Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Finding ways to get on

There's a lengthy article in the NY Times about one man's use of antidepressants. It's a story of depression, therapy, medication, and then the long arduous journey to get off the drugs. I found the article interesting at several levels and want to make clear that this man's story isn't intended to be a model on how best to use or stop using antidepressants. The story is just that; one man's story.

Towards the end of the lengthy article though, there was a quote that I found quite insightful:

Ron Duman told me about one way that scientists try to test the effectiveness of a given antidepressant in the lab. Put a laboratory rat into a beaker of water and see how long it struggles to get out. When it stops, remove it from the beaker and treat it with the drug. Repeat the test. If it struggles for a significantly longer time than before, the drug is considered to have antidepressant potential. Is this ability to keep us going altogether good?...when does reliance on a drug keep us from seeking ways to resolve the causes of stress?

It seems that we're a culture without adequate margins, so that when people are under great stress our first line of defense is to offer a chemical adjustment enabling people to push on and perform. Certainly there's a place for medication. Certainly adjusting physiological chemical imbalances has been a great blessing to many. And yet...

1 - I wonder if we've tried the ancient paths adequately before turning to medication. What ancient paths? Exercise, time spent in creation, lectio-divina (the prayerful reading of scripture), a safe relationship where we can share our deepest self, time to linger in conversation, are a few.

2 - I wonder how much our 'performance' oriented world pushes us to medicate (and let's not kid ourselves - caffeine taken for hit it provides is medication too). What it we could all take a nap instead?

If you're battling or have battled depression, I'd be grateful for your own thoughts on the roles these various elements, including medication, play in healing.


At 8/5/07 09:42, Blogger lee williams said...

One of the best blogs I've read about dealing with depression, heck, one of the best blogs I've read period, is Real Live Preacher. Here's his entries about depression.

I agree that there is a propensity - beyond that really, an addiction - in our culture for a quick fix. Take this pill and feel happy, take this pill and stop worrying, etcetera. On the other hand, part of that has to do with a denial of our own illness, a desire to be better without acknowledging that we're sick in the first place. That leads us down the road of thinking that we're not sick at all, that we have no chemical imbalance or other physiological flaw.

At 8/5/07 15:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question may be, "why is depression labeled bad in a person's life?" Psychology is the study of the psyche or soul. Of course Western thought has over taken the essence once again.

One would do himself a great gift and look at soul care and see depression through this lens. Alas, you will be free,

At 8/5/07 19:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went through a period of severe depression when I was 18. The first anti-depressant I tried made things worse, but the second I honestly believe was a large factor (along with family, exercize, ect) in overcoming that period of darkness in my life.

I was on it for a little over a year. I have had no desire or want to take the drug again, but for that period of my life, I do believe it was very helpful.

I also think that time is often God's greatest healer. Especially for event-caused depression (loss of loved one, major lifestyle change, ect) merely the passage of time can help.

For me it was a combination of therapy, exercize, support (from family and church), and the second anti-depressant I tried.

At 9/5/07 22:53, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regard to your comment about trying things other than medication. One of the problems with clinical depression is the lack of interest and motivation necessary to do anything. As a chronic sufferer I have often found myself in a position where it becomes very difficult to pray or to pick up the Bible, let alone get out of bed. Going to church is an arduous task, especially having to deal with all the people asking if you are okay. Through the years I have learned to fake it around others but usually come home and collapse. I have tried numerous medications with varying levels of success. When there has been improvement I have never felt it was a quick fix, in fact, the side effects alone make it something you have to be willing to struggle with in its own right.

For serious depression I don't have any answers. It seems as if it is exactly where the church should be helping because it is where I could see Christ ministering. But how that ministry would or should present itself remains a mystery to me. Ultimately it seems it should involve others reaching out and praying for those who are unable to do so for themselves.

At 12/5/07 23:03, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's revealing that most of those who've responded to this topic and discussed past or ongoing depression signed on as "anonymous."

My beloved grandfather - a devout Christian -committed suicide in the grips of a deep depression, after a series of strokes and debilitating medical crises. Years later, it's become apparent a thread of bi-polar illness runs through the family. If he had it, we'll never know for sure. Now, it seems one of my sons likely does. It remains to be seen when or if he would consent to treatment or to even be evaluated for diagnosis. Would I would want him to take a pill or cocktail of medicines to take away his increasing paranoia and delusions? If it would help him reconnect with people and function better, yes. In reality, what I want is not really relevant, as his paranoia now includes motives he attributes to me. All the medicine in the world cannot help him, at this point; only the Great Physician.

At 13/5/07 09:23, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Depression is "bad" when one can no longer function in life or society. At that point, should we not gratefully embrace drugs that could potentially abate the symptoms to a point to which the sufferer can be open to help, hope, and healing? If the drugs can allow you to get out of bed in the morning, or alleviate the paranoia or anxiety, then I am all for it. At the same time I must admit that I pesonally have never seen miraculous recoveries through medication. There might be improvement, but it seldom is the end all. I think medications are the bridge often needed to make a person open to further healing.

There is also the whole nature v. nurture debate. If depresion is a chemical imbalace of the brain or caused by genetic inheritance, should we not treat it as we would any other diseases? Often however, there is more than the pure nature issue, that is where the church can step to the plate and be part of creating supportive, inclusive evironments where people struggling with these issues feel safe, and feel no need for anonymity.


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