Depression Part IIIposted on October 19th, 2012 / by Bob Hamp / 10 Comments
The Journey to Restoration
I have occasionally seen people completely set free from depression in a moment. But more often I have seen people join God on a journey of restoring all of the systems of their soul that have previously worked against them. The journey to freedom here is a renewing of your mind. If depression is a physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual condition, then we must learn how to surrender to the re-alignment of all of the systems of our being.
It is important at this stage that you remember something important from the first part of this series. No two cases of depression are alike. Therefore it is important that you not compare your journey to freedom with someone else’s journey. Mutual support is one thing, comparison and shame is something completely different.
In some cases the genesis of depression is a lifetime of processing thoughts and emotions in a certain way. Stuffing emotions or taking responsibility for things that are not your responsibility will eventually catch up with you. While God may heal the symptoms of your depression, it is important to learn to process life in new ways.
Sometimes early life experiences that remain un-processed can be the root of depression. Again, simply dealing with the symptoms and not learning how to grieve and interact with God around your pain and life circumstances can prevent you from maintaining a place of freedom.
In other situations, present life circumstances can eventually drive one into a cycle of depression. Connecting to God, and working through all the issues that are discussed in this post can help.
Because depression is a multi-dimensional condition, intervention can and should be done on multiple dimensions. The mind, the body, the emotions and your spiritual life all hold keys to change. As discussed in the last post, the spiritual part of your life is the key. But it is important to know how to cooperate.
I recommend that you not try to take this journey alone. Meet with a qualified person, who can help identify things that you yourself may still struggle to see. In the same way that you cannot pick yourself bodily up off the ground, you often cannot see with clarity things that a trusted and wise friend or professional can see from outside your skin. The more chronic or severe your circumstances the more I recommend that you deal with a professional in your journey.
Let’s look at each of these dimensions, beginning with the physical.
I begin with the physical because you live inside your body. Your brain, your body chemistry, your health and physical functioning become a filter for how you process everything that comes into your soul. Imagine if I asked you to read a book, but your eyes were bad, and you had no glasses or contact lenses. All the helpful information in the book would do you no good if you could not see it.
In the same way, often our physiology, including our hormones and our brain chemistry can function like a lens to our thoughts. All the most helpful information may come in through a lens of confusion, self-doubt, or self-hatred. In the same way I would recommend glasses for one with bad eyes, I recommend physical intervention for those struggling with depression.
I would like to make an overt statement regarding medicine and the world of faith. Using medicine to help with medical issues does not equal a lapse of faith, and depression is a medical issue. I am frequently frustrated with how we multiply shame instead of healing and support by equating the use of anti-depressants to “not trusting God.” God works through many means, including the appropriate use of medication.
The appropriate use of medication when it comes to depression is to understand the role that anti-depressants can play and to use them under medical supervision according to their design. First, just like a pair of glasses allows people to take in words on a page, medication can help someone arrive at a place where they can process the other elements of treatment for their depression. No one would ever criticize someone’s faith if they used glasses in order to read the Bible, and we should not criticize people who use medication in order to more clearly receive and process truth and input in their journey to freedom and healing.
The other issue relative to anti-depressant medication is to use it not as a life long supplement, but to think of it in the same way that we think of the little tire in the trunk of your car. This tire in not intended to become a permanent fixture, it is designed to get you to the place where you can get your real tire fixed. In most cases, your body chemistry can re-set itself with appropriate care. At this time, under medical supervision, you should look to wean yourself off of any medication that is intended for temporary help. The key with medication is to always work with a medical professional. Getting off a medication can cause problems if not done in accordance with your doctor’s care. Always remember your story is not someone else’s story, and you should not pattern your care after what someone else has experienced.
The other issue in the physical dimension of beating depression has to do with overall health. Standard processes like healthy eating, exercise and activity all help to rebuild your bodies normal functions. Simply walking allows not only exercise, but also exposure to sunlight which has proven to be a staple in treating certain kinds of depression. People often allow their depression to dictate their activity level, and reversing this is important in reversing the downward spiral. Get up and move. Go play. Especially when you feel like staring at the wall.
Eat well, and don’t give in to the preference for comfort foods. Remember the goal is not just to feel better, but to actually feel. Comfort foods are called comfort foods for a reason. They impact your body chemistry in a way to enhance a numbing effect. Eat balanced healthy meals, and steer clear from using food for comfort, or for excessive stimulus. Keep sugar and caffeine in healthy quantities. The rebound from these culinary stimulants can feed the downward spiral.
Emotionally, learn to recognize your own emotional vocabulary and style. Some of the struggle has to do with giving in to the tyranny of our current emotions and some of the struggle may be connected to the need to process appropriately old emotions.
Again, this is an area where often people of faith can harm each other instead of help each other. We have for years told each other that our feelings lie to us. I categorically DO NOT believe this. The dilemma is not our feelings, it is our beliefs. Our feelings do not lie to us, any more than the gauges on your dashboard lie to you. Our feelings will always tell you the truth about what you believe. When we ignore our feelings, we often ignore the indicators that can help us really target the core beliefs that have hijacked our hearts.
Learn to understand what your emotions are telling you. Learn how to grieve. Grieving is simply the processing of our pain. If pain is not processed, it simply lies dormant until it boils over into some kind of symptomatic expression. Often our depression can be an emotional response to prevent us from feeling legitimate pain. Processing that pain appropriately gives the depression permission to stop doing its job.
And finally, let’s look quickly at the cognitive components of depression. Because the chemistry of the mind and the emotional elements of your soul are engaged in your depression, you may find that your thoughts are confused, or even inordinately negative. This would suggest that a few changes can help as you learn to cooperate with God on your journey to healing.
Do not watch too much television, unless it is specifically to help you learn about and conquer your depression. Television puts the mind in a hypnotic state, and adds to the numbing effect of depression. Also, much of television programming is built around subtle messages that in many cases simply do not contribute to the healthy renewing of your mind. I have likened much television to eating Styrofoam. It fills up space but has no nutritional value whatsoever.
Do read. Reading actually uses an active process of your mind, instead of the passive process of television viewing. Don’t just read. Read on purpose. Read helpful truth. Read inspiring stories. Read biographies of overcomers. Read things that make you think differently. Engage your brain and engage it on purpose.
None of the suggestions here are intended in any way to be a complete course of action. Please remember to enlist the help of a trusted professional. Do not isolate yourself, and search out resources that are suited to your life and circumstances. And never stop hoping.