Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Medications and Me

Pragmatism is short-sighted; making choices dictated by the immediate payoff is very myopic, even when these choices might serve to reduce stress and depression. Anglican priest and adjunct professor of theology, Joel Scandrett, wanted results. He had been navigating a PH’D program in theology and was experiencing stress and depression. Understandably, he acquiesced to the recommendation of his Christian therapist to take anti-depressants. Scandrett writes,

“The results were nothing short of miraculous. Within weeks, my depression had lifted. I no longer felt overwhelmed or that God was nowhere to be found. I was freed from confusion and emotional paralysis to make vital life decisions that led, among other things, to the marriage and family I now have. Antidepressants (combined with counseling) dramatically improved my life.”

I often counsel that many, including Martin Luther, have grown spiritually through their struggle with feelings that “God was nowhere to be found” by turning to God and His Word with renewed urgency. However, after six years of use, Scandrett became skeptical about antidepressants for a different reason:

“I found myself becoming cavalier and impatient, insensitive and spiritually complacent. The antidepressants kept me feeling good even when I should not have…I felt as if I were floating through life unaffected, enveloped in a pharmaceutical sphere of emotional impenetrability.”

Scandrett was able to break free from chemical dependency, but many can’t or fail to even see the need to do so. But we are left to ask questions about what happens to a society where immediate relief trumps the broader concerns about our humanity and need to experience our the full range of feelings and sentiments associated with this humanity. Scandrett concludes:

“I’m wary of the way they can inure us to compassion, sorrow, guilt, and regret—emotions that are essential components of spiritual maturity—and I’m alarmed at the way society increasingly views them as a cure-all.” (Christianity Today, March 2009, 26)

What type of world have we created? What are the consequences when 15% of adult Americans, who are on psych-medications at any one time, live their lives with conscience dulled and compassion cooled? Our minds have already been tranquillized by postmodern philosophy—“There are no moral absolutes; instead, everyone has their own truth.” What then do we become once our feelings have also become sedated?

I don’t want to argue that meds are never legitimate, but there are profound costs, many invisible. Instead of relying on short-term benefits, our default mode should be a matter of seeking God’s wisdom:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I sincerely thank God that meds never worked for me. Instead, I can look back upon my years of agony and say, “Thank you God that I was afflicted that I might learn your Word.” (Psalm 119:67, 71)

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