This is the ninth installment in an on-going series on depression. Click on the links below to read earlier articles in this series:
In this ninth article in our series, we share personal stories from individuals who have overcome depression using the tools we have shared. Their solutions have not been a “one-size-fits-all,” but a unique combination of puzzle pieces that came through prayer, trial and error, and persistence. If your life feels weighed down without solutions, there is a path to happier living that has been prepared for each individual who is honestly ready for real solutions. These stories are living proof! We have changed the names of these individuals to protect their privacy.
Julie’s Personal Story: Putting Medication in Its Proper Place
Julie first experienced depression after the birth of her 3rd child. She had a strong genetic predisposition for depression. Several siblings and parents were being treated for depression, so the onset of depression symptoms was no surprise. At the time Julie first experienced her symptoms, her doctor knew no other way to help her other than to prescribe Paxil. [i] For Julie, this medication allowed her to care for her children without the rage that caused her to endanger their safety.
At times, Julie wondered if she was committing some kind of “sin” by medicating herself. She had all the common doubts about her worthiness and capacity to be faithful. Julie finally came to the conclusion that the worst sin of all would be to verbally and physically abuse her children and the medication stabilized her emotions enough to prevent those behaviors. Julie had three more children who were all born while she was taking Paxil.
While she was on the medication, Julie reflects that she was aware of how the medication was affecting her. First, it had the side effect of diminishing her sexual drive which tested her marriage. It also caused her to feel emotionally “numb” at times, which meant that being sensitive to the Spirit was more difficult for her. She also had to watch for signs of being “over-medicated” and adjust her dosage to compensate for this.
Julie shares that she was very careful to maintain awareness of these medication side effects and pray for extra help to combat them. Julie cautions that medication should not be used to help someone avoid the repentance and forgiveness which bring great blessings of emotional healing. She feels it is important for patients to be “self-directed,” and find the balance between self-reliance and being wholly dependent on the doctor’s opinion.
Many times in the ten years Julie was on medication she wanted to wean herself off. She believed that she could not fulfill her potential if she remained dependent upon medication, yet she didn’t believe she could function well without it. She learned that she had to trust God’s timing; she reasoned, “Heavenly Father knows my desire: I have to trust that He will help me when the time is right.”
When Julie finally began the process of getting off medication, she first began to build her nutritional health by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and by taking triple doses of Juice Plus. (Juice Plus is a whole food, fruit and vegetable supplement.) She also began a vigorous exercise regimen. Julie enlisted the support of her family, “I let everybody know that I was going to get off my medication and asked them to help me monitor the changes that might occur in case I was not aware. I knew how scary I could be.”
In addition to initiating a serious nutritional and exercise regimen, Julie received assistance from a professional counselor. Using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), journaling, and other methods, Julie was able to challenge unhealthy family patterns and heal old wounds. Despite a strong genetic tendency for depression, Julie experienced relief from depression symptoms. She feels that her Savior was her partner every step of the way. Julie cautions that medication should not be used to help someone avoid the need for repentance and forgiveness. Medication is no substitute for learning new skills, healing personal wounds, and making lifestyle changes.
Julie has been “depression-free” for the past eight years. She continues her efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle. To maintain her emotional health, Julie is continually aware of her emotional warning signs. Julie knows that she is beginning a downward cycle when she feels “low grade orneriness.” If Julie finds that her “mean feeling” does not go away, she begins taking a natural mood and serotonin-building supplement, 5-HTP. She also watches for signs that she needs to do some deeper emotional work and schedules a “tune-up” session with her counselor.
Marin: Being Patient with Progress
Marin has had depression for ten years. Like Julie, her first signs of depression came in the form of post-partum depression. As Marin looked at her life, she simply could not understand why she felt so miserable:
I had a wonderful husband and three beautiful children. I had my best semester in college yet, while on bed rest, and pulled straight A's in all my classes. I had wonderful friends that supported me in all that I did. But the feeling of despair was so deep and so overwhelming that I finally decided it was time to change my life. I discussed this with my husband and then went to the counseling center at the college. They verified that it was postpartum depression and that it was nothing to be ashamed of having. It was not my fault, it was not something I could have foreseen or prevented. I then went to my OB for a postpartum appointment and as I told him what I had been going through and about my visit with the counselor, he just smiled and told me how proud he was of me to take these steps. He prescribed a medicine for me and told me that this was the cast for my depression. Just as a broken leg can't heal without a cast to keep it stable, I wouldn't be able to heal from the depression without something to stabilize the chemical imbalance. I also started visiting with a counselor and my life started to become what I had always hoped it would be. I started to make progress and started feeling more joy more often. I had hope.
Like many others who have suffered from depression, Marin did not find complete relief from medication. In fact, over the next seven years, Marin’s moods were up and down. After her sixth child was a year old, she once again found herself unable to get out of bed. She found a trusted counselor and began weekly counseling sessions for a period of four months. Along with individual counseling, marital counseling helped her husband to understand her needs better and know how to support her.