Denial Runs Deep
Part of my denial was that, as a born-again believer and a trained theologian, I did not want to entrust myself to a “system” where I would be vulnerable to mistreatment or psychological brainwashing. A deeper reason was that I had been taught that depression was for wimps. Surely if Christians walked with God, they would not get depressed.
It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard the other side of the issue. One of the professors during my pastoral internship was a psychiatrist who spoke to us about the chemical imbalance that causes depression. I’d listened to part of a radio program devoted to the story of a man who had depressive episodes. I heard only part of the program because I was so afraid of identifying with the symptoms that I changed the station. God was working in subtle ways to prepare me, in spite of my denial.
Another reason for the denial was that I had a family I desperately wanted to care for. As symptoms grew more acute, I increasingly was a burden on Robyn—in addition to her responsibilities with an infant and two other young children. I knew I was failing to live up to her expectations. She had worked hard and lived with insecurity long enough. But instead of stepping up to the plate, I was making her life miserable. My illness was a burden on everyone who cared for me.
To the extent that I was able, I developed a “smiling depression,” trying to prove the adage, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone.” I ignored a more truthful expression in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Paul’s command benefits the body of Christ when members open their lives to each other. Quite honestly, my temporary charades fooled no one, and I couldn’t keep up the act very long. My condition was starting to haunt me relentlessly.
Robyn and I were experiencing what the Puritans called dark providences. Actually, the idea of providence is not very popular in our day. Many good definitions of providence have been given, but one I particularly like is from John Murray, the Scottish Presbyterian theologian and educator. Murray said, “Providence is that marvelous working of God by which all the events and happenings in His universe accomplish the purpose He has in mind.”5
Steve: The Issue of Stress
Scripture speaks about trials and tribulations—stress—as universal to human life and sometimes useful to help us grow. I do not believe that pressure in itself causes mental illness. When mental illness is present, though, stress brings it out into the open because a person’s natural resources for dealing with stress are suddenly unavailable.
I looked at my hectic life and came to the natural conclusion that I was depressed because I was “stressed out.” That was hardly a surprising diagnosis. We were moving, without definite work prospects, and I was pursuing my vocational dream. The error of the doctors was to assume that stress in itself caused my symptoms. They didn’t ask whether I had been able to handle stress in the past, so they missed the fact that something was radically different—the onset of a mood disorder.
Stress is an easy catchall explanation for a host of maladies. Doctors tend to be under considerable stress themselves in the examining room. When someone comes in with symptoms of anxiety and nervousness, they perform a cursory check on heart and blood pressure. Everything seems basically to be working. Must be “stress.” Prescribe a generic pill to settle the nerves.
Next patient please.
Changes in the amount of time and money a doctor can spend with a patient under “managed care” make accurate diagnosis of mental illness more difficult. Tests indicate mental illness by ruling out alternative causes for symptoms. That takes both time and money. There are many forms of imaging that are know being used to see mental illnesses and the brain.
(Bloem, Steve and Robyn : Broken Minds, Hope for Healing When You Feel Like You're Losing It.
Kregel Publications:Grand Rapids MI, ( 2005) chapter,pp. 30-32
This book was written by Robyn and Steve Bloem.
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