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Q: I’m confused about relying on prescription medication for my depression / bipolar disorder. What do you think?

A: Often, people who come into my office and hear my recommendations leave with an impression that I am less than enthusiastic about the use of medications. This isn't true. I personally am taking medication for my bipolar disorder, and it has helped me. I know a number of people who simply could not function without their meds. The new generation of psychotropic medications is far superior to those of the past, and for many who suffer they are having some remarkable results. For many of the clients I work with, I find that their depression is too severe for us to continue with any sort of psychotherapeutic approach until their condition has moderated enough for them to concentrate and do the needed work. And so, for them, and for those who might have suicidal ideation, I frequently refer them to an appropriate professional (I am not licensed to prescribe drugs).

Now, having said that, although I appreciate the role of medications in the overall treatment of these and related disorders, I see them as more supportive than primary for many of my clients. I'll share with you a quote from my memoir, Prodigal Song: A Memoir. It's a section in which I'm describing my mother's bipolar disorder, and her descent into addiction:

I won’t try going into what exactly happened to our mother. I more often than not see only dusty, empty rooms when I go in search for her back there, to that place of my past where my mind sometimes wanders but rarely lingers. I believe in words like psychosis and endogenous depression and schizophrenia, and I believe in chemical imbalances and “bad wiring” of the brain. I can spout lots of technical jargon and use psychoanalytical language to describe some things science understands and some things it does not. I’m supposed to have some understanding of neurotransmitters and receptor molecules, but all that cannot completely explain how people sometimes become lost to themselves and lost to the rest of us. And I believe in unseen darkness and demons, too, and I’m not at all sure where one set of beliefs leaves off and the other takes up. All I do know for sure is that God exists, that there is a world beyond what we can see and touch and feel, and that within that world evil exists, too. And I believe that for some of us in obvious ways and probably all of us in more subtle ways the disease exists and makes its home in more than just our flesh, and medicine alone rarely cures us. When all my training fails me, sometimes all I really know for sure is that being well—truly well—goes to a place within us that lies far deeper than the mere molecules that make us up, and that for reasons known and unknown our mother began to fall away from us. Isolated, abandoned, sitting for hours in that same room where we had so often been saved from the lightning, she stared out at the intruding gray, mourning something lost that none of us could help her find.

And so, I have come to believe that our healing must take on a multifaceted approach; we are dealing with a biological, psychological, environmental, and spiritual disease issues. Treating any number of these symptoms without treating them all will produce limited results. Without knowing you and your own life issues better, I can't recommend one way or the other about your meds; I don’t know any other ways in which you might be dealing with your illness. But I can say that, if you’re a person of faith, you must go to God and ask Him to accompany you one day at a time... perhaps one hour at a time. Whatever road you follow, know that you needn't travel alone.

I recommend that you be receptive to a variety of people you can really trust; medical professionals, counselors, religious leadership, 12-Step fellowship, friends and family... and then take all the information to the Cross, and ask Christ to grant you discernment and grace. Know that He will take care of you... even in those times when we might well misinterpret His meanings. More than anything, Jesus wants us whole and well. And He has provided a number of both medical and relational tools that can help.

Reach out to others. I have found on my own journey that a deep need has been filled through fellowship with others bearing similar wounds. Try this link for starters:
New Life Ministries – 1.800.NEW.LIFE.

Copyright © 2006 Prodigal Song Ministries. All rights reserved.