I have discussed this topic before, from the standpoint of someone who has experienced it from the inside looking out and from the outside looking in. I’ve seen it from all sides. I’ve mulled it over a lot, and dealt with it first hand. I’ve been miraculously healed of depression and brought out of the deepest, darkest pit imaginable into freedom…and after that, to slip slowly back into it wondering why God left me…why was this happening…that time to be healed through doctors and medication. It was God’s way of teaching me (or trying to) that the brain is an organ of the body…like the heart, or the kidneys. It’s not a character flaw if something goes wrong with your brain. All kinds of things can affect it…once again…like the heart or the kidneys or any other part of the body.
The problem is that because problems with the mind, or the brain, affect the way we think and act and our emotions, it doesn’t feel the same as if we suddenly clutch our chest because we’re having a heart attack…or if we start coughing and sneezing and know we are coming down with a cold, or the flu.
Even though I’ve mulled over it, experienced it, understand it…I still do the same thing. If I feel myself slipping into a depression, one of the first things that sets in is a sort of panic…”Oh no…please not that! I have to buck up and not let this happen! I have to pray my way out of this!” Would you tell someone who was having a heart attack to buck up…to pray their way out of it? And sometimes, circumstances in life do get us down. But there is a difference between that, and clinical depression that is caused by hormonal imbalances in the body, although I think that circumstances can accumulate and if they go on long enough, they can cause those hormonal imbalances. But depression is also something that has been found to be hereditary, and that is an absolute physical problem. And no matter how much you might like to, you can’t always pray your way out of it, or snap out of it, or pull yourself up by your boot straps or whatever.
But in thinking about it a little more, I realized that some of us just have this need to be strong…period. And I’m as guilty as anyone else with this. I don’t want to be sickly. I will try to tough it out. Last year I was having dizzy spells and headaches and just really not well. I refused to go to the doctor. No insurance, the desire to not build up medical bills I couldn’t pay, etc…pride with all that, prevented me from taking care of myself. My daughter told me repeatedly, “Mom, you need to go to the doctor!” I finally did. And my blood pressure was 190/124. I was on the verge of a stroke.
Sometimes we can’t see what’s going on as clearly as others can, and that’s true in the case of depression like any other problem…and even more so, I think. But if you see a person clutching their chest and saying, “I’m okay…nothing’s wrong”…but they keep doing it every day, or every couple of days…you’re going to be concerned. If you see someone looking pale or tired all the time, you might suggest that they take vitamins at the very least…but you would probably encourage them to get a checkup from a doctor. And if you see someone happy and positive and on top of the world one day, and two or 3 days later lying in the bed and crying their eyes out…and repeating that cycle over and over…you will probably think something’s not right. And if you love that person, or care about them at all, you won’t shrug it off. You’ll go to them and tell them, “Something doesn’t seem right. Maybe you should see a doctor.”
I wish so much that we could just get to the place of really not being ashamed of things like depression or mental illness…really understanding and accepting it for what it is. That said, I do know that sometimes if a person has problems with depression, even if they just express being down, red flags might go up all over the place that are unnecessary. And yes, that can be frustrating at times. But it’s also true that sometimes people just don’t see what’s going on as clearly with themselves as others can. And if I’m up and down like a see saw and others express concern, they’re not calling me crazy. They are simply concerned because they care. And there will probably always be those who don’t, and won’t understand it, and who will think it’s a character flaw or in the case of Christians, that your faith just isn’t strong enough or you’re not right with God somehow. (sigh) Frustrating, for sure.
Depression and mental illness are way too often a deep, dark secret. But they shouldn’t be. Please help me make them not be, by making it safe to say, “I don’t think I’m well, and I think I need some assistance with this.” I hope that someday it’ll be as safe to do that as it is for any other medical problem.
Love and blessings,