Friday, June 28, 2013

Depression is not Satan


Don't have much to say about this besides the title. There are certain things that religious people say these days that make me cringe, and this is one of them. And all of its variations. Depression is the work of Satan, depression is Satan trying to distract you, etc.

Not that one should underestimate the power of the various poorly understood evil forces in the world, but I'd rather spend time trying to rectify my underestimation of the mercy of God than the wrath of Satan.

As someone who suffered for depression for years and prayed about it and worked my way out of it for years, I'd say that thinking of depression as Satan, satanic forces, or Satan's work helped me nil. As a spiritual person, it made me feel worse. I felt helpless. I felt like my emotional state was the product of forces allowed to roam free in God's world to act as a temptation to lead me astray. The deeper I fell into depression, the deeper I felt that this was proof that I was not good enough for God. Other people did not fall victim to these depressive whispers of Iblis, but I did.

Taking Satan out of the picture for a second, two unhelpful things about this setup for a person with depression is placing the locus of control outside of oneself and giving one a reason to feel they are failing. Falling victim to Satan for a religious person feels like a failure.

So I ask, regardless of your beliefs on the subject, that you not tell a depressed, religious person that depression is "(just) Satan." It's your prerogative to believe that Satan or its forces are every and anything that could lead one off the straight path, if that works for you. For me, emotional states and life circumstances are not as easy as good and evil. Depression was to me what colic is like to newborn babies and their parents. Depression reflected a state of immaturity and incompleteness. As the theory goes, newborn babies are neurologically immature and some are so overwhelmed by their new environs that they keep up a constant fuss until their brain matures enough to deal with the world outside the womb. Depression came for me at a time of rapid growth and its respective pains, rapid understanding of the ways of the world, quiet disillusionment in the face of the disproving of the unspoken truths that I'd never asked about, all of the above.

It sounds benign but it wasn't. It was painful and it was scary. I feared that I wasn't enough for God and that I was chosen to be of those to go to hell, because I began thinking about the idea of predestination and it disturbed me.

Depression could also be chemical imbalance, but if it is chemical imbalance it is chemical imbalance in the midst of the incompleteness and void-making-and-filling of coming-to-age, which is even more turbulent.

I don't know what depression is, but for me it's a transient state that is not really Satanic. It was painful precariousness at the precipice of great growth. Precariousness to the point that I did contemplate leaving this world because the future seemed so greatly daunting and uncertain...

...if only I knew that moment to moment is so often dauntingly uncertain, I would have enjoyed the moment more than fearing the next.

No, it was not Satan. It was the amalgamation of several precipices of life that I had to scale to get me here, with valuable lessons learned, life valued more at the end, but I had to take it apart and handle it piece by piece. There was no easy fix, no single prayer or combination of prayers that got me to the other side.

And for the religious, inasmuch as we believe that God provides us with trials, this is one.

Depression is regrettable, not always avoidable and desolate. It is not a sign of religious or spiritual deficiency. It is life marching forward faster than I can process it. It's my trying to understand and feeling like the class dunce.

But oversimplifying it does no one any good. Life is not simple, as much as we would love it to be.

I wish hard things in life were evil things that I could rebuke and wash away, but so much good in life is hard, too. And it's all mixed up in there and trying to sort out the good from the bad and the ambiguous in-between is not unlike subjecting life to a centrifuge. It's jarring with unnatural products at the end.

1 comment:

  1. I concur, I've noticed this trend too, usually in the context of people disparaging consulting mental health professionals or using anti-depression medications.

    I say, God put those medicines and specialists here because there is a need for them... everything is not about spirit possession.

    It's like a comedian I remember saying in response to people always saying things like "the devil is a liar"- "The devil said, ya'll better stop blaming me for stuff!" ...

    sometimes I wonder if as we've come to gain more in the realm of scientific discovery and realize the limitations of what science can explain, we've gone back to superstitious notions and spirit-world explanations... Allahu-'Alim.