The author of this blog is not in any way a medical or mental health provider.
The experiences recounted below are one person’s story of dealing with depression and anxiety.
If you or a loved one suffer from any medical, mental, emotional or spiritual illness or disease you should seek immediate professional help.
Many famous and historical people have wrestled with my old enemy, depression. Abraham Lincoln, Charles Spurgeon, and Robin Williams are only a few. Many more of us common, everyday folks wrestle with it too, myself included.
Upon my initial diagnosis in the mid-1990’s I was resistant to medication. My whole life I had been taught that a Christian, a true Believer, could praise, worship, pray and work the blues away. I had been semi-successful with this approach for over a decade. Praising God did make me feel better. Worshiping God did lighten my emotional burdens. Praying did give me relief. Working was a wonderful escape. Yet there came a time when these alone were no longer enough. When the doctor first spoke the words aloud, “Clinical depression” I wanted to get up and run out of his office. The word “clinical” made it sound so ominous.
But as he explained what clinical depression was I could quiet my mind to hear the potential benefits of trying medication. Chief among those reasons was the realization that clinical depression, though named that I am sure for a very good reason, could also be labeled “chemical depression” for it is the lack of the chemicals in the brain balancing that causes depression. Looking at it from that viewpoint helped me agree to try an antidepressant.
Warned that the antidepressant would take up to two weeks to start really working I was prepared for two weeks of no changes. Then within a week I woke up and it was as if a fog had lifted from my life. My apartment seemed more real. Getting ready to go out was not a chore but a joy. Once outside I looked at the colors around me in awe, it seemed like ages since I’d last seen color. My life went from being wrapped in a black and white fog to Technicolor and it seemed to have happened overnight.
There were months when I couldn’t afford the medication. And there were stretches of time I didn’t need it. But I also became very good at recognizing when I did need it. Along the way, I’ve stopped being embarrassed by being clinically depressed. It doesn’t mean my faith in God is weak or non-existent. It is a fragility of my human body.
As a child who grew up in a traumatic life it is reasonable to learn that the serotonin in my brain’s chemicals would get used up. As phases of good and bad would come and go the levels would go up and down. Eventually down used up all I had and down is where I stayed even when things were good in my life.
When my health began to deteriorate around 2004 anxiety crept up on me like a slithering vine. Panic attacks followed. I once left a cart full of groceries in the middle of a Wal-Mart because I was unable to fight the panic attack and knew if I stayed I’d end up screaming and not be able to stop. This time when I sought help the doctor added an anti-anxiety medication to my anti-depressant. I learned to think ahead and if I knew a particularly difficult time was ahead I made sure my prescriptions for neither medication lapsed. Then I lost the insurance coverage that covered my therapist and my psychiatrist and was shuttled to a different set with unrealistic restrictions. Unable to afford to continue I kept the prescriptions active and halved my dosage to make it stretch as long as possible. But one night I took my last pills.
It wasn’t long until the insomnia struck and I would go days without sleep, sometimes catching a two or three hour nap. The panic attacks were back as well. I was blessed that having had my psychiatrist and medical doctor collaborate in my care for eight years my medical doctor prescribed both the medications for me.
I woke up Sunday morning with that awful fog gone. Colors were colors again. There was joy in Mudville* again. The praise and worship at church reached deeper. The pastor’s words didn’t seem to swim toward me and fail to reach me. I drew in a breath and it went all the way inside me, not seeming to fill just the slightest bit of my lungs.
Lessons of life have taught me not to forsake my quiet time with God. Not to forsake worshipping with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And they have taught me not to deny myself access to the medication I need.
If you suffer with depression, anxiety, panic attacks, extreme phobias or any other mental disease/illness seeking help is grabbing hold of the lifeline being thrown to you. God heals, in my opinion, in four ways and one of those is through the knowledge He has allowed mankind to learn to create medications as well as other medical and scientific means to heal or help your life be more enjoyable. I am grateful.
*Reference to the poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, 1888.