When I was a young girl, probably about 7 or 8 years old, my mother had a nervous breakdown. She spent the next few months on anti-depressants, slept on the couch a lot, and my father went overboard to do nice things for her. She came out of things eventually, and that was kind of the end of that.
Her father before her had spent years depressed. My first memories of him were of a silent, emotionless, stoic man who sat in the corner. One day, when we went to visit, he smiled. He began coming out of his depression. I found out that that had not been the first occurrence. He had been in an institition in the early 70's and had actually been given electroshock therapy. Honestly, if I had to live with my grandmother, I would have been depressed, too. She was a horrible, nasty woman.
Three years ago, my father, the person one would least likely expect to endure this, began a descent into clinical depression. I cannot tell you what it is like to confront the man who has always been larger than life to you, and see what is almost like a small child. He was no longer confident, assured, in charge. He was bewildered, uncertain, and sad. Being far away from him was very difficult, and getting information from my mother was not an easy task. The person suffering from depression doesn't go through it alone; he takes everyone along for the ride. My mother did not want to worry her children, so it was not easy to find out what was happening. Even as I compared notes with two of my brothers, things were still unclear. None of us seemed to know what was going on. I wanted to know if my father was talking to someone, or just taking medication. My mother just didn't want to talk about it.
I'm happy to say that my father is more like my father again. He has been taken off his medications, and when I talk to him, I hear in his voice that he is coming out of the darkness. I'm so thankful for that.
Depression can run in families, and I was never more aware of that than I was about fifteen years ago. I didn't go through clinical depression, but I went through a period of about a year where I struggled against a great deal of sadness and feelings of isolation. Depression episodes are usually triggered by something, and mine was triggered by moving here and finding myself far from my family support system. I could not see then, but I can see now, how God ordained such a circumstance so that I would cling to him. Going to a weekly bible study, and getting in the Word of God was what I needed to see myself clearly. It was not as serious as what my dad went through, but I do remember having a conversation with my mother one day about how I often felt like I was slipping into a big hole, and she was extremely alarmed, having been there and knowing what can follow from that.
Depression is a sensitive topic, largely because most people don't understand it. I have read a few books on the subjedt, Out of the Blues, by Wayne Mack being one of them. I started reading it when my dad was diagnosed. Recently, I picked up David Murray's little book Christians Get Depressed, Too. No, I'm not depressed, but seeing my father go through this did alarm me, especially given the family history. As my father went through his illness, I was told that depression in senior citizens is not all that uncommon. It was easy for me to think that perhaps my father's illness was triggered by his turning 70 and confronting the end of his life as a man who does not know God. But what about me? What would I do in that situation? There is a misconception that Christians never get depressed, or that if they do, they're sinning. There are some really harsh attitudes out there, coming from people who have never felt that creeping darkness come over them.
This book by David Murray so far has been the most refresehing book on the subject I have seen. I hope to do a review of it when I'm done. One of the things that Murray re-iterates is that depression is a complicated issue. The causes are not cut and dried. There can be an overlap of many factors. I liked this passage he quoted by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
Christians don't understand how physical, psychological, and spiritual realms interrelate because Satan muddies the boundaries. Many of our troubles are caused because we think a problem is spiritual when it is physical or we think a problem is physical when it is emotional or spiritual.
This passage comes from Lloyd-Jones's book The Christian Warfare. I have not read that volume, but I have read Spiritual Depression, a must read for any Christian.
We are tempted when we see depressed people to just tell them to pull up their socks and get going. It isn't always that easy. Just ask a woman who has recently given birth how hard it is to adjust to the physical changes of hormone re-adjustments. There simply are physical contributions to the condition that we have to discern first before we get out our 2x4's and start beating. So far, this book is showing a much more balanced view of things.