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.
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.
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.|