318. Living with Treatment Resistant Depression

Depression is predicted to be the second most common illness in the United States by 2010. Clinical depression – not situational depression – affects some 15 million adults a year. That’s a lot of people suffering with chronic symptoms, many of whom wish they had a terminal disease instead.

Ten to thirty percent of those diagnosed with clinical depression fall into the category of treatment resistant depression. For these poor souls, taking an antidepressant or going to psychological counseling (psychotherapy) may not help much if at all, and symptoms may improve only to keep coming back.

I’m not about to list all the options for treatment resistant depression but to suggest one way of living with it. Accept your condition as if you had diabetes, Crohn’s disease, or paralysis from the waist down, experiencing ups and downs perhaps for the rest of your life. Once you give up on finding a cure, you can experience peace amidst your great sorrow.

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317. The Death of Robin Williams

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The Following article was posted yesterday on Focus on the Family about Robin William’s suicide. On a personal note,  a good friend who was a serious Christ-follower committed suicide four years back, and I believe with all my heart that he is in heaven. He didn’t kill himself. The spirit of depression did.

The death of comedian Robin Williams has reignited something of a nationwide conversation about suicide and mental health. After all, most know someone whose life has been touched or severely impacted by depression. My own wife, Jean, lost a brother to suicide and Jean herself has shared that she struggled with bouts of depression earlier in our marriage.

Here at Focus on the Family our counselors talk with severely depressed people every day. In fact, suicide-related calls have skyrocketed in the past few years.

It’s a somber subject, not the type of topic to try to understand or process with well-worn clichés or pop psychology.

Just the other day, in the aftermath of Williams’ death, popular Christian writer Ann Voskamp described it this way:

Depression is like a room engulfed in flames and you can’t breathe for the sooty smoke smothering you limp – and suicide is deciding there is no way but to jump straight out of the burning building … You don’t try to kill yourself because death is appealing – but because life is agonizing. We don’t want to die. But we can’t stand to be devoured.

But Ann is writing about the non-Christian, right? Doesn’t Christianity and the hope and love it produces somehow inoculate the believer from the ravages of depression and mental illness?

If only.

I know some Christians have made just such a claim, that it’s merely “mind over matter” or a matter of thinking more positively in the face of adversity. As the logic goes, if we simply don’t conform or cave to the patterns of this world we’ll be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

The apostle Paul’s words still ring true, but I think to try and suggest that faith in Jesus immunizes us from all the bad things of this world is a gross misapplication of Scripture. To those who are inclined to quote Romans 12, I would remind them of Paul’s reference to having “a thorn in the flesh” (Cor. 12:7). There are many times we’re faced with afflictions far beyond our desire and control.

This is because we’re not one-dimensional people, but rather creations comprised of body, mind and spirit. And ever since the fall, we’re vulnerable to attacks in all three of those areas of life. A Christian is no less susceptible to mental illness than to diabetes. Yes, God can help us overcome the plagues of this life, and that is the Good News of what we believe as Christians.  It is really this simple, there is hope in Christ.

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316. The Lost Year

The year 2007 started with major, major depression and ended with a shoulder replacement. The summer of that year, when I tried to withdraw from klonopin, was the worst three months of my life.

But in that lost year, I did not curse God and die. Instead, I moved closer to Him, for that was my only hope. At the time, it was the worst year of my natural life, but it was perhaps the best year of my spiritual life.

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315. An Invisible Illness Can Be Hard to Understand

There are no handicap parking stickers for people with depression, no leg braces or casts, no crutches or wheelchairs. It’s an invisible illness. The symptoms can be observed but some suggestions to overcome depression can be as patronizing as telling a person with diabetes to suck it in and get over it.

“Just smile and be happy,” is a comment that indicates the person saying it has no idea what depression is all about. Another of my favorites is, “You got yourself into it; you can get yourself out of it.” A friend of mine who has been depressed since the age of sixteen has told me he favors a one-visit solution to treating depression. “You walk into a counselor’s office and tell him you are depressed. He slaps you in the face as hard as he can and tells you to ‘just snap out of it.’ It works every time,” my friend says, while laughing malevolently.

Depression is not an addiction or temporary condition. I’m talking about Continue reading

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314. More Depression in the World Today

The rate of antidepressant use in the United States rose by 400 percent between 1988 and 2008, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some reasons why:

  1. There is much more awareness these days of mental illnesses.
  2. The prevalence of frosted flakes, Big Macs, and other processed foods in our diets.
  3. The increase of environmental toxins in the world
  4. The lack of human connectedness and interdependence, especially amongst young adults, thanks to video games, iPads, texting, and other technological advances that take us away from face-to-face personal interaction.
  5. The breakdown of family and social structures and community support. More and more people are becoming loners.
  6. And the biggest one of all: increased stress in our lives, including lost jobs, family breakups, and wars and rumors of wars.
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313. Forgetting Yourself

C. S. Lewis

Owen Barfield wrote of C. S. Lewis: “At a certain stage in his life, he deliberately ceased to take any interest in himself…I suggest what began as deliberate choice became at length (as he no doubt always intended it should) an ingrained and effortless habit of soul.

C. S. Lewis had reasons to be depressed – a languishing career at Oxford, a contentious old woman he took care of in his home, his brother an alcoholic, and the death of his beloved wife to cancer. But his life was not found in the circumstances of his life. He discovered his greater self in Jesus Christ and the people in his life. Forgetting yourself is a good antidote to depression and other dark places.

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312. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize is a folk song that became popular during the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. It could just as well be a marching song for following Jesus.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:21 that, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In the previous verse He admonishes His disciples to “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven.” The notes in my wide-margin Bible, dated November 7, 2006, ask Jesus to let me see only heaven that day. I was in the early stages of depression at the time, with the worst to follow. It was like having a cold that later turned into pneumonia. What seeing only heaven meant at that time, I didn’t know, but I learned it in the crucible of my suffering.

God did not cause my depression, but He allowed it, and in the darkness He taught me that He was the light to bring me out of depression. I was in the classroom of depression for four years before the lesson was firmly learned – to keep my eyes on the prize through good times and bad. My graduation present was His leading me out of the most horrible affliction I’ve ever experienced.

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