is it depression?

Often clients will tell me how they have been feeling and then ask whether I think they are depressed. That can be tricky to answer honestly. I hate labels. Yes, there are mental health diagnosing guidelines to follow but so what? So maybe I do “diagnose” depression but the diagnosis isn’t important to me. What’s really important is for the client to understand the root of the feelings and for them to get free from the dark cloud hanging overhead.

I have to say right out of the gate that if you feel depressed to the point of thinking about hurting yourself, get help right now. Don’t wait. Go to your nearest emergency room, call 911 or get an appointment with a counselor. The enemy is lying to you about the worth of your life and his only power is if we believe his lies.

A lot of people don’t think about hurting themselves but they do live with a consistent sense of unhappiness. What I call a case of the ongoing blahs. Nothing is really enjoyable, not miserable, but not joy-filled. They go through the motions of life but can’t remember feeling really passionate about something. There may be a mix of anxiety added to the blahs and you have a sad recipe for daily life. Does that sound familiar?

There are a few steps that I walk with clients through as they begin to step out of the blahs and I am happy to share them:

1) Get a physical. Go to your family doctor and get a complete blood count. Check your thyroid. Check your blood sugars. A low level of depression can be caused by a variety of treatable medical conditions. Don’t fear that you are going to open a can of worms by getting a physical. There could be a simple solution to how you are feeling and avoidance isn’t going to help you out.

2) Exercise! I am not talking about hiring a trainer to torture you 6 days a week for 2 hours at a time. Experiment with what type of exercise and for how long works for you. Most people benefit from less exercise than they think. Start small and work your way up until you feel that you’ve gone too far and then back down to your sweet spot.

3) Talk to someone. You have to seek wisdom to get to the  root of the feelings. When, where and how did this pattern of thinking and feeling start? What are the spiritual causes also? What we think dictates how we feel. If we are not aware of our inner thought life, feelings will pop up that we never expected and we are surprised by.

My caution is that you need to find someone who will speak truth into your life but doesn’t feel the need to throw in a little shame or guilt on the side. Be careful! Sharing your heart makes you vulnerable and we all need to be wise about who we invite into our innermost feelings.

While on this topic, I have to say that I am not a huge fan of pastoral counseling. Sorry Pastors. But from my experience 9 out of 10 pastors are not trained or anointed to do counseling. Sure if you’ve got a theological question, they are the ones to go to for answers. However, unless your church is highly trained in counseling or inner-healing ministry, be careful when seeking counseling at a church. I have heard time and time again clients that went for pastoral counseling with one problem but came out with two. Went in with a worry about depression and came out with the depression and condemnation. Sad I know. It honestly breaks my heart and makes me furious but that’s a topic for another blog post.

Ok, so now you are cleared medically, exercising, talking about your feelings and you still feel the blahs? It might be time for a medication evaluation with a psychiatrist. Not your family doc but a highly regarded psychiatrist , with a good track record, who can point you in the right direction. Mediation is the option of last resort for me but there are times that it is necessary to help move people forward and out of the blahs for good.

Is it depression? I don’t know but lets get going in life and leave the dark cloud behind…