To meet a person who has gone through an entire lifetime without even a common cold would be a rarity let alone most likely impossible. I personally would like to go through simply a year without a cold or severe allergy attack. It is estimated that within the span of a full lifetime for all human beings that we will have had at least one episode of major depression. This is not a case of the blue, blahs, or a bad mood but rather more along the lines of “I’m down and I can’t get up!” Unfortunately, most of us have a tendency to project our mortality aversions onto our mental health status. “Who me, depressed? Why I’m too strong for that.”
An identity of strength, self-sufficient, and impervious to depression is quite often a perfect profile for this disordered mood to take root. Stoicism, as a tool to ward of depression, is nothing but faulty, pretentious, and psychologically risky.
Let’s recognize that our cultural imagery with depression still has such a taboo on mental health partly because we are only one generation past insane asylums. Whether directly or indirectly, almost all of us can touch the memory of people who were crazy and had to be put away in an asylum. Quite often, depression was treated just this way, either drugged-up or placed away somewhere. It is no wonder that this mood disorder was assigned such a stigma. We now know that environment can plummet depression dramatically, especially if surrounded with psychosis, addiction withdrawal, paranoia and schizophrenia.
Society is slowly learning that self-expression is an essential part of healing depression. This is not about complaining and gossiping but rather a self-reflective inventory of emotion and thought about one’s self and one’s life, one’s character and one’s spirit.
In the book of Psalms, Davis is known for this form of self–expression such as in chapter 13; “How long will you forsake me Lord, Forever?” Here he was possibly foreshadowing his future ancestor, Jesus, upon the cross in His hours of deepest isolation.
We must be very aware of our own personal ability to isolate from others. This behavior may only further a fostering of ground upon which depression may propagate itself.
An adage that is helpful to reduce the risk of being vulnerable to depression is this: “Impression, without expression, leads to depression”. We must allow ourselves a type of permission to utilize the gift of another person’s presence to speak and express openly and thoroughly. So therefore, listen internally to the frequency of the restrictive comments made to one’s self. “Oh, I’d better not say anything or else…
This isolationistic approach can lead to despair. Despair need not be a part of anybody’s depression. Too often, despair is seen as the absence of hope. In reality, despair is the fear of hope’s absence.
May we realize that depression is not about personal fault but rather a personal responsibility? Depression is not uncommon but most often it is hidden. The next time you feel down in the dumps, make sure that you remain relational and expressive so that you do not enter isolation and despair.
To hear more from Randy Kiel, click here to watch his latest presentation from the SJEC’s event A Light in the Darkness: Understanding and Ministering to Depression. Or to learn more about his work, click here to visit Kardia Counseling.