Last Day Free & Excerpt

My latest Kindle ebook, Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain, is still available for free, but only for today. Here is another except. This is a chapter that exposes the voice a clinically depressed person is likely to hear in their brain. Understanding this voice is, I believe, is the most important factor in recovering from depression.

If you want the book, this is the last day you can get it for free.

The Voice…That No One Wants To Hear

Posted October 28, 2016

Do you have a voice in your head? If you have clinical depression, you probably do. A lot of people claim they don’t. In fact, they think hearing voices is a sign of mental illness. Personally, I don’t believe them. I think everyone has a voice or even voices in their heads. And those who say they don’t are either lying or in denial. Then again, I’ve already admitted to having a mental illness, so maybe I’m the wrong person to ask.

I don’t know how the voices in normal brains talk. However, if you have clinical depression, that voice in your head is your worst enemy. It’s the opposite of a motivational speaker. It tries to convince you you’re worthless and no good to anyone. If you pray or try to live by faith, the Voice tries to convince you the reason your life sucks is God is against you, not for you. “God hates me. God has given up on me, and I don’t blame Him. I’m like the tree that bore no fruit, so God has cut me off. I’m cursed. And there is no God anyway, so why do I care?”

If you know that voice, let me tell you something it doesn’t want you to know. That voice is a liar. This is not something I believe. I know it. Let me tell you how.

Medication And The Voice In My Head

Taking medication for depression is still controversial for some people of faith. When a psychiatrist first recommended it for me, I had some reservations. However, he had just told me I tested high for depression in every possible way, so I took his advice. Sometimes I have wondered if it was really working, especially at times when I have been sad, moody, anxious, just fill in the blank with any negative emotion.

I can still say, though, that medication does make a difference for me. I know because a couple of times I have changed medications. When you change from one antidepressant (AD) medication to another, you first have to wean yourself off of your current med. That usually lasts two to four weeks. Then you can start the new one. It can take several days for the new medication to start taking effect. During that transition, those depressed thoughts you had forgotten about can come back, along with other possible side effects.

The first time I switched medications, I had suicidal thoughts. I can’t say it was the first time (for suicidal thoughts, I mean), but it was more frequent and intense than ever. Is the new med not working? I wondered.

My doctor said it was a low dose and suggested trying a “medium” dose. Within a few days, the suicidal thoughts stopped. That medium dose worked for me. But without talking to my doctor, I might have thought it was the wrong medication.

The second time I switched meds was more recent. Bad thoughts came but in a different way. Instead of feeling depressed in the way we usually think of (deep and persistent sadness, suicidal thoughts, etc.), it came in a way I had forgotten about: anger. I was angry much of the day. Angry at family and friends over past slights that my balanced brain had forgiven long ago. Angry at people for the downward spiral the world seems to be in. Unreasonably angry. But when the new medicine kicked in, I was back to being happy. And I am proud to say I did not take my anger out on anyone.

The Decision

Why did I not act out my anger or my suicidal thoughts during those times? Before I started transitioning medications, I made a crucial decision. Until I know if the new med is good for me and until I get my brain normalized again with either the new or return to the old, I will not believe that voice in my head.

I got the idea from the movie A Beautiful Mind. Russell Crowe plays Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash, Jr., who was found to be paranoid schizophrenic. He had more than just a voice in his head. He had full-on hallucinations of three people telling him all kinds of conspiracies. When he was diagnosed and got medication, the hallucinations disappeared. However, he was having difficulty with the side effects. He told his wife and doctor he wanted to go off the medication.

But those imaginary people will come back.

Yes, but this time he will know they are not real, and he will absolutely refuse to believe them. It was not easy. Those hallucinations had a life of their own. They tried really hard to convince him to listen to them. But he remained resolute. You are not real. I won’t listen to you. I won’t believe anything you say.

Because of past experience with depression, I knew I needed to reject, ignore, and otherwise neutralize those thoughts temporarily. Let’s review what happened in these two instances.

  1. I stopped one AD medication.
  2. The Voice in my head that fuels my depression went from being a surly kitten to a roaring tiger.
  3. When the new AD medication kicked in, the Voice calmed down, the bad thoughts sunk back to a manageable level, and happy thoughts returned.

What is going on? I’ve talked about the chemical imbalances that exist in a clinically depressed brain. It is a medical condition where your brain does not get normal levels of “happy chemicals,” so the “stress chemicals” overwhelm it. Medication helps your brain produce and absorb more happy chemicals. When your brain chemistry is balanced, your emotional state can get back to normal–in a good way.

The Revelation

That last experience changing meds really drove something home for me. The Voice in my head did not bother me when I was on meds. But when I was in that transition phase, the Voice came back with a vengeance. Now that I am on meds again, the Voice is gone. And that’s when it hit me like a revelation of Biblical proportions:

That voice in my head is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

If you have that Voice, too, let that sink in. That Voice in your head that tells you, “I’m no good. I’ll never get anything right. I’m a burden to everyone who loves me,” or even worse, “No one loves me. I might as well kill myself.” Or maybe you have that angry voice, like I experienced. And you believe it, don’t you? It is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

The problem is not so much the voice itself but that we believe it so readily. In thinking about this, I was amazed at how anything we hear inside our head, we just believe it. We don’t question it; we don’t evaluate it. We just accept whatever it says, even when it has no basis in reality.

“Everyone hates me.”

Oh really? There are 7.5 billion people in the world, and every single one of them hates you? Unless you’re Hitler, that’s not possible. Maybe you just meant everyone in your school or in your town. But still, how many people is that, a few hundred? A few thousand? A few hundred thousand or a few million if it’s a major city? How could every one of them hate you? Simple logic should tell you that’s not even possible. But you believe it. Why? Because it comes from your head, so it must be true, right? Wrong!

That Voice Is A Liar

Are you telling me I’m lying to myself?

That’s exactly what I’m telling you! That voice in your head is the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

My angry voice said things to me like, “They always disrespect me. They never listen to me. They’re idiots. They don’t care about me, so screw ‘em all.” (That’s as politely as I can say it). And again, it was the product of a chemically imbalanced brain.

And bottom line: Don’t believe a chemically imbalanced brain, even if it’s your own. You’re just as likely to get the truth from a Magic 8-Ball. If it is telling the truth, that’s purely by accident.

{Don’t ask me. I’m a ball.}

I suppose this begs the question, If you can’t believe your own mind, what can you believe? How do you know what the truth is? There is no simple answer to that, and anyone who tells you there is is setting you up for failure. But I will reiterate the four principles I gave you in the introduction.

  1. God is for your recovery and healing, not against it.
  2. God will not kick you when you’re down.
  3. Some kinds of faith are good for recovery, and some are bad. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. With the right help–spiritually, psychologically, emotionally, and perhaps medically–you can live a happy and fulfilling life. You just need to learn how to stop your depressed brain from sabotaging it.

That’s all the truth you need for now.

Grace and Peace to You.

P.S. You can download the book to your Kindle device or app with this link.

Book cover-Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Living with the Depressed Brain by David Anderson

Book Excerpt: Dark Nights of the Soul

Book cover-Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Living with the Depressed Brain by David Anderson
Free on Kindle until July 28

I have published an ebook on Kindle. It is available for free through July 27. Since I am self-publishing, I can show you an excerpt without asking the publisher for permission. I am the publisher, and I give myself permission. The book is called Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain. You can use the link to go straight to the page on Amazon to download it.


Depressed Christian, Part 1

There are a lot of misconceptions about depression that prevent people who suffer from getting the help they need. In my own experience, religion sometimes brought healing and comfort when nothing else would, and sometimes it made my depression worse in ways nothing else could. And so I say I am in recovery from two things: depression and bad faith.

The first misconception is thinking depression is only an emotional state. Typically, people say they’re depressed when they are very sad. So depression in this sense is extreme sadness. Anyone can feel depressed after the death of a family member or friend, loss of a job, divorce or breakup, or some tragic event in their lives. This is situational depression.

But depression in the sense I’m talking about is not that kind of sadness. It is a medical condition. It is not something that happens because of life. It is an ongoing condition of the brain. This is clinical depression.

The Depressed Brain

Did you know that your brain processes more than 100,000 chemical reactions every second?[1] Obviously, that is too much to describe in detail here. For most purposes, you just need to know that an important part of this activity involves the production of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. I will refer to them generally as “happy chemicals.” You have happy chemicals and stress chemicals. The brain processes them, but most of them are actually produced in the gut. This is why people with depression or anxiety often have gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses as well.[2] Regardless of where they come from, when your brain does not get normal levels of happy chemicals, the stress chemicals affect your mood. You live in a constant, underlying, and invisible state of depression–even when there is no reason for you to be sad. This kind of depression is a medical condition, not an emotional state where you can just “cheer up” or pray your way out of it.

I did not know any of this until I was professionally tested. The psychiatrist summed up the results like this: “You tested high for depression in every possible way.”

It was one of those moments when I knew my life would never be the same. How I viewed myself, life, the world, God, and everything changed forever with that one sentence. I only felt mildly depressed, and I still tested high in every possible way? I never thought it could be that bad. Yet, as the psychiatrist explained it, I saw how it was not only possible but explained a lot about my whole life.

Clinical depression is not about how you feel at any given moment. It means you need help in creating a healthy level of happy chemicals. Without that help, I walked around numb, moody, temperamental, irritable, and looking angry even when I was not. I isolated myself and either dreaded or loathed social interaction. I thought all kinds of bad thoughts about myself, friends, enemies, family, strangers, the world, God, and life itself. I suffered from anxieties for no good reason. I thought no one understood me, so there was no point in talking to anyone.

Of course, I did not feel that way 24/7. It would have been easier to recognize if I did. I had ups and downs just like everyone, or so I thought. My emotional/mood spectrum felt normal to me because it was the only thing I had ever known. This is what it’s like to live with clinical depression and not know it.

If any of this sounds familiar, especially if you can’t identify any good reason for your sadness, irritability, apathy, or hopelessness, you may be one of the millions of people living with undiagnosed depression of some kind. How do you know for sure? Since it is a medical condition, it needs to be diagnosed by a medical or psychiatric professional (See Appendix B). But if people close to you think you are depressed, even when you don’t, you should seriously consider getting tested. I only got tested because my mother and sister urged me. If they hadn’t, I would still be undiagnosed, still moody and depressed, and still thinking it was normal.

Bad Faith

Clinical depression is not about feeling sad or anxious. It’s about living with a brain that does not get enough happy chemicals. It is very important you understand this, because when religion gets mixed up in depression without understanding what it really is, it creates more problems than it solves. An article on Beliefnet said it well: “As we consider the causes of depression, those of us in the church must face the ways we might be responsible for creating it.”[3]

I’ve experienced some of those ways that church/religion/faith–whatever you want to call spiritual life and practice–can be responsible for creating it or making it a lot worse. I thank God from the depths of my soul that He led me out of that and into a church, faith, and spiritual practice that helps my recovery and healing, rather than beats me down for not having “enough faith,” whatever that means. Because the only thing worse than living for ten years (in my case) in a faith or religion that will only acknowledge “spiritual” causes of depression is living in that kind of faith for ten years…and one day.

A New Mission

What I say next, I don’t say lightly. I’m not the type of person who goes around saying, “God told me this. God told me that. God has called me to do this.” So many times I have heard people say things like that and thought, I bet if I could hear God as well as you claim to, right now I’d hear God saying, “Leave Me out of this!”

It’s not that I believe God does not talk to people. I believe God talks to us all the time, but hearing God is tricky. I’ve learned from hard experience that I don’t hear nearly as well as I would like to. Probably because it’s being filtered through a clinically depressed brain.

With that disclaimer, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I believe God is calling me to help others who are in the same position I was. People who know they are depressed and are trying to be happy. People who don’t know it but have a sense that something is wrong with them. People who think it’s normal because they have lived with depression all their lives. And especially, depressed people who have been hurt by religion. I believe I am in a position to help point you to what is helpful–and away from most of what is hurtful. I don’t think I will ever say I am healed of depression. In Alcoholics Anonymous, they call themselves recovering alcoholics, not recovered.

Just recently, I have been able to look at my life today and realize I have come a long way on this road of recovery, though I have by no means come to the end. This journey has been a quest for happiness, purpose, and meaning in spite of a brain that is tilted toward depression, and God has been with me through it all. There are some lessons I have had to learn the hard way. I hope to spare you some of that drama. The greatest happiness, purpose, and meaning comes from helping others, so I pray this will in some way help you.

Grace and Peace to you.

P. S. The book Dark Nights of the Soul: Reflections on Faith and the Depressed Brain is available for $0.99 on Kindle for a limited time.


[1] “How Many Chemical Reactions Occur in the Brain Every Second,” Answers.com, http://www.answers.com/Q/How_many_chemical_reactions_occur_in_the_human_brain_every_second

[2] “The Brain Gut Connection,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, retrieved March 14, 2019, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_aging/healthy_body/the-brain-gut-connection

[3] “Christians: Take Depression Seriously,” Beliefnet, July 26, 2016,  https://www.beliefnet.com/wellness/health/emotional-health/christians-take-depression-seriously.aspx