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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over


Sorry folks, but it is time for a melancholy post.  Don't mean to be a killjoy, but I say what my head and sometimes my heart tell me to write and I feel this one in my bones, needing to get out.  It is my hope that my posts are read and shared.  I hope one day to have a wide distribution that people can either can relate, hear something that 'explains' what they've felt, or just give a different perspective to what they've thought on matters. Anyway, I am working on a more 'positive' one to balance out, but I digress.  Anyway, here I dive in.  

The holidays can be hard to face for those who have lost someone close and/or do not have a close knit family.  When you see the warmth and joy elsewhere around you, it is easy to reflect on what is missing.

I have circled this issue many times and in many forms, but I have never landed on it.  Like releasing an ordinance from a jet and hitting around a target, but never quite hitting the target.  Some of the forms I've touched upon are as follow:
  • Suicide
  • Feeling blue
  • Disconnected
  • Sadness
  • Walking wounded
  • Melancholy
So, here I speak on it finally: Depression.  As a Christian, we are taught not to worry and to have faith in God above.  We are taught to look at the big picture, that is the long view.  Struggle and suffering are a part of this life, but that ultimately in our Savior we will have victory when the struggles of this life have passed.  There are countless scriptures for encouragement and strengthening.  I won't enumerate them, but will point to Encouraging Scriptures.

I believe all these things and more.  However, I know that faith itself will not prevent us from struggles, faith itself will not prevent us from getting down at times.  Faith itself will not keep us from the trials and tribulations that are the byproduct of our fallen nature and an imperfection.   Faith itself will not always keep us from moments of feeling sad and hopeless.  The Bible itself has numerous examples of people feeling hopeless at times: Jonah, King David, Elijah, etc.  While the takeaway from the Bible is there is hope for those who call themselves Children of God, from what I see, the Bible recognizes feelings of discouragement, hopelessness and depression.  So, how can I square my faith with my feelings of discouragement at times?  How can I square my faith with my moments of depression and hopelessness?   How do I tell others to have faith, when I have my moments of hopelessness?  Eternal questions.  The short answer is that in following our faith, we are not promised a life of comfort, a life of ease, a life of carefree.  What we are promised is an absolution of our sin and ultimate victory over death.  I gave this as part of the eulogy for my brother Bill what we are promised...

1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54-56
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is
perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised
in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body.
------
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal
with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has
been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

--

As I wrote this for my brother, I hoped and prayed that he was in this place.  He was a baptized believer, but he struggled mightily with hopelessness.  It was like as if you told him the weather was mostly sunny and he'd probably come back and effectively say, "I guess that means it is cloudy outside".  When you are in that place, it is hard to see the glass as half full, but instead it is easier to see the glass as half empty with the risk of the glass just being knocked over and all the hope drain out.  I know this because I have had points like that before.  Not quite to the extent that Bill had, but enough to know the personal hell he must have felt.  Divorce, death of close ones, loss of custody, bankruptcy, losing your house and losing most of your possession, & job loss all can weigh on you.  But, like Job, even when you think God has abandoned you, He is there, but you have to look past the debris and look at The Promise (see above scripture).

--

What is depression?  According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of depression is as follow:

"a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies"

Those are fine words and that is a good clinical description, but let's take it down to the day-to-day level. What does it feel like?
  • It is a dreading of getting out of bed to face the day ahead.  It is a wanting to go to work early, to run errands early, to go to the gym to work out, but instead feeling like it is safest to just stay in bed as long as you can.
  • It is the sense that no matter how much you try things will inevitably not end well.  I sense of what's the point.  In other words, not getting too high when good things happen as it is just a cruel trick before the other shoe drops as it inevitably will.
  • It is a feeling of needing something to numb, block, drown or overcome the pain.  Something such as alcohol, drugs (prescribed or other), gambling, extensive TV watching, drowning in music, a tryst, you name it.  Just anything you can to take away the pain for as long as possible or to extend better feelings for just little longer.
  • It is a vacant or blank affect of, I don't care,  That is what does it matter anyway?
  • It is like the feeling of wanting to walk away and never look back.
  • It is the wondering if anyone would care if you just disappeared.  It is the sense that you don't matter too much if at all.
  • It is the sense of tiredness of fighting it all.  Wishing you could just have the pain taken away.
  • It is the sense of shrinking into yourself and not wanting anyone to notice or say anything.  But, instead to let you lick your wounds.


You get the picture.  Some of this I've felt at times, some of it I've observed in others and some of it is what I perceive that it would be like.   Anyway, if you observe this attitude or behavior in another, it's hard to know what to do.
  • Do you press your loved one for what's wrong and not take 'Nothing' or "I'm okay" for an answer?  Hard to know what to say.  
  • Do you 'stage an intervention' and risk them shutting you out or totally rejecting you, thereby destroying ability to influence them.  
  • Do you just constantly remind them in a friendly but not pushy way that you are there for them, hoping that they reveal enough or let you in enough to know when it is time to step in?  (In other words, come to you before they completely check out).
  • Do you 'ambush' them when they've dropped off the grid?  In other words, checking in on them, but not quite staging in intervention.
Obviously, with my brother, I had some, if not all, of these questions in my mind.  I'm sure for anyone who has dealt with depression or someone who has it, has additional pondering similar to those above.  

I'm not sure exactly what the takeaway from this post is, except for the following:
  1. Regardless of how deeply you choose to intervene, always remind your loved one that you care about them.  Even if you think, well, they won't care or notice my efforts, they will.
  2. Share your concerns with trusted others around you--including possibly a counselor or minister or his/her friends.  Many people have either faced or known someone who has faced similar struggles.  With a little bit of God's grace, you might find someone who can either share your burden or give you pointers on what to do.
  3. Pray.  It doesn't have to be a long prayer.  It doesn't actually have to be speaking aloud to God.  It could a simple thought to Him: "God, I don't know what to do, 'please advise me'." or "God, 'please let my loved one be open to Your help'"
  4. Remember ultimately, there is only so much you can do.  Just like much else in life, you have to do what your gut tells you and leave the results to your Higher Power.

I hope this post will hit a person or two along the way.  Thanks for being my audience.  It sounds funny with such a melancholy blog, but Cheers.  :)

Rich