NOTE: This is a post I published last night on my personal blog.  I had decided to only publish it there (where my readers tend to be almost exclusively the friendly type), but since then I’ve had a few responses and some additional life events which have led me to change my mind.

One event, in particular, tipped my change of mind – I found out that a friend of mine from college took his life a few weeks ago.  I don’t know if depression was a factor, but from what details I could find, it appeared to be that way (which it is in a high % of adult suicides).  As such, I decided to post this here on .Info, as the readership is much wider, and the chance of someone going through something similar is greater – and one of the most important things to learn is that you’re not alone, and that you need to talk to others when you’re going through something like this…

Blessings,

Chris

sad doggieI know I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I don’t think I’ve ever centered an article on it. For (at least) the past ten years or so, I’ve struggled with seasonal depression that (almost like clockwork) hits like a wave during February/March, sometimes lingering on into April. Over the years, I’ve found different ways of dealing with it, though I just really wish it would go away.

The Feeling of Depression

In trying to describe how it feels when it comes on, it is like I am no longer able to process any strong emotions. I know how to act like I’m feeling them (ex-theatre major), but it’s just not there. I’m also fairly sure that if you’re close enough to look me in the eye, you might pick up that I’m faking it, but I try to prevent that from happening.

Imagine that you’ve got wool gloves taped to your hands, steamed eyeglasses, ear muffs, a mostly-functional nose-clip, and cotton-mouth. Now, imagine walking around like that 24/7 for about a month or two. Now, apply that to your emotions, and you might be getting the idea.

You wish you could feel, and you try to feel, but no matter how much you act like you feel, the feeling just doesn’t come. Time slows down to a crawl, which just leads to impatience and frustration, which slows it down all the more. You wonder if it is unresolved (or non-convicted) sin in your life, usually convinced that it is. If anyone’s to blame, it’s got to be you, you think…

Some Additional Down-Sides

This looks how I sometimes feelOne of the downsides of this feeling is that guilt tends to pile up pretty quickly – no matter what you do. You really don’t want to tell anyone how you feel, because you know it will bring them down – and you don’t want to be a downer to everyone else. (FYI: This is probably the fourth draft of this article, and I’m still not sure I’ll hit “Publish”.)

You’re also not really looking for an outpouring of sympathy, especially if you realize (as I do) how good you’ve got life – a wife, four kids, two dogs, a good job, a great church family, some talent at what you enjoy doing. And as you realize how good you have it, your guilt at feeling depressed just compounds the feeling. In your head, you are greatly troubled by the plight of those less fortunate, your heart bleeds for them, but the feeling of powerlessness frustrates you all the more.

You feel lonely, even if you’re surrounded by people, and all the more guilty if someone figures you out. Because you’re feeling so impatient with the passing of time, you tend to feel distant and you likely are somewhat irritable or aloof when people talk to you, even though you might feel on the verge of tears (since it would be such a relief if they actually would flow w/o any help from you).

One thing I’ve learned from those much wiser than me, who I’ve let in on this secret, is that probably the most important thing to your healing is just naming it and telling someone else about it. Before I did this, I found myself doing and saying things that I knew were wrong/insensitive/risky just to see if I could somehow force myself to feel.

If I could only get someone to yell at me, I might respond in kind and actually feel angry! But that doesn’t work. It only makes others mad and you, and drives you deeper down.

If I could only get someone to love me more, I might feel it break through. But that only lead to frustration, strained relationships and a loss of love.

If I could only escape into my own world, I might love it there. But that only leads to more loneliness and isolation.

If I could only increase the risk & excitement in my life, I might actually feel deeply excited. But it only hurts the ones I love and risks things that ought not be risked.

If I could only end it all… but that’s not a good solution, either. It would just be selfishness and an expansion of the callousness I come to feel. (For the record, kind reader, I was only there once, before I began to heal).

“If I could only” … only leads to more pain, more lonliness, and more loss of feeling.

So what has worked?

For me, admitting it to those close to me has brought a sense of relief. By talking to them about it, we become closer. They don’t always say the right things, or helpful things, but in the process, you start to learn that you’re not unloved.

Rich's feetFinding others who struggle with depression has been a boon to me, because you start to learn that you’re not alone – even if you might feel like it. (If I do publish this, it will likely be so that if someone out there also feels like this, they’ll know they’re not alone.) That feeling of having a kindred spirit doesn’t necessarily make the feeling (or lack of feeling) go away, but it makes bearing it a little lighter.

Admitting it to God (sometimes harder than admitting it to friends) is hard, and giving it to Him (when I’ve been able to do it, which I don’t think has happened yet here in 2009) allows you to become close, but it’s oh, so scary. So scary. At least for me. That loss of control? I want to own it, and I don’t want to give it up. It’s just not always in me to let it go. It’s the gap between knowing what’s good for you and being able to do what’s good for you. Kind of like following the doc’s advice to exercise more and eat less.

In some ways, I am reminded of Rich Mullins’ paraphrase of Psalm 139 -

Where could I go, where could I run
Even if I found the strength to fly
And if I rose on the wings of the dawn
And crashed through the corner of the sky
If I sailed past the edge of the sea
Even if I made my bed in Hell
Still there You would find me

‘Cause nothing is beyond You
You stand beyond the reach
Of our vain imaginations
Our misguided piety
The heavens stretch to hold You
And deep cries out to deep
Singing that nothing is beyond You
Nothing is beyond You

Time cannot contain You
You fill eternity
Sin can never stain You
Death has lost its sting

And I cannot explain the way You came to love me
Except to say that nothing is beyond You
Nothing is beyond You

If I should shrink back from the light
So I can sink into the dark
If I take cover and I close my eyes
Even then You would see my heart

And You’d cut through all my pain and rage
The darkness is not dark to You
And night’s as bright as day

Nothing is beyond You
You stand beyond the reach
Of our vain imaginations
Our misguided piety
The heavens stretch to hold You
And deep cries out to deep
Singing that nothing is beyond You
Nothing is beyond You

And time cannot contain You
You fill eternity
Sin can never stain You
And death has lost its sting

And I cannot explain the way You came to love me
Except to say that nothing is beyond You
Nothing is beyond You
Nothing is beyond You

It’s a Process

Some of you who’ve known me for years know that I used to do a bit of composing, and that I’d play the piano for hours a day. I still keep up well enough to play for my church community’s worship each week, but it’s been years since I’ve been able to write music. It’s like a switch flipped some time ago, and even in the good times, that well of feeling from which I pulled tunes, tears and tomes of lyrics was boarded over.

I don’t know if it will ever be un-boarded, but I have learned to be thankful with what I have, to love those who love me, and to care about those who don’t.

But I still, so often, truly feel powerless.

The one area that has ignited that spark I once felt comes from the sense of injustice I feel when I see Christian brothers and sisters attacked unjustly, particularly by those within the church (who ought to know better). It is that spark that led me to approach some other writers with similar feelings about this injustice and to start doing something about it.

In some ways, this experience has reminded me of Galatians 6:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

It is a balance – being gentle with those struggling with pain and sin, and helping them to carry their burden. Not thinking too much of yourself. Avoiding comparisons with how someone does it so much better than you do (or the opposite). And, over time, learning to carry your load, so that you can help others carry theirs.

Today

This year, in some ways, is better than other years – I recognize the feeling, and I’ve been able to be open about it. I’ve actually felt like writing about it, and I’m contemplating (for real) hitting “publish” (and if you’re reading this, I must have done so).

The numbness came, right on schedule, in February, but it was not as bad as before after speaking a little bit about it at the Great Banquet at my church. It’s funny, but a crisis at work happened about the same time, and I received a lot of positive feedback for maintaining a level head in the crisis. So, I can actually count this struggle as something beneficial when the time is right, I guess.

The full wave hit last week, right when my wife was leaving to help care for her mother (who broke her knee – please pray for her!) out in Colorado. But I talked to her about it, and she’s been calling me to encourage me.

I’ve written about it – and at least imagined publishing it – hoping I might be able to help someone else, and that, in doing so, I might feel healing in return.

I’m still working on giving it up to God. And to be completely frank, it is not going really well. I know I need to, but I don’t really know what it looks like, and I’ve forgotten (I think) how it feels to do so.

When my daughter, Aria, had open heart surgery 9 years ago, God granted me a sense of peace that it was all in His hands. I knew there was not a thing I could do, so it was all going to be up to Him to take care of. And I felt at peace.

But when I’m the ‘patient’, I can’t/won’t give it up to the Great Physician with any ease. I’ve got bottomless pools of “blame” and “the need for control” that are so hard to swim across without drowning. Can He take care of it? I’m sure He can.

Do I have enough humility – will I be able to deal with the loss of pride – to not take care of this on my own?

I hope so.

But I’m just not there yet…

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 23rd, 2009 at 10:29 pm and is filed under Christian Living, In Tone and Character, Original Articles, grace. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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7 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 24th, 2009 at 7:25 am

Thanks for the honesty. We all have our “darker” side. I read Mullin’s words now with a different level of understanding of his struggle. As I read your post, I wonder if these feelings are cultural, psycological, physiological, spiritual, or a combination of all of them.

This is another page of honesty which should temper our judgment concerning those which are without. You have an anchor to which you can cling in the midst of the storm, how does a lost person deal with everything when he has nothing?

Thanks, Chris.

2   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
March 24th, 2009 at 8:40 am

Amen, brother.
Thank you for hitting “Publish.”

Your honest words will bear fruit, dear brother.

Shalom

3   Zan    
March 24th, 2009 at 8:55 am

I love you, Chris.

Wish I were there to help you in this storm, but we will be reunited soon. Until then, beloved, my prayers are with you….but I know that God is already there with you, keeping you strong!

4   iggy    http://wordofmouthministries.blogspot.com/
March 24th, 2009 at 10:40 am

Yep depression sucks… I have to deal with it with diabetes… hate it. But the hardest part of the battle is recognizing it and learning to cope. At least when one sees depression then one can start to deal with it.

Still it is not fun at all.

5   Matt    http://matbathome.110mb.com
March 25th, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Great article, Chris. Thanks for sharing.

6   Dave Muller    http://blog.thewebsiteguy.com.au
March 26th, 2009 at 7:48 am

It’s good you posted this Chris, since a great number of people have it, often not even knowing it. My wife is clinically depressed, and si a good person and righteous in God’s eyes. Sometimes those two points can be lost with depression, since it is generally a chemical imbalance, and certain branches of Christianity indirectly make people feel like it’s a spiritual issue.

7   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 26th, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Thank you, all…

Dave – I totally understand where you’re coming from. At one point, I needed to work with medication (side-effect profiles are a royal pain…), and it was hard to get some folks to understand that clinical depression is something that quite often requires medication, not just behavioral modification.

I wrote an article about that, specifically, a couple of years ago…

Blessings…