28 September 2017

What I've got they used to call the blues

Here’s how I knew I wasn’t depressed:
·         I have never spent the day in bed because I did not have the energy or enough hope to get up.
·         I have never failed to go to work because I couldn’t bring myself to face the world.
·         I have never been suicidal, or harbored any serious thoughts about committing suicide.
·         Most people would describe me as a contented or happy person.
·         Preferring to be alone is just a function of my Introversion.
·         Self-deprecating humor is funny.
·         Loneliness is a condition caused by others not welcoming me into their circle.
·         “Joy” is different from “happiness” and I can be truly joyful even if I’m not particularly happy.

Yeah, everyone’s depression is different.

What form does my depression take?
·         Self-deprecating humor gives me the chance to beat others to the obvious conclusion that I’m really not worth much. (But, hey, maybe I can at least make them laugh!)
·         Appearing content and happy is part of the people-pleasing package. And I had better keep people pleased, or they may not keep me.
·         Sadness follows me around and can infect even the nicest moments in life.
·         Loneliness has nothing to do with Solitude, and generally makes me feel that I am on the outside of every circle.
·         You wanna talk “imposter syndrome”? My depression has convinced me that I have never done anything worth noting professionally.
·         While I weigh less now than I did in high school, I have carried around an emotional weight that feels like that old physical weight.

But I get out of bed, I show up for work, I engage with people, I accomplish some things. I’ve managed since childhood (a very satisfactory childhood, I hasten to note), but my sense of loneliness stretches back to early grade school (at least), and my abiding sadness since at least junior high school.

When I showed up a year ago for my first counseling session, I had no idea what was ahead of me. It took me a while to admit my sadness, to understand the sense of loneliness, and to accept the “big D”—depression. I’m not going to spend a lot of time navel-gazing in this space. But having decided to say anything, I have a couple more posts before I feel like I’ve said enough.

To own my depression does not mean I think my condition is the same as the wounded soldier, the abused child, the neglected spouse, etc. I am fortunate to be a high-functioning depressive. I am thankful for a kind professional therapist who is also a Christian. And I am deeply grateful for a life-long partner who is helping me sort myself clear about these things.

20 September 2017

The Hilarious World of Depression

With a nod and apologies to the excellent podcast of the same name. (Which I recommend.)

One year ago this week I met with a counselor. OK, let’s call him a therapist—that’s what he calls himself. It was early in my third year of teaching on a one-year contract. (That’s another story; don’t get me started.) Obviously in a tentative professional position, four years after leaving full-time ministry I was still “in transition,” and I had some issues I wanted to talk through with a professional. It seemed innocuous enough: I would tell him my concerns, he would give me some assignments, I would go on my way stronger and able to meet whatever was next.

I was so young and naïve.

In some 37 years of full-time work (most of that in ministry) I found that there were issues I kept bumping up against. Things I didn’t do well. Mistakes I kept making. Clues I wasn’t getting. I wanted to untangle whatever all that was so when I went looking for the next job I would have my eyes open and my best game on.

A year later, and I am still seeing the therapist, and am now in my fourth year of teaching on a one-year contract. But I have to say, “what a difference a year makes!” Am I all straightened out? Not by a long shot. There have been surprises, light-bulb moments (“aha!”), and I guess we’d call them breakthroughs. No longer weekly, we now meet monthly—I guess a sign that I’m in a better place.

It has been quite the adventure. And since many people walk around with issues they feel they can’t talk about, I thought I’d write a little about this adventure here.


There, I’ve said it. When it first came up in my sessions I thought: “OK, here we go.” I do not feel stigmatized with the diagnosis. I do not feel that the label contradicts my status as a child of God. I do not believe my depression betrays a spiritual condition (sin). What the diagnosis and therapy have done for me is the Adventure.

But before I write more, I hope that anyone who may read this will feel that they can talk to someone about their feelings. If you are depressed—or think you may be—see someone about it. If you aren’t sure, let me draw your attention again to the excellent podcast, “The Hilarious World of Depression.” Listen to a few episodes and see if anything there resonates with you. If it does, find help . . . a good friend, a pastor, a counselor, your doctor, a therapist.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Mine began looking for answers to a problem I didn’t understand. I don’t know how far along I am on that journey, but I’m glad for the loved ones who are on the journey with me.