Tuesday, October 20, 2009

3 Reasons for Depression – 3 Ways to Unmask It

Is mental illness a sign of spiritual weakness? Can pastors ever become depressed or mentally ill? Do Christians ever really become depressed? These are all reasonable questions. The respective answers are: No, not necessarily; yes; and, yes. Depression is a mental illness and is no respecter of persons; it can take anyone, especially someone with a genetic pre-disposition for it.

The truth is I felt guilty as soon as the thought crossed my mind. And this in ways that I write about resilience and hope and joy, at times perhaps, that does not cater at all for the person who’s patently depressive.

Instantly I felt a phony—and this is not bad. It drives a sense of repentance and a willingness to conform my thinking and ‘words of advice’ in ways more palatable for everyone. This response highlights that I’m perhaps not depressed myself currently; I could feel inadequate but I then recovered quickly, and in truth.

The fact of the matter is one in five people—yes; twenty percent of the Western populace—are going to suffer some form of depression illness, relating to mood disorder, anxiety and depression, over their lifetimes.

And this shaped mental illness takes no prisoners; it’s often as insidious and as profound as to wreak temporal emotional and spiritual disaster. The most common profile of depression is a twenty-year journey of menacing entrapment that manifests itself so latently the sufferer forgets what it’s like to be ‘normal.’ They’ve often adapted down to a ‘functional’ level of mood, barely scraping by. Then when the tidal wave hits despair is never too far away.

3 Reasons for Depression

The three contributors/attributors of depression are chemical imbalance (body), emotional baggage (soul), and spiritual attack/attacks of Satan (spirit).

Chemical Imbalance (biological/physiological illness)

There’s actually a big, albeit subtle, difference between someone who’s simply ‘down’ or ‘discouraged’ and someone who’s depressed. The depressed person is ‘stuck’ in their thinking and often can’t shut off their mind and therefore they can’t concentrate. This causes them to do things abnormally like under-eat or overeat, sleep more or sleep less etc.

This is the surest sign that someone needs medical help to elevate and restore their serotonin levels. In fact, this is the simplest ‘fix’ for the depressed person. There’s no shame in taking anti-depressants! This strategy for recovery cannot be over-emphasised.

Emotional Baggage (soul sickness)

Everyone, with no exceptions, carries emotional baggage—the only difference is the amount. And there’s literally no limit to the amount of emotional baggage we can be burdened with.

We have this very human attribute of attracting hurts and allowing them to cling to us. Most of us have sufficient resources to cope with the emotional baggage we carry; at times, however, the baggage gets heavy and we feel down. If we don’t respond, these feelings may often get worse.

Spiritual Attack/Attacks of Satan (spiritual sickness)

The enemy loves it when we abuse ourselves and call ourselves ‘stupid,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘insensitive,’ ‘clumsy’ etc. He’ll stir in us feelings of total inadequacy and hopelessness, often to the extent of suicidal thoughts. Shame, guilt and self-condemnation are three chief weapons Satan loves to use on depressed people.

3 Ways to Unmask Depression

If there are three sites of causation for the onset of depression there must logically be three good ways to recover from it; the best recoveries attend to all three areas—at times, simultaneously.

1. As I mentioned before, there’s no substitute for taking a pharmaceutical aid (anti-depressant medication) to elevate and restore serotonin levels. I’ve taken them; many people I know have taken them—they’re simply marvellous! This is actually the easiest and most powerful way to tackle mood disorders toward a fuller recovery.

2. Deal with emotional baggage forthrightly, honestly and courageously. If we don’t, our emotional baggage can only harm us, slow us down, depress us and inhibit otherwise hopeful feelings. If we can’t or won’t be honest with ourselves we’ll only harm ourselves in the end.

a. Given this important truth we can very simply ask ourselves, ‘What emotional baggage: am I carrying/have I carried thus far?’

b. We can look at the ‘sites’ of emotional baggage: family, childhood, friends/social impacts, workplace, history, ethnicity etc. An honest exploration of each of these is a good starting point.

3. Spiritual sickness is more latent than the other two, and is best probably as a key barometer of emotional wellness. Simply, though, we must not fall for the lies of Satan—but, we must also understand that the person suffering depression will not be able to avoid this to a certain extent.

a. It is best that those under spiritual attack seek wise counsel and try to listen to others in a better space than they are at the time.

As An Aside, Other Things You Should Know About Depression

There is no medical test anyone can take to determine whether they’re depressed or not. There is no way of telling that serotonin levels are suppressed; there are only lists of symptoms that tell us what to look for.

The commonest groups of sufferers are those in their adolescence and seniors. Our response should not be to simply say, ‘It’s a normal part of life,’ in those stages of the lifespan. Depressed people should seek treatment so they can recover and feel normal again.

One thing we should all be prepared to do is recognise the symptoms in ourselves, our loved ones, friends and colleagues and to perhaps gently bring people to the realisation of how common mental illness is, and that there’s no shame in it whatsoever. If we do recognise the symptoms, we should go see our doctor.

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

Acknowledgement to Dr. Grant Mullen’s DVD, What Christians should know about depression, anxiety and mood swings. Available at this address. Dr. Mullen also has non-Christian resources available. The Christian material deals with spiritual issues, the non-Christian material doesn’t.

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