Thoughts on Depression
“Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.” Matthew 14:14
One of the wealthiest most well-known men in our community took his own life recently, due to overwhelming depression. He was a gentle soul, a philanthropist who along with his wife had taken charitable giving to a new level in the community. I don’t know what started the depression, some say it was pain from a surgery that didn’t resolve, maybe it was there hidden for a long time. Many times we see people who have taken their own lives and we wonder how could they ever get to the point where there was really nothing to live for? I am not a mental health professional so my thoughts are not from a clinical or medical perspective but just from my own experiences and observations.
A lot of people are judgmental of others who suffer with depression, saying to the depressed person, “why don’t you just get over it?” or, “just choose to be happy, what have you got to be so upset about your life is good?” or “just pull yourself up by your boot straps and move on.” Your Christian friends will tell you to pray more, read the Bible more, get into worship, “The Joy of the Lord is your strength,” “Choose life and live,” or even tell you that you’re going through a spiritual battle and you need to the “bind the devil.” Depression and mental illness in general have been misunderstood down through the years to the point that it’s very existence is denied it has become a stigma of some kind of evil and even demon possession. Therefore, most people don’t want to admit it’s a problem for them or talk about it. But depression is an illness just like any other, just because it’s not like cancer or a broken bone that you can x-ray and treat doesn’t mean it’s not real. Depression is not a “mind over matter” issue or a spiritual battle any more than any other illness. It is a silent destroyer of your well being and at some levels nearly impossible to overcome.
I’m not talking about self-pity or mood swings that come and go for all of us, or about someone who is shy or introverted; I’m taking about an actual physical/mental illness that affects every aspect of your life. It displays itself in small or large ways, from tears to lethargy to thoughts of suicide. Some people suffer with severe depression that affects them for their entire lives, others with smaller bouts at different times.
I am currently dealing with my 84 year old mother who has Alzheimer’s/dementia and is in an assisted living facility. In all of the medical evaluations I have had to have done for her one of the questions on the health history form is always, “has she ever suffered from depression?” I have thought about that a lot and I do think I should be answering yes. I remember when I was in grade school watching my mom spend days on end in bed in her room with the curtains pulled and the lights out. I recall the pastor’s wife coming over and praying for her that she would cheer up and get over it. So mom would get out of bed for a while but before the end of the day she’d be crying again and back in bed. There are several other incidents in her life that looking back now I do believe she has suffered quite a lot from depression.
I’ve had a personal experience this last year with depression. I came down with a case of shingles and was very ill with excruciating pain across my forehead and in my eye. I was on several different medications which of course wreaked havoc with my body. It has been a year-long struggle which I am still not completely over. Somewhere in the midst of it all I got really down, I was struggling to get over being sick and get back to my active self and just couldn’t do it. One day as I was talking to my doctor, I just broke down and started crying she of course probed further and diagnosed me with depression. I have been on medication since then and life is much brighter. One day I decided I was well and didn’t need to be on those “crazy pills” anymore. I weaned myself off of them and in about three days after not taking any I was crying again. I had to admit that this wasn’t just a mood I was going through but an actual illness, so I went back on the medication and will continue to follow my doctor’s advice.
I guess the point of this blog is twofold. First, if you suffer from depression, get treatment, it is wonderful to be prayed for and I hope you have a prayer support group, but just like any other illness you need to get treated. If you are diabetic you take your medication, it’s the same with depression. I believe that the Lord can heal any illness and if he chooses to do so then Hallelujah! But in the meantime find a qualified counselor you can talk to, find a doctor who will determine if you need some medication and get you the help you need. Secondly, and probably as important, DON’T JUDGE those who are suffering. If you know someone who is suffering from depression show compassion just as you would if they were suffering from any other illness. Telling someone who is suffering from depression to “cheer up” is about as helpful as telling someone who cut themselves to “stop bleeding.”
The ministry of Jesus was marked by compassion. In several places in the gospels compassion was noted as the motivation for Jesus’ actions. Matthew 14:14, says that, “Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.”
Just as Jesus actions were motivated by compassion so should our actions have the same motivation.
Grace and Peace