Adams just wrote You Aren't Bipolar, You're Just a Jerk! If you're interested in the topics of depression in general, or bipolar illness in particular, give it a read, then come back. If neither interests you, feel free to give this post a pass. But please read Adams first if you mean to read on here. (And btw, if you start, try to finish it — I think he takes a few unexpected turns.)
*** *** *** *** ***
All done? Welcome back.
I find Adams' post a maddening mix of the brilliant and the irresponsible. There are countless folks who really do need to read it, take it to heart, stop hiding themselves behind lame excuses, get the heck over themselves, and grow the heck up. They might also read this post, and get a clue.
But equally there are others who would read it, and simply be crushed and broken by his uncaring, ham-fisted, over-simplistic over-generalizations.
Remember: "Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda" (Proverbs 25:20).
Also remember: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).
Bipolar? I don't understand "bipolar illness," the current name for what used to be called manic-depression. But I knew a sufferer very well, years ago, and weathered several cycles with this poor soul. I could not for the life of me draw the line between the "OK-(s)he-can-do-something-about-this" and the "only-medication-can-help." I'm pretty confident both are there — given the catatonic state I witnessed on the one hand, and the frenetic, days-without-sleep, on-cocaine-without-the-cocaine behavior.
Depression? I know depression a little better, more's the pity, because I've been there. I was there deeply, and for years. That was years ago, thank God, but the memory is as vivid as the monitor in front of my eyes. And I'm still more inclined to melancholy than its reverse. ("Full of angst" was a startlingly on-target observation a dear friend once made.)
During one particular extended period, I did everything Adams said. I gave myself for others, again and again and again. It made me feel more depressed and alone. I exercised, every day, sweat pouring off me. I prayed. I memorized.
Now, I can also tell you things I should have done differently. My point is neither that I was the helpless victim of an external force, nor that I even really fully understand what happened.
My point is that simplistic, hand-dusting, "There-that-ought-to-fix-it" formulas (when presented in that manner) probably do more harm than good.
People are different. (Deep, eh? I'm full of stuff like that. It just flows.)
I can prove it.
Look at Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Totally different temperaments.
Look at Nehemiah and Ezra. Totally different temperaments. (Further, check this post.)
Look at Johns MacArthur and Piper. These worthy, productive, God-loving gents were being interviewed at a conference. Piper mentioned a period of depression he had gone through that had lasted years.
"Years?" came MacArthur's incredulous question.
See, these men are just put together different. MacArthur simply cannot imagine being down or blue for that long. It isn't in his makeup.
But obviously Piper can. And obviously I can. For myself, I wish I were more like MacArthur than Piper in this regard. But ah, well. I am what I am, and that's what I need to deal with.
Obviously this could be a very long post, and it isn't going to be. I'll just close with a few thoughts.
- A depressed person should talk with his pastor. He should read Scripture. He might check out Lloyd-Jones' Spiritual Depression. He could try what Adams suggests, all of which are good ideas as far as they go.
- If those measures, undertaken seriously and prayerfully and with persistence, don't address it, maybe it's something else.
- People trying to help depressed people should study Scriptures about patience, longsuffering, and compassion. They should eschew simplistic quick-fixes. What worked for you may not work for someone else; if it doesn't, it doesn't mean you're better than someone else.
- Remember, identical symptoms can have totally different causes. Here's Bob. Bob says he is a Christian. Bob is plagued with guilt. What to do? Simple, right? Tell him the blood of Jesus covers all his sins, he's saved by grace, leave it at the Cross, and move on, right? Right — unless Bob is plagued with guilt because he is walking in known, unrepented sin; unless Bob is shaking his fist in God's face every day. In that case, Bob doesn't need comfort. He needs repentance. He may even need to become a Christian.
No sir, no ma'am.
It was just a few thoughts provoked by Adams' column.
UPDATE: there is now a re-posted companion-piece over at Pyro.