The darkness of depression drains light and life from a soul and damages its close relationships. This is especially true for clergy who become depressed. Ministers share the good news of the Gospel implying this good news will alleviate unwanted sadness, bring joy and provide hope. But, like every other depressed human, these emotionally positive blessings are diverted from his soul too. When a pastor’s shoulders are bent by depression the problem is compounded by shame. Embarrassed, he thinks, “I’m a pastor, I shouldn’t be depressed.” The longer a pastor is depressed the more he feels like a hypocrite. The more hypocritical he feels the more shame he feels and the more depressed he becomes.
About the time life becomes pitch black Sunday rolls around again and he has to proclaim the Good News. Without anyone but his wife knowing his struggle he courageously, valiantly picks up his Bible, ascends to the platform and preaches happiness from the pit of despair. Even though he forces his feet to move in a normal manner and requires his lips to dispense hope he is spent. He is depressed. When he makes it through he closes his Bible and descends into depression’s black hole.
Clergy depression is common. It is also quite common for clergymen to try to ignore it and to misdiagnose themselves. Sure they feel badly, wonder what is wrong, sometimes glimpse their own frozen rage, occasionally try to rest or relax more, take a weekend off, complain about how they feel to their spouses, wrestle instead of sleep, assume things will improve when . . . and too often the darkness lingers and intensifies. Depression can be a long standing familiar undiagnosed part of an otherwise normal life. It can creep slowly in like a fog when never before present. It can take the energy from life while the depressed person just keeps trying to do better, be better and keep on going. It may completely debilitate.
Clergy members are prone to assume they feel so depressed because there is something wrong with them spiritually, they are not trusting the Lord like they should or they are not as disciplined as they need to be. These are seldom the reasons for depression. Depression may be largely physical, mostly psychospiritual or a combination of both. It is often complicated to treat but it is never hopeless. The barrier of personal shame keeps too many pastors from finding the help they need.
Depression is diagnosable and is treatable. Its symptoms include down moods, changes in weight or appetite, changes in sleep patterns, irritability, self hatred, loss of interest in things which previously were interesting, inability to enjoy or find pleasure and physical aches and pains. If any of these symptoms are overly familiar to you or you wish to take an on-line assessment from a reputable site, you are invited to go to Mayo Clinic’s on-line assessment to help your evaluation process.
Whether or not you are clergy, you need not stay depressed.
If you are suicidal call 911 now. There is hope and help waiting.
If you are depressed you need help. The journey may take time, be overwhelming, confusing and difficult but you are worth it. There is no shame in this as many pastors have found relief and treatment for their nagging depression. If you are willing to pursue getting help you will find it.
Some depression is effectively treated with medication. Often quality counseling is more desirable and necessary. Both are required at times. Quality care will efficiently and effectively treat your depression. Being as informed as possible as you begin consulting with others on this issue is important. If you know the questions to ask, have a basic understanding of the medications and even have understanding about what is generating the depression it is helpful. For some assessment, information and confidential interaction go to the I Need Help page of this web site.
Of course you may wish to consult with your personal physician or a quality Christian counselor in your area to seek a diagnosis and treatment. Some physicians and counselors take this very seriously and you will find them amazingly wonderful to engage. Other physicians quickly dispense anti depressants without much thought. There is a lot to know as you consult the medical community about your depression. If you wish to interact regarding this issue so you can be prepared as you make your doctor appointment do not hesitate to go to the Finding Help page on this web site and follow its guidance.
If your spouse is depressed and you wonder where to turn you may surely consult the Finding Help page of this web site as well.
The impact of depression on close relationships is often significant and as the depressed person deals with the depression these relationship issues will need addressing. You can find a way out of the darkness and heal the damage done to your relationships. You are worth it. When a pastor stands to preach about joy it is wonderful if he is moving away from his depression.