I and some Depressed Friends (and others who care about them) have had some posts&comments here about the value (and tradeoffs!) of the currently fashionable treatments of (and concepts of!) Depression...

and the following (excerpt plus link) adds some important info re that subject...

but it also points to far more than this one affliction; one might very well speculate that human life overall is largely about acquiring faith, and about placing that faith on a solid foundation of Spirit (nothing else, in the end, really enduring...)

But here's the quote:
Good News for Critically Thinking Depression Sufferers

5 Myths About Depression Treatments


A warning: for people satisfied with their standard depression treatments, debunking myths about them may be troubling. However, for
critically thinking depression sufferers who have not been helped by
antidepressants, psychotherapy, or other standard treatments,
discovering truths about these treatments can provide ideas about what
may actually work for them.

Critical thinkers have difficulty placing faith in any depression treatment because science tells them that these treatments often work no better than placebos or nothing at all, and if
one lacks faith in adepression treatment,it is not likely to be
effective. In fact, it is belief and faith—or what scientists call
“expectations” and the “placebo effect”—that is mostly responsible for any
depression treatment working. Critical-thinkers can find a way out of
depression when their critical thinking about depression treatments is
validated and respected, and they are challenged to think more
critically about their critical thinking...


[I haven't read the guy's book yet, but just put in a hold at the local library]

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Just to point out how some things never change, I am posting below a quote from Samuel Bownas' "A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to the Gospel Minister"--originally published in 1750. He describes how some turn to gaming, some to drinking, and "others again take medicines to help them against what they call melancholy; some oneway, and some another, thus mistake, and make merry over the witness in them, and stiffen their necks against the reproof of instruction, which is the way to life . . ."


“For the spirit worketh in us secretly, and we know not at the first what it is; but finding ourselves very uneasy, and in great trouble of mind, being under sorrow and heaviness, not rightly and coolly examining the reason, it is often mistaken to proceed from a natural cause, and so outward means are sought for to relieve from this uneasiness; some by taking their bottle with their companions, others diverting themselves with their sports and gaming, others again take medicines to help them against what they call melancholy; some oneway, and some another, thus mistake, and make merry over the witness in them, and stiffen their necks against the reproof of instruction, which is the way to life . . ." (Prov. xxix. 1 )” Samuel Bownas, A Description of the Qualifications Necessary to the Gospel Minister . . .
Thanks, Forrest and Isabel.

Yesterday I was leading a poetry discussion of Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality Ode: http://www.bartleby.com/101/536.html. Two of the men in the group objected to this same assertion of faith and purpose in the midst of suffering that Levine (following William James) and Samuel Bownas describe. One said he felt the same as Dostoevsky's character Ivan Karamazov, who said that even if there were something wonderful waiting for everyone after death, it wouldn't be worth the tears of one child. I believe this perspective is a common obstacle to faith for many depressives, one I used to share. Part of our depression is awareness of and compassion for the suffering of others. We feel overwhelmed by the immensity of suffering in the world and the injustice in it, and this suffering (which is in a sense part of our own imaginations) is even more intolerable than what we ourselves experience. When I was young, I couldn't imagine that people in far more difficult circumstances than mine might actually have, sometimes, a richer and happier life than mine. That never occurred to me.

Since I began my psalm reading practice, the line which has given me the most trouble is "in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me." I've gradually been led to understand that I can say this to God without making either of the two mistakes I used to make. The first was to think that this meant I was passing judgment on others, deciding for them whether their afflictions were good for them or not. Nothing of the kind is actually implied. I say it only of myself. The second is that I deserve my afflictions because I was wrong in some way before. Again, that isn't what the words say. My afflictions (and they seem milder all the time) have not been punishments, but they have been great teachers, and I'm grateful for the learning I've experienced.
I've got nothing against outward means as such; we've been so created as to sometimes need and provide these to each other.

But people have been enticed into idolatry towards our contemporary medicines, into a further idolatry of "brain" over "spirit". (I noticed this in the 60's, towards drugs which for many people were a divine grace, an opportunity to find paths leading to further spiritual awakening. But people who read the wrong message, that "Drugs are what you need", all too often followed the drug way down into destruction!)

One friend back then, just released from "The Hospital", tried to attune herself better via a hefty dose of mescaline -> back for a long State Hospital stay and further adventures. Years later, finding a[n excellent] poem by her in a street newspaper, I wrote to ask how her life had been since then. She said, among other things: "My hardships, of many varieties, have led to an unshakable faith in Someone/thing-or-other, and I find great comfort in that..."

But we also have it that God "does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men." Suffering is a pain!-- but has its good purpose, which must eventually be achieved.
One of the things Dan Snyder wrote (somewhere else) was about the time he grew unbearably angry at God over all the suffering in the world, really chewed Him out in prayer. God's response was along the lines of "Thank you for caring!"

The occasional need for afflictions-- has nothing to do with "deserving" them, as people commonly think of it. (And may we all start responding to gentler hints, instead!)

The only "wrong" involved is that it's hard to learn to turn to God first. Mucho practice needed, against all the fears and habits we've all been implicitly taught to trust instead.
I think, too, it's important to emphasize how little most of us know about these things. Just a few years ago, autism was thought to be one thing, a straightforward disease or genetic disorder, and everyone was looking for the "cure." Gradually it became clear that it is actually hundreds of different things that happen to appear to be somewhat alike.

Depression may be the same way. We certainly know of depressives who would read what we've written (or Levine or James' writings) and say, "these people don't have a clue!" I don't doubt that. One person like me might have a temperamental disposition to be sad, pessimistic, indolent, self-doubting, etc. I think of it as my chronic depression. Someone else might have a brain tumor or a severe hormonal imbalance or something physical not yet understood and feel something that is also described as "depression." Faith helps in either case, but in the former medical care might actually be counter-productive whereas it might be life-saving in the latter.

I used to work as a secretary for two psychiatrists in a Department of Psychiatry at a major university hospital where I also assisted with transcriptions for the entire department. I have been in the locked wards. I have taken the phone calls from the family to inform the doctor that his patient had committed suicide, and had to personally relay those messages to the doctor. I have seen the heartbreak of true mental illness quite up close and personally.

I also saw, mostly through the transcriptions I typed, the brilliant psychiatrists blend medicine and good advice. One psychiatrist seemed to spend all of his time in nursing homes diagnosing urinary tract infections and vitamin deficiencies for patients the nursing home staff wanted him to medicate with Haldol and other things to quiet them and "correct" their misbehavior. Who knew that a urinary tract infection could cause an Alzheimer's patient to engage in inappropriate sexual advances? Who knew that a urinary tract infection could cause a patient with advanced dementia to scream for hours on end? He could have just written the 'script' but he looked deeper. Another psychiatrist, who seemed wise and effective, consistently advised depressed and anxious patients to find a faith community to become part of. The least effective doctors were the ones who relied most on the miracle drugs (and met regularly with drug company reps, went to Hawaii on drug company money, gave "talks" for drug company money) . . .

True mental illness (major depressive disorder included) is not what Samuel Bownas seems to be talking about in this quote and is not what I am referring to when I bring it up.

I think we are very much in agreement! I'm sorry if it seemed that what I wrote was intended to correct what you wrote. It wasn't at all. I only wanted to make the same distinction you're making so it would be clear to anyone else reading the discussion that none of us was talking about that kind of illness.


I do see that I misread thy intention. I apologize if I seemed brusque. Thee seems to have a heart for those whose mental illness is seen as evidence of spiritual fault, while I have a heart for those whose spirituality is seen as mental illness.


No, you didn't seem brusque. I found what you wrote very interesting indeed.

I guess I do have a heart for people with disabilities of all kinds. I know how often they are blamed for their difficulties by doctors and others. But I think I belong to the second group. I'm grateful for your heart!

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