A Research team based in New Zealand recently reported that the causes of depression are both environmental and genetic (NPR, Aug. 24). They concluded that effective treatment for depression must be both therapeutic and chemical. I wondered, as I heard this, would their study have come out differently if the researchers had asked what role spirituality plays in who we are and how we think?
More and more scientists are willing to include the spiritual element in their research. And they are finding direct links between spirituality and mental health, and spirituality and physical health. The annual symposium presented by Harvard Medical School, "Spirituality & Healing in Medicine," is evidence of the growing confidence that the elements included in medical studies about well-being deserve to include spirituality.
For several years I suffered from severe symptoms of depression. I had several friends who were combining medication with therapy to quiet destructive negative thinking, but I wanted a different solution. I wanted to be absolutely free from any elements that would identify me as prone to depression.
Underlying my moments of dark mental fixations, I felt a more subtle quiet question of "Who am I?" The effects of depression seemed to define me in ways that were demeaning, fatalistic, self-destructive, and alienating. In my heart, though, I yearned for honest answers to permanently define myself as good, productive, loving, and spiritual. I wanted to discover a new definition of who I was by looking through the lens of the divine and holy instead of genetics and human history.
My search for this insight started by devoting time each day to learn more about God's identity. The Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, gave me concrete insights about the infinite, loving nature of God. Both books define God as Mind, Spirit, Love, and Life. It made sense to me that if God, Spirit, is Life, then material conditions such as genetics and personal history couldn't have ultimate control over my life. This verse from the book of Psalms in the Bible was a key to my recovery: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (Ps. 42:11).
For me, this wise quotation indicated that the Divine formed the foundation of my identity with health-giving spiritual qualities. Hoping in and even praising the existence of qualities in me such as trustworthiness, holiness, purity, and goodness were an effective antidote to depression.
You don't have to tell me how hard it is to feel hope and gratitude in the middle of mental darkness. It was tough at times. But I persistently and daily continued to hope by thanking the Creator of all being for creating me spiritual, holy, and good. This practice started a dialogue with the Divine that became very tangible. As the presence of the Divine increased, the negative messages diminished.
On one particularly low day, I could feel myself sinking into self-hate, criticism, and anguish. I lay in bed, buried in a sea of blackness. I felt that if I could just look up and acknowledge the existence of divine goodness itself right next to me, the emotional pain would stop.
At first I said, "I can't." But then, as if a gentle hand were lifting up my face, I let hope literally lift up my thought. Slowly, as if I were ascending through a deep sea and then breaking though the surface to the sun, the symptoms receded, and I was free. Soon after that, the depression stopped. It never returned.
We live in a time of great research and exploration. There couldn't be a better time to include the Divine in humanity's search for answers.
My heart is glad,
and my glory rejoiceth:
my flesh also shall rest in hope.
For thou wilt not leave
my soul in hell....
Thou wilt shew me
the path of life:
in thy presence
is fulness of joy.