Hi, I’m Jim. I’m clinically depressed

That’s probably surprising to those who know me as a humor writer, very funny conference speaker and one who writes under “Hope and Humor.”

I’ve joked that my depression probably began at birth since my blood type is B-Negative. I remember feeling a sad, dark despondency most of the time in elementary school. In fact, while walking to the bus stop one day, I saw a huge earth-mover that was working on I-94 near my home come thundering down our road. I thought I could step out in front of it and those eight-feet tall tires will end it all. However, the one thing that kept me from taking my own life was knowing if I committed suicide, my parents would kill me. (Such is the thinking of someone with mental illness—or six years old.)

I managed to plod through junior high—probably the most depressing time for everyone—high school, college and several years as youth pastor and then as full-time speaker for children, youth and adults camps and churches, then working at Wesleyan Publishing House.

I should have been happy. Lois and I loved our jobs, I was having my books published, had earned four national awards in publishing, was speaking around the country, and had two wonderful kids in a Christian school. My tag line was actually “hope and humor”!

And yet it often took all my willpower just to get out of bed. I got a lot of ministry done, but it felt like I was carrying a big black boulder on my back which seemed to be getting heavier. I would drive past cemeteries and think Lucky stiffs!

Unfortunately, I got absolutely no help from the church. I was told I should have more faith and quit my “stinkin’ thinkin.’” It was so confusing as I had a great spiritual life. I was an ordained minister, serving in a meaningful and productive ministry, and—most of all—felt so close to God in regular Bible study, prayer and journaling. Yet, my depression was always blamed on me and my lack of faith.

Fortunately, after 30 years of suffering, a Christian doctor correctly diagnosed me and changed my life. He assured me that clinical was probably something I was born with. It was bio-chemical—a shortage of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. After trying three or four different antidepressants, I finally found one with the best benefits and least side effects, so I’d like to make a couple points.

You are not alone

One in four people suffer with depression. So, if the people sitting to your right and left and directly ahead of you aren’t depressed—it’s probably you! So in a church running over 600, that’s 150 us! And, you’re in good company with Job, King David, prophets Elijah and Jeremiah, as well as Martin Luther, C. S. Lewis, and Mother Teresa.

It’s a chemical imbalance

It is a chemical imbalance and has nothing to do with your spiritual condition. Zip! Zero! Zilch! It’s a result of the Fall just as much as physical suffering. So, all the positive thoughts and prayers probably won’t relieve it. To those who tell me to just have more faith, I’d love to tell them, “And you need to have more faith for your diabetes, your blood pressure and your ED!” But I’m too nice!

All of us have a cross to bear. And over the last thirty years later, I have not only learned to bear the cross, but to embrace it. People with clinical depression have been shown in study after study to be more empathetic to other people’s hurts, to think more deeply and to be more creative. No wonder almost all the authors I know are clinically depressed. So, I’m actually grateful to depression for making me caring, compassionate and creative. Major paradigm stiff!

There is hope

There is a wide range of anti-depressants and your family doctor can help you find the right one. There is hope!

Copyright © 2020 James N. Watkins

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