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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Depression is not a sign that you have a spiritual problem. Period.

Today I read the sad sad sad news Rick Warren's son committed suicide.

I cannot imagine the pain the Warren family  is experiencing. I visited Saddleback Church in 2010 and heard Rick Warren preach. He impressed me as a man who had no problem being honest in the pulpit. The first thing he said was, "So we all have problems. I like donuts. I eat too much." Saddleback church has an amazing ministry...but I know that nothing nothing nothing will make them feel better right now.

Over the past 12 years I have struggled with depression. I have been antidepressants 11 of those years. I have had thousands of hours of therapy. When I was at my worst, some well meaning Christian friends told me that if I was truly a Christian then I would not be depressed. I was told if I praised God more then I would feel better. I was told if I read the Bible more I would feel better. I was told if I prayed more I would feel better. At the time I was a senior pastor.


I spent hours begging God to make the dark shadows go away.

Even though my problem did not look physical, IT WAS PHYSICAL.

I may have looked like a healthy 20 something but inside I was dead. However, looking at pictures of myself from that time, I can see it on my face.

It was only through weekly therapy and finally antidepressants that the dark shadows gradually lightened. And when I say gradually, I mean gradually. It took about 2 1/2 years before I was 'better.' But I put 'better' lightly. I was never the same and I have never been the same.

Depression still lurks in the darkness. It is an ongoing mental illness that for some, like me, is never 'cured.' It is ongoing struggle that sometimes affects my spiritual life but has nothing to do with how much faith I have.

Through therapy and the support of my family and friends I have learned how to take care of myself to make sure I never hit the bottom again. The plan of self-help may be different for every person. This is what works for me.

I am not a health care professional and I am NOT GIVING MEDICAL advice.


1. I stay on my antidepressants. I have never tried to go off of them. I see absolutely no shame in taking  a pill a day. If you are on antidepressants, NEVER EVER take yourself off of them without a physician's supervision. Some people only need a short term prescription to get them back on their feet, but I have never ever wanted to return to the person I was before them, so I don't see the need to go off of them.

2. I see a therapist regularly. The first therapist I saw was an LSW who had also been to seminary. She was a godsend and I think she saved my life.  I saw her once a week for 2 1/2 years.  I  moved away and found another after a couple of tries. You have to find someone that fits for you. Don't get discouraged if your first visit with a therapist doesn't go well. Try another. Now I don't need to see one every week, but I know I can call her if I need an appointment. She knows me and that is important. "I don't have money or insurance," you might say. Ask around. Ask your pastor, rabbi, imam, or teacher. If you are a student, most schools offer some free therapy. There are free and reduced clinics. If you are depressed, you really need to see a professional.

3.  I have learned my limits. I am not a person who can get by on 4 hours of sleep a night. I have to have 7-8 or I can not function. Of course there were times in my life when this did not happen. But I have learned that I must catch up somehow. I don't feel guilty for napping.

4. I have learned to say no. I have to watch my stress level. If my schedule gets too busy, I get stressed. If I get too stressed, I get depressed. I have to say no often when it comes to church volunteering, etc, or extra work projects.

5. I have learned what relieves my stress and I practice those things regularly. It may take a while before you figure this out. It took me 2 years. I found that I love, love, love sewing, especially quilting. Getting immediate results from my efforts, seeing the beauty I create. You can see my projects at My quilt blog. I also need to exercise. I walk my dog, I do yoga, I ride my bike.

6. I speak out. Just about everyone who knows me knows I have depression. I do not tell people this so they pity me. I tell them so they don't get offended by my sad expressions. I want other people to know it is OK to be depressed, it is not a sin, it is not shameful.

7. I stay connected to a healthy community of faith. I could not survive without my church. Not all churches are safe places for depressed people. If you do not feel safe in your church, it may be time to seek another.  A safe church for a depressed person is one that allows that person to feel sad. If I do not feel like singing in worship, no one expects me to. My pastor says from the pulpit, "Worship in the way you feel comfortable." Sometimes I am too depressed to stand and sing. Sometimes I just want to sit and cry while others sing. My church leaders do not expect me to be someone I am not.


Rebecca said...

Thanks for sharing about your depression. Our society still struggles to acknowledge mental illnesses. Many blessing to you as you maintain that balance in your life!

Kelly Yates said...

Thank you for your comment.