Apr 21, 2010

Depression: Medicate or Meditate?

Before we begin this discussion about depression, I want to declare that this is a hot button for me. I will be expressing some very strong opinions based on my own life experiences.

Choosing medication as a treatment for depression has somehow become a debate amongst Christians. Many have expressed their opinion that depression is a spiritual issue, and can be healed by  a closer walk with God. {deep breath} THIS IS FALSE!  Yes God can heal anything he chooses.  Yes a strong faith is necessary to make it through depression.  NO it is not just a spiritual issue.

Look at this definition of depression from the Mayo Clinic:

"Depression is a medical illness that involves the mind and body. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply "snap out" of.  Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure."  It is believed that an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain causes depression. Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are chemical messengers that operate within the brain to influence mood. If these get out of balance, a person can become more sensitive to the onset of depression.

This is the issue.  If you have high blood pressure, you take medication to control it.  If you have diabetes, you take insulin to control it.  If you have a headache, you take an ibuprofen.  If you have cancer, you get chemotherapy treatments.  Why has depression been chosen as a disease that should not be treated with medication?

Friends if you are advising someone with depression that they should not be taking medication, you are doing them wrong.  You are standing in judgment.  And the consequences could be severe.  Suicide is highest among people with depression.

I have had over 5 different episodes of depression, 2 of them severe. Severe means that I couldn't function on a daily basis.  I slept for more than 12 hours in a day.  I sat still in a chair for the remaining 12 hours.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't concentrate on anything.   I have been on medication for each and every one of those episodes.  Even now, when it appears that life is normal for me, it is because I am on a precaution dose of that same medication.   

There is no shame in taking medication for depression!!

Now, let me step off my soap box before I fall down.  I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that, yes, there are spiritual aspects to depression.  Sin, guilt, and shame can play a major role.  A right relationship with God is crucial.  Faith in our healing Savior is, as always, a life preserver in any precarious time in our life.  My last bout of depression happened during a great time in my Christian walk.  I clung daily to the words of my God and Savior.  My bible was my constant companion, always on my lap, open to encouraging scripture.  It was during this time that I learned so much about what God wanted to teach me about myself.  It is during these times that God comes so near, you can almost feel his breath next to you.  You can read more about my story from that summer here.

I hope I haven't offended anyone with my very strong views on this subject.  God has allowed and provided many medical miracles.  Don't let a skewed understanding of depression keep you from seeking the treatment you need to fight this medical condition. 

I welcome your comments and feedback about this issue.  I have talked with many people who have been through the same experiences I have, and I am so very happy to talk to you more about it.  If you leave a comment, I promise I will stop by for a visit!  Thanks for listening!


If you feel you may be having symptoms of depression, please see your family doctor.  They can easily diagnosis this common problem and get you started on the road back to health!!

Symptoms of Depression 
  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren't going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it's obvious something isn't right. Others people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
Depression affects each person in different ways, so depression symptoms vary from person to person. Inherited traits, age, gender and cultural background all play a role in how depression may affect you.


Teri Lynne Underwood said...

Excellent post, my sweet friend. And much-needed words of truth. I commend you for bravely tackling this topic in such a loving and honest way. ((hugs)) And I take a mild anti-anxiety medication every day to help with migraine prevention and to prevent the anxiety attacks that seem to have become more prevalent the older I get.

Karen said...

Amen just keep tackling the big ones. You are so on a mission from God. I too have had bouts of depression but was never on meds until after my second baby and had a slight case of postpartum. Now that I have fibro....because of those brain transmitters, I am on two meds lyrica and cymbalta which also work for depression. There has also been a link between fibro and depression. I do have a funny.....when I was in college and I told the counselor that I thought I was depressed, he said, "Well, you are dressed and did your hair and makeup, so you must not be depressed!" I will never forget that! Blessings today for you and yours.

Chele said...

AMEN!!!! Cherie, I am a depression sufferer too. People think I'm crazy when I tell them that b/c I am a positive person and an encourager. However, I have to work hard at it! I've had 2 severe cases of depression too. You are so right on your whole post! I'm facebooking this too! People that I know IRL think I'm crazy when I say I need a Xanax... and then I feel stupid b/c of the looks I get. But, if I don't take one when having an anxiety attack... it just gets worse and worse. I believe that the devil works harder on the people who have depression which makes Christians think that it's only b/c your not close to the Lord! They are so wrong! Good for you for tackling these hard topics!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with depression when I moved. For a while I was doing very well treating it with diet, exercise, etc. After my father was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer I just couldn't handle it myself and finally admitted I needed the extra help. I've been on medication for about 6 weeks and it's helping so much!

Reflections From My Heart said...

Your post is excellent! I have suffered from severe depression for many years and I am currently struggling to get meds readjusted right now. That happens sometimes. The main point I'd like to make is that while there shouldn't be, there is NO shame associated with depression. For some people, even your Christian friends, it's like you brought it on yourself. There is no shame associated with high blood pressure or diabetes. Give us break, please!

Alicia said...

Thank you for tackling the hard subjects, like depression, that few people will talk about. I agree that medicine is needed when people are experiencing periods of deep depression. If you ever, ever go down into the pit again please, please reach out and grab hold to somebody. I'm here to talk if you ever need to, no judging.

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