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When Robin Williams died, there was a lot of discussion about his battle with depression and chemical dependence, ending in the ultimate despair of suicide. At the time, this incident, along with our gloomy weather, my lack of a job, some family issues “back home”, and my sudden “empty nest” began to depress ME! Whenever I feel like this from circumstances, my soul knows it needs God and His Word. I was experiencing basic sadness and spiritual hunger. There was a short season in my life, though, when it was more than that. I experienced the clinical kind of Depression after having three children in close succession, was diagnosed with Moderate Depression, and submitted to taking medication at that time.

In addition to being a situational, spiritual, or emotional issue, Depression can stem from a medical/physical deficiency. I have a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Masters in Counseling, so I certainly advocate for, and see merit in, seeking out professional mental health help when needed, but I also see the tremendous value and necessity in seeking healing and comfort from God.

Christians often fall on the side of erring to seek medical help for Depression. Secular people often fall on the side of erring to seek spiritual reconciliation and comfort from God when treating Depression. Both aspects of one’s life need to be addressed. Christians can have a good relationship with the Lord, and still be depressed. They may need medication to overcome depression. Non-Christians may seek the medical help, but completely neglect to seek out God and address their spiritual needs.

I can hear a few Christians at this point saying Depression is solely a spiritual or sin issue, and that the only way to deal with Depression is to repent and read scripture. That is a simplistic and insensitive response. My experience, both personally and with other people I have known or worked with in a counseling situation, is that it is much more complex than just getting right with God or just taking some pills. If someone is clinically depressed, only addressing their spirit will not result in a healthy mental state. On the contrary, giving them only medication is not enough. Good counseling and true connection to God, in addition to the needed prescription, is what it often takes to be whole again. The complexity of mental health is actually not even as simple as that…someone may need exercise, sleep, a better diet, companionship, and purpose to name a few factors that could be involved.

I felt horribly guilty as a Christian when I experienced Depression (a Christian with favorable circumstances – a husband, a home, good health, good church, friends, etc.). I took a test at the doctor’s office, and she diagnosed me as “moderately depressed”. She explained to me that I could not “pull myself up by my bootstraps” and get over it on my own. There was a chemical imbalance and it was a medical issue that could be dealt with through the proper medication for a relatively short period of time. I had not been thinking of suicide, but I had thought my family would be better off without me. I contemplated just driving away and disappearing, even though I loved each person in my home very much. I sincerely thought my depression was ruining their life.

I took the anti-depressant medication and did everything else I could to be healthy and whole. I stayed plugged in to my young mom’s Bible study group and sought the Lord on a daily basis. I was up-front with my family and close friends, so they knew what was going on and could be supportive. Medication was not the ultimate cure-all one would hope for because it did come with side-effects, but it did balance me out and keep me from leaving my family, or worse. The medication made me “even keeled”, but I didn’t experience emotion to the right or to the left, and after a while I wanted to be back to “normal” and cry at a sad movie, or laugh hard at something funny, so I tried to go off. I learned that coming off of an anti-depressant is a dangerous thing when done wrong. I had to wean off of it slowly. Eventually, after almost two years, I got there and depression became a part of my past. The medication helped to replenish the hormone that had been depleted through 5 years of pregnancy, childbirth, and loss of sleep.

With a national focus on mental illness and depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide, I hear people saying we need better mental health services. This is true in our country and very true in the Mat-Su. It sounded, though, like Robin Williams sought out the best mental health treatment he could find, but it wasn’t enough. I wonder if he pursued the spiritual healing every soul needs. I am not passing judgment. I just have not heard that he explored that part of his life. Depression is such a complex problem – as complex as the human experience. Life is too important to spend it in the shackles of any level of Depression. We must be honest with ourselves and one another and encourage one another to seek the help we need from our doctors, our mental health professionals, and our God. We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking that addressing only one aspect of ourselves will fix this – the total person must be considered.

The issue cannot be adequately discussed here in 1,000 words or less. If you, or a loved one, is experiencing symptoms of depression, I encourage you to seek help (mental health, medical, and spiritual help). Don’t go it alone. Don’t just pop anti-depressants, don’t just get counseling if you’ve been advised to take medication by a doctor, and don’t neglect your relationship with God. Take care of your total self and find wholeness and healing. There is help and there is hope.

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