Published on November 18th, 2013 | by Nathaniel0
Health: Is Depression Real for the Person of Faith?
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “depression”?
If you’re like me, maybe you picture a downtrodden Eeyore traipsing through a Winnie the Pooh cartoon, bringing the morale of every scene to a deafening low. Or maybe you picture a Zoloft commercial showing how a once isolated middle-aged lady, who noticeably resembles one of the Golden Girls, is now watering her blossoming garden. But what does the face of depression really look like?
As people of faith, we’ve polarized any mental-health-related issue as contradictory to our faith. Any talk of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, or any disease that affects our minds for that matter, is regarded as “anti-Christian.” We exist in a Christian-culture where it’s perceived as contradictory for anyone of faith to struggle with mental health issues. It seems that the world has this built-in view that Christianity was intended to be a safeguard against the harsh realities that come with human existence. The remedy for your depression? More God. More prayer. More fasting. More Joel Osteen. More yada yada yada, right? Don’t get me wrong, God’s Word has the power to heal and the tools mentioned above are all ways He can work to manifest healing, but at the root- there is often times also a chemical imbalance that causes our brain to become out of sync with our mind.
Last week marked one year since I’ve been working to overcome a chronic disease. In the past few weeks I’ve made significant amount of progress and I am so grateful to God because I know the full-manifestation is on its way. This year, the condition worsened to the point that I couldn’t leave my apartment without feeling like electrical shocks or burning pins and needles were running through my body. This included a combination of physical stimuli such as heat, physical activity and the sun, but also emotional stimuli. The exact diagnosis a little tricky because it intersected multiple components of my body- my digestive system, my endocrine system, my rheumatalogical system, my autonomic nervous system, and my mind.
The physical reactions I experienced were at one point so integrated with my mind that just thinking a certain thought could trigger painful hives and burning shocks through my body. This included laughing, blushing, excitement, suspense, any form of stress- just watching a movie was difficult, let alone having a phone conversation or walking outside and interacting with the world around me. During this period, I learned that is was easier to just isolate myself in my apartment- I went a period of months without seeing my family. I remember going four days without stepping outside of my apartment- I would leave only for doctor appointments or early morning grocery shopping. I decided it was easier to spend holidays alone; I went to the point of turning my phone off for the entire duration of my birthday because my body couldn’t handle the emotions that came with people taking the time to wish me a “Happy Birthday.”
In this time period that I was so cut off from the world around me, my mental state deteriorated. I didn’t know how to rationalize it- but despite reading my morning devotional, spending time with God every day, having family and friends pray with me, and reading the Word, I would still wake up in the morning with negative thoughts swarming me like piranhas. I felt like I was being attacked in every sense of the word- my physical body, my mental body, and my spiritual body.
I didn’t even know how to describe what was going on to my doctors because it made no sense to me. It wasn’t until I emailed my internist and detailed my experience that he prescribed an anti-depression medication to use in conjunction with my other meds. It was only then that I begin to experience the physical manifestation of healing that I know God had in store for me.
I can say that my experience as a person of faith, and a black man has showed that people of faith are reluctant to acknowledge that depression encompasses someone’s physical body as well as their spiritual/mental body. Particularly in the black community, depression is relegated to the burrows of topical discussions. It’s as if it doesn’t even exist.
Depression is real. Suicide doesn’t lie. And the remedy isn’t just a Christian “happy-meal.” We need to be open and honest with ourselves and those around us- because how can we receive healing if we fail to acknowledge that there’s something even wrong?
Later this week, I’ll be releasing another post about how I’ve been working with my two teams of doctors, so please subscribe and stay tuned 🙂
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We’d love to hear your thoughts- do you think Christians are open and honest about depression?