To the Depressed or Anxious Who Are on Medication
by Douglas Groothuis
To those who are depressed or anxious and on medications for it or for those who are considering medication:
Christians often consider the use of medications for depression or anxiety a spiritual failure. I know of a Christian man who has been depressed for at least thirty years and will not consider medication. He is high-functioning but obviously depressed. You know it in seconds. He is godly. He is depressed.
Christians think that if they trusted God, read the Bible more, repented more, or something else. They would not need medications. This mentality keeps millions from receiving relief from mental maladies and is wrong-headed.
Yes, some are medicated needlessly. A book of a decade ago address this: Artificial Happiness. But many of us are in situations that tax our abilities to function well. We may even despair of life itself. We are not rebelling against God. We believe the Bible. We are in Christian fellowship and yearn to see his Kingdom increase. But sometimes we cannot get out of bed or we cannot sleep or everything is covered with a grey and noxious haze. Our brains are not properly functioning.
Just as we would not refuse a cast for a broken leg or surgery to remove a tumor, there is no reason to rule out medical intervention for depression and/or anxiety. It is a broken world. We are broken, all of us -- but in different ways.
Years ago, I read a book by Vernon Grounds on Christianity and mental health. He noted that when Paul said, 'All things are yours,' this includes medications for mental problems. It is simple, really.
I recently talked with a friend who is grieving the loss of a spouse. He or she was ashamed to be on medications. I talked him out of it by saying that this is one of God's ways to level things out, to take the edge off. Another friend had anxiety until his or her late teens. When she was medicated she discovered normality, a whole new and better feeling. What is wrong with that?
The right medications do not make you high or radically change your personality. They simply help restore a baseline or normality (at best). Good doctors will help you find meds that are safe. They will monitor you. I was on one med several years ago that was too agitating. We found another one.
I am not ashamed to say I am on meds for depression and anxiety. They take the edge off. They do not generate 'purple haze all around. Don't know if I'm coming up or down... ' as Jimi Hendrix said. He was stoned. I am not. I hold down a job, write and publish, take care of my wife, have many friends and mentees, exercise, and go on with life--but not without tears or lament. I am the grasshopper of Ecclesiastes 12:5. But I am still moving.
For some of us, living in this fallen world is just a matter of somehow going on in the midst of suffering, even agony and despair. We need available light. We need help from all sides. We don't want to spin into addiction and obsession. Sometimes it comes down to: 'Breathe. Repeat.' Not 'one day at a time,' but one second at a time.
I have spoken to many on this topic, but have not put it into print. May it benefit many.