What Dr. Luke has to Say About Understanding Depression

Zhang Ming Mei was 42 years old.  Her husband of 15 years had died 3 months ago after having been diagnosed with cancer several years ago.  One year before her husband's death the doctor told her that her husband would not live long.  Thus she knew that his death would come.  But now that this day had come made life no easier to bear.   She was upset and depressed.  Her sister noted that her dress was less tidy.  Also her house was less tidy as well.  They noticed that she really did not want to do very much at all.  She just stayed at home and watched TV or read books.  Many of her good friends called her but she did not want to do anything with these friends.  Zhang Ming Mei told her friends she just was not interested in seeing people or doing things with people.

Finally one day Zhang Ming Mei's sister came by and told her that she heard of a person who was going to talk about depression.   Zhang Ming Mei told her sister that she was not depressed but she agreed to go to hear this person talk about depression.  When they arrived at the meeting there were about 50 people.  Zhang Ming Mei noticed that many of the people there did not look depressed but she thought a few did.  Why would people come who were not depressed she wondered?

The speaker got up to speak and introduced himself and then told them that they would have a two part series on depression.  One part today would start today and then they would have another later in the week.

The speaker started by saying that everyone experiences sadness at times.  We grieve when someone we love dies.  We worry and feel a sense of failure when our jobs or finances present difficulties.  We feel sadness and loss when a relationship ends against our wishes.  Temporary feelings of sadness are normal and even healthy when we experience negative life events.

However, sometimes we experience a type of sadness that is more severe and lasts longer than the normal reactions.  Many people have to cope with a condition called Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression.  This disorder can be extremely severe, disrupt the personís  daily functioning and sometimes even lead to death through suicide.  Clearly, depression is not normal sadness and must be diagnosed and treated medically in order to restore the victim to proper health.

Lets look at the symptoms of Depression.  The symptom many people think of first is sadness.  It is true that most people will experience a sad mood most of the time when they are depressed.  The degree of sadness experienced can vary from day-to-day and even sometimes within the same day, but ,overall, people who are depressed will report feeling sad or unhappy most of the time.  Sometimes a person with depression will feel a numb or bland mood rather than sadness.  They donít really feel emotional at all.  They donít exactly feel sad, but they usually have an inability to feel happy feelings. They may describe themselves as just going through the motions of daily activities.

In addition to mood symptoms, depression tends to either increase or decrease our sleep.  When depressed, we may sleep more than usual.  We can sleep as much as ten to fifteen hours per day, or feel like we just cannot get enough sleep.  Sometimes the person will try to sleep as much as possible to avoid having to deal with the difficulties of life.

Many depressed people, however, find that they lose sleep.  The most common pattern is for a person to go to sleep fairly well, but for them to wake up several times during the night or to wake up early in the morning before itís time to get up and to not be able to go back to sleep.  A depressed person may report averaging only three to four hours of sleep per day, even though they try to sleep more.

Like sleep, our appetites can either increase or decrease with depression.  Some people lose their appetite and just donít want food or feel hungry at all.  Sometimes, they may even feel that they would be nauseated if they tried to eat.  Other people experience an increase in appetite when depressed.  They eat more during periods when they are most sad.  As you might expect, the impact of depression on appetite causes many people to gain weight or lose weight during the illness.

Loss or energy or fatigue is another common symptom of depression.  The individual may feel like they are just too tired or feel too weak to do anything.  They have to push themselves to do even the smallest activities and may get behind in chores or work.  Of course, getting behind adds to the depression because they feel overwhelmed and feel a sense of failure.  Some depressed persons will say that they find themselves just sitting staring into space and feel that they lack the necessary energy to do even the smallest tasks.

Depression can effect a personís physical functioning in other ways.  Depressed people tend to worry more about their health.  They tend to notice various aches and pains and to fear physical illness more than non-depressed persons.  Depression also decreases a personís interest in or desire for sex.

Our thinking also tends to be effected by depression.  Some people report that they have much more difficulty making decisions when depressed.  Others say that they just canít think clearly and that their thinking feels distracted or fuzzy.  Finally, some people report that they are more forgetful when depressed.  The combination of the symptom of decreased energy and motivation and the symptom of thinking problems can cause the depressed person significant difficulties in school or work.  Many times, students will experience a drop in grades when they become depressed.  This may be the first symptom that is noticed by family and friends.  The student then feels a sense of failure or pressure to perform better and these feelings tend to worsen the depression even more.

At this point in the talk the speaker said they would take a break.  Zhang Ming Mei thought that much of what she said must be right as she had experienced a lot what the speaker had said.  She had trouble with loss of appetite and some weight loss.  She also had trouble with sleeping at nights.  Also she was more forgetful than in the past.  Her daughter would tell her that she would forget things.

Depression has a major impact on our perceptions.  A depressed person feels that everything is darker and more negative than it really is.  They see the worst in every situation and expect the worst when thinking about their future.  They perceive that others are being negative about them, even when they are not.  They also tend to be much more negative about themselves.  They have many self-critical thoughts and their self-esteem tends to be quite low.  Because they perceive that others have negative opinions of them, they tend to avoid people when possible.  These distorted perceptions can lead to depressionís ability to be life threatening.  When the depressed person feels themselves to be worthless, feels that others would be better off without them and feels that the future is going to be very negative,  they can become suicidal.  The rate of suicide in China is XXXX.  Worldwide, the suicide rate is XXXX.  The suicidal person feels hopeless that their situation will ever improve and they perceive death as their only way out of the emotional pain. Of course, suicidal thinking  is the most serious symptom of depression and must be recognized and treatment provided.

Sometimes, people are afraid to ask a depressed friend or family member if they are thinking about suicide, because they are afraid that asking will give them the idea or suggest it to them as an option.  This is not at all true.  It is important to ask the depressed person if they have been having suicidal thinking so that it can be addressed, and it will not increase the likelihood that they will make an attempt.  If they admit that they have been having thoughts of suicide, the next question to ask is whether they have been thinking about how they would do it, if they tried.  If they have developed a plan, the risk is greater.  Always take suicidal thoughts seriously.  If someone you know says that they are depressed and have been thinking more about death or suicide, tell them that you care about them and that you donít want them to die.  Tell them that you want to help them and get them to a doctor as soon as possible.  Remember, their wish to commit suicide and their thinking in general are a result of the depression and not who they really are.

Yes, it is true that depression can be an illness.  It is also true that depression can be treated by medicines and counseling.  Sometimes, however, depression can be the result of feeling that life has no purpose, feeling that you are unloved or feeling that you are not of valuable.  Many people are depressed because they have never heard the wonderful news about Godís love for them and about Jesus Christ.  You see, the creator of the universe loves each and every person so much that He sent his son, Jesus, to earth as a human being to die as a sacrifice for us.  We are not perfect ourselves.  We may try to be the best we can be or to reach a higher state of consciousness, but we can never be good enough to go to heaven and live with God after we die.  God knew that we could never do it, so he sent his beloved son, Jesus, to earth as a baby.   He grew into manhood without ever committing a sin or wrong action.  He then willingly let himself be killed on a cross as a sacrifice for our wrongs.  He let soldiers drive nails into his hands and feet and died on that cross for you and me.  He could have stopped it at any time, but He couldnít stand the thought of spending forever in heaven without you, so He chose to die, willingly.  Then, to prove that he had the power to overcome death, He came back to life three days later, and was seen by several hundred people.  In the Bible, it says that ďFor God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever would believe in him, would not die but would have everlasting life.  He loved the world that much.  The world includes all of us, every person.

Now, if the God of the entire universe loves each person enough to send His son, and if that son, Jesus, loved us enough to willingly die for us, doesnít that make each one of us pretty valuable?  If the God of the universe wants a personal relationship with you, doesnít that give your life a purpose?  All we have to do is believe that Jesus is Godís son and that He died for us and arose from the grave and ask God to forgive us of our sins.  Then God will forgive our sins and we will go to heaven after we die.  While we live, however, we are to learn more about God and His ways.  You see, our relationship with God gives us value and a purpose for our lives.  Once we have accepted Jesus, we are told to tell other people about His love for them so that they also can have life, value and purpose.  Once a person understands that Jesus, Godís perfect son, died for them, they cannot help but feel thankful and happy.  Once a person has a relationship with God, life takes on a different meaning.

How many people do you know who seem to go through their life without real meaning?  How many people do you know who are working so hard to succeed and prove to themselves that they have value, but each success seems to last only a moment?  Life without knowing about Godís love for them can make them feel of little value, hopeless and depressed.  That can change with one simple act, accepting the love of Jesus and letting Him guide the direction of your life.

Yes, depression is an illness and should be medically treated, but it can also be a way of life for someone who doesnít know about Godís love for them and Jesusí personal sacrifice for them.  If you have some of the depression symptoms we have discussed, see your physician for treatment.  If you know someone who may be depressed or suicidal, talk to them about your concern for them and get them to medical help.  But if you or someone you know needs to feel meaning and purpose in life or to be forgiven of wrong actions, simply believe in Jesus and His loving sacrifice for each of us.  You will be amazed at the difference in your life.

You can have meaning in your life like you have never known.  You can feel a sense of value that is not dependent on momentary successes.  You can know that this life is only the beginning for you and that you will live with God in heaven after you die.  All you have to do is to trust and believe in Jesus Christ as your savior and Lord.

If you would like to have this life right now, pray this prayer after me.  ďJesus, I do believe that you came to earth to sacrifice yourself for my sins.  I believe that you died on a cross and died, but that you came back to life after three days.  Please come into my heart right now and forgive me for my sins.  I want to live for you in this life and then live with you forever in heaven after I die.Ē  If you prayed this prayer, then Jesus Christ has come into your life and your wrongs have already been forgiven.  You are now and forever more a child of God.  Congratulations.  Now you will grow in your relationship with God during the rest of your life.  Share this good news with those around you.  Help them to receive this gift just like you did.