The Commencement Address I Imagine Myself Giving One Day

I wrote this comment on a blog I follow.

Awesome post! Here are few lessons I imagine myself telling if I’m ever asked to give a commencement address at my alma mater. Just an outline at this point.

1. Don’t be generic. God made you unique and gave you unique gifts to offer the world. Offer them, and be proud.
2. If you have enthusiasm for something, pursue it. The word enthusiasm literally means “breathing in God.” If you feel yourself breathing in God in any activity, that’s a big clue to your purpose in life.
3. Follow a career path that allows you to focus on your strengths. Don’t follow a path that’s not right for you just because you think you can make a lot of money at it.
4. Don’t try to change your basic nature. If you are extroverted, don’t force yourself to be an introvert. If you are introverted, don’t force yourself to be an extrovert. Both of them have their advantages. Whatever you are, do something that fits your personality rather than forcing yourself to change.
5. Believe in yourself and believe in the Almighty One. Wait, shouldn’t believing in God come first? That’s what most religious people will tell you. What I’ve learned is, if you don’t believe in yourself, nothing else you believe in will have any power for you.
6. Know yourself. If you don’t know who you are, what you believe in, what your unique gifts are, what your personality is, and what you have enthusiasm for, you won’t be able to follow points 1-5.

Do you think these are good life lessons to pass along?


Chris Cornell’s Black Hole Sun

As rock fans know, on May 18, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was found dead in his hotel room in Detroit. It was officially ruled a suicide by hanging. His wife says she thinks it was related to Ativan, a prescription drug mostly used to treat anxiety disorders. I know he had a history of depression and drug addiction. That combination often ends in tragedy.

Still, I have a hard time understanding it, because I saw him on CBS’s Saturday Morning show last month, and it looked like everything was going well for him. He wrote the theme song for “The Promise.”

I was interested in the movie before. The song was so beautifully poignant, I really wanted to see the movie after that. My girlfriend and I both loved the movie. We had never heard of the Turkish genocide campaign against the Armenians, so we learned something important. Cornell made us both want to see it.

Chris Cornell was touring with Soundgarden and excited about the new music they were making. He was proud of the music he wrote for the movie. He sounded optimistic, and it seemed like he had every reason to be happy with his life now. He did not seem like he had any reason to want to die. That’s why the news came as such a shock. And yet I know that’s what depression can do to you.

I don’t know if Cornell’s case was related to depression. The last time he spoke to his wife, he told her he had taken extra Ativan. I’ve posted before about my use of antidepressant drugs. In my case, they have helped tremendously, but they don’t work for everyone. Sometimes they can make the condition worse, so you have to work closely with your physician if you decide to try it. Any kind of psycho-tropic drug affects everyone differently. It’s possible that too much of it took his mind to a place we can’t understand, where hanging himself made perfect sense. The fact that an anti-anxiety drug was prescribed for him shows he was having some struggles.

When your sun is a black hole

I’ve seen it before, especially in people who struggle with both depression and/or drug addiction. They get treatment, they get clean and sober, and they look happy. They show no signs of being suicidal. They get their career and family life back on track. You think they’ve turned their lives around, then BAM! The news hits you like a 2″ x 4″. You saw them just a few days or weeks ago, and you wonder why you didn’t see any signs.

Since my girlfriend knows I have a history with depression, she couldn’t help wondering about me. I reassured her that I’m not just pretending to be happy. I really am, thanks in large part to her. But that’s what happens to the people left behind. It makes you second-guess yourself and everyone you love, especially if you know they have struggled with depression and/or drugs in the past. They look happy, but how do I know? And so with her worried about me, I gave her my word I would never do that to her. Is that enough? I hope so, because it really was the only assurance I could offer.

I wouldn’t do that to her, or my mother, or sister, or father, or niece or nephew, or brother-in-law, or all the relatives I see most every year in our family reunions, or my friends at church. When I think of Cornell, I feel at a loss. Such a great talent. Such a great voice. Such great music he made. He had a wife and children who loved him. If I was shocked, sad, and baffled, how must they feel?

Higher truth

I don’t care who you are, you have people in your life who love you and care about you. Suicide will leave them devastated and agonizing about where they went wrong. Even if it’s just one person who cares, think how they will feel if you go through with it. Even if no person on earth loves you, God does. If you don’t believe in God, God still believes in you.

God put you here in this life in this time for a reason. If you can’t see that reason, keep trying until you do. I’m still not sure what purpose God made me for, but in my lowest points in life, what stopped me from suicide was I didn’t want to hurt my family, and I didn’t want to die without fulfilling God’s purpose for me. I just kept trudging through the darkness, not knowing if I was going in the right direction, with nothing but the hope that someday, somehow, I would find out my reason for living. And now, I’m finally starting to see that as a possibility.

Some of those things I went through for so long when I was really in the depths of depression, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I would never want to go back there. But the fact that I can see the light now proves I did the right thing to keep living when that was all I could do. And if I can use that experience to help one person who is lost, who doesn’t see any possibility for happiness in this life, if I can convince you to never give up on life because one day I promise you, you will find your way, then everything I went through was worth it.

Keep hanging in there. Seek, and you will find. You can have a happy and fulfilling life. You just need to learn how to stop depression from sabotaging it.

Related Posts

How Christians Think about Mental Illness Needs to Change

3 Reasons Why Faith Matters in Recovery

Depressed Christian, Part 1 – Four Principles Guiding My Recovery


Can Antioxidants Help Treat Depression and Anxiety?

Oxidative stress has been shown to be an important contributor to inflammatory conditions, and in recent years has been implicated in the underlying mechanisms that result in depression and anxiety.

Midtown Psychiatry and TMS Center

ADHD Doctor, TXAntioxidants Depression and Anxiety

When it comes to stress-induced psychiatric disorders, anxiety and depression are the most common. I see this often in my practice. We know that stressful life events can produce a state of vulnerability to depression and anxiety in some people. The mechanisms that contribute to vulnerability of mental illness is an area which needs further study. Although promising research has been done in the past few years that indicates that there are biochemical changes that occur in the body as a result of stress that can be addressed. For patients suffering from stress-induced psychiatric disorders, it is essential to understand the role of antioxidants on stress-induced psychiatric disorders so a plan can be created and implemented to help cope with the effects of stress.

Stress and Nutrition

Research has shown that stress places a demand on the body in terms of nutrition. During a period of…

View original post 1,268 more words

The Voice…that no one wants to hear

To my Tools for Depression, I want to add Nature (Ecotherapy) and TMS. I posted about TMS, a new therapy that involves strategic use of magnets.

Ecotherapy – exposure to nature is good for mental health. An article on gives some easy to understand info on the research in this area. A recent study at Harvard University, published in April, is only among the latest of many to confirm this. Peter James, a member of the research team, summed up the findings up this way. “[T]here’s a direct cognitive benefit and restorative quality of being in nature, that we’ve evolved in nature to enjoy being in nature.”

This doesn’t mean you have to move out to the backwoods and reject civilization, a la Thoreau. Simply incorporate time with nature into your routine.

  • Go to a park
  • Notice what’s in your backyard
  • Plant a tree
  • Enjoy a local greenspace
  • Take a break at your favorite lake, river, arbor, or any natural attraction

If you none of this is available in or near your city, maybe you need to petition the authorities to add some. Any locality should at least be able to plant trees along a street or open a park.

image of double rainbow by road


Taking medication for depression is still controversial for some people of faith. When a psychiatrist first recommended it for me, I had some reservations. However, he had just told me I tested high for depression in every possible way, so I took his advice. There is no doubt it has helped me. Sometimes I have wondered if it’s really working, especially at times when I have been sad, moody, anxious, just fill in the blank with any negative emotion.

I can still say, though, that medication does make a difference for me. I don’t care what Tom Cruise said. I know because a couple of times, I have changed medications. When you change from one anti-depressant (AD) med to another, you first have to wean yourself off of your current med. That usually takes 2 – 4 weeks. Then you can start taking the new. It can take up to two weeks for the new medication to start taking effect. During that transition, those depressed thoughts you had forgotten about can come back.

The first time, I had suicidal thoughts. I can’t say it was the first time, but it was more frequent and intense than ever. Is the new med not working? My doctor said it was a low dose and suggested trying a “medium”dose. Within a few days, the suicidal thoughts stopped. That medium dose worked for me. But without that doctor helping me, I might have thought it was the wrong medication.

The second time was more recent. Bad thoughts came but in a different way. Instead of feeling depressed in the way we usually think of (deep and persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, etc.), it came in a way I had forgotten: Anger. I was angry much of the day. Angry at family and friends over past slights that my balanced brain had forgiven long ago. Angry at the world for the state it’s in and the downward spiral we seem to be in. Unreasonably angry. But when the new medicine kicked in, I was back to being happy. And I am proud to say I did not take my anger out on anyone, even the ones I felt angry towards.

Now some of that anger might not have been unreasonable, especially about the sorry state of the world. I mean, have you seen the election campaign since June, 2015? I think anger toward a certain candidate in particular is very reasonable. Not to name names, but he’s the unhinged one who seems hell-bent on finding just how low you can go and still be elected president. Though he may have finally crossed that line by talking about what he likes to grab. Admittedly, there were a few times the other one made me say, “What the hell were you thinking!” But at this point, I think it should be clear that one may have a gaffe here or there, the other is a nonstop gaffe machine. And that’s putting it as nicely as I can.

But through it all, I did not unleash that anger on my blog. Maybe that’s why I had to let out a little here. Why did I not act out my anger or my suicidal thoughts during those times? Before I started transitioning medications, I made a crucial decision. Until I know if the new med is good for me and until I get my brain normalized again with either the new or return to the old, I WILL NOT BELIEVE THAT VOICE IN MY HEAD.

I got the idea from the movie A Beautiful Mind.

Russell Crowe plays Nobel Prize winning Mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who was found to be paranoid schizophrenic. He had more than just a voice in his head. He had full on hallucinations of three people telling him all these conspiracies around him. When he was diagnosed and got medication, the hallucinations disappeared. However, he was having difficulty with the side effects. He decided to go off the medication. But those imaginary people will come back. Yes, but this time he will know they are not real, and he will absolutely refuse to believe them. It was not easy. Those hallucinations had a life of their own. They tried really hard to convince him to listen to them. But he remained resolute. You are not real. I won’t listen to you. I won’t believe anything you say.

Because of past experience with Depression, I knew I needed to reject, ignore, and otherwise neutralize those thoughts TEMPORARILY. Let’s review what happened in these two instances.

  1. I stopped taking AD medication.
  2. The Voice in my head that fuels my Depression went from being a surly kitten to a roaring tiger.
  3. When the new AD medication kicked in, the Voice calmed down and the bad thoughts sunk back to a normal level.

What is going on? In earlier posts, I’ve talked about the chemical imbalances that exist in a Clinically Depressed brain. It is a medical condition where your brain can’t produce normal levels of “happy chemicals,” and so the “stress chemicals” overwhelm it. Medication helps your brain produce more happy chemicals so it gets balanced. When your brain chemistry is balanced, your emotional state can get back to normal – in a good way.

That last experience changing meds really drove that home for me. The Voice in my head didn’t bother me when I was on meds. But when I was in that transition phase, the Voice came back with a vengeance. Now that I’m on meds again, the Voice is gone. And that’s when it hit me like a revelation of Biblical proportions. THAT VOICE IN MY HEAD IS THE PRODUCT OF A CHEMICALLY IMBALANCED BRAIN.

If you have that Voice too, let that last sentence sink in. That Voice in your head that tells you “I’m no good. I’ll never get anything right. I’m a burden to everyone who loves me,” or even worse, “No one loves me.” Or if you pray or try to live by faith, the Voice will tell you, “There is no God. God hates me. God has given up on me, and I don’t blame Him. I’m like the tree that bore no fruit, so God has cut me off. I’m cursed.” Or maybe you have that angry voice, like I just experienced. And you believe it, don’t you? IT’S THE PRODUCT OF A CHEMICALLY IMBALANCED BRAIN.

And the problem isn’t so much the voice itself, but that we believe it so readily. At some point, in thinking about this, I was amazed at how anything we hear inside our head, we just believe it. We don’t question it, we don’t evaluate it, we just accept whatever it says, even when it has no basis in reality.

“Everyone hates you.” Oh really? 7.5 billion people in the world, and every single one of them hates you? Oh you just meant everyone in your school or in your town. But still, how many people is that, a few hundred? A few thousand? A few hundred thousand if it’s a major city? How could every one of them hate you? Simple logic should tell you that’s not even possible. But you believe it. Because it comes from your head, so it must be true, right? Are you telling me my head is lying to me? That’s exactly what I’m telling you. THAT VOICE IN YOUR HEAD IS THE PRODUCT OF A CHEMICALLY IMBALANCED BRAIN.

Or if it’s that angry voice, it might be saying, “They’re disrespecting me. They think I’m an idiot. They never listen to me. They’re idiots. They don’t care about me, so screw ’em all.” (Again, that’s as politely as I can say it). And again, IT’S THE PRODUCT OF A CHEMICALLY IMBALANCED BRAIN.

And bottom line, don’t believe a chemically imbalanced brain, even if it’s your own. You’re just as likely to get the truth from a Magic 8-Ball. Yes, it might tell the truth occasionally, but you’d better ask some questions before you accept that it’s right this time.

I suppose this begs the question, If you can’t believe your own mind, what can you believe? How do you know what the truth is? There is no simple answer to that, and anyone who tells you there is is setting you up for failure. But I will reiterate something I said in a previous post.

  1. God is for your recovery and healing, not against it (Isa 53:3-5).
  2. God will not kick you when you’re down (Isa 42:2-3).
  3. Some churches and spiritual leaders are good for recovery, and some are bad. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. With the right help – spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and perhaps medically – you can live a happy and fulfilling life. You just need to learn how to stop Depression from sabotaging it.

image of Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly in A Beautiful Mind (2001)


Roots of Depression, Part 3

I started this series called “Roots of Depression” to track some of my experiences working in the yard and seeing some of the work as a metaphor for recovery, particularly removing weeds and other undesirable plants so that the good plants can recover and thrive. Gardening, it turns out, is a great metaphor for recovery, happy living, and the human condition in general. No wonder the Bible uses it so much.

In a more recent post, I spoke more directly about my experience of depression and recovery up to this point. It looks like those two series are going to intertwine like vines around an azalea bush but in a healthy way. See? Another metaphor! So as a writer in search of metaphors (really more interesting than it sounds), I want to try to connect the dots between gardening and recovery.

This week’s gardening

This was a tough root, so I pulled out the hand spade to remove it.

root with mystery bulb

You’ll notice there’s a bulb at the end. I didn’t think vines had bulbs at their roots, but as I was removing it, I felt a resistance, as if the bulb were attached to something bigger. I used the spade to continue digging around it and encountered something harder than the soil, bulb-like but much bigger.

big bulb of unknown type
alien bulb

Soon the thing was revealed to me. It was much bigger than a bulb. In fact, it almost looked like an alien pod. I used a toothbrush to remove more dirt from the top and took a picture to show the scale.

alien bulb with toothbrush for scale

If this is a bulb, I have never seen any other bulb like it. What is this thing? What is it doing in my flowerbed? Is it connected to the Azaleas or the vines that keep popping up underneath them like Kudzu? What will it do to the flowers if I remove it? So I’m leaving it for now. But if anyone can tell me what kind of bulb this is, please tell me in the comments below.

In relation to recovery, as you dig up and remove the weeds and their roots beneath, you may find things that you have no idea what they are or where they came from. That’s okay. If you’re not sure what it is or what will happen to the other plants in your garden if you remove it, leave it for now (Mat. 13:24-30). Learn more about it. See what tools are available for you, then put together a plan of action. The video below shows what’s involved when you start removing a root or vine. I looked at the pile of roots that were connected directly or indirectly to one vine and thought, “Wow! This is a mess. And it’s what recovery looks like.”



Tools for Depression

Now I want to list some of the tools you can use to remove the “weeds of depression” from the garden of your soul. Each of these requires more in-depth discussion than I can give right now. Like any list, this is about breadth, not depth. I want to name as many tools as I can for you, because like weeds in a garden, you will need many tools to remove them all. Real life gardening and yardwork has been good not only in living out metaphors for recovery. It gives me two forms of therapy at once: Exercise and sunlight.

Medication – If you have some form of Clinical Depression, your brain needs help producing “happy chemicals.” Medication is the most direct way to do that, but using it raises issues for some people, and particularly for people of faith. This will be the subject of a future post.

Counseling – It was very disorienting when I had a neuropsychologist tell me I tested high for depression in every possible way. If you’ve been diagnosed, you will most likely need professional counseling to help get re-oriented. If incorporating faith in your recovery is important to you, there are counselors who specialize in that.

Tell that voice in your head to shut up! – You know the one I’m talking about. We all have a voice in our head. If you’re depressed, that voice is the opposite of a motivational speaker. It tells you you’re a loser and gives you all the reasons why. It is quick-tempered and brings back old anger, even for things you and the other person have already made up for. What I finally realize is that voice is not real. It is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain. So drown it out with something positive and uplifting, like…Music.

Music – Does it have to be happy music? Not necessarily. Any music that makes you feel better will help.

Diet & Exercise – I don’t want to be like a certain actor who suggested that all you need to cure Depression (Post-Partum in that case) is diet and exercise. However, you should pay attention to it. Certain nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate depression. And you’ve heard of the “runner’s high”? That’s your brain producing happy chemicals in response to exercise.

Laughter – You’ve heard the saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” It’s hard to be sad or angry while you’re laughing. So watching a funny movie is more than entertainment. It’s therapy.

Sunlight – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression specifically linked to lack of exposure to sunlight. Even if you don’t have SAD, a little more sunshine (with sunscreen) might help lift your mood.

Meditation – Many studies have shown meditation affects the brain in very healthy ways. It promotes calmness, reduces stress and anxiety, and increases your sense of well-being.

Prayer – This doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but it has been absolutely crucial for coping with stress and with life in general. People of faith, however, tend to think prayer should be the only thing you need to cure depression. I’ve learned the hard way prayer is a great tool – but not the only tool – for recovery.

Favorite activities – This might be the best advice I ever got for coping with Depression: Find something you love to do, and do it (from Kevin Gates, rapper).

Forgiveness – You cannot recover if you are weighed down with anger, grudges, and resentment. If the wounds are fresh, it may take time. But make the choice to forgive, even if it doesn’t look possible right now.

Gratitude – The Law of Attraction says whatever you feel, the Universe will give you more of. If you walk around feeling angry and bitter all the time, the Universe will give you more to feel angry and bitter about. If you walk around feeling happy and grateful, the Universe will give you more to feel happy and grateful about. I don’t hold it as an absolute. I do think there is something to it, though. It’s not the full equation, but it is part of it. Maybe this is why Paul said to the Philippians,

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philip. 4:6-7).

Set the timer – This is a trick I read in an interview with Christopher Reeve. If you remember, he had a horse riding accident that left him quadriplegic. In public, though, it looked like he never let it get him down. One of his tricks was each morning, he would set the timer for twenty minutes. During that time he could cry, rant and rave about how unfair this is, how much it sucks, and when the timer went off, stop right there! Time to stop feeling sorry for yourself and get back to living.

Posture – Will changing your posture really change your mood? There is a mind-body connection. If you are hunched over, arms crossed, looking down, you look depressed and most likely feel depressed too. Straighten your back. Lift your head. Look forward. Open your arms. You’ll not only look confident but most likely feel more confident as well.

Recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – I’m not an alcoholic, but I have found the AA model of recovery very helpful in a number of ways. Its compassionate approach is conducive to healing. It teaches you to take responsibility without beating yourself up. You never say you are “recovered,” but you are recovering. It teaches you to recognize the triggers of addiction, so you can avoid them. It gives you tools to choose happiness over addiction. It invokes the help of a higher power, but what that means is left open to you. And it incorporates the power of a supportive community, which is my next tool.

Community – I believe we were made to live in loving community, at home, at work, in public life. The more places you have it, the better. I remember hearing of a news article with the title, “Loneliness: The Number One Disease in America.” I didn’t read the article, but the title alone is enough to get the point. Depression, especially, is exacerbated by loneliness.

The cure for loneliness is loving, supportive community. I experience that in my family – including oodles of extended family – and in my church. I have said before, even if I did not believe the tenets of the church, I would still go because of the relationships I have there. Whatever a loving community means to you, seek it out. It is the one place where I have always found this scripture to be true:

Give, and it will be given unto you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:38).

Human touch – Studies have proven what I think most of us know in our hearts. Affectionate touching, from holding hands, to an arm around the shoulder, to snuggling, to hugging, to sex (when it is a genuine expression of love) reduces stress and anxiety and increases feelings of connection and well-being, all of which go a long way to alleviating depression.

But keep in mind, this is only true if the touching is desired by both people. Some people don’t like to be touched (so they say). And not all forms of touching are appropriate in all situations. If you want to incorporate touching to help your recovery, be appropriate and make sure the person on the receiving end welcomes it.

These are some of my tools for weeding out depression. If you don’t mind, tell me in the comments below if any of these have worked for you, or if you use any “tools” that aren’t listed here.


Related Articles


Roots of Depression, Part 1

Roots of Depression, Part 2

Depressed Christian, Part 1


Depressed Christian, Part 1 – Four Principles Guiding My Recovery

You may have noticed I have been reblogging some articles about depression. The reason is I have been working on my own statement about depression, and posting other people’s articles has allowed me to (1) keep content flowing while I work on my own, and (2) start getting information about depression out there.

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression that keep people who suffer from getting the help they need. So in this series I’m going to try to clear up those misconceptions, especially within the church. In my own experience, religion sometimes brought healing and comfort when nothing else would, and sometimes intensified and made my depression worse in ways nothing else could. And so I say I am in recovery from two things: Depression and certain kinds of faith or religion.

The first misconception is thinking depression is only an emotional state. Typically, people say they’re depressed when they are VERY sad. So depression in this sense is extreme sadness. Anyone can feel depressed after the death of a family member or friend, loss of a job, divorce or breakup, or some tragic event in their lives. This is what I call “situational depression.” But depression in the sense I’m talking about is not that kind of sadness. It is a medical condition. It is not something that happens because of life. It is an ongoing condition of the brain.

Did you know that your brain is constantly producing chemicals? More than 100,000 chemical reactions are processed in your brain every second. Obviously that is too much to describe in detail here. For purposes of this discussion, you just need to know that an important part this activity involves the production of chemicals like Serotonin and Dopamine. I will refer to them generally as “happy chemicals.” You have happy chemicals and stress chemicals in your brain. When your brain does not produce normal levels of happy chemicals, you live in a constant, underlying, and invisible state of depression – even when there is no reason for you to be sad. This kind of depression is a medical condition, not an emotional state where you can just “cheer up” or pray your way out of.

I would not know any of this if it weren’t for my personal experience. Sixteen years ago, I was professionally tested for depression. When the psychiatrist gave me the results, he said, “You tested high for depression in every possible way.”

Floored. Stunned. Discombobulated. Those are the only words I can think of to describe how I felt on hearing that. In that moment, my entire view of life and myself changed forever. High in every possible way? There is no more room for denial after that.

And it was not a recent development. I have been living with Clinical Depression all my life. This means my brain needs help in creating a healthy level of happy chemicals. When it does not get help, I walk around moody, temperamental, irritable, and looking angry even when I’m not. I isolate myself and either dread or loathe social interaction. I think all kinds of bad thoughts about myself, friends, family, strangers, the world, God, and life itself. I suffer with anxieties for no good reason. I think no one understands me, so there is no point in talking to anyone.

Of course, I was not like this all the time. It would have been easier to recognize if I were. I had ups as well as downs just like everyone, or so I thought. My emotional/mood spectrum felt normal to me because it was the only thing I had ever known.

If any of this sounds familiar, especially if you can’t identify any good reason for it, you may be one of millions of people living with undiagnosed Depression of some kind. How do you know for sure? Since it is a medical condition, it needs to be diagnosed by a psychiatric professional. But if people close to you think you are depressed, you should seriously consider getting tested. My mother and sister thought there was more going on with me than just the normal ups and downs of life. If they hadn’t urged me to get tested, I would still be undiagnosed, still moody and depressed, and still thinking it was normal.

Sorry for all this boring technical explanation and my personal stuff. But this is important to understand and so easily misunderstood. The depression I’m talking about is not about feeling sad. It’s about living with a brain that does not produce enough happy chemicals. Not understanding that has led to a lot of bad practices and bad advice that make depression worse, not better. When religion gets mixed up in it without understanding what Depression really is, it creates more problems than it solves. An article on Beliefnet said it well. “As we consider the causes of Depression, those of us in the church must face the ways we might be responsible for creating it.”

I’ve experienced some of those ways that church, religion, faith – whatever you want to call your spiritual life and practice – can be responsible not really for creating it, but for making it a lot worse. I thank God from the depths of my soul that He led me out of that and into a church, faith, and spiritual practice that helps my recovery and healing, rather than beats me down for not having “enough faith,” whatever that means. Because the only thing worse than living for ten years (approximately) in a faith or religion that will only acknowledge “spiritual” causes of depression is living in that kind of faith for ten years… and one day.

What I say next, I don’t say lightly. I’m not the type of person who goes around saying, “God told me this, God told me that, God has called me to do this…” So many times I have heard people say things like this and thought, You know what? I bet if I could hear God talking as much as you claim to, right now I’d hear Him saying, “Leave Me out of this!”

It’s not that I believe God doesn’t talk to anyone. I believe God talks to us all the time, but some people hear better than others. I’ve learned from hard experience I don’t hear nearly as well as I would like to. Probably because it’s being filtered through a Clinically Depressed brain. With that disclaimer, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I believe God is calling me to help others who are in the same position I was 16 years ago. People who know they are depressed and in recovery. People who don’t know it but have a sense that something is wrong with them. People who think it’s normal because they have lived with depression all their lives. And more specifically, to help depressed people who are hurt by religion. I believe I am in a position to help point you to what is helpful – and away from most of what is hurtful.

I don’t think I will ever say I am healed from Depression, but the recovery model of Alcoholics Anonymous has been very helpful to me. Just recently I have been able to look at my life today and realize I have come a long way on this road of recovery, though I have by no means come to the end.

There are some lessons I have had to learn the hard way. I hope to spare you some of that drama. With that in mind, here is what I think is most important for you to know.

  1. God is for your recovery and healing, not against it (Isa 53:3-5).
  2. God will not kick you when you’re down (Isa 42:2-3).
  3. Some churches and spiritual leaders are good for recovery, and some are bad. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. With the right help – spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and perhaps medically – you can live a happy and fulfilling life. You just need to learn how to stop Depression from sabotaging it.