I have a huge amount of sympathy for them, and I know that often the choice to take meds was forced upon them by others in some way, or taken as a desperate last measure to stop feeling so much pain and suffering. I hear that, I really do.
Sometimes even with the best intentions and the hugest efforts we make, we still can’t solve our emotional issues without turning to drugs of all stripes. Human beings are full of imperfections, and we’re actually far less in conscious control of ourselves than most people realize.
Getting to grips with what’s really causing our depression and anxiety is often some of the hardest work a person will ever have to do in their life. It often involves scrutinizing our closest relationships, and our dearest-held beliefs, to explore whether we were as loved, accepted and cared-for as we like to tell ourselves.
What?! My family is that messed up?!
These moments of clarity can be freeing and life-changing, but can also be completely searing to the psyche and ego. What? My family was that messed up? What, I myself am actually that messed up? What, I’m repeating the same dysfunctional patterns I see in my parents, and I’m passing the same problems on to my own kids?! (That last one in particular can bring even the strongest person to their knees…)
To say it’s difficult to attain that clarity is the understatement of the century. If we’re not holding God’s hand throughout the process, it’s next to impossible to withstand the inevitable waves of fury, guilt, denial and despair that wash over you.
So I really understand when people see the exit route marked ‘chemical imbalance’ and dive for it. And maybe sometimes, in the short-term, that’s actually the correct decision to take, especially if God isn’t really in the picture and you’re drowning in all the realizations you’re having about much is actually broken in your life, and how much there is still left to fix.
Why anti-depressants are NOT a permanent solution to depression
But it’s not a permanent solution, and here’s why:
- As I’ll discuss more in the next couple of posts, we’re here to work on ourselves, and to learn emuna, and to get closer to God, and the way we usually achieve all those things is by going through some pretty tough circumstances. Every negative emotion we have, including depression and anxiety, is coming to teach us that something in our life needs to be looked at, changed or fixed. The happy meds turn off the negative feelings, without solving the underlying problems that are causing them.
- God doesn’t give up so easily. If we turn off the warning light at the emotional level, the problem will just pop-up somewhere else, either as a serious physical issue (I’ll write more about the link between depression, despair and cancer in another post…), or problems with our kids, or our marriage, God forbid.
Whatever we don't solve, we hand on to our kids
I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: whatever we don’t solve in ourselves, we hand on to the next generation to deal with. That depression your parents and grandparents had popped-up in you, and now you’ve got a choice: deal with it and resolve it at the fundamental level, or pass the buck on to the next generation.
And that’s one of the reasons why the whole anti-depressants thing is so disturbing to me, especially from a spiritual perspective. Yes, sometimes it gets too much and we want to escape from the pain, confusion and emotional turmoil.
It’s not ideal, but it’s understandable that we want a break and ‘the easy life’, at least for a bit. But then all these shrinks pop-up with their unproven ‘chemical imbalance’ theory that says you need to stay on drugs forever – and more than that, that’s it’s even the highest good to take Prozac – and any motivation a person has to stand back up on their feet, drug-free, and to continue to struggle for spiritual gain goes completely out the window.
Man is born to struggle.
That’s the spiritual reality of the world. It’s only by struggling that we learn our own limitations, turn to God more, and start to develop the emuna, faith and humility God wants us to acquire.
People don’t learn emuna when they’re on Prozac; they don’t turn to God as much (if at all…) and they opt-out from the hardships involved in spiritual growth. If this material world is all there is, of course you’d be crazy to make life any harder than it needs to be.
But if you really believe in the world to come, and the spiritual dimension of everything that occurs on this planet – that God is sending you your depression to get you to take a cold, hard look at your life, and to make some fundamental changes in how you live, think and behave - than taking anti-depressants over the long term really doesn’t make any spiritual sense.
Over the coming days, you’ll find some discussions about anti-depressants and depression here on the JEMI website, but from the more scientific side of the ‘anti’ argument.
I’m very happy to have feedback! I’m not pretending that I know it all, so please email me your thoughts or leave a comment.