Disease called Depression
It affects 19 million Americans each year and costs more than $23 billion
in lost work days and decreased productivity. It’s the disease called
Depression. And it spite of the fact that the new medications to treat it
target specific chemicals and pathways in the brain, many people still
believe that depression can be overcome by prayer, exercise and positive
Nothing could be further from the truth, especially for people who suffer
from something called endogenous ( end odge I nuss ) depression, the kind
that comes from within the person, the kind that’s always there, even if
the person gets a new lease on life through treatment.
Like diabetes or arthritis, this type of lifelong depression is a disease.
But in spite of the research, in spite of the proof to the contrary, most
of us, including well-meaning doctors and ministers, hang on to the
out-dated and deadly belief that endogenous depression is something that
can be overcome by willpower or faith alone.
The advice takes many forms: Exercise, you’ll feel better. Do something
for someone else. Cheer up! Go to church. Pray. Or, from those people who
believe that depression is a form of malingering or sheer laziness: Pull
Get over it.
The trouble is, the person suffering from lifelong depression can’t
simply “get over it” anymore than the man with heart disease can
recover from a heart attack by willpower and faith alone. Would an ethical
doctor tell a woman with uncontrolled diabetes to cure herself? Would an
ethical minister advise a teen in the grip of an acute asthma attack to do
nothing but pray? Ironically, the depressed person buys into a lot of this
nonsense, particularly when it comes from someone the person recognizes as
an authority – like a minister or a doctor. When people in these
positions are misinformed, or hold obsolete beliefs about so-called
“mental” illness, they can, with the best of intentions, do terrible
Too often, the depressed person does try to just “get over it”,
because they believe in their heart they ought to be able to. They fail,
and they feel more worthless than ever. The depression gets worse. The
person may withdraw from life entirely, or try to treat him or herself
with alcohol, drugs, or both, adding addiction to depression. Sometimes
the person resorts to the greatest tragedy of all, taking his or her own
life, a rising trend among the young and the elderly.
The depressed person needs expert help, quickly. This means finding a
health care provider who understands that depression is a disease that
requires medical treatment. It means finding a doctor who has current,
complete knowledge of modern anti-depressant medications. It may mean
fighting with an HMO or insurance company that’s stuck in the past.
Finding a doctor, fighting for benefits, affording medication, sticking
with therapy—just seeking and staying with treatment can overwhelm the
person with severe depression. Add to that the humiliation of being
perceived by family, friends, employer – and self -- as someone who’s
“crazy”, and the agony can become unbearable. And so, more than
anything else, the depressed person needs someone who cares enough to make
sure they get the treatment they need.
Untreated, the disease called depression can ruin the life of the
depressed person and everyone close to him or her. It breaks up marriages,
friendships and families; it costs people their jobs; it can lead to
addiction. And it can, and does, kill, when the sheer weight of living
through one more hour finally becomes impossible to endure and there is no
other means of escape from the pain. And the tragic thing is that it
doesn’t have to be that way.
If you’re suffering from depression, please call someone right now and
ask them to help. If you know someone who’s seriously depressed, don’t
kid yourself into thinking they’ll snap out of it. Help them get help.
Please. Do it now -- before it’s too late.
Good About Yourself
”Being cheerful keeps you healthy.
It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.” Proverbs 17:22 Good
Even the so-called scientific experts are coming to understand what most
people have always known in their hearts—there are certain activities
that just make us feel good about ourselves. Have
you tried any of these lately?
Prayer, especially prayer that gives thanks, or is meant to
relieve another person’s pain or concern
Helping others, no matter how small or seemingly trivial the act
may seem, give a little of yourself to someone else every day
Walking, or if you are unable to walk, just being outside, or
near an open window. Open
your eyes, your ears, your nose. See
the Miracle of Creation in the most ordinary things, the iridescence of
a pigeon’s wing; the intricate craftsmanship of a spider’s web; the
endless variations of cloud shapes in the sky; the lush fragrance of
Gardening – become part of the natural course of life itself,
prepare the soil, even if it’s a single pot – feel the texture and
warmth of the soil, smell its rich fragrance; plant the seed or sprout,
tamp it into its bed; nourish the new life, give it food and water,
encourage its growth with pruning and love; harvest the fruit or flowers
or seeds; renew the cycle.
Loving an animal.
Driving with no particular destination.
See the familiar with new eyes, go somewhere new.
Find a peaceful spot for a picnic.
the experience with someone, a child, a spouse, a life-mate, a parent, a
friend. If you can’t
share the experience, share the result.
The Bible is rich with references to food and fellowship, the
sharing of food and drink with others.
If there is no one close to you, donate to a church or shelter.
Reading spend quiet
time with a book, something inspirational or simply cozy and pleasant,*
paint a picture, paint a room, paint a car; build a shelf, sew,
knit, craft, upholster, the choices are endless.
Try something new. Enjoy the act of creating itself, the planning, the steps,
the end result, even if it’s not “perfect”.
Guidelines for Spiritual Well-Being
I believe that good physical health and spiritual, emotional and mental
well-being are all part of the whole. Although the world stresses
physical fitness, there is evidence all around us that spiritual
well-being can be more important to good health and a fulfilling life
than absence of disease or disability.
”A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up
the bones.” – Proverbs 17.22 NRSV
I have been privileged to know some of these people: a nurse with MS (
multiple sclerosis ) who is training to be a Nurse Practitioner; a
doctor with a muscle disease who has been a pioneer in modern
respiratory therapy, medical ethics and rural medical care; a young
woman with debilitating migraine headache who poured her love into the
children at a day care center every day; a doctor who overcame an
addiction that almost cost him his medical license to become an
inspiration to all those who came in contact with him.
What is their secret? They
are all Christians with a close daily connection to God and to Jesus
Like them, you can restore and expand your sense of well-being with
these simple guidelines:
Treat all persons well –
make eye contact, smile, say a few friendly words, wish them, a good
Love others as God loves
you – even if you don’t like everything they do.
Only God is perfect.
When you stumble, ask God to forgive and to help you do better
next time. Forgive yourself-- and move on.
Don’t wallow in self-condemnation and self-pity.
Learn to love yourself in a healthy way.
Don’t forget, you are the work of God – how can you condemn that
which God loves?
Most important of all --
get yourself off your mind! Each morning, ask yourself how you can be a blessing to one
person that day. Watch for
opportunities. Your heart
will swell, you’ll smile more, you’ll like yourself more, be more
content, more confident.
In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus tells us to: “Love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the
greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important
commandment is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
In God’s Image – Taking Care of Yourself
In this second millennium, humankind is both blessed and cursed by an
abundance of information about health and wellness such as never before
been available. Making sense of it all can be a full-time job. Although
it’s not practical to repeat information about specific conditions or
their treatments here, I can share some pointers with those of you who
want to take charge of your health.
for yourself and your actions. Seek strength and guidance from God, and
from His Son, Jesus Christ. Ask others to support you with prayer and
understanding. But only you can say no to the offer of a cigarette. Only
you can turn down that box of greasy fries. Only you can go for a walk.
Only you can keep that appointment for a physical, examine your breasts
or testicles for lumps, have your blood pressure taken. Only you can
take the medications you’re supposed to take. Only you can buckle that
seat belt, put on a bike helmet. It’s your body and your life. Take
Educate yourself about
staying well. Stay informed about any condition you might have. Be sure
your sources are good, recognized, legitimate sources of health
information. Too many people rely on the advice of well-meaning friends,
neighbors and co-workers. Your hairdresser may be a wonderful source of
support, but he or she is not a doctor. The co-worker who sells
supplements on the side is ( usually ) not a pharmacist. Find a doctor (
MD or DO ), nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who is caring,
confident, knowledgeable and a good fit for your personality and
beliefs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take notes if you need to.
Do what your doctor
tells you to do. Otherwise you’ve wasted his or her time and your time
and money. If the doctor and the pharmacist tell you to take a pill
everyday or finish a prescription, do it, even if you feel better. If
the advice is to go to physical therapy three days a week, go three days
a week. All of us at one time or another have chosen not to follow our
doctor’s orders and then complained when we didn’t get better. On the
other hand, if you’ve done everything you’re supposed to, and you’re
getting worse or nothing’s happening, tell your doctor! He or she can’t
”Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; for
their gift of healing comes from the Most High.” – Sirach 38:1-2 NRSV
moderation. Old advice and so dull, especially in this revved up age we
live in. But, oh so true! Have one helping, not two or three. Have one
glass of wine, not four. Do one thing at a time. Drive less urgently.
Don’t fill your calendar. Slow down. You don’t need to run ten miles
every day or pump iron to be fit, you just need to get that body moving,
in whatever way that’s best for you. You don’t need to be everything to
everyone. Enjoy fellowship with others, give of yourself, but don’t
forget to save some time just for you.
Calm down. It’s been
proved time and again that anger kills the person who’s angry. The
person you’re angry at probably doesn’t even know you’re angry at them.
They go their on their way, while your blood pressure and heart rate
goes up and the arteries around your heart close up and your stomach and
gut churn. Who have you hurt with your anger? You, most of all.
”Make no friends with those give to anger, and do not associate with
hotheads or you may learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare.”
-- Proverbs 22:24-25 NRSV
Don’t worry so much.
Things never happen the way you think they’re going to anyway. Live one
moment or at least one day at a time. Enjoy the now, be in it with every
fibre of your attention. Only God knows what’s going to happen next.
Think about it – how many of today’s “disasters” have turned out to be
”Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its
own.” – Matthew 4:34 NRSV
Lighten up! Smile more. Laugh more. See the humor in life. Few things
are as deadly serious as we make them out to be
Spend quiet time with God
every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Pray while you’re in the
bathroom if that’s the only place you can be alone with Him— He doesn’t
care where you are, as long as you’re with Him.