The Lines Between Depression Symptoms and Life

I have been in a good mood lately. Yesterday was a little down, but generally I feel good right now, I’m interacting with my children well, and I am getting along with people. This is all good.

The problem is that I have no motivation to do anything at all.

So my question for the day is this: at what point does one look at the symptoms of depression and say, “yep, that’s a part of my illness,” and then at what point do you say, “get off your butt and get to work!”

I don’t like the idea of blaming every mood swing, every lack of motivation or odd behavior on the disease. There must be a sense of personal responsibility as well. Otherwise, we end up like the song from West Side Story:

9E44E5AA-10BD-4415-88FA-59B25FF38D92.jpg

:

Officer Krupke, you’re really a square;
This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care!
It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!

ACTION
I’m disturbed!

JETS
We’re disturbed, we’re disturbed,
We’re the most disturbed,
Like we’re psychologic’ly disturbed.

So how do we draw that line as Christians? Sickness is the result of sin, and yet sin is also my own responsibility. I am trapped by the Fall, yet I participate in that same Fall every day. Maybe my problem is that I just want someone or something to blame other than myself.

So am I nuts here?

-DMR

36 thoughts on “The Lines Between Depression Symptoms and Life”

  1. "So am I nuts here?"

    Nope.

    When I'm feeling better, I struggle with the same thing you are describing, but I cannot seem to break through it. I will push and push only to fall in a heap of exhaustion trying to break out of it and then beat myself up for being stuck. It's frustrating.

  2. "So am I nuts here?"

    Nope.

    When I'm feeling better, I struggle with the same thing you are describing, but I cannot seem to break through it. I will push and push only to fall in a heap of exhaustion trying to break out of it and then beat myself up for being stuck. It's frustrating.

  3. I've been down for several days and keep thinking that something bad is going to happen to my middle daughter. I've been drinking a bit more than usual and to top things off, I hurt myself lifting today, triggered the cartilage inflammation in my chest tissue so I'm sitting here with a beer telling myself "No, you're not having a heart attack, you're just fucked up." I don't even consider the Fall, hell the OT doesn't seem bothered by it and Adam is not mentioned after Genesis. I don't think of depression of terms of sin, if I did I would be crazier than I already am, but then I'm not a big fan of Augustine and original sin, hence the reason I'm a bad Lutheran.

  4. I've been down for several days and keep thinking that something bad is going to happen to my middle daughter. I've been drinking a bit more than usual and to top things off, I hurt myself lifting today, triggered the cartilage inflammation in my chest tissue so I'm sitting here with a beer telling myself "No, you're not having a heart attack, you're just fucked up." I don't even consider the Fall, hell the OT doesn't seem bothered by it and Adam is not mentioned after Genesis. I don't think of depression of terms of sin, if I did I would be crazier than I already am, but then I'm not a big fan of Augustine and original sin, hence the reason I'm a bad Lutheran.

  5. As to personal responsibility sure you need it-but what Christian doesn't? You know yourself that we place absolutely no emphasis on character formation, or ethics, let alone personal responsibility. I look at depression as a sort of talent that the master has given me. What shall I do with it? I tired to give it back and he wouldn't take it and he could have. A click of those holy fingers and badda boom badda bing-no problem. But it's not to be, so what to do with it, how to learn not to fight it-that it takes a great deal of energy-and live with it. How can it be positive in my life?

  6. As to personal responsibility sure you need it-but what Christian doesn't? You know yourself that we place absolutely no emphasis on character formation, or ethics, let alone personal responsibility. I look at depression as a sort of talent that the master has given me. What shall I do with it? I tired to give it back and he wouldn't take it and he could have. A click of those holy fingers and badda boom badda bing-no problem. But it's not to be, so what to do with it, how to learn not to fight it-that it takes a great deal of energy-and live with it. How can it be positive in my life?

  7. I guess I should clarify a little. I think of depression in terms of the result of the Fall. All sickness and disease is a result of the Fall into sin. So I know that I am both the victim of the Fall and the contributor to the Fall. I just have a really hard time reconciling those

  8. I guess I should clarify a little. I think of depression in terms of the result of the Fall. All sickness and disease is a result of the Fall into sin. So I know that I am both the victim of the Fall and the contributor to the Fall. I just have a really hard time reconciling those

    1. Dear one-

      Just a little note to let you know that tonight I am praying that I AM will be with you in your despondency and pain. And that Christ will truly give you HIS rest and HIS peace. Those words can (and for me, often have) become so trite but they are such an inexpressible gift when truly given by Christ. Peace from all the 'efforts' and rest from all of the difficulties. Strength from Him!
      Praying,,
      HveHope

  9. I know I'll never keep the ten commandments perfectly, but that doesn't stop me from trying. I know I'll never be completely healthy in terms of mental health (is anyone?), but that doesn't stop me from trying to make the most of the health I do have. The way I see it, no matter what our struggle in life, it is a result of sin, but I know that God put it there for a reason and I will continue to praise Him through it.
    My mental illness is a part of me — I can't distringuish what part of me causes me to not want to do anything. It's not about my illness; it's about making the most of whatever cards I've been dealt.

  10. I know I'll never keep the ten commandments perfectly, but that doesn't stop me from trying. I know I'll never be completely healthy in terms of mental health (is anyone?), but that doesn't stop me from trying to make the most of the health I do have. The way I see it, no matter what our struggle in life, it is a result of sin, but I know that God put it there for a reason and I will continue to praise Him through it.
    My mental illness is a part of me — I can't distringuish what part of me causes me to not want to do anything. It's not about my illness; it's about making the most of whatever cards I've been dealt.

  11. I understand that the book, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Norris might be useful in one's inquiry about these important distinctions. Insight matters. Sadly, the book remains atop the pile of important things I need to read. Nevertheless, I recommend it, as it has been recommended to me!

  12. I understand that the book, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Norris might be useful in one's inquiry about these important distinctions. Insight matters. Sadly, the book remains atop the pile of important things I need to read. Nevertheless, I recommend it, as it has been recommended to me!

  13. I agree totally with wondering about what to blame on the illness. That's one of the reasons I'm afraid of drugs — I don't want to be trying to take extra pills every single time I feel bad. I wish I knew the answer to your question; I too need the answer. Right now, my only guess as to know whether to blame the illness or blame myself is to [gulp] always blame myself. And then to hear the absolution applied again and again. If my response is always "Get off your butt and get to work," then when it happens, great; all the better for my family. And when it doesn't, I confess and receive forgiveness, and it begins to work in my heart. That doesn't mean I'll actually get off my butt and get to work. At least, not right away. But over time….

  14. I agree totally with wondering about what to blame on the illness. That's one of the reasons I'm afraid of drugs — I don't want to be trying to take extra pills every single time I feel bad. I wish I knew the answer to your question; I too need the answer. Right now, my only guess as to know whether to blame the illness or blame myself is to [gulp] always blame myself. And then to hear the absolution applied again and again. If my response is always "Get off your butt and get to work," then when it happens, great; all the better for my family. And when it doesn't, I confess and receive forgiveness, and it begins to work in my heart. That doesn't mean I'll actually get off my butt and get to work. At least, not right away. But over time….

  15. Great post, and great questions, not easily or quickly answered.

    Maybe this can be an imperfect start. We should never indulge the flesh. We would not say to a Christian addict who wants a fix that he can't help it, that it is part of his disease, so he should just give into it. Likewise I think the answer for you is always, in your words, “get off your butt and get to work!”

    Yet, while there is no time to indulge the flesh, there is a time for encouragement and rest. In Christ, we are given rests we have not earned. Perhaps the answer is: "stay on your butt and don't work, nothing is required of you."

    That doesn't work with the addict, though, does it? We can't say to the addict, give into your addiction. This is part of what makes depression so difficult for me as a pastor. When is it resting in the Gospel according to Christ's gifts and when is it indulging the flesh? When do we accommodate the symptoms and when do we draw battle lines?

    I am at least as uncertain as you are in all this. But it does seem to me that your question is about how to apply Law and Gospel. Luther wasn't exaggerating when he said that is the highest art.

    Thanks for raising this.

    – Petersen

  16. Great post, and great questions, not easily or quickly answered.

    Maybe this can be an imperfect start. We should never indulge the flesh. We would not say to a Christian addict who wants a fix that he can't help it, that it is part of his disease, so he should just give into it. Likewise I think the answer for you is always, in your words, “get off your butt and get to work!”

    Yet, while there is no time to indulge the flesh, there is a time for encouragement and rest. In Christ, we are given rests we have not earned. Perhaps the answer is: "stay on your butt and don't work, nothing is required of you."

    That doesn't work with the addict, though, does it? We can't say to the addict, give into your addiction. This is part of what makes depression so difficult for me as a pastor. When is it resting in the Gospel according to Christ's gifts and when is it indulging the flesh? When do we accommodate the symptoms and when do we draw battle lines?

    I am at least as uncertain as you are in all this. But it does seem to me that your question is about how to apply Law and Gospel. Luther wasn't exaggerating when he said that is the highest art.

    Thanks for raising this.

    – Petersen

  17. I totally understand your predicament… though I get to add the crazy mess of fluctuating female hormones to the mix. I think the problem might be too much Law and not enough Gospel. If depression does anything well it is to weigh the Law on us heavily, and turn us inward away from the only hope we have. I thank the Lord, that Christ on the Cross cannot be tainted by the acidity of my depression that corrupts everything I think. It is only when my eyes are turned to the Cross that I remember that whatever good I do manage to do is through Christ, and not myself ( and Christ defiantly works through Zoloft).

    As for the blame game. You are no more crazy then every other sinner to walk the earth. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. So if you're crazy so is everybody else. Maybe we try to blame it on something other then ourselves because we know in our hearts that it is more then we can bear. Thanks be to God that as Christians we know that Christ bore it for us.

    That doesn't magically make us get off our butt and do what we should, but it helps turn our thinking. As one who has gone through depression without knowing Christ and again as one Baptized into Him, I can tell you it's different but no less debilitating. I know my disease and sin are real and are so awful that they had to be nailed to a cross.

    Well I would love to ponder more, but I have a whiny three year old that can often get me off my butt when nothing else can.

  18. I totally understand your predicament… though I get to add the crazy mess of fluctuating female hormones to the mix. I think the problem might be too much Law and not enough Gospel. If depression does anything well it is to weigh the Law on us heavily, and turn us inward away from the only hope we have. I thank the Lord, that Christ on the Cross cannot be tainted by the acidity of my depression that corrupts everything I think. It is only when my eyes are turned to the Cross that I remember that whatever good I do manage to do is through Christ, and not myself ( and Christ defiantly works through Zoloft).

    As for the blame game. You are no more crazy then every other sinner to walk the earth. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. So if you're crazy so is everybody else. Maybe we try to blame it on something other then ourselves because we know in our hearts that it is more then we can bear. Thanks be to God that as Christians we know that Christ bore it for us.

    That doesn't magically make us get off our butt and do what we should, but it helps turn our thinking. As one who has gone through depression without knowing Christ and again as one Baptized into Him, I can tell you it's different but no less debilitating. I know my disease and sin are real and are so awful that they had to be nailed to a cross.

    Well I would love to ponder more, but I have a whiny three year old that can often get me off my butt when nothing else can.

  19. I think often times it almost becomes a "nature vs. nurture" issue. When we aren't "feeling well" we isolate and vegetate (our response to the "nature" part of it). Then, when we are feeling "better" we continue to vegetate because that is what we are used to doing (the nurture part) – okay, perhaps "nurture" isn't the right way to say it… maybe "habit" is better… anyway. So, we feel crappy, lay on the couch (for days, weeks, whatever) and then when we are feeling better (more normal) we end up still on the couch because that's all we've been doing.
    Pr. I think that's when we drink an extra cup of Joe and go for a walk… then lay down on the couch from exhaustion!

    1. BMC-
      Isn't that true? We do get in habits that prevent our getting up and 'doing!' Often, I will have stretches where pain symptoms 'lock' me on my bed and I just Can't Get Up. Then, when I actually have a lessening in the symptoms, I feel trapped by all I haven't done while stuck in bed! The laundry is staring me in the face, the bedroom's become a chaos zone, and I'm honestly afraid to go out my door and face what the rest of the house looks like (3 Kiddos play into this scenario). Guilt. The last 5 days have been VASTLY different for me and 'the usual' routine. As I'm writing this I realize that God has been very, very merciful to me and held back the monster of guilt. I've been able to get out and do some things for & with my family and to get off the treadmill of constant inner surveillance. It has been HUGE. I'm exhausted, but with Good Reason to be instead of the usual I'm Ready To Shut Out The 'Tire-somness' Of Daily Living. There is a big difference between the two. Oh, and motivation. Often, just Thinking About getting up is enough to rob me of any 'get up and go.' Grace. And not anything I DO gives the grace (if you know what I mean). Merciful Kindness that I am very, very, very, very, very

      1. grateful for. (Sorry, I got interrupted and lost my train of thought). Megan Davis (above comment) really spoke my heart when she said: "I thank the Lord, that Christ on the Cross cannot be tainted by the acidity of my depression that corrupts everything I think. It is only when my eyes are turned to the Cross that I remember that whatever good I do manage to do is through Christ, and not myself ( and Christ defiantly works through Zoloft)." In my case it is Gabapentin/Neurontin, Cymbalta, Ambien/Zolidem, Atarax/Hydroxyzine, Zyrtec/Cetirizine, Promtetrium, Wellbutrin/Budeprion and Lidoderm patches — but Christ still works through it all, Mercifully and with Kindness. And yes, Despite it all. After all, the medications themselves can be 'instruments in the Redeemer's hands.'
        In HIS grip, even when I don't/can't 'feel' HIM,
        HveHope

  20. I think often times it almost becomes a "nature vs. nurture" issue. When we aren't "feeling well" we isolate and vegetate (our response to the "nature" part of it). Then, when we are feeling "better" we continue to vegetate because that is what we are used to doing (the nurture part) – okay, perhaps "nurture" isn't the right way to say it… maybe "habit" is better… anyway. So, we feel crappy, lay on the couch (for days, weeks, whatever) and then when we are feeling better (more normal) we end up still on the couch because that's all we've been doing.
    Pr. I think that's when we drink an extra cup of Joe and go for a walk… then lay down on the couch from exhaustion!

  21. That is what mine is so often – just no motivation.

    I'm heading to a new doc tomorrow to see if I can pressure someone to look into thyroid issues (a minorly underfunctioning thyroid can manifest as depression – so can low testosterone btw… have you checked into those?) Even if your first thyroid tests all show up normal, sometimes you have to press for some more thorough testing such as for thyroid antibodies and reverse T3 tests, as well as TRH tests.

    I am hoping this gives me some answers. Getting off of pain killers and having surgery has helped a lot but I still get very tired for too long at a time.

    Docs just don't want to move for YEARS on female pelvic pain issues, just kept throwing prescription pain killers at me which even though I wasn't addicted and didn't crave them, robbed me of any ability to feel much of anything emotional except anger sometimes.

    But the gospel, the gospel, was the only thing that would get through during those times. Much of it was spent in a gospel-less church, and that became unbearable. Thankfully the Lord finally showed me what was missing there and we left and were able to find good gospel preaching and teaching elsewhere (took a while though).

    1. Paula,
      You have suggested some great things to actually DO (ie: tests to check for thyroid, etc.). HOW did you get off of the painkillers? I have Fibromyalgia and have spent MONTHS in bed over the past 6 years. Even so, I have taken 6 "Norco" in order to not feel a bit 'nutty' from the pain/symptoms. It is my dear hope to get off of the 'Norco' and the 'Ambien/Zolpidem' by year's end so I would be MOST GRATEFUL for any tips and suggestions.
      grateful to be (by His grace) in His grip, HveHope

  22. That is what mine is so often – just no motivation.

    I'm heading to a new doc tomorrow to see if I can pressure someone to look into thyroid issues (a minorly underfunctioning thyroid can manifest as depression – so can low testosterone btw… have you checked into those?) Even if your first thyroid tests all show up normal, sometimes you have to press for some more thorough testing such as for thyroid antibodies and reverse T3 tests, as well as TRH tests.

    I am hoping this gives me some answers. Getting off of pain killers and having surgery has helped a lot but I still get very tired for too long at a time.

    Docs just don't want to move for YEARS on female pelvic pain issues, just kept throwing prescription pain killers at me which even though I wasn't addicted and didn't crave them, robbed me of any ability to feel much of anything emotional except anger sometimes.

    But the gospel, the gospel, was the only thing that would get through during those times. Much of it was spent in a gospel-less church, and that became unbearable. Thankfully the Lord finally showed me what was missing there and we left and were able to find good gospel preaching and teaching elsewhere (took a while though).

    1. Paula,
      You have suggested some great things to actually DO (ie: tests to check for thyroid, etc.). HOW did you get off of the painkillers? I have Fibromyalgia and have spent MONTHS in bed over the past 6 years. Even so, I have taken 6 "Norco" in order to not feel a bit 'nutty' from the pain/symptoms. It is my dear hope to get off of the 'Norco' and the 'Ambien/Zolpidem' by year's end so I would be MOST GRATEFUL for any tips and suggestions.
      grateful to be (by His grace) in His grip, HveHope

  23. "Sickness is the result of sin, and yet sin is also my own responsibility."

    I think Romans 7 gives us some useful ways of speaking here. Verses 19-20 could be paraphrased in relation to the depressive sense of stuckness. The good that you would do you do not do. Yet according to the text, this means it is not you that is creating this situation. On some level, Romans 7 suggests we are not identified with this, but are identified with what we would want to do. Some might suggest that is a recipe for irresponsibility, but the argument really seems to be found in the text itself. And I think few have learned to avail themselves of it at appropriate times.

  24. "Sickness is the result of sin, and yet sin is also my own responsibility."

    I think Romans 7 gives us some useful ways of speaking here. Verses 19-20 could be paraphrased in relation to the depressive sense of stuckness. The good that you would do you do not do. Yet according to the text, this means it is not you that is creating this situation. On some level, Romans 7 suggests we are not identified with this, but are identified with what we would want to do. Some might suggest that is a recipe for irresponsibility, but the argument really seems to be found in the text itself. And I think few have learned to avail themselves of it at appropriate times.

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