Someone recently told me that he had finally and reluctantly decided to go to the doctor about his painful and debilitating depression and ask about going on meds. I knew this person had tried every other spiritual and commonsense remedy but was simply not getting better.
With his permission, here’s the advice I gave him plus another few points I’ve thought of since. Perhaps it will help others in a similar situation:
So sorry to hear you are still suffering in this way. But I’m very happy to hear that you are going to the doctor’s today. I know you are nervous but I wouldn’t worry about the visit – you will probably be just one of a dozen depressed people the doctor will see that week. He’s used to it.
I’m glad you are willing to consider the meds. The side-effects are usually minimal for most people and are often greatly exaggerated by opponents of medications.
Somebody recently told me that since they started on meds they didn’t have the real lows they used to experience. However, they didn’t have the sweet highs of spiritual communion with God so much either. The reality is that that’s meds at work; to some extent, they do flatten out our emotions – the highs and the lows. But as I explained to this person, taking meds can be an act of self-denial. You may have to deny yourself these fleeting moments of wonderful spiritual feelings in order to function better for all around you who are dependent upon you. Taking meds can be an act of service to others.
I would simply encourage you to tell the doctor everything – don’t hold back, don’t minimize, don’t play it down – just tell exactly how you are feeling. You may get quite emotional opening up for the first time like this, but the doctor is very used to this and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.
In the coming weeks, don’t read too much or watch too much TV. It’s time to relax your mind, seek peace and quiet, exercise daily, eat well, sleep well. Avoid screen technology in the late evening.
Try to maintain a routine each day but don’t overpack each day and try to accomplish too much.
Be patient with the medication, give it a few weeks to build in your system. Be very regular in taking them, do not skip them. Ask God to bless His provision of these drugs, and that He would direct them to the right places in your body.
Given what you’ve told me about your state of mind, you should ask your doctor about ongoing counseling, preferably from someone with expertise in CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy). That will help you re-train your mind/thinking patterns for long-term recovery. If it was a Christian counselor, that would be even better, but make sure they are trained in CBT.
I’d encourage you to keep your pastor informed, and maintain Christian fellowship in a local church. Ask your pastor or a trusted mature Christian if he would meet with you every week for the next month or so to encourage you and pray with you.
I’m afraid I have to caution you against telling lots of people about taking anti-depressants. With almost every other medication, you’d get lots of sympathy and prayer support. However, in the church there’s a lot of ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding around anti-depressants, and you may not get much sympathy or prayer support. I’m sorry I have to say that, but that’s the reality. You can probably tell which people will be sympathetic and supportive – usually people who have been through a lot in their lives – so you may want to carefully explore confiding in one or two of them.
Although you may not feel like it and your concentration is lacking, have a set time each day to pray and read the Bible. Not 2 hours (!), but start small, say a few mins of reading and a couple of minutes of prayer, and once you’ve got that going regularly at the same time each day, start slowly increasing it as you feel able.
Keep your hopes up. I know it feels like a dark hole at the moment, with no light in view, but the vast majority of people come through this with the Lord’s help if they use the means He has provided.
The Lord will bring good out of this. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen God use experiences like this in His people’s lives to sanctify them and prepare them for future service to other suffering Christians.