But I said, “on good days.” That should be the give away right there that the blues are a moving target and just when you think you’ve got them figured out they turn around and bite you.
I’m not going to use this space right now to give you all my thoughts on depression, melancholy or whatever you want to call it. I’ve done that elsewhere and if you’re interested in checking some of my material out let me know. What I am going to do right now is step back from specific solutions or diagnoses and just give you something to ponder about the larger problem of mood disorders themselves. In fact, I’m going to make this really simple. I’m going to argue that if you are also afflicted as I am you have basically three options. How’s that for simple? Do you like simple? I do. But you may not like what I have to say next though. Here are your three choices when faced with a recurring and stubborn challenge like depression.
Option A: Do Nothing
This is always an option. It doesn’t seem like it makes much sense but you’d be amazed to find how many serious sufferers with mood disorders choose it. Why would anyone who is suffering with that suffocating, paralyzing loneliness we call melancholy just do nothing? I guess it’s like the old adage: “the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.”
I could talk at length about the scientific reasons why most people find it easier to do nothing but I will just give you the short answer. Most of us who have spent a good share of our lives struggling with the blues have gotten used to it in a weird sort of way. We don’t like it. In fact, we curse it. However, there is something familiar about depression. And in that bizarre familiarity there is a sort of comfort. I know that doesn’t make much sense but it’s true. It’s predictable, albeit in a debilitating way. So, this is just one reason most people don’t even really try to beat the blues. Maybe secretly we are afraid that the solution will be more difficult than the affliction. That leads me to the second option.
Option B: Submit to Conventional Wisdom
Of course, not everyone who is depressed is content to stay that way. Some people do try to find a way out of the darkness. And usually that’s when they come to people like me for help. I’m not going to itemize the myriad depression/blues management strategies available. There are scores of them—everything from “cognitive therapies” (focused on retraining the brain) to the increasingly popular pharmaceutical ones. If you have struggled with this affliction for any length of time or to any serious degree someone has probably urged you to get professional help. And if you talked to your family doctor about it as a first step, there’s a good chance he offered to write you a prescription to “try” one of the many chemical treatments.
I’m not going to spend much time evaluating this approach. I’ve done so at length elsewhere. But I am going to categorize all these interventions as “conventional wisdom.” And, you might be able to tell from the way I’ve lumped them all together that I have serious concerns about all of them. Notice my phrase “submit to…” That’s part of what bothers me so much about the willingness of so many to chase these conventional treatment strategies. They all involve submitting to someone’s theory of what causes depression or melancholy and what to do to manage it. I know when I am in trouble I’m just desperately looking for someone or something to hold on to and believe in, but let’s be honest: do these theorists and marketers of the latest mood disorder solutions really deserve that kind of trust?
You might guess that I think there’s a better way—a kind of unconventional wisdom. If so, you would be right!
Option C: Unconventional Wisdom.
I need to begin this third way with an important proviso. The very fact that this is unconventional wisdom means that it is not generally accepted. I would guess that if there were a hundred thousand depression sufferers, 99,900 of them would choose Option A or Option B. Maybe even 99,990. To be even more skeptical, maybe 99,999! That’s what makes this unconventional wisdom. It’s not going to be attractive to most people.
Now that I’ve got you curious, I’ll be direct and tell you that I would call this option God’s solution to mood dysfunction. That may sound presumptuous of me to call it that but I am convinced this is God’s way to beat the blues and manage melancholy; God's way to defeat depression. And since God is the one who made us, that means he knows best.
Simply, God’s solution involves renewing the way we think, feel and act. Simple? Well, that may be a stretch. But it really is not complicated; just not very easy to put into practice. Depression, melancholy, the blues—whatever you want to call them—are the result of patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. That’s what those disorders really are. So, it’s logical to conclude that if we want to beat them, we have to change the way we think, feel and act.
I doubt you would disagree with me so far. But when I tell you how that change occurs you may be ready to bail on me! The unconventional wisdom from God about mood disorders is that we cannot, ourselves, change the way we think, feel or act. I as a professional counselor cannot change the way I think feel or act. Nor can I change the way you do. Only God can do that. But thankfully he has shown us how in his word, the Bible.
In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul says that God’s purpose for all people is that we be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). That mind renewal actually involves changing the way we think, feel and act and I believe involves structural changes to the brain itself. Scientists call this "neuroplasticity."
So, how in the world are we supposed to do this? Paul explains in the next verse where he warns that we must not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3). See, that’s really the heart of the problem with mood disorders. We think incorrectly and inaccurately about ourselves. As a consequence we develop disordered patterns of emotion in response to the various stresses of life. And finally, we act on these distortions perpetuating the problem.
I’m not going to take the time here to outline how to make this change occur. That would require a lot more space than I can take right now. But, as I said above, I have written extensively on this and have prepared scientifically validated, practical resources if you are interested. What I wanted to do here is throw down the gauntlet as it were and push back against the tendency we all have to settle for Option A or B instead of choosing the better and more permanent solution. And make no mistake. God’s solution is not only permanent. It’s perfect. It works every time.
So, if this option is so great why do people that know it—say people like me—still struggle? It’s not that the solution is defective. It’s that we don’t really want to apply it.
In order to implement God’s solution for beating the blues it involves submitting—not to some expert in a white lab coat or with a stethoscope. It involves submitting to God himself. And that, frankly, is something most people will not readily do. In fact, of the 10 in a hundred thousand who do, most of those will only go “kicking and screaming” because they have no other choice.
I ran across a statement from a therapist a few weeks ago that set me back on my heals because it so powerfully summarized what I deal with in my professional practice as well as my personal life. This clinician said, most people who begin therapy do so not because they are trying to find workable solutions to their problems. Rather, they go for therapy or counseling because they’re scared to death of the solutions they know and are looking for an excuse to try something else.
If that sounds dark and hopeless to you I’m sorry. I guess it’s just hard, cold reality. It’s so much easier to do nothing, Or to take a pill. But those “solutions” are not solutions at all. They are temporary fixes at best. Dangerous deceptions at worst. God’s solution is not easy. But it works every time. To find out more check out some of my other resources.