Thoughts on Depression

The passing of Robin Williams has opened the floodgates for discussion about depression. It’s something that a lot of people deal with. It NEEDS to be talked about instead of being pushed under the rug.

I have dealt with depression for most of my life. When I was 17 I was diagnosed as being “borderline manic depressive” which now translates to borderline bipolar. If I went for a new eval now, I don’t know if I’d still get that same diagnosis. I looked at the clinical symptoms this morning and I still have most of them. I wasn’t on meds then. I went to a counselor for a year or two. I’m not on meds now. But I was for a while in between.

Which is where the shock factor seems to come in for Christians who deal with depression. “She took meds for it… her faith must not be very strong.” There’s a stigma in the Christian world that if you’re “really” a Christian you either a) shouldn’t have depression at all, b) you should be able to conquer it with prayer if you do, c) if you have depression and you can’t conquer it with prayer alone then your faith must not be strong enough. Malarky.

There’s a blog by Matt Walsh that a friend of mine posted on FaceBook where he calls out suicide as being selfish and talks about depression being both clinical and spiritual. Personally, I think he’s spot on for both counts. Suicide IS selfish. In The Fault In Our Stars, Hazel calls herself a grenade and says one day she’ll go off and obliterate everything and everyone in her path. Now, she wasn’t suicidal, but she was talking about her own eminent and too early death. Suicide is a grenade. It takes the person who committed suicide out, sure, but it also rips through their friends and family and leaves them permanently damaged. Robin Williams might not be suffering any longer, but what about his wife and daughter? What has this done to them? I have been on the brink of suicide two times in my life that I can think of. The only thing that stopped me was thinking, “What would this do to my family?”

Back to depression – suicide is a whole other ball of wax. Depression being both clinical and spiritual. I think I’m pretty safe to say I have a strong faith. I am well secured in the knowledge of my salvation and that I am loved by my Savior. However, I still get depressed. Depression can be genetic. It can be a chemical imbalance. It can be any number of things. My mother has told me that her side of the family has suffered from anxiety and depression for generations. It’s genetic. I have a genetic predisposition to have some sort of problem with depression. Typically I can handle it pretty well. Sometimes, however, the world gets overwhelming, my brain chemicals get all out of whack and that genetic predisposition goes in to overdrive. Also, typically during these times, I’m not leaning as heavily on God as I ought. I’m not casting all my cares on Him like we’re told to. I hoard them up and worry over them and count them and fret with them like a miser does his hoard. Why? I dunno. But when I get that low, even when I do wake up and lean on Jesus, sometimes the brain chems need a little help to get back in sync. So I might need meds for a bit to put myself back in order. Like a diabetic needs insulin. Or a cancer patient needs chemo. Sometimes medical help is necessary as well as spiritual help. Back a few years ago it got so bad all I wanted to do was sit and stare at the wall (and our walls are not interesting.) Oh, I went to work, took care of my kids, and all that, but when some duty did not call my name I sat. And stared. That was the time I got meds. Now when I feel myself start to spiral down I “think happy thoughts” (I’ll never think of that phrase without seeing Robin Williams being taught to fly by the Lost Boys), pray lots, talk to people as much as I hate sharing my troubles with anyone, and use natural remedies for boosting brain happiness. I, a music leader in my church, was on depression medication for about a year before my body evened itself out. Oh the shock!!!

On my drive home from work one day the thought flitted through my head that depression is like cancer. It creeps in without you really noticing it at first. Then you start to have a few symptoms here and there. And it eats away at you until you’re so sick you just about can’t stand up.

There’s no shame in going to the doctor and getting help. Not if you have cancer. Or depression. Maybe you just need counseling. Maybe you DO need to pray more. Maybe you need medication to help even yourself back out. There’s no shame in it. It’s a disease. Just because it’s a disease of the mind instead of some other internal organ doesn’t make it any less real or dangerous.

If you struggle with depression, go get help. And if you do reach out to people for help – take what help they give you. Don’t wallow in self pity. It’s no fun in the mire.

I always say I’m going to blog more. Maybe I really will this time. Writing is also a good way for me to battle depression. One of these days perhaps I’ll blog coherently and regularly.

You are loved. There is hope. Don’t give up. And don’t be judgmental of those who are suffering from something you might not understand.

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The Opalturtle

Sarah Sanford

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sarah@theopalturtle.com

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