Dealing with Depression (Part 1)

The conversation goes something like this:
"He has been really having a tough time.  Things at work have not been going well.  And–he’s dealing with some depression."

"I keep the curtains closed most of the time.  Some days I don’t want to get out of bed.  I know I’m dealing with some depression."

"My wife has been trying to get me to see the doctor.  She thinks I may be dealing with some depression."

"How long does it take for this medicine to make difference?  The doctor said it might help with my depression"

Lots of people have or are dealing with some form of depression.  For some people, it might be fairly mild (no less frustrating though), perhaps related to a difficult circumstance in life.   On the other end of chart might be people who suffer with severe depression.  Still others might have long patterns of this in their family.  I’ve had numerous conversations with people whose experience with some form of depression ranges very widely.  Some of these people include:

  • Business people–both men and women
  • Church leaders
  • College students
  • Young marrieds (both men and women)
  • Older people–having been retired for quite sometime

While we still lived in Kansas City, I began to experience something that didn’t feel quite right.  Most of it was related to my work–my ministry.  It was a tough situation and the church was experiencing some severe conflict.   

Once, a friend of mine called from another state.  At the time, he had a weekly subscription to  receive Sunday morning sermons from our church.  He was straightforward and to-the-point  when  he  he  asked  me  over the telephone, "What’s wrong with you?  In some recent messages, you sound so hesitate and unsure."  That was jarring at first but it actually helped.  It jarred me enough that I realized this hopeless, numb feeling (sort of like not feeling anything at all) was impacting my life.  (This had actually gone on for a number of months before I realized it).

So–Charlotte and I visited with a good friend of ours, a physician, about the situation.  That was very helpful.  Then I saw a Christian counselor for six months, along with taking medication.  Seeing him every other week, was one of the best things I’ve done.  There were a number of other things that helped as well.  That was very helpful.  Nothing happened overnight.  But months later, things were better.  And–I was handling the stress of the situation I was in much better. 

This might be foreign to some reading this.  Perhaps you’ve never experienced anything that could closely relate to any kind of depression.  Meanwhile, others have experienced a  kind of depression that is more lingering and severe than what I have just described.

The other day, someone asked in a comment about how to best support people who are experiencing some kind of depression.  (She was concerned about women in particular who deal with this).  I think this is a very good question.   Perhaps you have seen or experienced the kind of support that was particularly helpful.  Right now I am wondering about the following:

  • What kind of support is most helpful at such a time?
  • What kind of friendship is most encouraging to a person struggling with this?
  • What is the place of the church when a person is wrestling with this?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “Dealing with Depression (Part 1)

  1. Jim,
    Thanks for sharing this from your own experience and observations.

    I was on anti-depressants for some time. But did experience side effects, and the effect on my emotions, while I did feel better, in the sense of “feeling good”, still did not, in and of themselves, resolve some matters that needed to be resolved. Indeed, I think, in looking back on it now, that if anything, I did not deal with matters, that if I could have been getting help on, could have lifted my (probably mild) depression. Though such meds may have afforded me a window to better deal with the issues. Maybe a case here of both, instead of either/or.

    I do think people need a sense of community, especially in faith community, as they go through these low places in their lives. Then there is a place of acceptance, fellowship and friendship.

  2. Jim:

    Thanks for the important post. So many people do not understand depression and are not very sympathetic to those who undergo such difficulties.

    I hope everyone who reads your post will consider it carefully.

    Thanks again.

  3. I tend toward melancholy, as did my father before me. I have found I have to be very intentional about my life to avoid depression. When I was younger, I didn’t know this yet, and I would find myself on a downward cycle for no apparent reason. Through the years I have learned the importance of simple daily disciplines to prevent depression. Things like spending time in prayer, reading good material, eating right, exercising, and even avoiding being around negative people too much. If I find myself slacking off in any of these areas, I begin to notice a difference within just a few days.

  4. Sometimes people are depressed because they make faulty connections in the “cause-effect” chain. I needed a friend to patiently listen and then gently point out the erroneous connections. And encourage others who may need it that taking medication is not letting God down.

  5. Thanks for bringing this very important issue to the surface. I think small Christian support groups can be literally life savers for depressed men or women. Medication and counseling, short term or long term fills in another area of need. Sometimes you just need an objective listener since depression keep you from thinking logically. God puts all of these people in our midst to help us. Gail

  6. Ted,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with this. I wanted to comment on what you said about meds/counseling and maybe what was needed was not either/or but both.

    I find it interesting the number of people who have told me through the years of finding help in a combination of things. Not that there is some sort of formula for dealing with this. Rather, a lot of people have learned to take some very positive steps toward gettting better.

  7. John,
    I spoke with a woman last evening who basically said what you did about making these faulty connections. Thanks for that reminder and for the value of having a friend enter in gently listen.

    I also appreciate what you said regarding medication. Some have left the impression with others that taking medication is sub-par for a Christian. (One is really not giving it all to God). That kind of thinking only makes it more difficult for a depressed person.

  8. Jim,
    Thank you for addressing this very difficult and often confusing topic. In our work with “Marriage Matters” seminars we find that depression, of whatever nature, has a significant impact on the family. A book that we often recommend for those who work with depression and their family members and friends is “New Light on Depression: Help, Hope and Answers for the Depressed and Those Who Love Them” by Drs. David Biebel and Harold Koening. Written by a Christian psychiatrist and a D.Min. the book explores the four different depressions: Spiritual, Situational, Environmental, and Genetic as well as the various treatment modalities.
    Jerry and Lynn Jones

  9. Jim,
    Thanks. I agree much that taking meds is not at all a case of letting God down. Our problems can be much related to a chemical imbalance.

    And I appreciate so much what John says about making faulty connections. He’s shared that with me before. It is very helpful to remember and get the needed help. Though it is also all too easy to just continue on as one has, limping through life in a way that falls short of what God has for our lives. I’ve known that first hand all too well, I’m sure.

  10. John (or whoever), can you please elaborate on what you mean by “making faulty connections in the cause-and-effect chain” perhaps with a specific example or two? Does a lot of it come down to correcting “misbeliefs” as described in William Backus’ famous book on cognitive therapy called, “Telling Yourself the Truth” Thanks!

  11. Jim, thanks for your honesty on this topic, it’s often one of the things we find swept under the carpet in churches. Also a big thanks to Connie for sharing some practical steps she takes… I think I am also learning that I need to be much more proactive in protecting myself from slipping back into depressive patters. I’m learning that it’s in the now, the good times, that I must prepare myself. Thanks.

  12. Matt,
    Some people, and I was (am) one of them, can be over-responsible, that is, we assume responsibility for that which we have no control over whatsoever. As the visible “face” for the church where I was teaching pastor, I internally absorbed negative comments about things in the church and thought, “I’ve got to ‘fix’ this.” The budget is not being met…it’s my fault. I’ll fix it by preaching on stewardship. That kind of thing. It drove me into depression. So, yes, Backus’ book, which I’ve read, speaks to that tendency, but simply “telling yourself the truth” doesn’t “cure” depression. Thanks for asking, Matt.

  13. What a penetrating and practical post! It’s obvious that many of us (including myself) have and are wrestling with this issue. Most of us could write page-long comments about our experiences. Thank you for challenging me to think about these things today.
    God bless you brother,

  14. Thanks John. It sounds like everyone is pretty much advocating a multi-faceted approach. I’ve got to say that I find that a lot of “psychological healing” stuff a little fuzzy. There’s a new book out by Elyse Fitzpatrick called “Will Medicine Stop the Pain?” She’s from the “biblical counseling” movement (the quotes are not meant to be a dig at that movement) and I think I’m going to give it a read. I realize that some find that movement harsh and/or simplistic but maybe a little more simplicity is what some of us need. The whole relationship between pyschology and the bible is one I’m still trying to sort out for myself. Thanks!

  15. Jerry and Lynn,
    Thanks for your comment. And thanks for the names for the different kinds of depressions.

    Most of all, thanks for the reminder that depression has a real impact on marriages and families in general.

    I appreciate your ministry.

  16. Emma,
    Thanks Emma. It is a shame that some things are swept under the carpet which are actually on the front burner in many of our lives.

    I appreciate your comment.

  17. These are some excellent comments and there IS such a need to seek God’s healing in this area. I too recomend “Will Medicine Stop the Pain?” as an excellent resource for folks dealing with emotional pain.