The past six months I’ve been hit by a variety of health issues. Among them was a bout with depression, that darkness my doctor called “a heavy spirit”. For me, I felt as though my spirit was being crushed. I couldn’t find joy in the simple things I usually find joy in; I couldn’t get relief in the simple ways I could before; I felt as though I could cry at the drop of a hat; I had to push myself to do normal, everyday responsibilities.
Please note: I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist, pastor, or social worker. The only way I’m “qualified” to write this is from my own experience.
Depression–not a character flaw
Some people think of depression as a character flaw, and look down on a depressed person. They believe a person wants to be that way or can “snap out of it” or control it, but that’s not the case. While exercise will help or perhaps even relieve a mild depression, if the depression is severe enough, exercise isn’t quite enough, and outside help is warranted. You need to find out what’s going on, and why.
Variety of Causes for Depression
Depression has a variety of causes. God created people with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, and if one is out of whack, the effects can crop up elsewhere in the person.
There are many physical causes for depression. Among them are: chemical imbalance in the brain; vitamin deficiency–notably Vitamin D3; chronic pain, and thyroid problems. Since there are physical causes, a physical exam with blood work is often recommended before doing anything else. Blood work can reveal vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems. The depression won’t go away until the physical cause is treated.
In my case, lab work revealed low levels of vitamin D3, which was surprising to me because I already take a multi-vitamin and calcium with D. I also have arthritis in my knees. Up to this spring I didn’t have much of a problem, but in March the arthritis tackled my left knee. I believe the low levels of D3, the stress caused by suddenly limited mobility, the practical consequences of the mobility problem at work and home, along with limitations in what I can take for pain relief, greatly contributed to my depression. Chronic pain stemming from any reason can bring on depression; depression can cause or aggravate chronic pain.
Grief or Emotional Causes
Sometimes depression is a natural result of grief. If someone, whether a person or pet, close to you dies; you lose your job; your marriage is torn apart by divorce, or any number of events happen that really “hit you” deep down, depression may come calling at your door. Other times it is a result of the powerful emotions of anger or guilt. Unforgiveness can cause depression; holding onto grudges only hurts the one carrying them. For such causes, talking to a trusted pastor or spiritual advisor can help. Prayer can help, because it brings God into the situation in a much greater way, and God gives hope.
Depression can result from too much going on in a person’s life, too much stress, or wrong beliefs about yourself. Unresolved problems bring on depression or the other side of the coin, anxiety. Making a point to slow down and taking time to talk with a friend or someone who can provide perspective is a necessity, not a luxury.
Like the low-oil warning light in a car, severe depression doesn’t get better on its own. It won’t go away until the cause is rooted out and treated.
Update: For anyone who may wonder: I am doing better. I am taking extra Vitamin D3 as prescribed by my doctor, exercising as prescribed by physical therapists, seeking options for better pain relief, temporarily taking a low-dose anti-depressant as prescribed, and with the warmer weather, enjoying the outdoors. Last, but not least, I am praying for help, and others are praying for me. I believe the prayers of others are what motivated me to care about myself enough to quit fighting the “heavy spirit” on my own, and seek outside help.
For more information, check out: www.arthritis.org.