I’m about to give my opinion on something controversial. Please keep an open mind, trust my intentions, and be willing to change your perspective. And always, if you think something I say is massively wrong, feel free to comment! Let’s discuss it!
First let me say this: I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. I’m simply here to open up a conversation around this.
I’m so grateful for the mental health movement over the last decade. I owe so much of my own coaching practice to the many people who have been willing to explore and eradicate so much of the stigma. It’s been an adventure going from incredibly depressed 11 year old, to suicidal 15 year old, to barely-scraping-by 19 year old, to happiest-I’ve-ever-been 27 year old.
That journey has included acupuncture, EMDR, supplements, lots of therapy, different diets (gluten free, paleo, GAPS, etc), herbal regimens, EFT (tapping), brain scans, some more therapy, prayer, and antidepressants/bipolar medication.
None of those individual things “fixed” what I was dealing with emotionally. None of them “healed” me of depression, anxiety, and bipolar. Some had more immediately recognizable results than others, but for the most part I can’t attribute my current mental health to any of those one things in particular.
However, I can say, I’m confident all of them helped in some way—even if it was just giving me hope that there are always more options than I could see at the moment. The one I had the highest expectations and the lowest desire to pursue was always antidepressants.
I’ve heard both sides of the argument for antidepressants for christians: on one hand there’s the “God is the ultimate physician and you shouldn’t take medication for depression/anxiety” argument (which in my opinion isn’t a real argument unless you’re Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, or Amish because then I know you believe the same thing about physical health care), and on the other hand there’s the “you should do everything you can to be your best for God and he doesn’t want you to be sad” argument.
I like to think, like most things, there’s a happy medium.
Of course God can heal whoever he wants whenever he wants, that’s why he gave us medicine. Like art, math, and romance, medical science is incredibly important to the evolution and enjoyment of mankind. Antibiotics, surgery, anesthesia—these are all amazing discoveries and creations of the last couple centuries and have saved countless lives.
That being said, I have a personal opinion that just like surgery or antibiotics, antidepressants are to be used when nothing else works.
Let me describe it this way: imagine someone burned their hand. They didn’t put ice on it, they never bandaged it, it continued to get infected until the burn became such a danger to the overall health of the person that the doctor said amputation was the best option. What would you do at that point? Chop off the hand obviously.
But what if that person had gone to a nurse and she helped him clean the burn, changed the bandages, cleaned the wound, and it healed. That wouldn’t be counted a miracle, would it? Of course not. They just practiced good hygiene and their body healed and eventually recovered.
Mental hygiene is not something that I think is talked about enough in the mental health world as a “cure” for mental illness.
Yes, people encourage each other to work out and go to therapy. But those things are hard when you’re really depressed. And sometimes, this is where medication can come in. Sometimes.
I’m going to be frank for a second here: I think, just like people are more willing to take antibiotics so they can get back to work instead of changing their diet, getting better sleep, and healing naturally, people are more willing to take a pill every day than face their trauma, see a therapist or work with a coach, practice meditation, invest in themselves/their hobbies, and find (or create) a community around them.
Let me repeat myself, I know those things are hard when you’re depressed/anxious, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
One thing about our culture that has now crept into the mental health world, is this idea that “if something is hard, you should just avoid it.” Cooking a meal is hard, just go out for dinner. Being healthy is hard, don’t go to the gym. Marriage is hard, get a divorce. (Obviously these examples are the absolute extreme, but you get the point.)
Mental health is hard. It takes work, dedication, and effort. It comes more easily for some than others. It takes time everyday to stay on top of it.
But ask anyone who has lost 50 pounds if they’re glad they put in the energy to do it and they will always say yes. Why? Because at our core, we love overcoming challenges. At our core, skimping out on necessary difficulties does not make us feel good about ourselves. At our core, we are designed to be our best. Not for external praise or the recognition, but so that we can become one step closer to who we were created in the image of.
Mental health doesn’t come through medication just like heart disease isn’t healed by statins. But sometimes, antidepressants can give you a leg up on where you’re at in life, provide a stepping stone to get you to true wellness. It’s not a cure, but it might help. The cure is working through the cause: if it’s trauma, see someone who can help you work through it. If it’s physiological, see someone who can help you change your diet or find a pilates accountability buddy. If it’s feeling lonely, reach out to one person who just might help you get connected with a community. And remember, there are always more options than you can see at the moment. Start asking to see them and they will always appear.