I’m no world authority on depression, and I certainly don’t have a PhD, but I have suffered what many term ‘the black dog’ and so I may have something to contribute. I know what it’s like to be depressed, to have depression, and to guide others through such a spiritual nemesis.
Here are five myths to explode:
MYTH 1: “doctors and other medical and health professionals know exactly what you’re facing and enduring.”
Fact: nobody can know what you face or endure when you yourself struggle to name it – and naming it is important. This is not to say that relevant professionals won’t be able to help. They need to help you to name it as part of your recovery, but they’re not usually the panacea many think they are. Certainly, a good psychologist or counsellor, as well as good friends are a vital, even indispensable, in accessing the empathy you need to receive in order to endure the entire journey; a season of depression. And psychiatrists, psychologists, and counsellors are essential in clinical depression. But they need to know you and have listened to you before they can help.
MYTH 2: “there is no hope of healing for anyone with a depressive disorder.”
Fact: Not true. It isn’t true that if you have a depressive disorder that you have no hope for healing. There is sufficient science on neuroplasticity nowadays to suggest it’s not only possible, with the right therapy and persistence over the lifespan, it’s likely that at least some healing can and does occur. There is hope. For everyone. Remember, we’re even talking about the severest cases of clinical depression here, where coping measures can be learned that produce an experience of healing. Hope for depression sufferers is a quenching oasis in a parched land. And hope is an integral part of healing.
MYTH 3: “depression is a waste of everyone’s time.”
Fact: depression can teach us much about the melancholy of life that we’d know little or nothing about otherwise. It can also make us more compassionate. “So this is how life is for many people!” That is a remarkable revelation. We could view depression as God’s test to know ourselves better and deeper, so depression can actually be viewed as an investment of and for our time. And, for those who help people through depression, such therapy and ministry is an encouragement, as we see great leaps of gutsy conviction undertaken and little nodes of growth in those who engage in their pain.
MYTH 4: “it’s normal to feel guilty and ashamed to have depression.”
Fact: in bygone eras, there certainly was a stigma about depression – as if it were a personal and deplorable weakness. Stigmas like this drove the expression of depression underground. But have a look on social media these days. People everywhere are being empowered through the sharing of their stories of depression; blessed as they find the courage to come out. Of course, it’s natural to feel ashamed of having ‘mental illness’ but it doesn’t have to be ‘normal’.
MYTH 5: “you can’t have fun and enjoy any of life when you’re depressed.”
Fact: No so. Even when we’re depressed we’ve got the capacity for laughter and joy, particularly as our thoughts go momentarily AWOL, forgetting for a few moments our elements of lament. Sometimes depression can be a prerequisite for hilarity. After all, what more could go wrong?
Here’s a bonus myth to explode:
MYTH 6: “admitting you’re depressed opens a can of worms that should remain closed.”
Fact: Such a lie. So many people I know attest to the fact that acknowledgement is half the battle. Upon acknowledgement, there’s empowerment; the opportunity to plan our way out. Suddenly there is a great purpose! When we get a whiff that victory is possible, overcoming the nemesis becomes a positive driving force. No one on earth will stop us when we have heaven helping us.
Steve Wickham is a pastor who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling.
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