I get up every morning with no sense of hope, and not enough energy to climb out of bed? Negative thoughts pepper my mind, and I’m emotionally drained all the time. I may have a few good moments, but they never last. I can’t even muster up enough energy to think properly. The slightest little irritation sets off another round of despair. One more bad report and I’ll be ready to cash it in. I can’t take it anymore. I don’t have the strength nor the will to fight. I just want to curl up in a ball and die. It seems like the only way out and my family would be better off if I did.

Such are the negative, repeating, oppressive thoughts of the melancholic. It is bad enough to suffer from such a malady, but to endure the stares, rejection, or pious platitudes of those who don’t understand is to add insult to injury. Determining the causes and cures of depression presents a challenge because the symptoms reveal that the whole person is affected; body, soul, and spirit. We know that many people are physically sick for psychosomatic reasons. We also know that many physically sick people suffer emotionally. I get so many questions about depression that I thought it best to spend a couple of weeks discussing this “common cold of mental illness.”

David was said to have a whole heart for God, yet his numerous bouts of depression are recorded throughout the Psalms. Martin Luther battled depression most of his life. Abraham Lincoln said, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.” Friends of Abraham Lincoln said, “He was a sad looking man; his melancholy dript from him as he walked,” and “He was so overcome with mental depression that he never dare(d) carry a knife in his pocket.” Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England during World War II, referred to his recurrent depression as the Black Dog. A biographer notes, “He had an enemy worthy of the word (black dog), an unambiguous tyrant whose destruction occupied him fully and invigorated him totally year in and year out.”

It is no shame to feel depressed since it is an inevitable part of our maturing process. Let’s face it, living in this fallen world can be depressing. Approximately 18 million people in America (about 10% of all adults) will suffer from depression in any given year according to the National Institute of Health. Only a third of those people will seek treatment for their depression. Sixty five percent of the female population will have at least one clinical episode of depression before they are seventy. Forty percent of the male population will suffer likewise. Why do women suffer more than men? The women want to think it has something to do with who you are living with, and the men think it has something to do with menopause! God thinks it is a wholistic problem that requires a wholistic answer.

Dr. Neil

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