Thursday, February 05, 2009

Truth about depression

My Sunday school class is going through a book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free.

The author does disclaim that some of her opinions are controversial and not everyone will agree with her. That's cool. How boring this world would be if we all agreed!

Sometimes opinions can be dangerous and even deadly.

Miss DeMoss says this of depression: "The Lie: the answer to depression must first be sought in medication and/or psychotherapy."

In her opinion, depression is born of a sinful attitude or belief in untruth. She believes it first must be treated with Scripture and prayer and Godly counsel. My conclusion is that she's not too keen on medication.

I'm assuming the author has not battled with true depression.

At the risk of my reputation (again) and personal relationships, I'm gonna share my experience with depression and what God showed me.

During my first period at the age of twelve, something was terribly wrong. Exploding pain shooting up my side sent me to the emergency room. Doctors thought my appendix burst.

This scenario repeated itself over and over again until I was 18. Not only did I have horrific pain, I bled heavily and out of control for up to 12 days. That's not normal. For six years, I lost at least one to one and a half weeks of my life each month.

Relief came after I turned 18. Everything stopped. No period, no pain. Specialist after specialist could not figure out what happened. It wasn't until seven or eight years ago that finally doctors discovered I was in full-blown menopause. My hormones were whacked at best.

In addition, my thyroid went hypo (not enough hormone) and my other adrenal glands were depressed.

Balancing my female hormones became a priority because honestly, it's very hard to function without them. In the middle of that years long flurry of pharmaceutical roulette, the chemistry in my brain was affected. I was depressed, but no one including myself, diagnosed it. My symptoms were attributed to hormones and thyroid problems.

Add is life stresses and this biological cocktail grew deadly.

DeMoss argues that depression can be controlled, cured and prevented via prayer and bible study. She insinuates claiming depression is out of our control is a cop-out.

I love control. Who doesn't? While life spun out of control around me, I figured if anything, I could control my emotions and be that strong Darcie everyone expected.

The more I tried to pray it away and beg God to pull me out of the pit, the deeper I fell in. At the urging of one of my spiritual mothers who is a nurse, I went to my doctor.

Antidepressants are not magic pills. They are all different and work in different ways in different people. Psychiatrists look at a patient's medical charts and take a good guess at what kind of medicine may work best.

It may take several months of toying with drugs and doses to achieve some sort of balance.

Doctors warn that suicidal ideation and even attempts may occur during that investigational period.

My doctor prescribed one drug that wasn't working too well. So, we had to make a change. During that transition all hell broke loose. My brain didn't like letting go of drug #1 and fought back. I went bezerko. The teeny-tiniest things of life set me off into a spiral. Insensitivity toward my depression and a very condemning attitude from a few Christian peers was the match thrown in a kerosene soaked pile of kindling.

My brain was abducted. Honestly, that's what it felt like. There was a piece of me that watched in horror as the rest of me exploded into a suicidal fury. I could not stop it. Physically something was going on.

God stepped in through my husband. John had to physically wrestle me to the ground and peel pills from my hands as I raged and fought and screamed. Within 30 minutes he had me in the ER.

Psych consult attributed my suicide attempt as related to the medication transition. That mixed with the meds for my ADHD...

After I was released from the ER, I had to go every day to depression management classes and talk to a psychologist. Not to plant secular hooey in my head, but to help both John and I understand physiologically what was going on in my brain. My psychologist and psychiatrist gave us coping techniques to get us through that 6-8 week period of waiting for the meds to kick in.

Coming out of that episode, I was soaked in guilt. What had I done? What did I almost do to my family? I beat myself up mercilessly for my lack of control.

God whispered in my ear, "Darcie, you never have been in control. You never will be either. Only I am in control. Trust me."

What a hard way to learn such a seemingly simple lesson.

I don't advise it.

Here's the other assumption made by some Christian leaders who have never experienced depression for themselves. Antidepressants are just happy pills to avoid the real spiritual issues and sinful attitudes.

Oh how I wish my meds were happy pills! Medication only takes you to the point where you feel like your normal self again. They don't alter your temperament or attitude. They just create a balance in your brain so you can function.

In fact, anti-depressant meds won't work for long if you don't deal with some of the root causes or fuses to the depression. You must treat your whole person. Mind, spirit, body.

Christians have an advantage here, because we do have Christ dwelling in us. When we are weak, he is strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness. No one can have victory of this horrid illness without seeking and pulling out the toxic weeds.

When Christian leaders and authors advise heading to the church first when dealing with depression, they are putting lives at risk.

Depression MUST first be treated as what it is: an illness. Like any other illness. You don't tell a cancer patient to spend hours praying with the pastor or in counselling before trying chemo.

Depression is a cancer to the soul. You have to get the body in order and balanced so then you can get the mind and heart in order.

Severely depressed people, if pushed to repent, recite Bible verses or pray without medical help, may engage in self-destructive behavior. The energy and cognitive power to deal with issues beyond breathing and eating is not there.

Nancy Rue along with Stephen Arterburn are writing a series of novels that delve into this very issue. Healing Stones and Healing Waters (review) are of the transformative fiction genre. Through the lives of psychologist Sullivan Crisp and others, the authors go so deep into the heart of depression no one can emerge from the stories without empathy and hope.

These books both, have had an impact on my life. For the first time ever, I was reading my life on a page written by some very high-profile authors.

In the series character's backstory (Sullivan Crisp), Rue and Arterburn carve out how Crisp's wife ended up committing suicide and murder because well-meaning, yet ignorant believers told her depression was spiritual. The Biblical counselor she saw looked down on medication and psychotherapy. Prayer and scripture. Prayer and scripture.

The danger of discounting depression as an actual illness can't be played out in a more dramatic way.

In both books, depression is treated with such care and understanding infused with unflappable hope. A balance of medical help and spiritual growth is illustrated in a way readers can replicate.

I've blathered on for a looooong time.

If you know someone struggling with depression, encourage them to see a doctor first. Don't push the churchy stuff until they are stabilized on meds. In the mean time, buy and read these books mentioned above. Give them to the person to read once they can handle it.

God calls us to be Christ-like. Jesus Christ is grace and mercy. Draw upon him to flood you with the grace and mercy you need to show to a friend or even yourself when dealing with depression.


Babetta said...

I stumbled onto your blog via Facebook. I would say it was by chance, but I know that God placed it there for me. This post speaks directly to my heart, and I thank you for your candor. Someone very dear to me is suffering with this right now. Believers do tend to try and pray everything away, when God has provided medical professionals to help us with ALL illnesses. I too have dealt with bouts of intense sadness, especially after a miscarriage a couple of months ago, and have felt guilty. Believers are supposed to filled with hope at all times, right? I thank God for you and look forward to reading more from you.

WordVixen said...

My recent depression was spiritual, and I knew it! However, most people that I know who suffer from depression, or who have in the past, it was a very physical thing.

Did you know that simply having certain vitamins and minerals out of balance (too much or two little) can cause depression? And I know you already know about the hormonal and thyroid based depression. In fact, the more I look into health subjects, the more I find depression in the list of symptoms for EVERYTHING. All the more reason to see a doctor. (I did, but she was useless)

Cheryl said...

Excellent article. I read this book with a group of Christian women a couple of years ago. I was angered by this chapter (and one other) in particular. I too was concerned about the impact her opinion would have on a newer believer and the additional shame and pain it would heap on their life.
I have dealt with depression for many years and thankfully had a great pastor and my doctors working with me. My pastor recommended that I look at both spiritual and physical causes, and that it might be a combination of both. He never gave me the simplistic answers a lot of Christians seem to. Several years later, I have pastors, doctors, and friends who are my early warning system. They let me know, even before I can tell, if something isn't working for me. Thanks for letting me ramble like this. Give the booger a hug from his auntie Cheryl. I miss seeing him too.