major depression is when a person has five or more symptoms of depression for at least 2 weeks. These symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, or pessimistic. In addition, people with major depression often have behavior changes, such as new eating and sleeping patterns.
- Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
- Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
- Extreme difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
- Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
- Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities, a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed (such as sex)
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
Second, we need to stop acting like we know what we don’t. Many people who have depression need to be under the care of a doctor and/or counselor. A good, loving, godly friend may mean well but they shouldn’t be a substitute for medical care.
And let’s share a little bit of information about anti-depressant/anti-anxiety meds. Like all meds they come with side effects, and people tolerate and respond to each Most of these meds must be built up in your system before they work fully or properly. That means 4-6 weeks. During the build up time the drugs can have side effects that may subside once the build up period is over. Or they may persist. There is no way to tell except to take the medication for 6+ weeks.
The first drug the doc tries may not work for the patient; but it will still take about a month or more to determine this. If the drug does not work well for the patient, it must then be weaned out of their system over 4-6 weeks. Although some drugs can be started before drug one is completely out of the system, some can not. Some that are”kin” to each other allow you to jump from one to the other.
I say all this so you will know that, finding the right medication can and often is a lengthy process. Once the right drug is found, it can be an immense help, but rarely would I consider medication the “quick-fix” that it is often taunted to be.
In fact, many people taking these type of meds live with side effects just in order to receive the benefit of the medication. Added weight gain and loss of sex drive are just the two most talked about effects. Many are not nearly so “pleasant” as a few extra pounds.
Third, the church needs to stop treating the depressed person as the problem. We need to allow people to share their own stories of depression in order to encourage and educate others. To that end, here is a little bit of why this issue is such a personal one to me.
In my early twenties, I spent a year in counseling (awesome Christian counselor) thanks to my boss ( who was not a believer, BTW) who knew I was depressed and insisted that I get help. Counseling was immensely helpful. I worked through many painful things from my pasts as well as destructive behaviors I had developed (nothing salacious). My depression lessened and became more episodic. I began to see depression as a result of how I dealt with experiences, and found as I took them fully to God the depression would lessen or go away.
That worked well for me until I started having babies. My pregnancies were long and I was depressed throughout regardless of how I felt, how much time I spent with God, or my circumstances. With the help of my doctors (once I finally broke down and told them what was going on), I began to see that I was experiencing clinical depression, a depression that had more to do with what was going on physically in my body and not just emotionally and spiritually. They determined that when pregnant, the hormonal changes I underwent caused me to chemically imbalance. I needed anti-depressant medication during the pregnancy to rectify this. Once I delivered and my hormones reverted to their previous state, the depression would subside.
This was the first time I could see for myself that my depression wasn’t directly correlated to my own sin. It was also my first experience taking anti-depressant medication. I began to educate myself about depression. From counseling I had learned what some of my triggers were and how to spiritually and emotionally combat depression. Now I learn more about what was and was not depression. I began to be able to recognize depression as it began to grab a hold on my life, as opposed to being blind until the depression was in full swing.
During these years I began to experience an unusual seasonal depression. I went through about 5-7 years of this, starting each spring and lasting hrough most of the summer. This was the most frightening depressive experience that I have been through. I was a stay at home mom with two toddlers/baby/preschoolers. There were many days that I awoke fearful that I couldn’t be a good Mom to them that day, but I knew there was no alternative. It was not an unrealistic fear.
Thankfully, again my doctors helped me. They began to see that I see-sawed way too much in and out of depression, and began to treat my depression as chronic, putting me on a daily dose of anti-depressant. As they explained it to me, they felt between my family history and my experiences over the last 5 or so years, that it was likely that my body was always deplete of serotonin. They recommended that I begin to see anti-depressant medication as something that I would take daily for the rest of my life, much like a diabetic takes insulin on a daily basis.
That was probably 10 years ago. I take a daily dose of Effexor. It makes me a “well” person. No amount of prayer or faith can compensate for the lack of serotonin I have in my body. It helps me to be able to be all that God intends for me to be….Mother…wife…friend..co-worker. I still have bouts with depression, some small some larger and deeper. In fact I went through one of those this spring. My doctors changed my meds a little and that has help it not to be so severe.
The medication doesn’t make me “happy”or “joyful”. Only Jesus can do that. It does help me not to struggle with deep rage over “nothing”, debilitating indecision, and crippling self-contempt. I am thankful for depression and the way it has helped me to draw ever closer to God, but it still scares the hell out of me everytime I feel it coming. I never know how long or how deep the bout will be. But this I do know: God will be with me everyday of it AND I am going to take that anti-depressant medication everyday of it too.