Last night my psychopathology class focused on the topic of depression. We covered the usual stuff: various experiences and features of depression and bi-polar disorder, potential medical causes, common medical and psychological treatments, etc.
Depression, as you most likely know, comes in all sizes and shapes and is multifactorial in etiology. Depression involves the body, the mind and spirit, and the environment. Thus, treatments should also cover the gamut, focusing on thoughts, faith, body, and environment. I ended the class pointing briefly to the fact that the English Puritan treatment of depression covered pretty much the same. They encouraged their parishioners to treat their despair and melancholy with these ideas,
- Seek the benefit of “Physick” or medical interventions
- Accept the comfort of Scriptures and in community with friends (and they also counseled others to avoid over-use of exhortation)
- Be mindful of God’s present and past mercies
- Utilize the sacraments and other spiritual disciplines
- Avoid too much time in introspection, but
- Examine oneself to see if there are also hidden issues to be dealt with
Notice the “heart surgery,” as one of my students put it in her paper, doesn’t happen til much work has been done to stabilize and comfort the despairing individual.
KEY QUESTION: Is there such thing as Godly depression?
If so, what would it look like? This question comes out of the view that depression and accompanying hopelessness reveals, to some degree, that a person is failing to trust the Lord.
Or does it? Is it possible to be depressed and spiritually mature? I believe so. So, what signs might you look for to determine that the person in front of you was experiencing a Godly depression? Was St. Paul despairing to the point of death but wholly trusting the Lord at the same time? (2 Cor 1:8f)