Chronic Pain and DepressionQUESTION: Chronic pain and depression - Are they linked?ANSWER:
I battle chronic pain from back issues (lumbar and now thoracic scoliosis). Four years ago, when I was unable to walk more than a few steps, I reluctantly had surgery. I had an anterior lumbar fusion and instrumentation procedure performed. Basically, I have an incision that runs from my belly button at an angle up and around to the middle of my back. The incision is twenty inches long. Shortly after the surgery, I developed an incision hernia. The doctors attempted to repair the hernia six months later and failed due to broken down muscle tissue. Another surgery is currently scheduled to try and repair the hernia once more. The back surgery also resulted in permanent nerve damage in my left leg.
I battle depression and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Are chronic pain and depression linked? They certainly could be. My doctor tells me that anyone who is in chronic pain is very likely to also battle depression. I have been off and on anti-depressants for the last several years. I would get "well enough" and take myself off the medication. I would slip back into the darkness, the moodiness, loss of desire to do anything I had enjoyed before, and all the rest that goes along with depression.
I am back on anti-depressants and have finally learned that I need to stay on them. I always felt that if I believed God, I wasn't being faithful to Him by being on the medication. I was at a conference where one of the speakers shared her story of battling depression and battling the thoughts that Christians shouldn't need the medication. She was on them because not being on them made her into a person she did not want to be. A light bulb went off in my head - it was okay to be on them. I was not letting God down by using medication to help myself. I am a balanced person when I am on them.
There are so many stigmas associated with mental health issues. People don't understand them. Because of this, we tend to judge ourselves. Overcoming the world's view of things is very difficult. It requires strength that we can only obtain from the great Healer, our Father in heaven.
I lean on God heavily. I have an intimate relationship with Him; we talk continually throughout each day. I finally learned to take everything to Him. From the little issues to the big issues, God cares about all of them. Once we let go of the pain, other people's preconceived notions and turn to God, He can then work on healing us. Healing is in His eyes, not ours. He may require me to remain on medication for the rest of my life and I am okay with that. He may chose to take away my physical and emotional pain, or He may chose to leave it to help me grow. Whatever the reasons, I know God has control of my life.
There are many words in the Bible which bring me great comfort. The Psalms are a wonderful book to read when you are in pain and unsure of the way to go. I also find comfort in this verse: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). God's peace is such a blessing. We can only receive it in seeking Him. Once we know God, we can face any trial or any obstacle that comes our way.
God also has a plan for all of our lives, He tells us in Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
We know when God makes us a promise, He cannot break it. We can rest in the assurance that He has a plan for us. When depressed, in pain, and searching for answers, keep talking to God. He will hear you. We may not receive the answers we want, but we will receive what we need. Trust Him! He is faithful to His children.