My name is Dave Marks. I am the Social Media Coordinator for Lutheran Church Charities. I’ve been with the ministry for over 5 years. After reading the recent LCC devotion series on the topic of depression, I thought it would be nice to add a personal spin on the topic. While I am not an expert on the topic by any stretch of the imagination, I talk about my experience openly as a means to help anyone who may be struggling through the nightmare that is major depressive disorder.
First thing to note is that depression is a clinical illness. It is not a “weakness in character” or something that will “just go away on its own”, as many people in our society believe it to be. It is a medical disease. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders* (the publication that psychiatrists and clinicians use to diagnose mental health disorders), depression is a
Depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks.
Note that it is not solely a spell of sadness; it is prolonged feeling of hopelessness or emptiness. For me, that manifested itself at the often turbulent teenage years around 15 years old. It would have appeared from the outside that I had little or nothing to be depressed about. I had a loving and caring family, a bright future ahead of me, and great friends. I acknowledge that someone from the outside looking in wouldn’t think I would have any reason to be depressed. I wouldn’t have thought so either prior to my journey with it.
It started sort of gradually with a decrease in interest in activities that I used to find enjoyable. I became more withdrawn, less social, and just generally not as fun to be around. I also lost weight. A lot of weight. At a time when men tend to put on muscle and weight as puberty takes effect, I lost over 30 pounds in 3 months. By the time I entered junior year, I weighed a scary 110 pounds because of my lack of interest in food an increased interest in running an excessive amount (as a method to cope with what I was dealing with). I lived in this hole for close to 5 years before, through the grace of God and the love of my mom, dad, and brother, I came through on the other side. I honestly believe I wouldn’t have survived if my family hadn’t prodded me to seek counseling and go to a psychiatrist. It is through their love and support, and the love of a gracious God, that I am here today.
I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for my psychiatrist. I truly believe that God surrounded me with such a loving family that cared so much that they brought me to a psychiatrist who saved my life. As a Christian, we do believe that God can perform all things and make all things possible. Nothing is impossible with God. With that said, God also puts tools and resources in our lives to help us help ourselves. Or, puts people in our lives to fight for us when we no longer want to fight for ourselves. I truly believe that. I would be dead If I hadn’t had the family that God put in my life to fight for me and love me when it felt like no one else on earth felt like they did. I cannot express the depth of my gratitude for not only God and my family, but also the tools He and they put in my life (such as the psychiatrist and therapist) that inevitably saved my life.
Depression is a treatable illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health**:
“Depression, even the most severe cases, can be treated. The earlier that treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two.”
I have been on antidepressants for 17 years to treat the chemical imbalance in my brain. I am not ashamed of this at all, and speak of it quite frankly and openly. I do not have any doubt in my mind that they and my family were and are my miracles. They give me a chance to live life. A shot in this very broken world to live a blessed, full, and meaningful time on this earth. Without them, this would not be possible.
There are plenty of resources and tools available to someone who may be experiencing depression. As with most medical issues, talking with your doctor about treatment plans and psychiatrists in your area is a great place to start. Your doctor will be able to diagnose your disease and help you take the appropriate next steps for you. This may be scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist and/or a therapist. These emotional and mental health professionals will then be able to offer medications and therapy options, respectively, that are most suited for you.
As you begin your road to recovery, know that it may not be cured right away. Chances are, it won’t. But the best tool that you have available to you is communication. Try to communicate to the best of your ability how you are feeling. This was especially true for me during the early stages of my treatment. It took my psychiatrist 3 years to figure out the right cocktail of medications that worked best with my body and mind. If a medication isn’t working for you or there isn’t much improvement, tell your psychiatrist. If a particular type of self-talk doesn’t help you, tell your therapist. There are other options that may be better suited for you. Depression is a very individual experience in that what one depressed person may experience may not be what another person may experience. The causes may be different from person to person as well. This impacts the type of treatment options that may work the best.
If you are going through depression, please know that you are loved and cared for. There is hope. There is always hope. I am a living and breathing example of how successful treatment can be.
Below are some online resources that someone with depression may find helpful. I hope my aforementioned discourse on the matter and exploration of my journey with the disease helps give you a different viewpoint of the disease and helps further your understanding of this debilitating illness.