It was the early 1990s. I was just starting as a trainee psychiatrist. She was one of the first patients with depression who I was responsible for. At the time I was a junior doctor on a six month rotation getting experience in a busy outpatient clinic. I had about 20 minutes to evaluate how she was doing, review her diagnosis and decide on treatment options. But this particular lady just did not seem to be getting better in spite of all the different medications and therapies that were being tried.
I remember going through her history and treatments feeling something was not quite right. I must have been about the fourth or fifth doctor she had seen in the previous two years. I finally had to say to her, 'Is there something that we are not aware of or are missing?'
Then she dropped the bombshell.
She told me she had been having a prolonged affair with a neighbour who lived across the road. The man’s wife did not know and in fact was her best friend. This friend was the one who had brought her to the clinic that day! I was one of the first people she had told.
Her unresolved depression then made complete sense - she was living in guilt and out of congruency with herself. As sensitively as I could I attempted to explain to her that no medication in the world could help her so long as she did not go through the difficult painful work of facing up to what had happened and then dealing with the future consequences. That was the last time I ever saw her.
Professor Stephen Ilardi's helpful video on how our modern sedentary lifestyle contributes to depressive feelings, as pointed out by one of my readers, Shiv (see comments section of this post), does not touch on the moral and ethical implications of how we live. But this is vital to get a further handle on questions such as Is The Rate of Depression Actually increasing or Not? along with Why Has There Been a 400% Increase in the Prescription of Antidepressants?
One further illustration. This has to d0 with the role of unfiltered inputs
By unfiltered inputs I mean the growing importance of what we allow to enter our minds.
There has been a growing awareness of how what we allow into our bodies has a profound impact on our physical health. However, there seems a relative lack of awareness in society of the impact of how what we allow to enter our minds affects us.
One of the ways that this was brought home to me was how often when working on psychiatric wards or meeting patients with depression and severe mental illness, how many would be avid readers or watchers of horror and sexually explicit material.
Often questioning about this would produce the response - "it doesn’t affect me, or I don’t think too deeply about it". And this would also be from some professing Christians as well. I strongly disagree. Never has there been a more important time to carefully consider what I allow myself to spend my time watching or thinking about or listening to be it on the TV, radio, iPad, or Internet.
It can be difficult to be prescriptive as to what someone should watch or should not watch.
It would seem to me that we all have different thresholds as to what we are comfortable with when it comes to reading and watching. Modern secular society chooses to be vague and unclear as to what is acceptable or not. Each one of us has to ask ourselves a fundamental question:
"Is what I am allowing to enter my mind having a positive or negative impact on my thinking and my behaviour?"
Here is how one writer has put it:
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
Paul in Philippians 4:8-9 sums it up well:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Those verses I have found of enormous help in guiding me in how I spend my time and what I allow myself to watch and think about.
Fundamentally I do believe that there is Someone who watches everything we do, say and think. All of us fall short of His standards. But there is someone who has lived the perfect life that we cannot. (For more on this see Why You Cannot Afford to Miss This Gift This Christmas and A Day That Changed the World).
What are your thoughts on these two illustrations?
It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below.