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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Givens

Thank God for Antidepressants! (Seriously)

Hey, everyone!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. I’ve started to write a few things, but they’ve never really been the right thing to write, so I guess I’ll write something that feels right.

In all seriousness, life here has been hectic. The holidays were of course crazy. We even got to share in two different Christmases. So we moved from one thing to another, with only a little time to catch our breath in between. Not to mention that the boys didn’t have school for a couple of weeks. So, yeah, it’s been pretty hectic.

But now the New Year is here, the Christmas lights are all taken down and the gym memberships so many people purchased are going unused. The holiday season is over. This time of year always has me reflecting, so I’ll share some more personal insights with you than I normally would here.

Depression. Depression is one of those words we hear a lot but don’t want to apply to ourselves. At least, that’s the case for me. I remember hearing the word depression a lot growing up, but in the church I was raised in, depression was viewed as a sin problem. If you’re truly saved and trusting God, depression is something you should never deal with. If you are feeling depression, then you’re not really trusting God/you’re walking in sin/you may have a habitual sin problem that means you may not really be saved/you’re going to hell. Perhaps I’m slightly exaggerating in my adult mind, but this is how it was received in my youthful brain, and I suspect the same is true for many people who grew up alongside me.

As a result of this view of depression and, by extension, other mental health issues, many people in certain church circles never seek help. They believe that they need to trust God more and repent of their sins and the deep feeling of sadness they have will be magically lifted. That’s what I believed.

You see, for most of my life, I mean even back in my earliest memories, I had a melancholy feeling. I never quite knew what to call it, so I made up a name. I called it my “inner darkness.” It was a feeling that even in what should have been the happiest times of my life (my marriage, the births of my sons, etc.) would creep up on me and cause me to feel like life is meaningless and that I am completely worthless and I don’t deserve anything. Sometimes it hit me the worst on beautiful sunny days where I should have been happy and enjoying life.

I’ve mentioned some of my journey of deconstruction and reconstruction of my faith. I was always skeptical of therapy and medication, thinking that I didn’t need any of that because I never had suicidal thoughts or suffered from what people think of as stereotypical depression. I always tried to portray myself as a happy person. I remember a girl in high school telling me, “I can’t imagine you ever being sad.” This outer appearance and the stupid sarcastic humour that I always use in conversation were/are used to cover up the deep anxiety I have that people will never accept or love me, and that people don’t like me or want me around.

It wasn’t until I was about 30 years old that I took a chance and started to see a therapist. My darkness closed in on me to the point where I thought I would be crippled and unable to carry out a normal life for fear of the constant judgment of others. Talking with the therapist helped. It was an excellent step in helping me work through some of the religious trauma I had experienced in the past.

Then my parents died. 2020 happened, and I was in deep depression for much of the year. The following year, I decided it was time to talk to someone about it again. I reached out to my doctor and he suggested at least trying an antidepressant. He prescribed one initially that I had a pretty severe reaction to that ended up with me having a concussion after passing out on the stairs of our house at 5:00 am. That’s a story for another time. Then he cautiously started me on a low dose of Lexipro. After ensuring that I tolerated it well, he increased the dosage. I waited a few weeks to see whether it would help.

And it did help. It helped a lot. The black cloud I had felt, my “inner darkness,” lifted. It was as if I was truly seeing the world for the first time. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. I can’t say my anxiety and depression are gone, but they only very seldom rise to the surface now. I don’t have extreme anxiety every time I have to speak in front of a group of people or meet new people. I don’t stay up at night wondering what people are thinking about me. Truly, I sleep much, much better these days. I can’t believe I spent so much of my life shrouded in darkness, thinking that if I just prayed enough it would go away. I mean it when I say, “Thank God for Lexipro!”

Mental health is no joke. I told this long story to say that I still believe in prayer. I believe that a closer relationship with God is something to strive for. But it is incredibly dangerous to blame people’s mental health issues on themselves. Did not God give humans the ability to create drugs to treat issues like this? Please, if you are fighting against depression or a dark cloud hanging over you find help. You don’t have to suffer and blame yourself for your depression. Medication may not be the solution for everyone, and it’s only a part

of my own mental health regime. But if you’re reading this and need help, please, please go find it. Don’t become another casualty of something that is completely treatable like depression.

This new beginning with therapy and antidepressants has allowed me to serve in my current capacity in France without constant anxiety or fear. It has allowed me to be supportive to people who need me without being sidetracked by my own depression. I still have times when I get depressed, don’t get me wrong, but those days are now few and far between compared to how things were a few years ago.

God wants your best life for you. Maybe part of God’s plan for your life is to find mental health support from people who care. Don’t wait. Find the help you need. Please, reach out to me if I can help you in any way.

That is all for the moment.

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