I had a young minister ask me recently about what I believed as far as Christians taking anti-depressants, etc. Here is my response:
First and foremost is this: THE CURE FOR DEPRESSION IS PURPOSE. (Sometimes I refer to it as “GETTING A CAUSE”). When you get a RENEWED DRIVE, it “drives away depression”. It may come back, but the feeling of purposing to DO something, BE something or ACCOMLISH something is the human beings natural anti-depressant. Sometimes the individual has to search diligently for that purpose. Do you like painting, raising a garden, would you be into bicycling or volunteering at a daycare, etc. etc. etc. Find your “reason”. Ultimately one of the greatest “reasons” or “purposes” for someone to get, is to help someone else. Feed the hungry, give coats to the cold, raise money for missions, teach people a skill. Hold babies, read a book to a kid, visit the shut ins. There is a CAUSE that rises up in someone when they do for someone else. With that cause comes purpose and that purpose drives away depression.
Let’s look at a few scriptures.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (KJV)
1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
In these verses the term meek in verse one means- of low self esteem. Then the term mourn means- sorrowful. Also, the term heaviness means- “being pushed down or held down; depressed. DEPRESSED!
Depression is a very real, very legitimate crisis in the lives of many men, women and children today. The biggest problem with it seems to be that many cannot agree on what causes it or where it comes from.
Let me ask a question. If you had something very bad wrong with you, would you be more concerned about the cause or the cure?
When I was a boy I had fever and was very sick to my stomach. My parents ended up taking me to the hospital. The doctor ran some tests and gave me some penicillin or something and within several hours I was better. The doctor came in and said that my parents could take me home. I remember asking, “What was it that I had Doc?” He said that he didn’t know for sure. Now do you think that I slumped down in the hospital bed, folded my arms in defiance and said, “I ain’t leaving until I know what I had”? NOOOOOO! I didn’t care what it was. I was just thrilled that it was gone.
I believe that there is too much guessing about what causes depression and not enough understanding of what cures it.
Millions of things can cause depression. But what can cure it? Read the verses at the top again.
In these verses there are three things that are always involved in the “cure”. Action (anointing, binding, sending, opening, proclaiming, comforting, proclaiming), something positive, (good tidings, liberation, comfort, acceptance, beauty, joy) and God, (The spirit of God, The Lord, The spirit of The Lord).
There are people trying each of the three components or a combination of two, without the other. It helps at times. But it doesn’t seem to give the breakthrough that they are needing.
If you look up some books or programs about depression you will find many on excersize, activity, etc. You will find many on thinking positive, speaking positive, etc. And you will find many about meditation, positive energy, prayers, God, etc. The reason for all of these is because they all found a key ingredient to what God says, cures depression. And each ingredient is helpful in it’s own way. But any individual ingredient isn’t the cure.
Sometimes depression is truly something physical. Possibly a chemical imbalance, etc. Primarily when this happens, it is diagnosed as bipolar. One of the biggest problems with that is that bipolar is probably one of the most diagnosed diagnosis in history. And it will most likely continue to be because there is no test to prove if someone has bipolar or not. They diagnose solely on symptoms but the symptoms are never exclusive to bipolar.
Let me give you a few radical, but realistic, examples. Drug addiction has the same symptoms as bipolar. You get a non-normal level of a high that causes a mania that lasts for anywhere from a few minutes up to several days and then you have an extremely abnormal depressive low that can last up to a year per episode. That sounds like I was describing manic-depressive disorder or in modern terms, bipolar. But I wasn’t, I was describing what it’s like to be on meth, crack or heroine. You wouldn’t believe the things that have the same symptoms as bipolar.
Committing a crime and trying to cover it up, post partum depression, cheating on your spouse. These are all things that have an extreme chemical based high, that is created in the brain and then a very low point that lasts much longer that the high. This long low spot is a feeling that occurs through a natural reaction between the brain chemicals and the nervous system.
BUT, these things are not considered physical ailments as such. Some of these things are merely natural course and others are more of a moral/conscience reaction to an abuse of relations between man and God, man and man or man and nature. Of course when you have a morality problem and it causes a physical side affect and then you go to a doctor, a doctor will not diagnose morality. But he has to diagnose you with something. It is his/her job. So what better thing to diagnose you with than something that no one can prove them wrong. So they diagnose you with depression and prescribe:
Zoloft, Xanax, Pristiq, Adavan, Buspar, Lithium, Celexa, Clonozopam, Dilantin, Effexir, Haldol, Paxil, Prozac, Ritalin, valium Wellbutrin….and many more!
And by the way, there are two things that all of these drugs have in common. #1 They are all used to treat clinical cases of depression and #2 THEY ALL HAVE AS A PRIMARY SIDE EFFECT…DEPRESSION!
That’s right! One of the primary side affects of almost all depression medication is “can CAUSE depression”.
Here is the thing. You may have done something in your life, or something may have been done to you or you may have a temporary issue and you are excessively depressed. So you are prescribed something that can cause depression. So let us say that whatever caused your initial depression is removed as a stimulant in your life over a period of six months. You go back to the doctor for a check up and he wants to know if you are still depressed. You say yes. Perhaps (unknown to you) not because of your initial depression anymore. Perhaps now you are depressed as a side effect to your meds. So because you are STILL depressed on the lower dose, he/she decides to up the dosage. Hello?!?! Is anyone following this?
Truth be known, depression meds are supposed to be monitored very carefully with many interactions between doctor, patient and people within the life structure of the patient. This is the only way that I would go along with their use. Needless to say, most doctors, patients, parents, etc DO NOT monitor these meds enough for them to be able to be used correctly.
Ultimately Satan wants every one depressed. Depressed people are not working people, are not well functioning people, are more likely than any other people to worsen the mood of everyone around them. The opposite of depressed people are people that can be described with words like happy, victorious, winners, friendly, excited, strong, stable, enduring…Read the versed again at the top. (good tidings, proclaim liberty, comfort, beauty, joy)
I agree with many that there is a physical/chemical side and a mental/emotional side to depression but there is also a spiritual/moral side.
One great psychiatrist said this: “With guilt, of a necessity, comes depression.” Not to say that if you are depressed that you are automatically guilty of something but according to many top psychiatrists, lots of cases of depression are after affects of long term feelings of guilt.
Guilt comes in three forms-
#1 Godly guilt, which is called conviction. Convictions causes repentance which empowers us to have true change in our lives.
#2 Another guilt is called condemnation. Condemnation says things like, “You’ll never get it right. You’re always going to be like this. You’ll always be a failure. You are not cut out to succeed. And, You aren’t a good enough person.”
The difference between conviction and condemnation is simple. Conviction has the power to draw you near and condemnation has the power to push you away.
#3 The third and final guilt is a favorite tool of the Devil. It is humanistic guilt or self guilt. Some of you are falling for it right now. Self guilt says things like, “When I quit drinking I’m going to get right with God. When I quit doing drugs am going to start attending church. When I quit smoking, or buying pornography or when I stop fighting or stop lying, then I am going to clean my life back up.
This thought process has some tremendous flaws in it. First of all it starts with the premise that you have the power to make life better all by yourself…and you don’t. Secondly it imposes one of the greatest lies Satan ever told. That you have to be good to get saved. That you have to live right to go to church. That you have to earn God’s love and His forgiveness. None of this is accurate. The Bible says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Before I go on, let me say this, there is a word in the English language that is always associated with depression. That word is loneliness.
Loneliness is used as an attack against us but remember that loneliness was instilled by God FOR OUR BENEFIT. There is an auntomatic void, emptiness, “loneliness” within us that is supposed to be filled by our quest for a relationship with our maker. If it is not, then we must try to fill it with something. Fame, fortune, popularity, sexuality, drugs, intoxicants, lying, cheating, stealing, gambling, cruelty to animals or other humans…anything to try to get a high good enough to forget that we are miserable because of our loneliness.
Obviously, none of these things can replace God. Because loneliness is “built in”, some people can be in a perfectly crowded room with hundreds of people that are their friends and loneliness can set in. So loneliness caused by depression is not necessarily a need to be with others but a need to feel accepted, loved and ultimately to feel “right”. The amazing thing is…God offers all of that!
Now, all real “treatments” for depression have a common idea to them. The purpose idea. Gut up, learn something, believe something, do something, be something and become something. All treatments...except drugs.
As far as the medications themselves are concerned I will say this. There are 2 or 3 major classifications of anti-depressants. The ones that are most commonly used are also the most dangerous.
If someone is going to take anti-depressants, I personally, would only agree to it if certain criteria was met. First, find a physician that speaks clearly and communicates well and often about the different classifications. A doctor that tries to avoid the more aggressive drugs, especially in the beginning. One who starts with low doses and DISCONTINUES DRUGS BEFORE TRYING NEW ONES instead of just “adding” meds.
Also, I would not trust a doctor to treat anyone for depression that did not do two very important things. #1 Prescribe healthy activity/exercise as well as healthy and moderate sleep and diet (and not follow through on drug treatment without following through with these categories as well). And #2 ALWAYS start with a short term plan of using the meds to get through a “time in your life” and then back off of them for a long enough period of time to see how you re-adjust before trying any other prescriptions.
As most people that have been around depression know, these ideas are EXACTLY how depression treatment is supposed to work AND, in most cases, this is NOT how it is being done.
If you are reading this and have or do suffer with depression, please understand something. Depression is a part of life. EVERYONE has battles with depression at different times and to different degrees. You are not bad or broken because you have depression. You are actually NORMAL if you have depression.
Some of the greatest men in the Bible had severe bouts with depression. Don’t you see the signs of horrible depression in 1st Kings Chapter 19 when the great and accomplished Prophet of God, Elijah, requests to die? Study the lives of Noah, David, Moses and Jonah, just to name a few. Study them, thinking of two things. #1 Were they depressed? And #2 The arch enemy of depression is PURPOSE! You will be amazed at what you find.
SO! Get up, learn something, believe something, do something and become something…FOR GOD! Work for it, plan for it, push for it and don’t settle for anything less. Your plan, your path and your emotional prosperity doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It just has to work and it must keep you above helplessness.
You must make progress. Some form of progress. There IS a formula for you that will involve some level of positivity, a high degree of action and activity and a full dose of God.
I will note one other thing. If you take any of these depression meds and you feel “inspired” to get off of them; You need to get off of them in a proper incremental manner. Quitting cold turkey is VERY DANGEROUS. Even though all doctors claim that these drugs are classified as non-addictive, that is very deceptive. The same doctors that call these drugs non-addictive will also strongly warn you to wean yourself off of them under the supervision of a medical professional because of the harsh and even life threatening side effects of stopping them all at once.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II-B for a couple of decades and I DID find a mild dose of a natural salt substance that can be purchased in pill form that helps me a lot in conjunction with good diet, exercise and sleep regimen. When I continue all of them together I am always much better. I struggled with extreme manic depressive activity all of my life. I have counseled many people that have gone through similar trials and I have found that near 80% of them needed no chemicals what so ever to have full health. I have also found that ALL of them were capable of full or near full health with no more than these practiced principles and ONE medication. The average 40 and under person in America that is being treated with anxiety and or depression by a medical professional is on SEVEN medications. One of the latest ones that I have worked with is on nineteen meds from 5 different doctors! There is a better way.
This is my answer to a question from a minister peer. This is a life//relationships/conservative/Christian/Ministerial advice blog, not a medical profession blog.
Your humble servant,
Rev. D. Todd Sloggett