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May 26, 2011

Depressed/Under Stress

[I'm not qualified to diagnose or treat depression. Well, at least not directly; not as a health care professional. These are simply the thoughts of a guy who signed up for a free blog.]

The most common condition in my physical therapy clinic, by a long shot, is depression. Those two little boxes on our health history questionnaire are almost always checked off. "Who's not under stress or depressed?" said the patient with low back pain as she completed her paperwork today.

On one hand, clinical depression is a mystery to me. I haven't studied it formally, and I've never been particularly depressed or anxious. Some of us just don't have that bend to us. No, some of us are too arrogant, stubborn, prideful, or dishonest with ourselves to be depressed. We fall, for sure, just not in the direction of depression. I do question if any minister, mental health specialist (or anyone else who does deal directly with depression) is very well qualified to understand or treat depression if they haven't experienced it themselves.

On the other hand, I do claim to know at least something about depression. Anyone who pays a lick of attention should know something, because it's everywhere.

I know that bringing up perspective and poor decisions and God's sovereignty is not exactly therapeutic when someone is stuck under a crushing cloud.

I know that there is a significant genetic predisposition to depression. Or is it environmental. Does it matter which it is, if we recognize that depressed people have absolutely not always brought it on themselves?

I know that three days of gnawing back pain and lost sleep will make anyone quite emotional if not substantially depressed. Stress and anxiety and depression absolutely effects pain perception, cycles the misery, ups the ante.

I know that a lot of beautiful, intelligent, genuine Christians suffer from depression. They bare witness to the fact that faith or lack of faith is not the bottom line here.

I ask why. Why so much depression so often affecting so many different types of people? Is there anything we can do about it? How may I actually help someone suffering depression, or at least not further hinder them?  How, where, what can we do to save our children from this thing where they grow up and the vast majority of them are checking the "stress/depressed" box on their health history questionnaire?

In 50 or 500 years, will our ancestors remember our age as the second great depression? Do you imagine there's some element(s) of modern living that are highly damaging to the human psyche? What's really going on here? Is it our expectations, our knowledge base? Are there choices we're all making, seemingly sane and good choices, that bite us in the butt 10 months or years later?

I just can't imagine that it's only due to improved diagnoses and social acceptance of depression. In the old days, people may have been hungry or persecuted or oppressed or dead at a young age. But I can't imagine that so many suffered from depression.

There have been times when I've  been able to help friends. A little movement, a little less arthritic pain, a little lighthearted laughter. There have been more times when I've struggled to do nothing more than be present, listening. There are times when I pray for less understanding and more gentleness and compassion.

"Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. But they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can take them, our share in the passion of Christ." -CS Lewis

1 comment:

Ann Kroeker said...

What a great gift you are to bring some relief to people's lives, physically and psychologically. You're gifted in so many ways.