Self-help books have a bad rap. There may be legitimate reasons for it, but I’m writing one. I am as confident about WHY I’m doing this as anything in my life.

Give me a few minutes to explain. It can change your life.

When I was depressed, I went to the doctor for help. He diagnosed me using the medical model. He wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants to fix a biological imbalance. After trying many prescriptions, I realized this wasn’t the solution.

I also visited several psychologists. They treated my sadness as a mental health issue. There wasn’t enough dirt in my background to discuss so they didn’t take me too seriously. In hindsight, there were lots of things to work on, but no mental health skills were offered.

During my long journey with depression, I sat in the pews of many churches wondering if I was so sad because I lacked faith. What I heard from the pulpit was a litany of adjectives describing my sinful nature. There’s no doubt they also spoke of God’s enormous love for us, but I didn’t believe it. All I heard was the bad stuff.

I had to help myself.

The first thing I did was start to eat right. This was more of an attempt to calm my difficult digestive system. The result, however, was it calmed my mind. For the first time in my life, my stomach didn’t ache every time I ate. That’s enough to cheer anyone up! I began to have more energy and feel less lethargic.

Then, a friend gave me a series of cassette tapes which used cognitive behavior therapy. I realized my thinking was all out of whack and these new skills helped improve my mood immensely. It was as if someone had heard all the crazy stuff swirling around in my mind and called me out on it. It was life changing.

Finally, I had the realization that although I may be sinful, I was also lovable in God’s eyes. Every time the pastor threw down fire and brimstone, I stuck my fingers in my ears and chanted, la la la la. I began to disagree with what was said from the men in robes who had gone to school to be spiritual. Certainly, there were lessons to learn, however, I could weigh it against what the God of the Universe was telling little old me.

So, here’s the deal. Although none of these disciplines were completely off the mark, none of them were totally complete. That’s why none of them are curing depression. None of them can. They need to work with the other two disciplines. Depression has many ugly heads. To cure it, we need to take a three-pronged approach. People must get healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.

You need to help yourself.

Here’s the gift for you. It will work much better and faster when you understand the root of your problems stem from unhealthy physical, mental, and spiritual living. The doctors, counselors, and pastors won’t tell you this. Even if they understood the principle, they can’t help you in the areas outside their expertise.

If you’re depressed, you’re not just suffering from a mental health issue. You’ll make faster and better progress when you work on your physical and spiritual health too. If you are overweight, you’re not just suffering from too much food in and too little exercise out. Change those habits but also work on your mental and spiritual health. And if you are feeling a lack of hope or love, you’re not just suffering a spiritual crisis. Your body may be dragging you down and your mental health skills may need some tweaking. Work on all three!

If we could just get the medical profession, counselors, and clergy to work together.

It sounds like the beginning of a good joke.

There was doctor, a therapist, and a pastor, sitting at the bar . . .