This is the first of a series of articles about depression. Depression has deep mental and physical roots as well as a powerful spiritual dimension. Often it manifests with a feeling of being out of sync with our world, our family, and even ourselves. And when we are out of sync with the world it feels like we just don’t fit.
We start to withdraw from a world that doesn’t seem to care, is hostile, or can’t be bothered with us. The more we step back, the harder it is to stop. We hear that constant voice that offers peace in a world without peace until one moment, one desperate moment, in which the pain of life overwhelms us and we reach for the one way out. And in a flash our life is over.
Our pain which was so deep is now transferred to those who love us. Our loss fuels their fire of guilt and anger. Blame is rampant and their lives will never be the same. Just as we believed the lies that suicide is the only way out, they believe the lies that it was their fault.
Suicide is often the extreme result of depression.
It is the end we hear about way too often and many of us, myself included, have loved people for whom suicide seemed the only choice they had. There are so many people who suffer with depression daily. Each minute is a struggle in which they have to make a choice, live or die, give up or go on.
These are not weak people. These are our neighbors and friends. These are us!
How does depression start and why don’t people just get help for it?
The American Psychiatric Association says that depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects the way you feel, think, and act. It causes feelings of sadness and/or loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. (Source: http://www.psychiatry.org)
They also say it is treatable.
So why not seek treatment?
If we had a broken arm, we would seek medical help. If I am ill with a flu, I can ask for help. Nobody judges the victims of a car crash or cancer. But try admitting you have depression and you get all kinds of judgement and platitudes. Now imagine you are a Christian or a leader. How likely are you to come forward and admit you have a metal or emotional illness?
And this is the evil strength of depression. In the darkness it hides and growls, consuming its victims with feelings of worthlessness and despair. It seeks to isolate and destroy.
The definition of depression that the American Psychiatric Association offers is quite descriptive yet it misses a huge and powerful component. You see, depression is an intense spiritual battle as well and we are attacked in both the earthly world and the spiritual world.
Often depression starts in childhood. While there appears to be no specific cause for depression in children, some common elements are a family history of depression, loss of a parent or breakup of the family unit, discrimination, bullying, other physical or psychological problems, abuse, neglect, or trauma. (Source: National Mental Health Association’s Children Mental Health Matters campaign)
Dr. David Fraser of the University of Vermont College of Medicine sees a relationship between depression and other mental health conditions such as anxiety and bipolar or disruptive disorders. (Source: webmd.com)
There appears to be both intrinsic roots and extrinsic roots to depression. In other words, the causes may due to some biological makeup of the person or it may be as a result of some outside events.
If all this sounds too clinical or even cold, bear with it. It is important to lay the foundation of what we’re dealing with and what can be done about it.
The number one thing to know: depression is treatable. The number one barrier to treatment is fear. Fear is powerful and gains momentum with the social disgrace surrounding psychological issues. The very things that worsen depression result from this toxic combination of fear and judgement: isolation, rejection, negative self-talk and image, and believing the lies that you are not good enough, strong enough, and that people would be better off without you.
These spiritual lies attach themselves to our thoughts and emotions and help create a perfect storm for depression.
Next week: Breaking the lies.
More in the series:
Andy Becker is a retired counselor and author of The Travelers, a fictionalized account of spiritual warfare (available on Amazon). He and his wife, Stella, lead Lighthouse Ministries which offers love, hope, and encouragement to one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods, North Central Regina. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca