Thoughts on Treatments for Depression

I have been in treatment (talk therapy and medication and spiritual help) for many years and it has done me a lot of good.  However, not all service providers are created equal.  I’ve learned a lot from my experiences so I thought I would give some advice.  You can take it or leave it, this is based on my personal experiences and your situation may be different enough that these tips won’t help, but I hope they will.
1.  First, recognize that you have a very real but generally very treatable problem.  One of the crazy things about depression is how much it lies to you to get you to think you can’t be helped.  I can’t think of another illness that does this, but know that MOST people with depression firmly believe that they can’t be helped.
2.  Remember, remember that the Lord loves you and He always will!  His love for you is unconditional.  He wants us to try hard and FIGHT our weaknesses (and depression is a WEAKNESS not a SIN).  We may not completely ‘win’ in this life, but that’s not important.  The important thing is that we FIGHT and turn to the Lord.
3.  Seek good professional help.  Ask your bishop or others who have struggled for recommendations.  Personally, I need both talk therapy and medication, but I didn’t always have them at the same time.
4.  When you are starting medication therapy, be patient and hopeful.  For medications, sometimes it can take quite a while to get the proper medication or medication combo to help you.  Don’t lose hope.
5.  For talk therapy, be patient and humble and willing to try hard things.  Sometimes, especially if the depression has been there a long time, the therapist may say things you completely don’t believe (like, you are worthwhile and can do good things) or ask you to do things you think are impossible (like work on forgiving someone or do different positive thought exercises) or challenge your core beliefs about yourself or others (going back to the ‘things you don’t believe’ part).  Happiness is NOT something that just ‘comes to us.’  It is a choice and a talent that must be practiced.  Generally for those of us with depression, it is a talent we are very weak in — but that doesn’t mean we can’t get better.  It’s HARD.  But you have to be willing to work at hard things to get good rewards.
6.  Give talk therapists a good shot, but be aware that sometimes a therapist may not be the best fit for you and you should go elsewhere.  This does NOT mean that you drop a therapist if they don’t validate and agree with everything you say.  But if they seriously violate core gospel principles, insult you, or you’ve been with them for quite a while and you feel like you’ve maxed out what you can get from them, you might want to look into finding another therapist.  For instance, I’ve had 5 therapists over the years.  The first was not LDS, but she was very good and respected my beliefs (even helped me strengthen my testimony).  However, she moved so I had to look elsewhere.  The second was a psychiatrist (medical doctor) in a mental health facility.  He primarily took care of my medical needs, but did a little talk therapy too.  However, when it became clear that there were issues that would be best dealt with by heavy duty talk therapy, he recommended that I go find some.  The next man I only went to once.  He advertised himself as an “LDS therapist” which should have been a warning signal.  He told me that it was a sin to hate myself, and that I wasn’t having enough sex in my marriage and that I needed to watch porn and masturbate to learn to like it more.  Uh, no!  He was so awful that I would be pleased if he had his license revoked.  The next was an MSW through LDS Family Services.  She was nice and helped for a while, but after a few years I realized she was more my friend than my therapist, and she wasn’t giving me the needed exercises, tools, and work to get much better, so I moved on.  My current therapist is AWESOME.  He has a PhD, is LDS, and does a lot of behavioral therapy.  He is not only supportive and kind, but he gives me exercises and tools that I need.  I have made more progress while working with him than all the others combined.
7.  Be willing to go to your bishop or other church leaders for help, but remember that not all bishops are the same.  Unlike ‘professional’ clergy, LDS bishops are not generally trained as counselors.  So you may get one that’s GREAT, with large amounts of understanding and lots of knowledge of resources for you, or you might get one who is kind of clueless.  I think the vast majority of bishops fall into those 2 categories.  But unfortunately, sometimes you may have a bishop who has an incorrect idea of what depression or mental illness is and will not help you at all, spiritually or temporally.  The Church has been trying hard to give a little bit of training to bishops so that this happens more and more rarely, but sometimes it still happens.  If this happens to you, hang in there.  There may be other people in your ward or stake who can still be helpful, and no one is a bishop forever. 🙂
8.  Do your best to stay close to the Lord, even if you have a hard time feeling the Spirit.  When my depression was at its worst, I found it almost impossible to feel the Spirit.  This made prayers and scripture study and even going to church feel difficult and sometimes even pointless.  But this is a battle, remember?  Even if our communication equipment is down, we know the Commander is still there and we need to keep fighting.  And as you fight, you will be helped and strengthened, and find more of the resources you need.
9.  Be easy on yourself.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Each of us has exactly the challenges we need, and we have different things expected of us depending on our weaknesses, strengths, and stage in life.  Just keep fighting and repenting when you need to, and you’ll be fine.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: