Secondly, I want to come clean with you. My illness is chronic clinical depression. It's likely that I've suffered from it all my life, except for the approximately 1.5 years that I've been sufficiently diagnosed and treated with an anti-depressant. The drug that works for me is, unfortunately, outrageously expensive, even in the "generic" form that recently came out. But I'm still working at getting into the VA system, I hope before I run out of the prescription that I was miraculously able to get.
ANYway, the analytical part of me that can now look at this latest crisis, now that the "fog" has largely lifted, is finding the process of digging out of it quite fascinating. (Were I dark-haired and pointy-eared, you'd think I was Spock of Star Trek fame!) But it IS fascinating. Things got very, very bad. Had it not been for God's constant presence--experienced through the gift of faith--I might have attempted suicide. There...I said it. The "S" word. It scares me that it got so bad. It reminds me how fragile we human beings can be, despite our bravado displayed to the outside world and even to our loved ones. It's been a long time since I believed the lie that "real" Christians do not get depressed. That's no more true than saying "real" Christians don't get diabetes, or high cholesterol, or breast cancer, or Alzheimer's disease. But my head still kept trying to convince my heart that I just wasn't praying hard enough, or thinking the right things, or reading the Bible enough...all the "Job's Friends" kinds of lines we tend to give people when they're suffering but which God says are "not speaking rightly" of either the sufferer or the Suffering God. (I am VERY glad my pastor preached on Job this past Sunday. It was timely for a lot of us in this church.) I suppose it helps to keep alive the illusion that there ought to have been SOME way to control my condition myself, without drugs, without God, without nuthin' 'cept my own self. The truth, however, is that depression HAPPENS (to us chronically depressed folks). Whatever is wrong with the delicate balance of brain chemistry in us--and it's too little understood at present--we need pharmaceutical help in the form of SSRIs or MSRIs to get back on track. That is a valid way for God to choose to heal us. The wonder is how we would dare to dictate to the Almighty that our drug-free faith alone must be the treatment of choice. (And how often do well-meaning Christians "preach" exactly that message? And how many suffering people never get well because of that message?)
So, praise God, I'm getting well now. It may be a while longer before I feel the full effects of the drug, but it's remarkable how much better I feel...better than at any time since I had to stop taking meds over three years ago because I lost my health insurance. At least this time I knew what drug would help. (For the blessedly uninformed, depression is treated by starting a prescription, and if the depression gets worse or no better, discontinuing it and trying another...and if necessary, another and another until the right one does the trick. Definitely NOT an exact science!)
While I don't have a big slew of readers, a majority of you are ministers, thanks to my participation in the RevGalBlogPals blogring. To you ministerial sisters and brothers, I issue a plea: encourage your depressed parishioners/church participants to seek medical help and accept drug therapy as the most likely means of getting well. I think you all probably know that, but do please make a point of it. And don't think you're immune from depression. I've read (but cannot quote exactly) that ministry statistically has one of the highest rates of depression among the professions. Know yourself well enough to recognize if you're depressed, and get help. Take it from someone who tried far too long to tough it out without the meds that can make such a night-and-day difference in her life. I would not wish that kind of miserable existing on anyone. And that's the best way I know to describe deep depression. It's terribly painful, and it's sure as anything not living. You deserve better than that, and those you serve deserve a better minister than who they will have when he or she is depressed.
I suspect that the biblical psalmist(s) from whom I take my blogging nickname was sometimes depressed. A number of the Psalms' descriptions of suffering ring true for me. In addition to Psalms 13 and 130, I commend these words from Psalm 30 to you:
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit. (v. 3)
You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever. (vs. 11-12; quotes from NRSV)