God, Depression, and Me {guest post}

Beth Morey is a writer and an artist, and pursues God in the midst of pain. She is no stranger to suffering, and she blogs her story with honesty, grace, and startling beauty. Beth is a real kindred spirit of mine, and I am delighted to have her God and Suffering story as the last one for 2013:

I thought that God healed me of depression. In the spring of 2011, I found myself suddenly, startlingly free of not only the depression that had been my constant companion since puberty, but also a deeply rooted eating disorder.
I was free. Forever, I thought.
But over the past year, the depression has returned. Silent and stalking, it crept up on me even though I was keeping an eye out, in spite of already seeing a therapist each week. Its weight pressed down and down upon me, until, eleven months after my son’s birth, I desperately booked myself an appointment with my OB/GYN to beg for anti-depressants.
She prescribed them. I drove straight from her office to the pharmacy to pick them up. My therapist later endorsed my being medicated for depression and anxiety. And – I didn’t swallow a single pill for another month.
I don’t know many people who are eager to take medication, especially for those “invisible” psychological needs. And in the church there is often a peculiar bias against mental unhealth, an implicit or explicit message of “If you had enough faith, depression would not be an issue.”
But it is an issue. A very real issue. And sometimes, those of us who suffer from this or similar issues need a little help (or a lot of it). And help can look like taking medication for a time, or maybe forever.
I have previously been prescribed and taken an anti-depressant. It did nothing. So when I finally brought myself to try this new medication, I did not expect much.
But it worked. It worked. Over the course of the four weeks it took for the medication to build up to an effective level in my body, I experienced a dramatic shift in quality of life. I went from being barely able to keep myself from lying down on the living room floor of our home and sleeping while my son played to having so much energy. I went from experiencing extreme anxiety from merely being in social situations to comfortably and ecclesiastically sharing minority and probably controversial opinions with a group of over thirty women.
I do not recognize this new woman that I have become. But I like her. Oh, I like her.
But some questions nag at me, and they are not small ones.
First: who am I? Who is my true self? Am I this new woman, bold and energetic? If I am, who have I been for the last three decades? And if I am not this new woman, if my true self is the person that I am when I am not medicated, should I be taking medication at all?
And second, and perhaps more importantly: how does this medication affect my walk with God?
Because, as much as I don’t like it, suffering points me to God. Whether by a direct route or a more roundabout wander, the suffering I have experienced in my life has always, always led me to God. There is nothing that grows me faster or truer than pain. And scriptures such as Romans 5, James 1, and Hebrews 12 support this idea.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
James 1:2-4, MSG

And so I wonder – will the removal of profound and severe depression from my life, thanks to medication, even over the short-term, also remove growth in and toward God? By enjoying a respite from depression, am I making it impossible for myself to fully embody the person and the presence God created me for?
I hope not.
Because when I look at the work that is before me here in this very moment, it is the work of motherhood: changing myriad diapers, tucking away sacred memories than none but I can have because I am their only witness, kissing brave and salty tears away, feeding my son’s body out of my own.
Holy work. Hard work. The work that is set before me.
And work that I am incapable of doing to anywhere near the fullest measure when the depression makes my body and brain thick and dull and heavy and heavy and heavy. When my limbs are weighted to the floor, and my eyes constantly leak, and my soul retracts and contracts and there is so very, very little to give away to that little boy that I want to give my everything to.
I don’t know why my depression returned. But I choose to take my medication. I take it, for my son, because he is worth it.
And I also take it for me. Because I am worth it, too. And God is not opposed to health. How many did Jesus heal in his earthly ministry? So I swallow my pill every day, and trust that God is for me and with me in this, that He can and does use all of everything, and that includes a prescription for anti-depressants.
Beth MoreyBeth Morey is a writer and the mixed media artist behind Epiphany Art Studio.  She is also the author of the creative healing workbook, Life After Eating Disorder: How to Have One, and the force behind Made, the collaborative ecourse on art + faith (www.madecourse.wordpress.com). Beth writes about finding the beauty amongst the ashes of life on her blog (www.bethmorey.com). She lives in Montana with the Best Husband Ever, their son, and their three naughty dogs.
Over to you:

  • What do you think? How do we walk the line between the blessings of suffering and the freedom of healing?
  • If you have experienced depression, how have you answered those questions of identity? Which is the ‘real you’?

This is the last God and Suffering: Our Story post for 2013, as we move through to Thanksgiving and Advent. The series will return at some point in 2014.

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18 Responses to God, Depression, and Me {guest post}

  1. Mark Kubo 19th November, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    As I read this, several questions come to my mind: Is part of the problem with certain segments of Christianity that teaches that “suffering is necessary”? That people need to suffer in order for God to really make changes? That because the Bible talks about a “Refiner’s Fire” that we must all go through suffering in order to be purified?

    In my understanding of God, he does not cause suffering and he does not need suffering to create good. But because suffering simply “is” – a part of existence in a broken world – he will redeem suffering by using it, when it happens, to transform evil into good.

  2. Ruth 19th November, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    I don’t think anti depressants do any more to negatively impact our relationship with God than heart meds would for a heart patient or insulin for a diabetic 🙂 great post, bold faith. Love it

  3. Dyfed 19th November, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Great post.

    I have suffered from a lot of depression over the years and have been on Prozac twice. It helped me a great deal – though didn’t lead to being healed.

    I blogged about me experience recently: http://www.dyfedwynroberts.org.uk/index/the-effects-of-prozac-on-a-baptist-minister-s-preaching

  4. JD 19th November, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    This post is a blessing to me today. I don’t have depression, but I’ve been experiencing a little anxiety. I, too, mentioned it to my OB-GYN as it is accompanied by hot flashes and lightheadedness (I’m in my mid-20s!) She prescribed an anti-depressant/anti-anxiety med and I had a crazy reaction to it. Now I’m really scared to try a different one and second guessing everything (was an OB-GYN the right doctor to go to? Should I get a second opinion? Is she not understanding the problem? Was the reaction a sign from God that I’m being unfaithful by taking medicine? Am I not trusting Him if I do take them?)

    • Brenda 9th January, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      I know you posted this a few months ago, but wanted to respond to your comment in hopes that you will see it.
      It is very common for people to either not respond or experience negative effects to anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds. Many people have to try a variety of medications before they find one that works for them (It took 5 for me!) I found it so hard to cope during this period and was plagued with doubt and worry. When my primary care doctor suggested I see a psychiatrist, I took it as a sign to keep pursuing it for the sake of my health. With this experience I would highly recommend that you seek a 2nd opinion (if you haven’t already). You OB-GYN will understand and probably can refer you to one. As other people have mentioned in the comments, I don’t see you (or anyone else) as being unfaithful by taking anti-depressant/anxiety medication, just as I wouldn’t think that way for someone who takes heart medication or insulin.
      Hopefully you have already decided to keep pursuing this issue, but on the off chance you haven’t please reconsider. Taking medication does not mean you are weak or unfaithful, rather it shows that you are willing to do what it takes to fully live the life God has made for you.

    • Tanya 10th January, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Hi JD. Just wanted to say I hope you saw Brenda’s message to you here. Thinking of you!

  5. Melody Harrison Hanson 19th November, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    I don’t like who I am depressed. I’m a poor mother, friend, partner, citizen. I too have struggled with the idea of getting depressed again after a season of the other. I get angry, and resentful of “happy” people. On suffering leading us to cry out to God, I’ve found my med makes me flat. Perhaps it’s just not the right one.

  6. Anastasia 19th November, 2013 at 1:13 pm #

    As a follower of Christ, I know that its through His blood and study of the Word that I’m continually transformed into HIS image. THAT person, right there, is who God created me to be. My ptsd symptoms that I struggle with when I don’t take my anti-depressants are NOT my personality… they’re symptoms I experience based on trauma I went through after being sexually abused through early childhood and triggered by living in an abusive marriage for three years.

    Identifying myself by the symptoms garnered by that abuse is tantamount to giving the enemy glory for my creation; it was in fact, he, who sought to devour me and operated through my abusers to take me from the strong, powerful woman of God whom I was created to be to a fragmented being, so desolate that I doubted God’s perfect love for me.

    The truth doesn’t lay with my PTSD symptoms, and it doesn’t lay somewhere in between; there are no grey areas in Christ Jesus.

    The truth about who I am doesn’t even lay with how I see myself… gazing at my own reflection mirrored in a pond will give me a distorted view of myself, at best. It is only in the Creator’s eyes that I can truly see myself in who He created me to be.

  7. Joanna 19th November, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    Hi Beth – thank you VERY much for sharing this. Although depression is about far more than just chemicals I think it is important to remember that there is a chemical aspect. I have been on anti-depressants for a long time and I think of them as a ‘top-up’. When my brain does not produce enough of particular chemicals to enable me to function, then the pills bring the levels up to where I can. In other words, they make it possible for me to be my ‘real’ self. The pills do not make decisions for me about my life but they do put me in a position where I have the energy and health to live my life to the best of my ability. And as you so wisely say, the people we love need us to be able to do that. God bless you.

  8. Allan Dickinson 19th November, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    Makes you think of some of the people Jesus healed, especially those with long (even lifelong) illnesses. How were their lives changed? How did they cope?

    Thanks for sharing this story, and I join in your trust in God.

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