Continuing to repost essays I wrote long ago about depression – for those struggling this Winter or loving someone who is. Here’s part five…
Jesus didn’t float out of his tomb as a disembodied spirit. And he won’t come back as one. And this is all really good stuff to remember when you’re depressed or trying to help someone who is. I’ll try to explain why.
Some Christians – including me, until recently – aren’t sure what to make of depression. Just ask some of them for help if you’re ever in the thick of it and you’ll learn pretty quickly that Christians don’t agree on whether depression is a physical, mental or spiritual problem.
So let’s forget about the Christians for a minute. Let’s ask the Jews instead.
Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t separate the body from the spirit from the mind. Bow the body before God and the spirit bows too. Raise the body from the grave and the spirit lives too. Eat unclean food and the whole person – body and spirit and mind – is made unclean. Renew your mind and the spirit comes along. Salvation was even believed to affect the body, mind and spirit. The three were inseparable in Jewish thought.
And the earliest Christians – and Jesus – were Jews. They believed that humans – forever – would be thinking, feeling, spiritual beings with bodies.
But, my friend William explained to me, when Greek (Platonist?) philosophers started converting to Christianity in, I think he said, the fourth Century, they brought into the churches their Greek understanding of how human beings are constructed. Those guys believed the spirit, mind and body were separate things – (mostly) independent dimensions of who we are.
We modern Christians in the West are believing those guys over the bible when we refuse to recognize the interplay and interdependence of the spiritual, mental and physical planes. They’re all us.
When the darkness swallowed me up earlier this month some Christians only told me to take an anti-depressant to correct my serotonin problem and then just wait for the depression to go away – while keeping my distance from sharp objects. Others might wonder if I have a secret sin problem, or say I’m not trusting God enough, or I’m not praying enough, or I’m being spiritually attacked or disciplined or prepared for something great God wants me to do next. Still others have said I need to see a counselor because there must be unresolved anxieties and latent fears or childhood wounds that are now coming out as depression.
But I believe when I’m sick, whether it’s a cold or cancer, all of me is affected. And that goes for depression too.
No doubt the electrical currents and chemicals in my brain just stopped working right. I took the lowest possible dose (50mg) of a naturally occurring amino acid called 5-HTP for that instead of an anti-depressant. (Warning: Taking this stuff while taking an anti-depressant can be fatal.) 5-HTP is a precursor to serotonin, which means my body naturally turned the 5-HTP into enough serotonin that I no longer thought about hurting myself and no longer cried uncontrollably for no reason at all. Oh, and I could think one or two thoughts at a time and sleep. That was pretty handy.
I also ate a lot of really good food – unprocessed food; mostly fruits, vegetables and nuts. And I drank a lot of real juices full of nutrients too. I’m exercising because studies have shown that exercise alleviates depression more than any other one physical thing a person can do. I also drank lots of water, made sure I got enough sleep – but not too much – got at least an hour of sun every day for a good dose of vitamin D, and stayed off the sugar.
I started seeing a counselor who also believes the spirit, body and mind are intertwined. He’s helping me figure out if my thinking or feelings (or my thinking about my feelings) helped trigger this depression or made it worse once it arrived. He hasn’t found any smoking guns yet, but we’ll get there. It’s a scary uncomfortable thing to tell a guy I don’t know everything about me, but well worth it.
I do not believe everything down here has been determined, that every “territory” has been divvied up. No, I think there’s a lot of ground in dispute, up for grabs, being fought for. And you and I are in the middle of that fight.
I am not a naturalist either. I do not believe all we see is all there is, that everything is observable and measurable.
The lines between the spiritual and physical and mental are very blurry. I don’t know exactly what God’s plan for or participation in my depression was. I don’t know exactly what Satan’s was either. But I know both played a part. And one of them is really ticked off about how things have turned out.
(More on exactly how we fought and continue to fight in the spiritual dimension of depression later. And I promise to be as specific as I can be and use as few ambiguous war metaphors as possible.)
Twenty days of depression, no matter how “severe” a doctor says it was, does not make me an expert on the subject. Not even close. I don’t know why this happened to me or why it’s now ended for the most part. But I wonder if my friends and family and I didn’t aggressively fight the darkness in every dimension, would I still be in it?