As Paul had a thorn in the flesh, which the Lord determined would be better left in situ than removed, so it is that my struggle with depression may be life long. But Paul was not to have the thorn in the flesh for no reason. Rather God had great purposes for him in giving the thorn in the flesh, like He has for all who go through great weakness.
We read in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 : Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Through this experience of depression I am so patently shown my weaknesses. Humanly speaking that can be disastrous. But this scripture transforms everything, because there is a God, who is my Father, who delights to exert Christ’s power through the weakness of His people. I am thereby encouraged to trust in the Lord that my weakness, rather than disqualifying me in God’s kingdom, is actually a great quality that, through His grace, can be the means for His strength is seen. Oh may it be so.
I have been asked several times about the symptoms associated with my affliction. I think for many, there is the assumption, that depression is just a severe case of feeling low in spirits. That would be a reasonable inference from the term “depression”. Given that to be the case “depression” is a little bit of a misnomer and does not fully reflect the totality of the experience. I will first seek to give the overall perspective and then look at detailed symptoms.
- “I can’t cope” is a phrase that embraces much of the experience.
- Not functioning properly.
- Life feels like walking through sludge. Everything is heavy going.
- Overwhelmed by things.
- Cold hands and cold feet.
- Panic attacks.
- Tight chest.
- Seizures in chest region.
- Reduced appetite.
- A mind that goes looking for worries.
- An inability to properly process those anxieties.
- Lack of / disturbed sleep.
- Episodes of sensing darkness in my being.
- Generally “on edge”. Thinking that if certain things happen then I won’t be able to cope.
- Claustrophobia (on occasions) in confined spaces.
- The accomplishing of everyday activities becomes hard.
- Body getting hot and sweaty.
- Burning sensation in chest.
- “Anxious” stomach.
- Feeling light-headed, although that may have been due to medication.
- Sensitive to other people feeling I am acting in an odd way.
All of these detailed symptoms have not been there all the time, but there has been some manifestation of them. I don’t want to exaggerate the severity of them, but they would be a part of the experience. No doubt, others who suffer depression have differing experiences, but I relate what I have been through thus far, in my recent affliction.
I heard second-hand of a depression sufferer saying on the radio, that she wishes that non-depression sufferers could just experience depression for fifteen minutes, so they could know something of what it is like. It was an interesting observation. The experience of depression can be so painful.
As I write this I feel somewhat improved, but still with someway to go. Some of the pain still seems very close in terms of experience and time.
So much to learn. Thank you Lord for recent relief. Thanks to all who have prayed and shown interest.
In my last post on depression (here) I mentioned about the anticipated beneficial working of the sertraline. One thing I have been pondering upon is the danger of just relying on the medication to move through this present affliction. I was led to think of king Asa. We read that In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the doctors (2 Chron. 16:12).
The fact that I consider the medication a beneficial gift from the Lord. does not take away from the need to continue to trust in the Lord through the experience. As I have observed previously (here) I do not fathom how the mental, emotional and spiritual intermingle to establish my well-being. However, I do know that the call on me as a believer is to be believing in the Lord.
King Asa got things wrong not in seeking the doctors, but in only seeking the doctors. The Lord calls us to live with all of our life placed in His hands. We use various means for the furthering of our lives, families and churches, but we should never only use means. In fact our use of means should always begin, continue and end in the presence of the Lord through prayer and thanksgiving.
Of course in all thsi I am a failure; I have not trusted and do not trust Him as I ought. So I come to ask Him for forgiveness and for enabling to trust Him into the future.
Yesterday, January 17th, I decided to pull back from involvement in church life at Feltham Evangelical Church, for the time being at least. Having sought to keep going for four weeks whilst feeling unwell, I concluded, that I was not helping myself by continuing with my involvement with the ministry here. I felt I had to take time-out to seek to get myself functioning properly again. This was a painful, and yet relieving, decision; I shed quite a few tears.
So I will see where I go from here. People say that the benefits of taking Sertraline are only really experienced after a month. That means I have about ten days more until then. I had a wretched morning today, but a much better afternoon. Perhaps only once in the last four weeks have I felt rested by my afternoon rest. Today though I was granted some rest; thank you Lord.
So we move forward seeking to trust in our God. May it be that something of Job’s acknowledgement in Job 23:10 is known in my situation But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
I am not sure if I will continue blogging whilst recuperating; possibly. Thanks to all who have shown interest and prayed.
My post from Friday raises the issue of Christians taking antidepressants (see here). I have written about this previously here. In many ways I do not have much to add to what I wrote there.
I would like to ponder on of the issue of us living in a fallen world and how that bers upon taking anti-depressants. As Christians we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. We have an everlasting salvation now which cannot be taken away. However, we still live in this world. And this world is a fallen world; in so many ways it does not function properly and in so many ways we do not function properly. The fact that we get illnesses and injuries demonstrates this.
As Christians we so easily categorize physical ailments as being acceptably treated with medication, but that issues of the mind are spiritual and should not be medicated. Such seems a very simplistic approach. The fall also has consequences for our minds as well. In a sense my mind is dysfunctional. I mentioned this in a sermon I preached last year at our church. It is here. The medication is a provision from God to help me and many other sufferers to function better than we would otherwise.
As some people take regular ongoing medication for heart disease or blood pressure problems so others take medication to stabilize their mental condition. Although, I do not profess to be an expert in the medical issues it appears I have a tendency to be deficient in seretonin. The taking of sertraline seeks to boost production of seretonin.
I wrote of this yesterday here. The whole experience is quite humbling particularly as I was celebrating good anti-depressant free progress here. I had also spoken to quite a few people about my improved condition. I don’t regret the change of diet and believe it has done me much good including helping me shed some weight. However, it has not been the cure-all that I desired and even mused upon in my post.
The returning to Sertraline has also been a significant disappointment. I think it is the normal aspiration for all on anti-depressants to be off them. For myself I was optimistic about being able to move on without them. Alas that has not transpired. As things got difficult at the end of December, I tried to carry on without, but wisdom (and my wife’s good counsel) prevailed and I have taken them again.
One of the sobering outcomes of me going on medication again, is that I feel I am now on them for the rest of my life. You may say that that sounds somewhat melodramatic. In a sense it is, but there were dark times particularly over the Christmas period. I just don’t want those again. You see the medication is for me a safety-net. It protects from the mental free-fall into places you would rather not go.
So possibly I have to come to terms with being a man-on-pills for the rest of my life. Perhaps I speak too hastily. My Father knows best.
The rigours of depression have beset me somewhat of late, once again. In a sense it has all come quite suddenly. From about three weeks ago I felt myself somewhat out-of-kilter and things not functioning properly. Since then life has moved on and I have been able to fulfill my duties, but it has been with more of a heaviness than a lightness;. The experience has fluctuated though: good times and not so good. What of the background to this?
July and August were a little bit “sticky” as regards to my mental well-being. I mentioned here about my change of diet and the fact that I had stopped taking anti-depressants for the first time in sixteen years. Alas, I think I have experienced something of the mental and emotional free-fall I wrote about there. I had a remarkably good spell for about three-and-a-half months until mid-December; that was a spell of me not taking Sertraline, the anti-depressant I have taken since October 2002. Given my relapse I have re-started medication since December 29th. However, because I was without mediation for so long it no doubt, takes some while to work into my system.
I do not fully fathom what has happened given that I had such a good spell. I have written previously here about my confusion about how the spiritual, mental and emotional inter-relate in my being. So I journey on. One thing that has come to me today is that the Lord has things to teach me through this experience.
I may write further on this in future days. Oh yes, and please pray for me through this time.