Monday, November 30, 2009

Going the Distance - Chapter 5

This series was originally posted on In Tandem, a blog for ministry wives. 

Chapter 5: Depression doesn't have to be depressing

This is an interesting chapter. Brain makes a distinction between exogenous depression (depression that is reactive to a loss) and endogenous depression (which is biological). He does not attempt to deal with endogenous depression (which is often treated with medication), instead pointing people to other resources. Instead, he deals with exogenous depression - the more common depression experienced by many people, often. A simple (yet hard to absolutely define) difference may be the feeling of depression, rather than actually having depression.

It is important to see this distinction and understand it, for otherwise some of his suggestions seem inappropriate and a little superficial. However, as he is dealing with the more usual 'downs' of life, this chapter is a helpful one.

He states that depression, is
a part of our body's 'early warning system', alerting us to the fact that something is wrong and needs to be dealt with. We may need to slow down, seek medical treatment, turn to God in repentance or allow the grieving process to take its course. Depression may be an agent used by God for our sanity (where depression is a response to loss), or our sanctification (if there is an sinful act or attitude involved). For every loss situation there is an appropriate amount of depression. (p70)
I wondered whether I agreed with his definition - that depression is the reaction to a loss. When we discussed this a little more, we wondered whether it could be more broadly defined as the reaction to change.

Brain goes on to talk about how the truth of God and the gospel inform us and prepare us for these times:
the learning of contentment and trust in God's sovereignty and faithfulness can help us face loss when it comes, whether through happy or unhappy, expected or unexpected, circumstances. None of this is meant for a moment to downplay the loss of people or things in our lives, but in so far as we are detached from them as reasons for living, and attached to our Lord, we will be better able to face their loss and move through the resultant grieving process. (p73)
I think my husband is good at this. When something happens that could cause disappointment, he is able to separate himself from it. Not to say he doesn't care (he certainly does), but he is able to discern when he is responsible, or when things are best left to God or others. He knows that God alone can change people and they are responsible before God. On the other hand, I need to work at this a little more, and not take things as personally as I tend to.

This chapter then gets a little more practical - addressing some issues of self-care that may help, helpful tips in listening to those who are depressed and a reminder of the truths of God that can help Christians who are depressed.

If you would like another place to go to think a little more about depression as a Christian, read Paul Grimmond's article in the August 09 Briefing here.

Some things to think about:

  1. What losses or changes have you experienced that have caused you to feel depressed?
  2. Do you have someone with whom you can share about the hard times and disappointments in ministry, as well as the highs? Do you actually do so?
  3. Where/to whom would you turn if you thought you were clinically depressed and needed professional help?

Next Monday: Chapter 6 - Anger: Using it Constructively


Meredith said...

Hello there. Thanks for this post. It is good to be skilled up to be able to read the signs of encroaching depression - both in ourselves and in those around us - and also to be armed with knowledge of strategies to implement against the time that depression at any level might strike.

There is another aspect to depression that I'd love to throw out there which is rarely mentioned...but it is another area we need to be alert to - particularly useful for ministers and their wives to be aware of - and that is the impact that depression has on those closest to them and in severe cases, the one who becomes their primary carer.

This was beautifully expressed, also in an article in "The Briefing" (Briefing #333 / June 2006), written anonymously. (This article is also available online but I don't know how to link in a comment. But if you follow the link in the "in tandem" post to "The Briefing" and then search depression you will find it!) Anyway, the writer was describing her personal experiences of depression - not her own battle but walking with her husband as he battled depression. And on the subject of being the primary carer she said,

"Sixthly, support the primary carer. Give them a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a helping hand. Reassure them that it's not their fault that their loved one is depressed. Because my husband has depression, he is often not able to give me the emotional support I need when I am going through hard times. But I have been very blessed with good friends who let me lean on them, who bought me hot chocolate when I felt sad, and who prayed with me."

It's a big topic - the whole depression thing - but I think the impact on spouses (and I guess children) is an important and often neglected aspect. It is worth being aware of it and it's also an area in which we can do some really helpful ministry.

Wendy said...

Thanks for that Meredith, it's a really helpful point. You are right, we should also be trying to support the support people.