Happy Valentine’s Day!
The scarcity of the sun, the frigid air, reduced recreational activities, and post-holiday blues coalesce into a dastardly dovetail to make this time of year pretty depressing for some of us. For this reason, I thought I’d reprint part of an article on depression I wrote for the October 8 issue of the Adventist Review. Several people connected with my story; perhaps you will as well. You can follow the link for the whole article.
Out of the Darkness by Jennifer Jill Schwirzer
As I reflect on my struggle with depression, I realize I’m in good company. Charles H. Spurgeon’s depression was so profound that he said, “There are dungeons beneath the castles of despair.”1 Martin Luther is a well-known sufferer of depression that came in bouts throughout his life. So dark was Abraham Lincoln’s depression that his friends hid his knives and razors from him. Just thinking about all these godly, virtuous-but-bummed-out people makes me feel a little less . . . depressed.
There’s a difference between depression and grief. Grief is normal sadness felt in response to loss, and an important part of a well-rounded life experience. A time of sorrow is healthy—it’s sobering, deepening, and refining in its effect.2 For people who are concerned with developing a beautiful character, grief is a friend and not a foe. Depression is a related but different animal. It is characterized by prolonged rumination over an event or loss, leading to compromise in relationships, work, and hobbies. Grief is healthy and normal, but depression is neither. Whether sadness develops into this chronic and debilitating form of illness can depend upon how we process loss.
Like a figure skater’s jump, the beauty of sadness lies in the recovery. Lincoln mourned, “I am now the most miserable man living. . . . Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell; I awfully forbode I shall not.”3 But he did get better, and went on to become president of the United States. Our inquisitive natures lead us to ask, “How did he do that?” To go so low and yet resurface speaks of the resilience God has placed in the human spirit.
There is a right and wrong—a healthy and unhealthy way—of processing loss. I’ve done it both ways. While never formally diagnosed, I’ll admit that I’m probably one of the more than 20 million adult Americans who have wrestled with a mood disorder.4 I’m also a practicing mental health counselor, so I’ll address this topic from multiple angles—personal, clinical, and academic. Try not to get dizzy.
For the remainder of the article, go to http://www.adventistreview.org/issue.php?issue=2009-1528&page=18
If this fails, go to www.adventistreview.org and click on “online archives,” then “get past issues,” choose “2009” from the menu and click on the Oct. 8 issue.