two days after my last post, robin williams took his life. i was sitting on the loveseat at a friend’s house- a bunch of girls from my small group were just sitting around, talking and sharing interweb things we had come across lately when someone saw the news on twitter and told us.
it came out that he had been dealing with depression for quite some time. people were asking ‘how could someone who brought that much joy to people and made people laugh so hard be depressed?”. i didn’t need to ask that question, because i knew.
the blogosphere lit up like a christmas tree with everyone’s two cents about depression and suicide and medication and allthethings. there were some awful things written, some of them by well-meaning, professing christians (let’s give them the benefit of the doubt). but they were still awful. there were also some great things written, and those are the ones i want to focus on. regardless of personal opinion about robin williams, hopefully his death has caused us to rethink how we look at people and the assumptions we make about the state of their hearts. hopefully this has made us reexamine what we think about depression and seriously reframe that conversation.
i guarantee that you know someone who is depressed. (if you’re reading this, you know me … so that’s at least one.) hopefully the links below will give you a little insight and help you think about and converse with us in ways that don’t make us want to crawl back under our rocks and die. so here jus go:
Depression: the Dark Night of Body and Soul (from halee gray scott)
“Depression is telling you something that is wrong,” my doctor said. “And when it goes untreated, it’s almost impossible to cure apart from community support and medication because it creates changes in our brain and body.”
” … it is clear that we must jettison any simplistic understanding of the complex interaction between brain and body as a matter of individuals choosing to either sinfully wallow in mental illness or righteously embrace freedom in Christ. Similarly, we must also not succumb to a materialistic view that defines people stuck in mental illness solely as victims of circumstance.”
depression and common grace (from jared wilson, a pastor and author in vermont) [GO READ ALL HIS STUFF. LIKE RIGHT NOW. FOR REAL FOR REAL.]
The first thing we may say about the bigness of Jesus is that he is big enough to help us in many ordinary means. Many Christians have adopted the unfortunate posture of Job’s friends, adding more discouragement to those discouraged in depression by urging them not to seek help except via spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. These are certainly the most important prescriptions for any of us!
The fuller truth, however, is that while Jesus is enough, his enough-ness may be manifested in our getting help from material means. These too are gifts from God, provided through the common graces of scientific research, academic study, pastoral giftedness, analytic method, and modern medicine.
What I mean is this: talk to a trained counselor and take the meds if they are needed. When it comes to medication, at the very least, don’t not take it out of fear of distrust of Jesus. Antidepressants may or may not help you, but discuss the options with your doctor, preferably after conferring with a clinical psychologist who is also a Christian, and if you decide they are not for you, don’t decide so because you think to take them is to deny Jesus’s ability to heal.
What the Church & Christians Need to Know About Suicide & Mental Health (from ann voskamp)
… your mind can feel like it’s burning up at all the edges and there’s never going to be any way to stop the flame. Don’t bother telling us not to jump unless you’ve felt the heat, unless you bear the scars of the singe.
Don’t only turn up the praise songs but turn to Lamentations and Job and be a place of lament and tenderly unveil the God who does just that — who wears the scars of the singe.
Christians Can’t Ignore the Uncomfortable Reality of Mental Illness (from amy simpson, via christianity today)
When we respond in these ways, we make ourselves irrelevant to people who need our help. We send the message that our faith has no answer or explanation for this kind of suffering. We suggest there is an easy answer to their suffering, yet it remains elusive to them for some reason, probably because they don’t deserve it and we do. We imply that God himself is ready to walk away from people in pain. All this from people who mean well but just don’t know what to do.
when depression comes back (from addie zierman)
In the sterile, fluorescence of the exam room, I cried while the doctor asked me questions.
“Am I going to have to be on these damn pills for the rest of my life?” I asked.
“Maybe,” she said. “Maybe not. It’s different for everyone, but it’s okay if you do.”
As Christians we are to deal gently with the broken and mournful. It is in this way we follow the Christ we have in the gospel. We follow a Messiah who was a man of sorrows, well acquainted with the painful way of the world we live in. Indeed, it’s precisely to bring comfort and relief to those who mourn that he took up his own cross; he came that he might end their suffering in his own.
the depressed christian (from megan tietz)
… the gift I will take forward from my struggles with depression is knowing on a heart-level what it is to feel that the God you love has abandoned you to the dark, I know what it is to feel staggering guilt that the family you love isn’t enough to pull you back from the dark, and I know what it is to both loathe the working of your brain and feel powerless to fix it.
It is a gift because never again will I suggest to someone that the solution is so easy. It is a gift because I can now speak to other Christians about the struggle, offering to them dignity instead of shame. It is a gift because when I read of suicide or other depression-driven acts, my first response is to sob rather than preach. And it is a gift because I can say with certainty that the LORD is close to the brokenhearted even if He feels far, far away.
when existence becomes seemingly impossible (from alan noble at christ & pop culture)
What I want to say is that life is harder than most of us will let on, and probably the deepest struggles we’ll face will be silent and petty — things like choosing to get out of bed and get dressed. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, but so too is Christ’s Grace. So, get up, when you can, and carry on. Rest your burdens on He who loves you, and turn to the pilgrims alongside you. Some days, rising out of bed is a great act of worship.
resources on depression (from fabs harford) the cartoons on this one are amazing. click through to the links she provides for more of them … i laughed pretty hard at this (after i picked up my jaw off the floor at how accurate this depiction is).
tangled up in blue: depression and the christian life (from sammy rhodes, another GOREADALLTHETHINGS)
The image of a bruise is the perfect image for depression. Because sometimes you know how a bruise got there, and sometimes you genuinely don’t. Sometimes it’s pretty clear why you are depressed, and other times depression shows up out of the blue (pun intended) and next thing you know, to quote Bob Dylan, you’re tangled up in blue to the point where it’s hard to breathe.
i’ve also been listening to this song on repeat lately- audrey assad’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and these lyrics are the cry of my heart.