DEPRESSION – just to hear that word is depressing!
Everyone – movie stars, sports icons and even religious people seem to be talking about it these days. No, I am not planning to give a medical lecture on this sickness (yes clinical depression is recognized as a sickness just like Diabetics or Heart disease). But I wish to point to, perhaps, the three major warning signs of depression. Why? Because hopefully we can not only identify the signs, but also seek a meaningful and balanced remedy to this.
I will be painting the picture of depression on the canvas provided by the (healed) paralytic in the Gospel of St. Luke 5 and St. Matt 9.
The Triad: Looking at oneself and feeling worthless, looking at the future and feeling hopeless and looking around at the world and feeling helpless – this is often called the triad of depression.
First, worthlessness: A feeling of worth comes from the sense of being wanted, being useful and a sense purpose in life. But when we go through a negative experience in life, we tend to lose this sense of worth. The paralytic in this gospel narrative is a classic example of someone who would have felt useless, unwanted, purposeless and worthless.
Thankfully social media wasn’t there at that time. Otherwise, the paralytic would have seen his ‘friends’ on their social media accounts ‘enjoying’ and ‘having fun’, which would have driven him deeper into depression!
Secondly, hopelessness: It is said that we can live without food for a few days, but not a day without hope! That statement cannot be truer! That is why we yearn to see inspirational movies, listen to success stories, read novels with happy and hopeful endings. But a depressed person (who is already feeling worthless) looks around and starts to feel that there is no hope. Even bright sunny days will look bleak and dark.
The paralytic too, would have felt the same. To him, the future is colourless. A future to be lived out within the 4 walls of his room; shut in and shut out. He would have felt utterly hopeless.
Finally, helplessness: Along with worthlessness and hopelessness, when one starts to feel ‘stuck’ and unable to ‘get-out’ or feels ‘trapped’ in this dark, depressing cave of emotions, helplessness has set in.
Helplessness was his life. I wonder if there’s any more helpless condition than being a paralytic – so totally dependent on someone else’s mercy and good will.
But here is where the story changes for the paralytic man!
No longer helpless: His life changes when his friends (saw in him a life worth living) and decide to help him. They bring him to Jesus. And their faith pleased Jesus.
Lesson learned: Never give up on your friends (sometimes the ones who need help are right in your home). Have faith for them. In prayer bring them to Jesus. Ask others to pray for them. Encourage them to talk. Seek good professional (medical) help. Let them realize that they are not helpless.
No longer hopeless: (my imagination takes wings here) With a smile on His face, and a slight tap on the man’s face Jesus said – ‘be of good cheer!’ Don’t be sad! Smile! Hope is there! Everything is not hopeless. I can almost see a slightly smile beginning to spread on the scared man’s face.
Then Jesus says the magic words (which only God can say) – your sins are forgiven!
Often, when something goes wrong in our lives, we often blame ourselves. We look at our past – our failures, our wrong decisions, our mistakes and feel guilty. The only ‘cure’ for the guilt of sin is to receive forgiveness from God! It certainly is liberating!
Lesson learned: Stop blaming yourself for the past and receive His forgiveness.
No longer worthless: Then Jesus says to him, take up your mat and go home! Jesus sends him back to the same place, to the same environment, to the same house, same family he had lain as an invalid. But he was going back standing tall, shoulders straight and facing forwards. His worth had been restored. Jesus gave him a sense of purpose and direction in life!
Lesson learned: The Creator can restore His creation for the purpose He created.
He felt helpless, hopeless and worthless. But now he has been helped, is full of hope for a bright future and filled with a sense of worth by His creator.
PS: It is important to realize that in clinical depression, one needs to seek professional medical help. Do not hesitate. Just like our bodies can become sick, our minds can also become sick.