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3.03.2013

This Post About Depression Isn't Depressing

Every morning I swallow my pride and swallow a pill imprinted with W-717. Venlafaxine. It's used in the treatment of depression, anxiety and stress. It belongs in the drug class seratonin-neropinephrine reuptake inhibitors. I take an anti-depressant and I'm okay with it.

I used to not be okay with it. I used to think that, as a Christian, I should be able to overcome my depression. That is was all in my head. That it was a result of sin. Or a result of not having enough faith. Or of not reading my bible enough. Or not being filled with the Spirit enough.

Acknowledging that my depression was more serious than just sadness made me feel like I wasn't being a very good Christian enough.

And that only made me more depressed.

When I finally decided to get help, I was laying in my bed, looking at the popcorn ceiling wishing for death, listening to my kids do I don't know what, thinking that I should go make sure that they aren't accidentally maiming each other, but then I thought "they can fend for themselves. I just want to lay here." And suddenly I realized "I don't even care anymore. Oh my gosh, I need help." 

New in town, I didn't know anyone well enough to call and say "Hey, I'm a mess, do you have a psychiatrist you recommend?" Honestly, though, even if I knew people well enough, I don't know if I would have had the courage to let someone know I was a mess. Because I don't know that I felt the freedom to be authentic. I didn't want to be less than enough.

I looked in the advertising section of a local magazine and landed myself in a psychiatric nurse's office. Over the next year I met with her and tried various anti-depressants, usually the free samples that the drug reps gave her, until we found one that didn't whack me out.

She was a good psychiatric nurse, and she knew her medications, but I wasn't getting good (or godly) counsel from her. I started to cope in other ways.

Here's the thing: medication is just one tool to help manage depression. A good therapist is absolutely necessary too. Because although there's a biological chemical element, there are also usually reasons you're depressed. You need a good counselor trained in psychology to help you figure out the issues that are at the root of your depression, and to give you tools to address those issues. A counselor who knows the God who created your brain and your emotions, a counselor who helps you seek truth in your innermost parts will be the most helpful one. If you take meds but don't get good counselling, you will only ever be medicating your depression, not overcoming it's hold on you.

If you only get counsel and you also need meds (like, if you have severe depression) but don't take them, you won't get very far either. At some point while I was in counselling after our crisis, I ran out of the medication that the psychiatric nurse prescribed for me. I felt like I was doing pretty good. After all, I was functioning well, getting right with God, addressing some issues that I had never really ever addressed before. I didn't want to be on medication. I wanted it to be as easy as simply getting healthier in my thinking. I was okay with seeing a counselor, but not as okay with being dependent on medication. I didn't feel depressed anymore. So I just never got the prescription refilled.

And I fell apart again. Lost it. I'm talking fetal-position-on-the-bathroom-floor, capital L, capital I. Lost. It.

Because it isn't just about me thinking rightly about stuff, or being a better Christian or having more joy or doing something better enough. It's not even about me feeling depressed or not. It's about a chemical thing that is going on in my brain. That sounds a little bit embarrassing, kind of humbling. Because it's my brain, you know, and I want to think I have a good one.

And I do have a good one. It just got a little sick from all the years that I repressed my emotions and pretended like everything was okay. Because I thought I had to be good. That's my theory anyway. By burying my heavy emotions, it was like I was burying poison in my body. Eventually it made me sick.



When I Lost. It. after getting counselling, I had learned to recognize my feelings, and to be okay with acknowledging heavy emotions, not bury them. I was learning how to have truth in the inner parts. And that I am responsible for my feelings and my response. I need to take care of me. I told my counselor that I thought I needed to get back on medication, and she said, well then do it. Nothing wrong with that. If I have to be on medication indefinitely so that I can function better, then I am okay with that. Even if other people aren't okay with it. I am not responsible to them, I'm responsible to God. Taking medication is not a sin.

In my opinion, me taking an anti-depressant drug is no different than a person who has high cholesterol taking Lipitor. That person isn't less of a Christian. They don't need to read the bible more to lower their cholesterol. They don't have less faith because they are taking a drug. In fact, they might even be considered faithful by taking their medication, because they are taking care of their health.

Just like the person with high cholesterol can make lifestyle choices to manage their cholesterol, so too can the person who suffers from clinical depression make lifestyle choices to manage their depression. That's where leaning on the Wonderful Counselor and Great Physician comes in. God speaks to us through the Bible, and also through good godly psychological counselors. He has revealed medical knowledge to us. It's one of the ways that He can bring healing. There is no shame in taking either Lipitor or W-717 to manage your health.

I'm not sure about this, but I think that if I had addressed my depression sooner when it was still in the "mild" stage, and recognized it as never-the-less serious enough to need help, I think I might not need to be on medication indefinitely. I didn't address it sooner because I felt like I just needed to be a better Christian enough, and then I would be better. It makes me sad that there is a stigma (in some church-y circles) for Christians who suffer from clinical depression. I think it's sad that they feel like they can't admit that they are depressed or take medication to help them get a handle on their depression without feeling judged.

I'm putting this part of my depression story out there for those people. Just in case someone else is popping an anti-depressant in the morning and needs to know that they are not alone. Or maybe, just in case someone else is struggling with the signs and symptoms of depression and needs to know that it is okay to get help. Even medical help. 

This is my depression story. See how I bolded, italicized and underlined it? It's not even my whole story. Everyone's depression story is unique. Not everyone needs medication. But some do. And I'm saying, "it's okay. It's okay to admit you're depressed. It's okay to get help from a therapist. It's okay to take a pill." 

And also, I'm saying "There is hope."

These signs and symptoms were taken from National Institute of Mental Health's website.


22 comments:

  1. Thanks for this, Anne. I've had depression for many years and it went untreated for a long time because I was told by a well-meaning Christian mentor to "grow up." So I did. If growing up means pretending there is nothing wrong and white-knuckling through life in a torpor. The last two years have been exceptionally bad, and I'm coming to terms that I might not ever be "healed" the way I want to be. And learning what that looks like for everyday life, with medication, counseling, etc. I've been talking for months about putting together an online support group for women. There are A LOT of bloggers who are touching on this subject, and even if we're not int he thick of it right then, it helps to keep up contact and support. Solidarity!

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  2. what an awesome article. Very much my story too! I am going through a very difficult period right now too. My depression started very young and also did not get treated soon enough.

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    1. Thanks, Paula. I'm sorry to hear you are going through a difficult time right now. I hope that you are able to have a good support system around you as you go through this. ((big hugs))

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  3. I am a firm believer that everyone needs counseling.

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  6. Anne, THANK YOU for being so honest, raw, real. I actually had the honor and privilege of walking through this similar journey with a friend of mine back at home. She too struggled with the same decision points you had to make, while fighting against the stigmas this society and our Christian community had about depression. She is a woman who is so kind and caring and has impacted so many lives through how she lives her life. Due to this experience, she has actually chosen to make a career change from Nurse to Christian counselor and is in pursuit of this to this day.

    Anne, you are also a beautiful, genuine woman of God. I am also encouraged by our friendship, and the wisdom you have imparted into my life in the short amount of time I have gotten to know you. Your love for Jesus is not questioned here, and in fact, is highlighted because of your humility and desire to admit your weakness as a human. You are loved. You are not defined by a diagnosis. May you continue to bless others through your story and continue to give others Hope through it.


    "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13

    "..And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:2-5

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  7. Anne, you are such a brave and inspiring woman.Thank-you for your openness. I shared this on FB,in hopes to help and encourage others....
    as it did me.The Lord has certainly blessed you with a gift for writing..keep shining!

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    1. Thanks, Lucy. I'm glad it encouraged you so much that you wanted to share it. That blesses me. Thanks for letting me know. xo

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  8. I know we barely touched on this subject this weekend. I'm so glad you posted this so I can know more. You are a light to so many! Thank you for sharing and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Your story has some similarities to a friend of mine who wrote a book about it. You should check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Controlled-Chaos-A-story-redemption/dp/1468136720/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1362497966&sr=8-4&keywords=controlled+chaos
    Keep sharing your story, sister! xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Jessica. I appreciate that. You friend's story looks interesting. Thanks for sharing. xo

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  9. Hi Anne, I came across your story in an FB share from Lucy, it was very encouraging.

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    1. Thanks, Scott. I'm so glad you were encouraged by my story. Thanks for letting me know.

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  10. My dear Anne, let me say again...I just love you! Your fierce honesty, your love of God and family...your history.... words fail me. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Tamera. The feeling is mutual. xo!

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  11. I think we are basically the same exact person. I related to every single thing you said, minus the little details like "moving around" and "having kids and stuff". Thank you for sharing.

    xoxo,
    Gayle | Grace for Gayle

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  12. Hello There - a Facebook friend just shared this post and you could've been writing my story! Even your "About Me" list could be me, except the tattoo :) I am going through a bit of a relapse so just finding your blog is SO encouraging. And I am digging out my dreams from the buried depths, trying to undo the mis-interpretation of the Gospel in my life. I just love finding someone who writes about this stuff!! Thank you.

    A new follower who bravely started her own blog: http://northislandcottage.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you for commenting and introducing yourself. I'm so glad that this post and this blog is encouraging to you. You are doing so well already to be digging your dreams out and to have recognized that the Gospel has been mis-interpreted and to be seeking Truth. Good luck on your journey. You are not alone! xo

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