Dealing with Depression

Photo Credit: Wanda Sanchez

Photo Credit: Wanda Sanchez


One of the common side effects of multiple sclerosis is depression. Not long after my most recent relapse, I recognized symptoms of depression and discussed appropriate treatment with my family and my doctor. Read more about MS and depression HERE.

On average, 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience depression at some stage of their lives.

There are different types of depression, and they can be linked to different causes. Symptoms can range from minor (but still disabling) through to very severe. Symptoms of depression include sadness, feelings of loss, disillusionment, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping,

My first experience with depression was following the birth of my first child. I called these the “years of the brown robe” because I pretty much never got dressed unless I was going to church because “good” Christians can’t be depressed or shopping for groceries–a necessity of life. This depression was profoundly deep and lasted several years.

Looking back, I believe that during these years I experienced depression related to the trauma of a sexual assault when I was nineteen years old. I felt enormous guilt for not being a “good mother” to my children or a “good wife” to my husband. Unlike the church I attend now, the church I went to during this time in my life didn’t talk about how the Bible related to practical issues like mental and physical health. I believed I was supposed to be in-right-out-right-up-right-down-right happy all the time.” To learn more, read the article “How Trauma Can Lead to Depression.” 

My second period of depression occurred approximately five years later. It seemed to be linked to a medication I was taking for migraines. Once I stopped taking the medication, the depression disappeared.

The depression I’ve experienced with my MS has seemed persistent yet more manageable that my two previously episodes of depression. I’ve found several key factors to be helpful in beating the blues:

  1. Talk to your doctor about whether or not medication may be right for you. Chemicals and hormones in your body may be burnt out and need a re-boot to recover. Anti-depressants are a tool to help you make better choices–they do not make choices for you. There is no shame in taking medicine that addresses biological illnesses. Your brain functions chemically and sometime may need medicine in the same way your pancreas and heart need medicine.
  2. Try to get out into nature at least a little every day. I have trouble walking, but I walk to the mailbox. I pull a few weeds. I’m not supposed to be in the sun or in heat, so I spend my time outside in the morning. Read a book in the park. Take your lunch break outside. Drive to the beach, a lake or river. The beauty of flowers, the scent of the grass, the sound of birds lifts our spirits. God wired us this way.
  3. Do something to lift someone else’s spirits. Send a card. Pay for someone’s lunch. Send an anonymous gift. Write a letter of appreciation. Tell someone how beautiful they are. Thank a police officer, fireman, teacher, pastor, nurse, doctor, social worker, or other people helper.
  4. Remind yourself who God says you are. Beautiful. Chosen. Flawless. Forgiven. Beloved. His child. Depression often produces negative self-talk. Be committed to mindfulness in the battle against stinkin’ thinking–about yourself, others, your circumstances, your future, even about who God is and His role in your life.

What about you? Have you or someone you love struggled with depression? How have you dealt with it? Who or what has helped you most?

Love Letters from the Edge Featured on WZZM Take Five



Tomorrow, July 21, I will be talking about Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma, and the Pain of Life on WZZM TV’s Take Five. The show airs from 9-10am ET.

Be sure to ask friends, educators, medical professionals, ministry workers, those who work in the justice system,and employers to listen in for valuable information on post-traumatic stress disorder and the toll it takes on those who have experienced trauma in its many forms.

Mental Illness: Helping the Church Help the Hurting


In the last decades of my father-in-law’s life, he slipped into a fog of mental illness from which he never returned. We did our best to help him–to find a diagnosis and effective medications. The years he lived with us were a constant battle of second-guessing, as we debated whether or not we were doing the right thing, doing enough, seeking out the “right” mental health professionals for his condition.

In my most recent book It Is Well with My Soul: Meditations for Those Living with Illness, Pain, and the Challenges of Aging, I devote a number of selections to the topic of mental illness. Dan and I both grew up in homes where mental illness was discussed in our homes and our churches as often as we heard about the mating habits of squid

This was probably a reflection, in part, of the generation we grew up in (a really old one). But it was also a reflection of the unspoken assumption in our era that “good” Christians don’t struggle with mental illness. Maybe Episcopalians, but certainly not ______ (fill in your non-Episcopalian denomination here).

So Dan and I were somewhat at a loss at what to do for his father–a precious, godly man and retired missionary who, in his seventies, slipped into a haze of mental illness so thick that we eventually turned to doctors at Mayo Clinic to help us find a diagnosis.

Neither of us had ever heard a sermon on mental health, had never heard another Christian speak of having a relative with mental illness, and had no idea where to turn in the church for help. As far as we knew, we were the only Christians in our church, our city, or our circle of friends who’d ever hit our heads against a wall trying to get a diagnosis.  or find effective medications and treatment. And we didn’t have a clue who we could honestly talk to about the fruit-basket-upset of trying to live gracefully as three generations under one roof when Grandpa was so ill.

We discovered that the church then, as now, unfortunately, had few resources to draw from–as models or in printed resources.

Recently Christians have been jarred into a new awareness of the issue of mental illness with the tragic death of Rick and Kay Warren’s son Matthew. Our hearts are torn as we grieve with and for them.

What can the church do to help?

1. Provide an environment of safety and compassion for those with mental illness. I’m proud to say that my church “mainstreams” those with mental illness. Children with Down’s are part of on-stage programming. Children’s workers are provided training in how to interact with special-needs children. Staff is trained in counseling and understands the needs of the mentally ill. The church communicates an attitude of acceptance and love that begins with the leadership.

2.  Talk about the issues. Provide forums for discussion and communication that are part of sermons presentations for the entire church community. Present mental health seminars as part of church and community education. Offer support groups for families and individuals or provide resources that link your congregation to available resources.

3. Respect the role of mental health. Many people with mental health diagnoses feel they must hide, and their family members often feel a lack of support. Respect the role of mental health by referencing its vital role and legitimizing the rightful use of mental health drugs that treat physiological illness.

We are called to be Jesus’ hands extended to the hurting. May our prayer be to see them, to know them, and to know how to love them.