7th December 2020, hej
This Article: (3 Pages)
1) Case study of Depression: for carers from a Bible perspective
This is the case study of one: myself and what I have learnt from others who have conquered it too. But it may be useful.
Firstly Depression is perhaps miss-named. It wasn't what I thought it was. I wasn't sad, but rather 'wound up'. It is not feeling down or sad necessarily, but often might be more emotions well out of control, not just anxiety but intense irrational anxiety.
He that has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. (Proverbs 25:28)
One incident which was to resonate with me and give a good direction was what happened to Saul when he became proud, rebelled and departed from God. Samuel points out Saul's pride,
Then Samuel said unto Saul, “Stay, and I will tell you what the LORD has said to me this night.”
And he said unto him, “Say on.”
And Samuel said, “When you were little in your own sight, were you not made the head of the tribes of Israel, and the LORD anointed you king over Israel?” (1Samuel 15:16-17)
The spirit of Yahweh doesn't dwell with human pride (Isaiah 59:2 &57:15).
But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD troubled him. (1Samuel 16:14)
It is indeed possible that God may send 'an evil spirit' and Depression often feels to the sufferer like an evil spirit.
Another passage which was encouraging in terms of seeking healing from God was the number of people healed of mental illness by our lord.
Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the daimonion were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid. (Luke 8:35)
It is Yahweh's prerogative to do as he wishes, he may strike, but when we seek him with our whole heart, mind and soul, he is merciful to heal us.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. (Deu 32:39)
I was told by a doctor (and now mother of 4) who had had depression when finishing her medical studies, that she suspects it first when there are inexplicable patterns of health complaints.
Symptoms were both physical and mental. The physical symptoms fit with being worn out,
Irregular heartbeat (or perception of it)
Pain in the chest as if tearing (or perception of it)
Inexplicable pains and stomach upset (feeling unwell)
If female, severe cramping as part of cycle
dark under eyes
not being able to sleep (to the point of throwing the digital alarm clock!)
Nervous tension, being unable to relax, 'keyed up'
Pricking sensations in the skin
General aching (so that no bed is soft enough to sleep on)
There seems to be consistency in the description of feeling a fog (or 'darkness') in the head, or a 'pushing in' sensation inside the head. The mental symptoms might vary more from person to person.
Excessive prolonged anxiety/ fear for mundane things, worry about death.
Long periods of intense anger or sadness / weeping, especially in winter.
Irrational re-occurring thoughts.
a feeling of being unable to control thoughts.
periods of intense frustration. Screaming. Throwing things.
extreme sensitivity, to images, sound, light, voices, touch sensations.
Symptoms may vary from person to person, and the illness may vary. These are my observations, an experienced doctor will know more.
The good news is that many including myself have made it to the other side, to emerge as much happier people.
And more so, looking back, you will see a blessing. I made it without drugs. I had the supoort of my mother and God in prayer.
A lady said to me when she knew I was unwell that during her two years she walked with God and was closer to God than she had ever been, and that helped me -
I can say indeed the God of the Bible was my staff and comfort as I walked through the valley of the shadow. I found always I could go foward if I prayed.
If I prayed for calm, the calm came. My advice: Don't look back and pray. To carers what we say is not real. It will distress you (my poor mother who heard dreadful things),
but forget it. Listen, yes, but forget and don't reinforce it, don't ask into it, analyse it or argue with it. Distract to good and positive thoughts.
Sit with us, but
you won't 'get through', as we in the valley of the shadow are locked in an inward focussed tiring battle in our own troubled brain
where all the rest of the world is felt through dense glass wall, through which all things come too loudly and brightly.
Then one day it begins to dissove, until it is gone.
2) The Journey There (or how I may have avoided it)
Our society is competitive. We hear often of executive “burn out” and victims of the “rat race”. Some alcoholics once were striving for great things.
Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? (Habbakuk 2:13)
There are three sources for sins,
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1Jn 2:16)
Modern life seeks to uphold the ideal that we satisfy the desires, to be “fulfilled” to meet our expectations. That we are allowed and even encouraged to strive after what we covet.
In all cases of Depression I have heard of, and these people did not abuse alcohol or drugs, there were a few factors common. The first is a long period of stress. In at least two cases I know it was study combined with life pressure. The stress was applied by the person to themselves. Another case was a problem son of religious people who for a long time struggled with their son over his return again and again to drug use, and the resultant problems with police. The second factor was lack of sleep, which studies confirmed does have a link. (smh.com.au). Whether the stress led to a lack of sleep or the lack of sleep increased stress, it is not known, but the majority of our society, especially students, are sleep deprived and have poor sleep patterns (bbc.co.uk). The third factor which might be suspected as contributing is a health failure of any sort. The fourth is a curious one in that so many who are busy are not getting good quality exercise (Sleep Foundation)
I fitted at least one pattern. I was striving after great things, to be with those who were esteemed by the world. In doing a PhD, I was working as post graduate researcher for a high profile government research project. I was also teaching, and at the same time involved in a highly stressful design of for a famous jewellery store, for the type of wealthy clients who think you have the honour of working for them.
I was working weekends and late nights. I travelled often to work 12 hour days and travelled to conferences. I was staying in places and not sleeping. I had had Chronic Fatigue for six months but was strong again, having got to the point of being able to cycle an hour to the University. I played tennis once a week to 9-10pm. I was often on a high. I was often fighting things though and stressed. I was often stressed to meet deadlines. But I was very self confident. I could not be told my way was wrong.
The key factor was 'pride' and 'self confidence' leading to high expectations of self. There was both physical over reaching and mental over taxing.
Thou are wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet said thou not, “There is no hope: thou hast found the life of thine hand; therefore thou wast not grieved. And of whom hast thou been afraid or feared, that thou hast lied, and hast not remembered me, nor laid it to thy heart? have not I held my peace even of old, and thou fear me not? I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee. (Isaiah 57:10-12)
There seems a common thread of over work and over stress, combined with illness. There is a long known link between stress and sickness.
Retrospectively, in analysis, the meta-issue was that I engaged in Society. So why is it our society is sleep deprived, coffee-driven, 'go-go', when the hope of the Bible is an agrarian one rolling casually with the seasons? It is said in the Bible that the ideal of the future is every man sitting at rest under his vine tree,
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it. (Micah 4:3-4)
The second point is that our society is competitive and confrontational. People in general would rather argue things out and fight than to compromise and resolve differences. There is a culture of taking people to court and standing on ones “rights”. Also many people are 'issue' driven, thinking they are right and trying to persuade everyone else. It is well known now that conflict reduces immunity.
Our Lord got to the heart of it in his advice to a world which was not dissimilar to ours,
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there remember that thy brother has ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. (Matthew 5:22-25)
And also we are advised,
And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: (Ephesians 4:23-26)
One of the serious issues of Depression seems to be troubling thought patterns that go on for days, and weeks and months. If you are fighting a court case, such as in a divorce, or on a civil matter, or against a neighbour or it will go on and it requires much effort to disengage the mind from your own “rights” and the others “wrongs”. Such a period of high stress might, in combination with illness, be a trigger.
Another is academic or other achievement. It seems we can place such high pressure on ourselves studying or to achieve some goal, that we can wind our thinking and our life focus that it becomes hard to relax. Fundamentally, this is 'the pride of life', but also is linked to a culture of “self esteem” and “self worth”.
The Bible requires us to not have self esteem but rather to be totally broken in spirit. The Bible requires us to be depressed! In following its advice to not strive, to not esteem ourselves great, we might avoid depression!
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and tremble at my word. (Isaiah 66:2)
The word in Hebrew for poor means “depressed, in mind or circumstances - afflicted, humble`, lowly`, needy.”
If we live a life and actively depress self esteem we will avoid Depression!
Isaac Newton is a famous case having a well known era of three dark years. This was preceded by: striving very hard after knowledge, exposing himself to high levels of chemicals in the pursuit of that knowledge and winding it up by an ongoing and acrimonious argument about academic precedence (standing on his rights). He was blessed in having friends who rescued him, and looked after him despite his emotional ravings. He was not mad, he had depression, and for him no doubt his copious writings on the Bible came to be a comfort as he strived for this rather than worldy things. He withdrew from stress and exposing his ideas. In this time he took a job at the Royal Mint and ironically earned a knighthood for his dedicated work. The pattern is he humbled himself and then was honoured. Only now are his writings on the Bible being analysed, and he was preserved from having to argue about them, but not publishing. He sought peace. It is curious that all who I have talked to who have loved the Bible have gone through the 'darkness' and sought God there, speak of feeling close to God.
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit. (Psalm 34:18)
It seems of great benefit to achieve a broken heart and spirit
For thou desire not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17)
For thus says the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Isaiah 57:15
It seems the fate of all servants that at some point, or all points they draw close to God, through suffering. If is it not from persecutions, it will be another aspect of our lives. Somehow we have to change our attitude ourselves to the blessed state that our Lord loves,
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:1-9)
The meek do not argue and fight. The depressed and poor in spirit do not seek to take on the world.
Our society thinks we ought to be happy and self confident, our Lord asks us to be depressed and lack self confidence in seeking blessing!
Controlled depression is a desirable state, a putting aside a place for any pain and emotional upset in a place of understanding.
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:3-5)
It requires a certain humility in attitude to desire and accept rebuke.
We might avoid the pain of Depression by having a spirit of not striving at any level, and accepting we might be wrong at all times.
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:8-9)
There seems great virtue in controlling strong emotion such as anger, by eliminating it rapidly. Also to not be stressed or 'hasty in spirit'.
There seems no real cure for Depression but to unwind the pattern behaviour and thinking that led to it, while at the same time dealing with the physical aliments one by one. Drugs merely mask it.
Patterns of behaviour are built up over years might take possibly some years to re-program. It may require a serious change in life.
It will require the identification of the sources of stress and their practical elimination and/or attitude change to them. It may be also require the elimination of the idea people rely on you. If you rely on God, then others may do so.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
This meekness, and accepting how others treat us, seems a key.
Some Disturbing Things
The individual experience is going to be distinct. There are some things to know, which it is going to be hard to deal with. In the winter Depressed people may seem perpetually cold, and feel the cold more than others. They might need hotter room. They will also feel the heat more than others. Research indicates that this also goes with people who have been distressed by relationship break ups, or other distress.
Things that are sad and/or angry will seem much more sad and more angry. But a joke which before was funny might seem not funny. Words, including of songs, that normally people let drift by them on the radio or TV or in adjacent conversations are heard more distinctly. They may have a great impression.
Reading is difficult as it's hard to focus on words on paper. And the head feels always full of fog or under a slight dark-feeling pressure. And being 'keyed-up' means it's harder to focus. The emotions, and being easily upset, sadness and blackness mean that novel reading might not be possible.
Normally relaxing activities may not be relaxing, as relaxing is not possible, due to streams of unwanted thoughts. People might be afraid to relax because then the thoughts come crowding in. Time does strange things it can seem to elongated so hours drag, then a day may pass like time lapse, very very fast.
There might be a search for greater meaning and a burst of creativity, as the brain goes into over working, and is sensitive to ideas.
But the thing that might scare people is what a person with Depression might say. I will not write the stupid things I thought and said. I found that others I meet who went through Depression thought themselves mad, and they worried about being mad. We are not what we think. What is going on I suspect is that junk in the mind is being thrown out, as we do in dreams. More than that some things that come into the mind just don't make any sense, so they are best put aside and a door shut on them.
They are best forgotten. It's a struggle to forget them, but one day they go to come back no more. It becomes a technique that when a thought came I didn't like I would say to myself “life” to override it, also to close mental door of my mind on it. Each time it comes close it back and replace with one that is good. I will return to this.
The person who hears them will be shocked. My advice is to turn their thoughts immediately, and never, never delve into it or reinforce it. It's not real. Mine were not. Most imagine they are dying and they are not dying. They think they are sick and they are not as sick physically as they fear. There are sensations which are physically felt which are not real. We are not imagining it, but it's the brain doing something on its own to produce those sensations as it's worn out.
The hardest part is thoughts of self harm. This must be understood, by both carer and sufferer, which is a very hard fact for normally intense and conscientious people that for this time, “we are not our thoughts”. We do not do what we think. We must be able to dis-associate, and to think 'Its ok, I don't mean that, is just my brain'. Then to learn skills of driving conscious thoughts to replace the 'stream of conscience'.
There is then a curious thing: that we need to relax, but can't, that we need to stop thinking but must put more effort into thinking. That we need to rest and not do anything, but yet we can't.
People with depression may also be unable to relate to people being bound by their mind, as if in a dark zone behind glass. But having caring people nearby they can trust to blurt out whatever they need help on, is needed. So they seem very selfish, and may lean on the person nearby. All you may need to do is to be there, and to not worry about what they say.
The most powerful thing that will get people through this stage is a belief in God, and a desire to serve God with their whole heart and strength. Everything that must be felt must be suffered in patience. We are not to take life or make marks on ourselves,
Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:28)
We have also advice to give us the key to enduring suffering, even if we do not deserve it,
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1Peter 2:19-21)
3) The journey out (how it was overcome)
There seem few key factors. Pragmatically health issues need to be addressed. Even if a struggle to eat, they must believe it is good to eat. I used the verse, “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God” (Ecc 2:24). It seems that Vitamin B12 is very useful. This may be obtained from Malt (Barley) extract. Foods for reduction in stress seem to be good, including dairy products, which have magnesium, and spinach. Magnesium gives an appetite. For me Bananas were essential. Overall powdered calcium asorbate (Vitamin C) was good. It is now known to reduce mood effects of the female cycle and helps males also.
The off-the-shelf remedies for sleep such as 'St john's wort' were useless and seemed to be a cause of stress as they seemed to worsen the foggy-head feeling. Each person may be different.
Also exposure to the sun is very important for mood. Time needs to be put aside to sit in the sun, especially early in the morning. This sets the body clock, and will help with sleeping, which with Vitamin B12 are the 2 known useful treatments.
Daily exercise best in the morning. It is best if it is moderate. Half hour to an hour walk. I felt pain when I moved, and worried about making it back to the house, but it was necessary to do it to get good sleep.
But in addition to the practical physical things, the mind has to be re-newed.
Grow in Faith
The first factor is an overall gaining of faith and confidence in God's power over us. Everything may be achieved by this confidence.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. (Philipians 4:12-13)
There must be an ability to believe with every part of us that what we pray for we will be given.
Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. (James 5:16-17)
There has to be a willingness to confess fault, sin and transgression and to repent from our previous way. This is in general, but there are some specifics.
The first is sleep. Through the 'darkest' part it may be that 9-12 hours of sleep are needed. This sleep will be hard to achieve, as that was a problem that started it. It must be achieved: at least 2 good lots of 3 hours.
To achieve sleep one might pray,
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
There is also an absolute confidence in a known fact, God can give is a deep sleep. He made Adam sleep (Gen 2:21). He made Abram sleep (Gen 15:21) and he made Abner and Saul sleep (1 Sam 26:12), also Daniel (18:8). There is a power available that allowed our Lord to sleep through a storm. We may ask for it in faith.
Practically, then after the prayer we need techniques do deal with the thoughts. Counting sheep is too close. I found that visualising was best. To visualise the kingdom of God, Eden's paradise, or the Temple of Ezekiel's prophecy. Visualising is close to dreaming. It seems also a positive thing that the thoughts in such visualisation were of the very best type for a feeling of being at peace.
Sleeping a long time, gives the brain the rest it needs. Like a child, its best if made a habit, and expect at first that it will take a long time to fall asleep. Don't have high expectations, be thankful for everything.
Day: Renewing the mind
But during the day, how is it best to cope with? The key is the term 're-newing the mind'. In effect the day hours are re-programming.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:1-3)
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
This is asking us to reform our lives as well as thinking, but practically how can this be done? In Paul's letter to the Phillipians he writes,
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Php 4:4-9)
But how and what do we think on- Chances are what we think is 'good' is not really good. Our mind was messed up by thinking what we thought good... so how do we know what is good?
The law gives an answer. It might be unpalatable, but there is a reason for it. Israel as the firstborn son of God out of Egypt are asked to do something,
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shall love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sit in thine house, and when thou walk by the way, and when thou lie down, and when thou rise up. And thou shall bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shall write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
I implies we read the Bible daily and perhaps, if need, be hourly. There is no source other than the Bible not tainted by the thinking of humans. This command has no benefit as a ritual. It means that the words of the Bible must never be out of our thoughts during the day.
After a diet solely of the words of the Bible, you realise there is no book like it on earth: None. It has a curious capacity to both calm and rebuke. The tears that come are different, to others. If a portion is taken from both the Old and New Testament there will not fail to be one verse that may be written down to be learnt as comfort and for strength.
Preparing for Patience and the Long Struggle
It becomes fairly obvious after a few months or so that it will not be an instant heal. In our society every one hopes for quick fixes, to be healed and back doing what we did before. What people with Depression were doing before contributed to Depression, so chances are it not desirable to go back. There will be changes. There must also be the willingness to accept that life will be very different for 18 months to 2 years. For Isaac Newton with less access to vitamins it was 3 years. Years to us sound like a long time, so take 18 months and count them down as days, on a calendar or on a pocket notepad with the daily Bible verse.
Each day may be counted as a gift from God. In this way the attitude is changed to the suffering that will be experienced. Each day ticked off is a personal conquest made with the help of God. We can in this way also acknowledge the sovereignty of God from whom we seek healing.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)
There is evidence that Depression is not new (ponder Job 17:14-15), and it's not uncommon. It might be more part of the human condition, and more so if a society has unrealistic and/or false expectations. There is great advantage in the patience which a shift in thinking from expecting the moment to be perfect and without suffering, to a hope in a better day tomorrow.
It is a truth that since the curse of the time of Adam for all mankind there is inevitable sorrow (Gen 3:17). We see a moth-eaten world waxing old (Psa. 102:26) and about us a world where “all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered” (Eccl. 1:14-15). James encourages all “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job” (James 5:11). All the faithful are to have trial, but, Paul wrote with authority suffering ill health, imprisonment and argument,
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)