10 September 2003

Diagnostics? cont.

More on the subject of depression…Hmmm…good questions. Good comments James and Joel. (See Comments: Diagnostics?) Much to chew on. As for the questions from a certain short neighbor…

Not being anything near an authority on the subject, I think that persistent, recurring unhappiness would be depression, yes. I think I’d say that feeling “blue” would also fall into that category. I’m not sure where you’re going with asking what we want out of life, but if this is also a contributing factor to depression, then, hmmm… no I’m not quite sure yet what I want or what God asks of me (or Janna and I) right now. I think this can lead to a spirit of discontent, but I would seperate that from depression.

I think that all of these feelings; blue, sad, discontentment, and being unsure of what you want, are definately signs of being depressed. However, what human being doesn’t have days or perhaps even lots of days like this? I even made a previous post about being depressed because I was lonely here in the woods, yet a few days later I was better. My spiritual father says that many times, depression and all those feelings I described, can be attributed to the “unknown-ness” that lay ahead. I especially like to know what’s coming, and I don’t like anything messing with my life and changing things around. Rather that letting God guide me, I’d rather that He tell me what the rest of my life is gonna be. (Where’s the fun in that, eh?) But I can seperate the “blue” days from the “grey” and those from the happy days. Despite having depressing days, I can honestly say that everyday, I smile and find much to be thankful for and happy about. Doesn’t mean I’m done whining or being depressed. Fr. Schmemann wrote in his journals about dealing with a depressed woman. He says, “Yesterday I had a long pastoral talk with a woman in deep depression.” He lists some of the reasons for her depression and then says this, “Total darkness, a state of blasphemy. While we were talking I felt quite clearly the demonic character of a depression. I felt her acceptance, willing acceptance of blasphemy. I felt also the weakness and inadequacy of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. There is no way that they can drag people out of this darkness ‘if the light that is in you is darkness…’ I told her; you can do only one thing, renounce blasphemy, eject yourself out of this lie, this surrender. You cannot do more, but this is the beginning.”

I think that this is precisely where I’m coming from. As I stated before, I would not assume to ever “diagnose” anyone properly, as I do believe that there are people with chemical imbalances. I simply think that they are not as plentiful as we would be made to believe. I think James is absolutely right in saying that many times it is about feelings: “I think people in our society today are terrorized by their feelings. There is the unwritten rule that you should follow your feelings regardless of the consequences, and I think people are often shocked to find out that following their feelings doesn’t produce the results they want.” The woman with whom Father Alexander spoke, put in todays context, would most likely have been told that she was severly depressed and needed medication. Rather than being told that, “Hey, you are loved and despite all the pain in your life, God is still just as present now as he ever was.” she gets medicated. Can this really help her? Is it really “loving” her to give her candy when what she needs is much more? What happens when she wants to go off the medicine? Will she again slide into a depressed state, and perhaps be worse off than before, becuase the root of the problem was not addressed? It just seems to me that, as per the cultural norm, the answer is to shut off the bad feelings and go after the good. Everyone wants to be happy, but so many seem to be unable to be genuinely happy. I talk to so many people (and fight it in myself) who seem to feel constantly alone. This, I believe, more than anything is at the root of many evils and depression. In our Western, individualistic society, we have fooled ourselves into believing that “I don’t need anybody. I can use them when I do, but I will decide the course of MY life….etc.” Again people, I’m not saying that I fully understand all of this, just that I have some opinions, and I am open to learning more. I have several very good, close friends who are on meds, and in no way are my questions an attack on them, merely an opportunity for growth and understanding. Again, let me know what you think!

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Posted 10 September, 2003 by Luke Beecham in category "Discussion", "General


  1. By James on

    Be careful not to underestimate the power of one’s brain chemistry. A person can actually alter his or her own brain chemistry over time by re-thinking how they deal with certain situations. So, if a person is uncertain about the future you’re right in supposing that more prayer and an increase of faith could certainly make a positive change; however, if there is a persistant problem then medical science should be relied upon. I sometimes feel that Christianity gives psychiatry and psychoanalysis a bad rap. I agree that there is a lot of stuff in those two closely related fields that are bad, but the same is true for other forms of medicine.

    Also, calling antidepressants “candy” doesn’t sound right. Any good doctor will tell you that antidepressants alone will not heal you. I also think belittles mental illness. Of course there are a lot of not-so-good doctors in the world, but that’s because we’re all sinners.

    The last post was good, but this post comes dangerously close to saying to those who deal with depression, “Snap out of it! Get over it!” Once was a time when people with mental illness were treated like animals or thought to be possessed with demons (though I do believe demons and possession), and this post makes me wonder if our society has come very much further. An older examination of conscience from the Roman Catholic Church that I used says, “Have I been depressed or gloomy?” I can see where self-pity can be dangerous or even sinful, but if a person’s brain chemistry isn’t balanced correctly then it makes it that much harder for him to even conceive of things being better, much less really wanting to make that change.

    What (very) little of Fr. Scmemann’s work I’ve read (only one book and maybe a couple of essays) I have really enjoyed. I would have to read the episode you mention in context. Was it something she said? Was it something she didn’t say? Then again no priest is infallible, and perhapst he had an older understanding of mental disorders. I don’t know. I know people personally who have made my life unpleasant, but a few of them really changed as a result of the antidepressants they’re on. I wouldn’t want it any other way; I couldn’t stand it any other way.

  2. By alana on

    Speaking as a person who has been on antidepressants in the past, and is currently not on antidepressants: Depression is very very very multifaceted. Brain chemistry can be effected by hormones (as in post-partum depression, or PMS, for us gals), daylight (bring on the sunshine/sunlamps!), physical activity levels (pump iron, ladies!), spiritual condition (repent already!), one’s diet, and one’s honesty in relationships and with oneself. etc. etc. etc.

    I think a healthy approach to dealing with depression has got to be multifacted and bathed in prayer. Meds can help. Meds can hinder. It all depends. I’ve been blessed to be able to find healing and answers and a closer walk with God in my life, learn some self discipline in many areas, including my emotions (newsflash: It is possible to have self-disclipline in regards to how one deals with emotions!) Life is still not perfect. I”m having a bad day today, but overall, life is very very good. And I”m so glad to be off the meds! I don’t consider myself “depressed” anymore.

    Confession is chaper than therapy….(shhh, don’t tell my priest I said so!)

  3. By James on


    I agree with all you said except I don’t know if confession really is cheaper than therapy. Yes monetarily, but in other ways? It’s better for you, though.

  4. By Luke Seraphim on

    Thank you all! This has been a very edifying discussion. I’m too tired to post a few responses right now, but I’ll get to it in a bit. (Probably 3 or 4 in the morning when I can’t sleep. Ahhhh…insomnia my friend…) Again though, thank you. One last note; James, your points are well taken, and believe me, I certainly don’t think in the “Just get over it!” way. I merely believe that our society as a whole is over-medicated compared to previous times. But, I’ll post more later. Thanks for the reminder of being “dangerously close” to coming off that way. πŸ™‚ G’night all!

  5. By JoelThomas on

    Wow! This has been great!

    I always do like a Fr. Schmemman quote here and again; especially from his Journals. I think it’s good to define what it is we are trying to address. Fr. Schmemman seems to do a good job nailing down exactly what depression consists of.

    Bravo Luke for a great topic.

  6. By James on


    Depression is blasphemy? Is that what you’re saying you’re hearing from the Fr. Schmemann quote?

  7. By JoelThomas on


    To be honest, I really don’t know exactly what depression is; not an excuse, but humbly, I’m only 21. But I submit that the way Fr. Schmemman describes it might be one type of depression, or one characteristic thereof. If I’m hearing the wrong thing from that, then please, “rebuke me in kindness”!

  8. By James on


    I think I understand you now. There are things that a person who is suffering (whether mentally or physically) can say, think or do that are sinful. On the other hand I do think that it is a legitimate illness in many cases. Aside from that I don’t know much more either.

  9. By Anonymous on

    Hey guys,

    Good comments on a deep discussion topic. I guess all IΓƒβ€šΓ‚β€™d like to add is a second to what Basil had to say. There is a difference between depression and despair. There are many thing that get me down. Economics and politics in general, the moral decline of our country, division in the church, my own fallen ness. However, I think that it is a good thing to weep over thing that are wrong, bent, and/or fallen from grace, as long as it is not done in a spirit of despair, but in a hope that God love and mercy will bring healing. To despair is giving up on God, which is in a way, blaspheming Him. There have been several good books written on this topic. One is:

    Depression: A Spiritual Guide

    by Archimandrite Spyridon Logothetis

    This excellently written book is for persons unaware of the hope and therapy provided by Christ and His Church for the prevention, alleviation, and cure of the insidious epidemic of depression now prevailing among all peoples of the world. Very Readable.

    St. Silouan of the Holy Mountain also has some deep things to say about this topic.



    Lord, grant me tears to shed for myself,

    and for the whole universe,

    that the nations may know You and live eternally with You,

    O Lord, grant us the gift of Your humble Holy Spirit,

    that we may comprehend Your glory. Γƒβ€šΓ‚β€“St. Silouan

  10. By your short neighbor on

    There are some reasons I don’t see you as being “clinically” depressed and in need of medication to balance your brain chemicals. The reason for my question about what you wanted out of life had to do with this chronic state of quandry/confusion/not-moving-ahead you seem to find yourself in. I’ve been trying to remember what kinds of things I was thinking when I was 25. I CAN tell you that the 20’s will be a time of searching, searching, searching. I think there would probably by those who would say that a sense of aloneness is a spiritual reality check. But I think if it is a healthy spiritual state it should be life-giving. Do you consider where you are currently in your spirituality to be life-giving? (note: that’s not the same as feeling good or making you happy)

  11. By curious george on

    I was referred to this blog from a friend and find it compelling. While I found the discussion on depression very interesting, I am wondering about the comments from “short neighbor”. From reading the blog and comments, I am confused about the questions and their motives. Are you (short neighbor) implying that Seraphim thinks he is clinically depressed and might need meds? I didn’t get that from his comments; only a sense of questioning for information and a discussion about ideas and opinons.

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