January 22, 2018

Wintertime Blues, Men, and Depression

Thanks to men such as Dwayne Johnson, The Rock, discussion about male depression is not as uncommon as it used to be.  Wintertime is a season where its triggered in me, especially post holidays when life goes back to normal, and Spring seems far away. That said, I have a slight understanding of the ups and downs that can accompany the feeling of things not being 100% "right".

Although its less so than in years past, I have been constantly amazed by the general reluctance of the society and sometimes the faith community to discuss this very human condition. Yet, I have read two very interesting pieces in the New Testament where both the great Apostle Paul and even Jesus himself struggled with despair. Here's a quote from Paul written to the church in Corinth.

"We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we even despised of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened what we might not rely on ourselves, but on God,who raises the dead." (II Corinthians 1:8-9)

Jesus' words are even more important here, as He is God in the flesh: In the garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, he says to Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." (Matthew 26:38)

How much more direct and descriptive can that be?

Personally speaking, it's taken me years to accept the fluctuations that come in life. I've been trained in the Southern California mindset of "Always sunny and free all the time". But life is not like that- which is why I am also so against the prosperity teachers that can populate the Christian airwaves and bookstores.

How can I manage life's ups and downs when leaning toward depression? A few things I have discovered: One, stay as far away from sin as possible! Instead of looking toward the things that will seem to meet my needs in the moment but ultimately keep me addicted, I will ask for strength to avoid them. Why add to my problems by doing things I know will cause me to be more deeply depressed later? Be it excess food or alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, gambling, the internet, shopping etc, the actions which pacify our pain can also be the very ones that keep us captive instead of free.

Secondly, when my need feels great, when I am sad, or even when I am just craving what I know is ultimately destructive, I am training myself to see that as my clue I need more time with my heavenly father. Time for quiet reflection, prayer, worship, and reading my Bible can bring me back to a peaceful place. I've made the decision that my life belongs to Jesus, so why shouldn't I go right to Him when I know He can and will show tender care for me?

Lastly, I am developing a pattern of choosing to have a thankful heart. I am so blessed by God! Yet, how often do I long for more of everything and not be grateful for my life. It will never be perfect or free from want or conflict, so I might as well be as joyful, thankful and at peace as I can be.

There was a brief season of a few months where I even took  antidepressants on the advice of my doctor. That helped balance me out when I need it. Others need them as a long term part of their lives. If that's you, please consider it. God uses doctors to heal, too! Keep that in consideration if you struggle.

God is faithful as we continue to look to Him for hope and strength. May my disclosure and insights help give you who struggle some ideas about how to live life well in the midst of difficulty.

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