Monday, November 27, 2006

Children Enslaved by Psychiatric Labels

The Christian Mind blog comments on an article in the New York Times on children and biopsychiatry.

Link to article: What's Wrong With a Child?

Here is a statement from the commentary that I agree with 100%:
"Multiple interpretations can be offered to account for whatever emotional and behavioral symptoms an individual reports. Likewise, multiple conceptions of what is in need of being changed and how that is to be accomplished exist. Counseling and biopsychiatry, therefore, involve placing the counselee or patient in some larger contextual framework of meaning. In other words, all approaches to counseling and/or psychiatry seek to make sense of a person and his or her situations in terms of a broad interpretive framework or worldview. Given this fact, as well as the serious health risks associated with psychiatric medications, I'm dismayed by the relative absence of Christian leaders sounding cautions against psychiatric labeling and medicating."
(emphasis mine)

Create Your Own Anti-Depressent Medication

I have a list of twenty items that must be in place (full force) in my life before I consider depression to be so great that I need prescribed anti-depressant medication.

Exercise and nutrition are both in the top five. I believe through consistent exercise I can effectively increase and balance out the same brain chemicals that are the target of anti-depressants. I don't claim this by scientific research but by personal experience.

Here are two reports of scientific studies however that do speak to the value of exercise in fighting depression and mood "disorders"

1. Workouts Can Lighten Heavy Hearts

2. Exercise and the "Runners High"

It seems like common sense to me. I just don't think there is much to argue with.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What Is Your Impulse For Obedience?

Depression causes me to think much about motivation. In the sin of passive, perseverating depression I think too much about my answers to this question "What's the point?" Ultimately my answers reveal my allegiances and then I am called to repent.

Why do I pursue Christ?

Why do you pursue Christ?

I believe there is a right answer and a wrong answer. What do you think the correct answer is?

What motivates you to purse Christ's reign in your life?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Legalized Feel Good Pills

Like parents who take their own kid's Ritalin to get more things done, some people take anti-depressants just to feel better when good isn't enough.

Is there a day coming when those who don't take anti-depressants will be not be able to compete in the world with those who take anti-depressants?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lincoln and Spurgeon, Heros In Depression

HT to my good friends Tom and Ron for both pointing out an article over at Between Two Worlds: Learning from the depressions of Lincoln and Spurgeon.

I highly recommend reading it. I personally like how Eswine, the author, expands on a key element in hope - a Biblical big picture of life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lunatic Fringe

My wife has suggested to me I need to be more open, honest and personal in my blogging about mental health issues. I've pondered for several weeks what this is suppose to look like.

It is obvious I have somewhat of an interest in mental health, namely counseling, not so much psychology. I am not as much interested in the scientific side of the human mind and soul as I am in the human side of the human mind and soul. I like to make the scientific relevant to everyday life so that life is more easily and joyfully lived. I also love theology. I love the challenge of working out theology in the context of mental health and counseling. But I digress.

Seriously though, how am I to be more personal while writing about mental health issues? You're probably on to me by know. The reason my wife is encouraging me to be more open and honest is because I do have a story to tell. A very personal journey about the way God has ordained that I be drawn closer to Him through living this life suffering, more than the average person, from health problems of the mind (did I just create a new politically correct term for mental illness?) Fraid not! I am just attempting to use humor to deflect the uncomfortable feeling everyone feels when someone else is (quasi)confessing something personal.

What I write about I've lived with. I want to keep writing about mental health issues and specifically biblical counseling. I will try to weave in bits of my own story when I think it is appropriate, and by appropriate I mean useful. I've come to an understanding that I will not ever be cured from my problems of the mind in this life. The so called problems are what God uses to extend His mercy and grace to me personally, directing me through humbling struggles, so that I pursue Him alone when all else in life seems like death. Christ is life! My "problems" have always revealed where my heart is at in relationship to God. I know in my mind I am a sinner but my behavior while living with my "problems" proves that I am a sinner. In telling my story I do not want to glorify sin, but only God! I pray that my story helps others who suffer from particular "problems" of the mind. May Christ be seen for who He is; good, merciful, loving, and Lord.

So here is a bit of my story...just a small bit to get things started:

One of my three biggest fears in life is to be found certifiably mentally insane. To be a lunatic. I've carried this fear ever since I can remember as a young boy. Even today, one of the most sobering, bone-chilling, road-straightening, to-be-feared-more-than-death possibilities is the idea of being so mentally incapacitated that I would need to be locked up. Isn't that ironic? Some would call it psychosomatic. I just think it is...crazy!

God have mercy.

How I view physical treatments for Mental Illness

Even though there is always a spiritual component to mental health problems, there are physical symptoms too to deal with. My take up to now in these posts on mental health is that both the physical (body) and the spiritual (mind, heart, soul) are involved in mental illness. Both components must be treated, not just one. In today's treatment environment, mental health sicknesses are seen as strictly medical conditions and thus the primary lead in is medication. Once medication is taken then it seems all future progress is judged based on the effectiveness of the medication in reducing the symptoms. Adjustments are the medication dosage levels. Treatment becomes medication centric. The pendulum needs to swing back the other way so decisions about treatment are not so lopsided.

The purpose of medication I believe is to calm down extreme physical symptoms of psychiatric conditions. Medication is helpful in this regard. For example, if someone is depressed, so depressed they can't even keep their eyes open or see straight because light is literally blinding (this happens) then medication could be used to get the person out of a state of suffering from the physical symptoms.

As I've state before, medication should be used to treat symptoms not an underlying irreversible chemical imbalance. Medication should used when necessary to help restore a person to a state where rigorous work can be done on issues of the heart.

There are other treatments available beside prescription drugs that could also be explored such as diet, megavitamins, full spectrum lights, shock treatments, etc.

Every treatment that is geared toward physical symptoms should be considerd for both its pros and cons. Every treatment has side effects and long term unknowns.

The general mind set I believe is to see medication as a tool to treat symptoms of mental illness. Great wisdom is needed though because treatment of heart issues should always be the most important and they are the hardest to deal with. There is much more value in working on those conditions that are much more difficult to restore. Isn't that the case with everything in life?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Flowchart for Mental Health Problems

When things get really complicated I find I look for ways to simplify them. The following chart (I like flow charts too) helps me to stick with the basics when considering mental health problems:

This chart comes from Blame It On The Brain?, Edward T. Welch, page 116.

Very simplistic? Yes. Too simplistic? No. There is much value in being reminded that there is always heart/spiritual roots with mental health problems that must be addressed.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Possible Physical and Spiritual Symptoms in Depression

When you understand the range of symptoms a depressed person experiences, the totality of it all, best described by one word, pain, compassion screams out. No one can sit still and not feel for a person who is in so much pain.

The pain of depression usually expresses itself in physical symptoms but the pain itself usually originates from conditions of the heart (aka spiritual problems.) The physical problems are so obvious though, and sometimes so intense, they are seen as the problem.

I have found a list like the following to be helpful, seeing in black and white, what a person suffering from depression could be experiencing all at once:



Insomnia or hypersomnia

Significant weight changes

Feelings of being restless or slowed down

Fatigue, loss of energy

Problems concentrating

Sense of alienation from things once deemed beautiful and pleasant

Feelings of sadness, being blue, down in the dumps





Unforgiving Spirit




Notice that feelings (i.e. emotions) are categorized as physical symptoms rather than spiritual. This I think is a stumbling block for those people living with depression and those treating depression. Feelings aren't right or wrong, there is no morality to feelings, they just are. But a lot of life is experienced through feelings. What a person does with, how they respond to, their feelings or the feelings or others is where moral action takes place. I personally believe that the blurring of other symptoms of depression with feelings is very confusing and leads to more depression - this is one of the reasons why it is so helpful to separate physical problems with spiritual problems.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Children Forced Into Depression

Look what I just read on The Christian Mind this morning...oh my!

Depression - It's Not Just For Grown-Ups Anymore

The Experience of Depression

In order to help someone, or yourself, with dealing with depression the experience itself needs to be understood. This is the first step. Makes sense, when someone is dealing with a physical, medical problem, isn't the first step to listen and learn and find out what the person is going through.

When you think about it, depression is a big word. What I mean is that is covers a lot of ground and like I said yesterday, what depression is all about can mean different things to different people. "Don't assume that you understand what someone means by depression. Don't fill the meaning from your own experiences, which may or may not be similar.", Welch, Blame It On The Brain, page 117.

When a depressed person is really listened to, heard for what they alone are experiencing, there will be pain, fear, hopeless, dread, terror, silent screams, and emptiness - all these at a level that threatens to destroy. Physically, the senses are dulled as well. Sounds are muted, colors seem less vibrant. Technically, the DSM-IV defines depression with a little less "feeling" I think. Although helpful for pointing out some symptoms that may not be expressed, the DSM-IV is too clinical and less personal. The DSM-IV definition of depression makes it easier to view depression as a strictly medical condition.

Depression, to be fully understood, needs to be observed and listened to. The experience ranges from one extreme of the desire to die to emotional numbness and feeling like a living death. Sometimes a depressed person experiences both extremes at the same time. What is universal though in all descriptions is "pain", in that it is the most common explanation of what a depressed is going through. It is this feeling of "pain" that bridges the gap between spiritual and physical experiences of depression. The "pain" of depression manifests itself in physical symptoms but mostly it originates on the spiritual side of things. Most secular treatments for depression try to eliminate the physical symptoms and do nothing to heal the spiritual issues.

There has to be then a process to go through so that physical symptoms are distinguished from spiritual symptoms and then both need to be dealt with accordingly. If physical problems are confused with spiritual then the depressed person will be held morally responsible for something physical. Also, if spiritual symptoms are confused with physical then sin could be excused and seen as insignificant, worse yet, this could lead to hopelessness for spiritual growth when someone has a psychiatric diagnosis. The spiritual problems will be easier to attack and seek healing for because they always deal with the heart. The physical symptoms are more difficult to pinpoint but the process has become a bit more manageable.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

When the most loving words are very simple

HT: Bill, Tim Ellsworth


Depression is HELL! Literally, living with depression is painful and like living in a box contained by all your worst fears, horrors, anxieties all swirling around crying out for attention. Depression can squash a person's will to live - hope does not seem real. The most caring and dedicated people can be incapacitated and absolutely trapped in a prison of hellish depression and seeming so unable to change and "pull themselves out of it." Not all the time but sometimes depression seems so resistant to change. Depression itself breeds hopelessness.

Millions of people suffer from depression. Some describe depression like I did in the above paragraph. Some know when they are depressed. Some can accurately diagnose their own condition, it is either a good day or a bad day. Some are not so sure. Some have a feeling something is wrong but can put their finger on it.

The point is, the depression experience itself can mean different things to different people. I really don't think anyone knows exactly how any particular depressed person is feeling. No one knows for sure because there are so many descriptions of what depression is like to live with.

For the next few posts I want to move into practical application in dealing with mental health issues. Up to this point I've stated my belief that there is always a spiritual component in the complexity of mental health problems - always! Contrary to the conclusions of brain science research, psychiatric problems are not one hundred percent physical and related to chemicals only. Although there is a physical element involved, solutions to mental health problems should not be one hundred precent medication based (which only deal with the physical.) People with mental health issues can be renewed by faith in the midst of pain and trials.

So, in the treatment of psychiatric disorders both the spiritual and physical need to be dealt with. But what do I know? What do I have to say about treatments of psychiatric disorders...I am not a Doctor much less a professional!? What counsel could I possibly offer to anyone suffering from mental illness? What about you? What business do you have in helping that friend or co-worker who is depressed?

I do believe there is very practical help most caring people can provide others in dealing with mental health issues. The help comes in the form of listening and assisting the suffering while they describe their suffering and then helping them distinquish between heart issues from physical issues. Heart issues will be uncovered and so those can be tackled one by one, physical symptoms will be more clearly identified and thus easier to deal with.

I realize this is over simplification. Mental health issues are complex!!! But, if not reduced to just matter and physical causes only, there is much help a good friend can provide a suffering person - when the soul is brought back into the equation, friends can help friends, soul to soul.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"Woman is weather...Man is mountain"

Not quite on the level as posting about my body weight but I have nothing to say today and so I'll just link to this absurd article that says a man's brain is different than a woman's brain. The mish-mash of experts explaining (finally) the differences between men and women is a perfect example of brain science void of soul, literally!

What would add soul to this brain research?

Let's start here:

Genesis 1:26-28
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Does it make just a tad more sense as to why there are differences between man and woman?

(HT: Ron)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Psychiatric Labels

Have you noticed how a psychiatric diagnosis has authority? When someone says they have bi-polar disorder don't you get the feeling the person's behavior is explained by something formal? With psychiatric diagnosis there seems to be a certain explanatory flair to them - they seem so official, as if they explain the entire range of a certain set of behaviors within a disorder.

For example, if someone says "I have Bi-polar II with Dysthymic Depression Disorder", this is clearly different than "Not all the time but more often than not my attitude is sour and sometimes I just don't feel like doing anything to pull myself out of it. There are days when I am so blue that I am really physically tired and I would rather lay in bed all day. But, I just have to wait around for the "good" days because they do come. There are some days when I feel like I have so much energy, these come usually after I've been in bed for three days straight, that I lose control over my cravings and usually buy something that I really can't afford."

Psychiatric diagnosis tend to point to what somebody has, what is going on with them, what they are doing - not why? Psychiatric diagnosis are labels that explain symptoms, they do not explain the underlying reasons for the behavior.

The popular assumption is that the list of descriptions of a disorder is the same as the definition of a medical condition. Although there are clearly biological theories to explain psychiatric disorders, as I mentioned in earlier posts, there are no tests that pin point and affirm the findings of a disorder. At this point, even with recent brain research, it is not accurate to say someone has a psychiatric disorder just like someone has a virus. It this is done then the heart is being left totally out of it.

Psychiatric vocabulary is loaded with assumptions that point to physical causes and it does not distinguish between heart problems and physical problems.

Psychiatric terminology is good and useful but it must been seen through biblical lenses.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mark Dever Interviews Dr. Ed Welch

The Grand Difference Between Secular and Biblical Counseling

Dr. Ed Welch covers a lot of ground discussing co-dependency, substance abuse groups like A.A., medicating depression, "integrationism," "nouthetic" counseling, the role of counseling in the local church, and much more.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Better Haggard Posts

These posts speak to the "feelings" I have over evangelical culture right now. Read them looking at what is being said about the modern evangelical movement:

Ted Haggard - Some of the Accusations are True

Thoughts on today's scandal

Ted Haggard

I like the posts because they provide somewhat of answer to the ways things should be.

Evangelical Leader In Trouble UPDATED

This is sad (sad, sad, sad) news: Evangelical Leader Claims Gay Escort's Charges are Political Payback

Seriously, my heart aches for what this story is reporting. I ache for all involved.

But...does my post the other day make a bit more sense wasn't a rant! What the story about Haggard represents is pretty much everything I was speaking to in my post.

This is not a "see, I told you so" thing either. Although the facts are unclear, Haggard obviously did something terribly wrong, because he is admitting something. And, did you notice the reason the accuser gives for speaking out? Also, why is the media picking this story up and why is it such a draw?

One last thing. Do you taste the irony of Haggard being a leader of...what organization? And, what has he tried to do with the organization...get more involved in politics, among other causes?

I am not retreating from being a Christian in American culture. There are battles to be fought and hills to die on and Christians are called, more than others, to fight. I do believe, however, the strategy of Evangelical culture is wrong.

I am not cowering back in fear. I am rethinking how I will engage with culture instead of participating in the unhealthy growth of a subset that claims the name of Christ as its source of motivation.

(HT: Ron)


A blog I read daily, Between Two Worlds, has posted about the Haggard story as well. How should Christians respond to this story about Haggard? Pray!

From Between Two Worlds:

The main thing I think we need to do is pray.
  • Pray that the truth--no matter what it is--would be clearly revealed.
  • Pray that if indeed some of these allegations are true (as New Life's senior pastor allegedly told the elders), that Rev. Haggard would be fully honest and submissive.
  • Pray for Rev. Haggard.
  • Pray for his family.
  • Pray for New Life Church--both their elders and their members. Pray that biblical church discipline guidelines will be instituted and that this would not shake the church's confidence in the gospel.
  • Pray for yourself and your pastor. "There but for the grace of God go I." Resolve to mortify all ungodly desires in your heart and to boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Read that last bullet point again.


I'll let you in a conversation I've been having with myself?

I wonder what others are thinking? What will they think? Will they see my post on Haggard as a judgment attack? Will others see that I am not even writing about Haggard himself? My post has nothing to do with Haggard? Like I said, I am aching over this story? I posted about the irony of the story, in light of a post I made earlier in the week - the irony is a story in and of itself. There is a connection between what I said about the Evangelical culture and how the rest of culture is reading about Haggard - they are seeing it as part of the political game, one side against the other, conservatives against liberals, pro-marriage ban or not, and ultimately intolerant Christians against everyone else. How is this advancing the Kingdom??? How?

What Does the Bible Say About Psychiatric Medication ?

Like most topics, the Bible says nothing explicitly about whether one should or should not take psychiatric medication. Some in the church claim medication is satanic and others say God made it, so it must be good.

Like most topics in life, the Bible provides guidelines only, principles, boundaries of God's will. There is biblical freedom with the choice to take medication or not. Contrary to common thought, the Bible is (all) about God not man, but this is a topic for some other post.

Before moving on I want to get personal and state that over the last two years, on different levels, I have personally processed through what I am going to write. That is to say I have had my own personal experience with medication, over a ten year period of time. Today, I do not take anything. I have not taken medication for a year and a half. Do I have mental health problems? Well, if you've read any of my earlier posts, what is at the core of every mental health issue? In that case, everybody has mental health problems. Now though, that I am off the medication, I see all my problems as heart-related spiritual problems, period. Admitting that I once took medication, for over ten years mind you, and now I don't should serve as a credibility factor when considering what I talk about. I write from personal experience.

I mentioned in another post about people dealing with psychiatric problems are, at the core, suffering. The bible has something to say about suffering:
James 1:2-4
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James suggests there is value in faith being tested and strengthened through trials. Suffering is not something that should always be escaped. Some may see this as unloving, especially if they don't see the Bible as authoritative, being God's word. Life in America too is all about claiming rights to a pain-free life. But suffering is not the enemy it is sometimes seen as, and so medication is not, or should not be, considered to first be the end all answer to psychiatric problems. In the final analysis, medication is not the source of hope, Christ is.

Now that all was a pretty wide brush stroke when looking at medication through a biblical lense. Some how, things seem to be more complex than that don't they. Consider this:
  1. The depth of someone's suffering is never fully known by man.
  2. In general, alleviating suffering is a good thing.
  3. Since the Bible is not explicit on medication, the issue is not the morality of taking medication, the issue is about making wise, informed decisions.
When considering medication for yourself or another person, focus on what is clear in Scripture. Dr. Ed Welch points to the following passages that offer wise pastoral care: Hebrews 11 and 12. In these parts of Scripture it is shown that there have been many before us who have experienced suffering and have demostrated strong faith. Also, suffering calls for repentance and perseverance.

Scripture does not label medication right or wrong. As always, Scripture points out the motives of the heart and calls man to examine why? Why is someone taking or not taking medication?

Once again, medication is not the source of hope - "2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Guest Blogger: Dying on the Evangelical Hill

An extended and insightful comment if you friend Ron accommodated my request for him to be a guest blogger today.

Sometimes there are those days that really illuminate the grandness of being a Christian. Today is one of those days. I’ve been asked to guest blog on Burn the Ships. I’d like to expand on Pat’s most recent post “A Collapsed Evangelical Identity

When I read the post I started to think of Francis Schaffer’s book “How Then Shall We Live?”. Schaeffer spent his life pondering the decline of Western culture, and declared that the only viable answer to combat this was to accept God’s revelations, and live a life according Christian ethics and biblical morals. I think he was right on. The bigger question becomes how is that being worked out in the Evangelical Church today? It also begs the question of what is the Evangelical Church? It encompasses so many different lines of thought and behavior that I think it’s reasonable to wonder what to do with the label itself. The one that my brother Pat has become so disenchanted with.

There are constantly movements to confront what many would say are the problems of Evangelicals. One that we keep hearing about is the Emergent Church. It has its own issues, but the fact is it is a response to some weighty problems in the Evangelical sphere. So, instead of casting Pat into a “Oh, he’ll be okay in a few days” line of thought, I think it would be good to consider his concerns and ask questions like:

Does it even matter to be linked by name to the Evangelical Church?

Is this just the way it is? (i.e. we are all sinners and until Jesus returns we should just deal with it?)

Is there an example in Scripture/history to teach us how to handle this issue?

Are American Evangelical Christians any more off base than other Christian cultures in how we operate?

Or is it a matter that we must each in our own way being linked to the local church Body work out our salvation with fear and trembling, while praying with earnest that we grow more to love Christ, and that our church and churches grow in love, truth and obedience to our King, and that we love and serve others as He did?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

UPDATED: A Collapsed Evangelical Identity

This post will probably turn some heads and raise some eyebrows. That is not my intention. But then again, perhaps it God be the glory.

I no longer identify with anything related to the culture of Evangelical Christianity. I will no longer put forth an image that I am teamed up with Evangelical culture.

I pursue something in a different direction - the reign of Jesus as Lord in all areas of life and throughout all the world. I've learned in recent months that the pursuit of a culture that is all-things-Christian is contrary to the pursuit of Christ's reign in my heart.

Some will say I have a chip on my shoulder. In a sense, I do. From business dealings, money problems, political yard signs*, relationship stresses, pseudo friendships, doing "church", self-centered prayer and competing theologies, I am fed up. Through all these areas of life I (first) have sinned and grasped an identity that does nothing but to stir up anger and bitterness in others toward Christ. Likewise I've been sinned against in ways I didn't expect and seen that sin be justified by claiming justice out of a Christian identity. Simply, it is sad to talk the talk and walk unworthy of the talk - I believe the formula is wrong and deadly.

What does all this mean?

Nothing but good. My resolve in pursuing Christ's reign has been strengthened!

I suppose too, to clear up any immediate confusion, I better say that I am a slave to Christ, that is, in as much as He grants me the grace and mercy to be. Do I need to explain that yes I still am a follower of Christ, that I am not renouncing my faith?

I will go out of my way from here on out in my life to disassociate with any form of identification as an Evangelical Christian.

UPDATE: I am convicted that I am processing through some deep repentance. Hopefully I will have more to post on this later.

*I will be destroying the signs that current display in my yard right now...when I get home from work so please be slow to speak of my hypocrisy.