A Depression Observed

I can’t help but think of the contrast between this time last year and now. Basically, a year ago I felt like I was either crazy or falling apart or both.

In hindsight, I can see that years of not addressing issues as they arose and just trying to suck it up were backfiring. Doug and I were both exhausted from church planting and life. We were both trying to cope in unhealthy ways. I had pulled myself out of funks before, but I was at the end of what I could do in my own strength. I needed help.

Last October I felt like I was lying in the bottom of a deep grave. I was on my back looking up. Steep, clean-dug dirt walls rose around me, no foothold in sight. I wasn’t worried about the dirt being shoveled on top of me. I didn’t care. I just wanted to sleep. I had no energy or hope to ever get out.

When I told our church leadership, they were quick to offer support and care for me, Doug, our marriage, our family. I processed with a counselor, which was extremely helpful. She said I was definitely depressed. A nurse practitioner she referred me to prescribed an antidepressant to help me get out of the pit. A doctor noticed some vitamin deficiencies that may have contributed as well.

I wasn’t philosophically opposed to medicine for anyone else, but it seemed a bit too easy when it came to me. Happy medicine. Apparently I did have a philosophical problem with medicine. I felt like I should be able to self-regulate with exercise and diet and stress management alone. I felt weak. The nurse practitioner encouraged me to think of the antidepressant medicine like I would think of medicine for a diabetic. She said if someone’s blood-sugar levels were beyond the point of self-regulation, she might need medicine for a time or forever in order to get up to a high enough level to be able to self-regulate. That made sense to me. Apparently, my brain needed more serotonin than I was producing.

God brought to mind the story of Naaman in the Bible (2 Kings 5). Naaman thought dipping his body in the Jordan River seven times was too easy a thing to make him clean from his leprosy. He thought the cure should be more elaborate. His pride kept him from accepting the simple, good gift being offered him. Perhaps that was why God had made it easy? Would Naaman trust? Would he humble himself and accept? Would he be thankful? Would I?

By Christmas, I got to where my fingers at least were hanging on the ledge above. By God’s grace, I had scrabbled up the sleek side enough to get a fingerhold at the top. But I couldn’t quite swing a leg up. Life was still too hard, but there was at least a light above. I wanted to get out of the grave.

By early March, I got to where I could swing up a leg over the side. Then eventually the other. By April, I felt hope again and was lying in the sunshine next to the grave, so very thankful to be out.

I still take an antidepressant. I also take vitamin supplements, try to get regular sunlight, exercise, sleep, and other things to take care of my brain and the rest of my body. Doug was and is very supportive of me taking time as needed to take care of myself. I appear to be at a point, with the help of medicine, where I can self-regulate. I am thankful.

I can still remember how the dark place felt last winter. I really didn’t believe I would ever have hope again. If you are in that place, please talk to me or someone. No one should be in that place alone.

The contrast of the hope I have now with the darkness of last year makes me appreciate my life all the more. I know there is much God has for me to do, and I want to do it. I am thankful anew for the One who truly conquered death by rising from the grave so that I may have hope and life.

Doug Serven