Sunday, October 30, 2005

How I Overcame Depression

Nine years ago I was diagnosed by a psychologist with post traumatic stress disorder stemming from serious personal conflicts while working in Africa for five years. Later, another psychologist said I had "aggravated depression." For three and a half years I endured the intense, debilitating mental anguish that is depression. It was worse than any physical suffering I had, including malaria, hepatitis, and appendicitis.

Thank my Creator that He showed me a way out of the suffering and I have been depression-free for over six years. Although it was recommended by my first counselor, I took no drugs or medication. I'm here to say there is a way out from this common condition without being dependent on drugs. Our society is drug-crazy with doctors and psychologists prescribing a drug at the drop of a hat. I've met so many people who are on anti-depressants but are not dealing with the root issues of their depression. Drugs can be a good temporary solution to help people cope with the mental pain. (I probably should have taken something at the most intense time of my condition to minimize the anxiety and intense stress). But I believe they should be a short-term solution (with some exceptions to conditions that are truly caused by chemical imbalance) to get one over a hump while they tackle the root causes.

How did I finally overcome the funk? It's a long story but the short answer is through cognitive therapy. My second psychologist was brilliant in helping me uncover some childhood issues that had made me susceptble to depression all along. He gave me tools to combat negative thinking. I also did my own study and discovered a key book that helps one overcome distorted thinking (click on title for link). We feel what we think and if we are barraged by negative, self-criticizing thoughts (sometimes not even noticed), then we will inevitbly become depressed. The way out is knowing the lies we think and combating them with rational responses and the truth. In my opinion, the this needs to include the truth about our Creator's unconditional love and acceptance.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your story. I've been on antidepressants for 2 years. Been depressed for decades, but decided to seek help for it in 2006. After dealing with 3 different psychiatrists, and each one giving me a different drug (that made me feel worse), I swore off meds AND PSYCHIATRISTS for the month of December. I asked God what to do and he said to go cold turkey (which is what doctors tell you not to do). Detox hurt horribly, and I kept looking to God to tell me how to ease the pain. He kept telling me to hang in there. I was not happy with that answer, but I did it. And in doing so, realized how much the meds had weakend my willpower. I felt like a whimp. I remember fighting physical pain before the meds (bad flus, migranes, etc.). The meds had really weakend my ability to tolerate pain. I agree with you about not using meds. I'm still depressed, but because of the detox, I became a little stronger physically and mentally. People, try talk therapy before you EVER take medication. Mental health meds without talk therapy is like drinking alcohol to feel better. You'll feel good for a while, but you'll eventually crash. Get the tools to cope with life from talk therapy and ask God to take care of the rest.

Michael said...

Anonymous,
Good comments and advice. I believe you will be able to overcome your depression with the cognitive approach. Books like Burns' in the link really helped me. You can train yourself to replace the negative thinking with positive truth from God. Once you learn it and make it a habit, you can turn to it from time to time like using a tool, when new life circumstances make you susceptible. It really works. Hang in there, you're making great progress.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to overcome depression. I don't want to take any medications. I truly believe that god will help me but I keep getting this voice in my head telling me god won't help you god put you in this. But deep down I know its not true but this voice in my head won't stop I really need help :'(

Michael said...

Anonymous,
This is a common problem you mention with a practical solution through cognitive therapy--a counselor helping you erase the negative thinking (lies) in your head and replace them with positive (truth). Get a good cognitive therapist to help you learn negative-thought-fighting tools. Stick with counseling and read a book like Feeling Good, by David Burns. Depression can be overcome.

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kevin blumer said...

I was diagnosed with aggrivated deppresion a while back i did get out of that black spot it was a very hard time i still remeber how i was actualy feeling at the time my head wasnt to staight atall and really strugled i got past that to get diagnosed with BPD witch i dont know is better or worse i suppose its better in a way because now i can deal with it.