December 27, 2015
I can look back on my crash from many years ago now and understand that although my depression affected me emotionally and spiritually, it actually was rooted in the physical dimension of my mind and body. I ignored several warning signs my mind was sending me months before I completely crashed and burned. I was exhausted, but I kept pushing myself, rationalizing that I had no choice. Many days, I would lie on the floor during worship, right before I was to speak, and fall asleep.
I got so tired of ministering to people that I resented them. I was continually overwhelmed with the thought that I had nothing more to give. Making any decision during that time created anxiety in me. Yet I ignored all the warning signs and soon I was physically, emotionally and spiritually a basket case.
I had known stress, anxiety and warfare before, but this was so intense that I could not will myself off the couch no matter how hard I tried. Unlike the demonic attack that I experienced years earlier, this crash was rooted in my body. I lay there completely incapacitated for nearly three months. People from all over the world prayed for me and encouraged me. But until my body chemistry stabilized, I could not function.
I have to confess that I have never believed in taking antidepressants. When I preached, I had actually made light of people who used them. I still do not think they are the long-term cure for many people. I think that they can often mask deeper issues in our lives. However, antidepressant medications can have a role in helping people function. Some people who suffer from chronic neurotransmitter deficiencies are helped tremendously by such medications. Many healthcare professionals believe that either due to brain injury or genetic predisposition, some people do not have the physical ability to regulate brain chemistry levels normally.
If you think about it, we would never tell someone in the church who has diabetes that if they would just spend more time with God or pray more, they could stop taking their insulin (unless of course, God heals them). Yet that is what we suggest to people whose chemical imbalances have a physical cause. We view mood disorders that are rooted in our physical being, (our brain is an organ just like our pancreas), in a much less accepting manner.
I think we need to extend more grace to people in this area. You really cannot understand how intense depression and anxiety can be unless you have been there, and not every chemical imbalance signifies a demon. Sometimes we need to give people permission to take medication if they need it—which, by the way, is a huge no-no in many Christian circles. Often these people are made to feel ashamed for taking such medication. As a result, they wait far longer than they should to get a doctor’s help, and they delay their healing. I know because I am one of them. I was encouraged by caring, well-meaning people not to take medication, but after months of hell and hundreds of hours of research, I decided I needed more medical attention. My goal is to help you better understand our triune being and how each of our three parts affects the others, so that if you find yourself in a place like I was in, you can seek out the kind of help you need and be made whole.
My advice to anyone who has been dealing with high levels of depression, anxiety and exhaustion for long periods of time is to take action! I know that can seem impossible—it did to me. As I said, I did not move off the couch for three months. But you can do some things that will help you through.
1. Go to the Doctor
Visit a respected healthcare professional and have a complete physical, including blood work that incorporates hormone tests. If the physical part of your mind that regulates brain chemistry is malfunctioning, medical intervention is a necessity.
2. Read These Two Books
I also recommend that you read two other books. The first is From Panic to Power: Proven Techniques to Calm Your Anxieties, Conquer Your Fears, and Put You in Control of Your Life by Lucinda Bassett (Harper, 1996). The second is Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf (Thomas Nelson, 2009). I have given away at least fifty of these books. They really helped me in my darkest hour. Both books contain a wealth of information about brain chemistry and how to detox your thought life.
3. Take Care of Your Body
Take care of your body now more than ever. Do what you have to do to sleep. Force yourself to exercise even when you do not feel like it. Eat healthy food even when you are not hungry. Stay completely away from sugar and caffeine. Get as much sunlight as possible, and try to stay busy.
Work hard at cultivating upbeat moments, too. Watch movies and do things that make you laugh a lot. Laughter is a natural medicine. Surround yourself with good friends who will support you in these troubled times. Believe the positive things they say about you, even if their words do not seem real to you. Most importantly, pray for God to heal and restore you. Remember who you are and whose you are.
Lastly, I want to encourage you by letting you know that this will pass. In the last few years, I have met hundreds of people from all walks of life—including several world-famous people—who have passed through this kind of thing at some point in their lives. I know that when you are in the middle of it, your worst fear is Am I going to live like this my entire life? The answer is no! This always passes. You will be fine!
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