Finding Beauty in the Mess of Depression

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This morning I spoke at a local MOPS Group about Depression- It’s  hot topic- so I thought I’d share my notes here. Disclaimer: I am not an LPC. I am sharing from my experience, research and experience as a pastoral counselor. 😉

What depression is:  A biochemical problem. “Depression is like riding your bike in the wrong gear- it makes everything harder.” (Thats how depression feels to me.) Treatment puts the bike in the correct gear- but you still have to keep pedaling. 

Some describe depression as “living in a black hole” or having a feeling of impending doom. However, some depressed people don’t feel sad at all—they feel lifeless, empty, and apathetic. Others feel angry, aggressive, and restless.

Whatever the symptoms, depression is different from normal sadness in that it engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief. (Helpguide.org)

What depression isn’t:

  • A spiritual failure.  You can’t just believe your way out of true depression.
  • Something to hide.
  • Something you have to live with. There is hope and help available.

Causes of depression:

  • Hormone shifts. Postpartum, Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and peri-menopause.
  • Biochemical imbalance — inherited or other cause. A depletion of brain chemicals.
  • Winter depression (also known as S.A.D: Seasonal Affective Disorder). When sunlight levels drop, sleep schedule problems and depression can develop.
  • Anger turned inward. When anger is “stuffed” it often exhibits itself as depression.
  • A normal response to a painful situation. (Grief) We all face grief of many types- depression is one of the phases of grief.
  • When circumstances don’t match expectations.
  • When needs are not being met. Sleep deprivation, physical needs, emotional, cognitive and spiritual needs.
  • Perfectionism- the frustration of not being able to be perfect- especially a perfect parent can cause depression.
  • Issues from your own childhood that emerge when you become a parent. ***
  • Hidden illness.  (Thyroid etc  Many body malfunctions can cause depression.

This is far from a comprehensive list.

Signs and symptoms of depression:***

  • Sadness, unhappiness, tearfulness
  • Sleeping excessively or being unable to sleep- 4:00 am wakeup
  • Lack of energy-
  • Loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed-
  • Irritability-
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating/decision making- I knew there was something wrong with me when I was standing in the toilet paper aisle of Target and could not decide on a brand. I ended up in tears. I am generally very decisive. This was NOT NORMAL.
  • Change in appetite/ weight
  • Physical discomfort/ aches and pains
  • Feelings of worthlessness/ emptiness
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Health risks of untreated depression:  stroke and heart attack risk increased, suicide. Other negative effects: relational- children, work-life, etc

Self- care:            If you are experiencing some symptoms of depression- but are generally still able to function at an acceptable level- here are some self care options to try and put your bike back in gear:

  • Physically:             Diet, Exercise & Sunshine- I admit- when I feel depressed- exercise is the last thing I want to do- however- it works. Also- When depressed- you may crave carbs- however unbalanced diet creates spikes and drops in good sugar that create a cycle of even more depression.
  • Spiritually:            Prayer/ study/Fasting Inspirational words can be uplifting. Take the time to read or listen to them. Stay involved with your spiritual community. Fight the tendency to withdraw- it will only make the depression worse.
  • Emotionally:         Make time for friendships, and fulfilling activities- like -music, art, anything you find creatively or cognitively stimulating.    

When do you need professional help?

  •             When depression affects your ability to function.
  •             When you consider hurting yourself or someone else.
  •             When you’re tired of being depressed.

Where to get help:

  •             Primary care physician- start here. Start with a physical and blood work to rule out illness or other imbalances.  Your Primary care physician can also give you a referral to a counselor or psychiatrist who accepts your insurance.
  •             Pastoral referral- Check with your local church- be brave ask for a referral- many churches have pastoral counselors and other resources of help.
  •             Insurance help line- Most insurance companies have a referral # on the back of your card. Don’t be afraid to use it.
  •             City/county services- Check online for your local mental health services. If you don’t have insurance there is still help available.
  •             911- In the event that you or someone you know is suicidal- Dial 911. Explain the situation- and they MUST take you to the hospital and the hospital MUST treat you if you are at risk or you are at risk of hurting someone else.

When someone you know needs help:

  •  Be prepared- (with a referral, resources, making those calls and going to appointments is scary- and complicated. Offer to go with them- or babysit.   etc.)
  • Be courageous. If you see a friend struggling with depression- be courageous enough to ask and help.
  • Be honest. If you see signs of depression in a friend- be honest. They may not even recognize it in themselves.
  • Be loving. You can’t and don’t have to solve all their problems- but loving and accepting a friend who’s struggling with depression is a gift that is invaluable. Allow them to be honest about how they’re feeling without judgment or comparison or trying to fix it. Listening is an act of  love.

Options in Care:

  • Meds – Be patient- there is no “happy pill.” Moat antidepressants 4-6 weeks to take full effect. Sometimes you need to try a few to find what works with your unique body chemistry. Keep in contact with your doctor. Make changes if needed. Meds are not always necessary- but if they are- there is no need to fear them or be ashamed. I wear glasses because I can’t see without them- I take zoloft because I can’t make enough serotonin to stave off depression. If I were diabetic I’d take insulin. There is no difference. It’s sometimes chemical. You can’t think your way out of a chemical imbalance.
  • Counseling- Takes time, Keep going! it’s also hard work- and worth it. If your counselor isn’t a good personality fit- change to a different one.
  • Holistic/ alternative care- aromatherapy, exercise, yoga, mediation, sunshine, Vitamin D, massage supplements.

How do you know it’s working? Depression lifting- is like the sun coming through the clouds- or burning off fog- it starts slowly and over time the light builds in intensity. It doesn’t go away over night.

Beauty in Depression? Yes.. there can be.

  • Depression is a warning that something is wrong. Either with your body, your situation or your mind. This can be a good thing. That warning can cause us to get the help we need. Read a bit about leprosy and you’ll discover that a life without pain leads to loss of life, limb and disfiguration. Pain is a warning. It is a good thing. (And it sucks.)
  • Depression can motivate us to make changes. Health changes, life changes that alleviate our pain.
  • Depression can be part of a creative personality/ process. Creatives can be particularly prone to depression- art often comes from dark places.
  • Can bring positive growth. When we get through depression by making healthy choices- we grow and change. This is a beautiful thing:)
  • Everyone experiences depression at one time or another. It’s a normal and natural part of grief of all kinds- in that sense- it means we loved something enough to be pained when it is lost.  Love- is a beautiful thing- even though it sometimes causes pain and ends in loss.

Where is God in my depression, does he even care?

There is an old joke about  a guy stranded in a flood on his roof- asking God fervently for help. A boat goes by and offers to rescue him- he refuses. “I’m waiting for God to rescue me.” A helicopter flies in and tries to help him- again- he refuses. Ultimately- he drowns and when he gets to heaven he asks God why he didn’t rescue him….

God answers: “I sent a helicopter and a boat!”

My point is- sometimes we want God to do some magical work and fix us- but he rarely does. And when we’re waiting for that magical moment- we may miss out on the help he is sending. Through his people, his word and the wisdom he gives to counselors and other medical professionals.

Even more than that- Jesus intimately understands depression.

Read his words – and see if you hear depression in them…

34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”  Mark 14:34-36

You can also read the Psalms to see how David dealt with his own bouts of depression.

Why does this matter? Because THere is no shame in depression. God understands and is compassionate to the depressed and broken hearted-

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[f] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”   Hebrews 4:14-16

He knows and understands depression. Jesus desires to be with us in our depression- through his people, his word, his presence and the wisdom he gifts counselors and medical professionals.

Dear Lord- I lift my own battle with depression and I pray for each one who reads that has their own. Let them know they are not alone. I pray that we’d do our part to pedal the bike- and do the things that put the bike in the right gear and make the ride easier- if not easy. I pray for your comfort and compassion. I pray for your provision of help. I pray for your light to shine in our darkest places. In Jesus name- amen.

The bottom line: there is beauty in GETTING THROUGH depression. It’s worth the work to get to the other side.

Resources:

Focus on the Family-

  •             www.focusonthefamily.com
  •             Referral services and other resources

Freedom from Depression Workbook

Dr Les Carter

Victory over Depression

Dr Bob George

From the MOPS Website: Search for

Women and Depression 
By Carrie Carter, M.D

Helping Moms Through Depression 
By Kristen Kill

American Psychiatric Association: General Resource: 
www.healthyminds.org

Am I Depressed? 

National Institute of Mental Health: Women and Depression: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/women-and-depression-discovering-hope/index.shtml

 Help.org 

Depression in Children: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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