faith, life, depression, struggle

Thursday, May 27, 2010

My quiet spiritual earthquake

With cancer and more so the depression that followed interferon therapy, my faith took a beating. In a good way. Some bad things have been beaten loose, detached from my soul, and I am grateful for the pounding I received at God's behest. I needed it.

The line between legalism and grace has always been profoundly difficult for me to understand. To what extent can we truly "rest in God" when "the devil prowls like a hungry lion"? When the threat of sin and all that pertains hovers ever near, how much joy can there be in knowing and savoring Jesus and all He means to me? I found a lot of dissatisfaction with the answers I read and received, even, from well-meaning fellow believers.

At times, I thought I was losing my faith. At times, I thought I was losing my mind, my soul, my all. But what I've been losing in all this time is fear. I have found, through this hard period, that God is yet there with me, as He has been every second of the journey thus far (even when I hated Him, which is amazing to me!). Has nothing to do with merit or dessert; it never does, it never did. It has to do with love, grace, and mercy, and He holds nothing back.

I am, for the first time, experiencing real joy in my faith. Not the sporadic happiness that comes in the early phases of a newly christened faith; this is quiet, enduring, peaceful. A fault line in my faith has shaken me to the core, and the resulting earthquake knocked down all I didn't need.

How all this plays out theologically, I don't know. I don't think my theology per se is any different, but maybe it is. What has changed is my experience of God in the odd moments of my life; rather than an ancient judge sitting atop a throne, marking my every move, I am finding a Spirit of kindness, tenderness, mercy. Everything I don't deserve, yet everything I long for in the depths of my soul, painfully so at times. There is no word, no phrase for how sweet this is. That it comes on the heels of depression's vicious hold on me, all the sweeter. Morning has broken.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The national toll of undertreated mental illness

Good, if brief, report from Kristen Gerentscher at MarketWatch.com on the current state of mental illness in America:


One of the keys to successful mental health treatment is a combination of counseling and medication. Unfortunately, many insurance companies aren't too anxious to cover the former. True, it can be abused; and if abused, it becomes very expensive. (But so can medication be abused.) Since successful treatment is the goal, and since the evidence clearly supports the two-pronged approach to treating mental illness, one hopes that the entire health and health insurance communities will work together to make this a reality for all mental health patients.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Gentle spring rain, peace, quiet

It's just turned 6 a.m., and my dogs and cats are fast asleep, having been fed and walked as needed. I've just finished my breakfast and am working on my second cup of coffee. A gentle rain falls outside my window. The peace of this moment is indescribable, really.

At these moments, I am keenly aware of God's presence. God remains hard for me to understand, even at a simplistic level. How to reconcile the God of judgment and wrath with the God of mercy and grace and love? God forgives our wrongs, but only under specific circumstances—for Christians, the embrace of Christ as the atoning Son is necessary, even though there is a great deal of debate about what exactly that means, how exactly that happens. Been there, done that, didn't want the T-shirt.

The older I get, the less sure I am of many of the details of my faith. But I am growing more assured, as my brain chemistry gets straightened out, of my faith in God than ever before. I don't claim to understand it as well as I should. I just know it's real.

I still fear many things about my spiritual fate: Am I truly saved? I don't know. Am I bound for heaven or hell? I don't know. What do I believe about the afterlife? That there is heaven and hell, yes, but what that means, I don't know.

I am, as I've said before, one of the world's worst Christians. I don't want to be, but I am. It's a struggle for me much of the time, but I know no other way.

All to be saved for later. Right now, the rain falls gently, the animals sleep peacefully, the coffee is delicious, and it is the Lord's Day. I shall be glad in it.

Image © FreeFoto.com

Friday, May 14, 2010

The pain soothed, the end longed for

A new drug in my regimen is helping the others do their work. As long as there's enough Abilify in my system, the Cymbalta and Wellbutrin seem to click a bit better. I don't feel that howling pain at the back of my throat that marks my depression.

And yet ... With the relief being as welcome as it is, I feel no less drawn to suicide than when I am desperate. I live in a world that makes no sense to me at all. I make no sense to me at all. I do know, however, that I hate who I am, that I am utterly at odds with me, and that no amount of medication can hide that fact. It's a strong emotion honestly come by, and it is no less real for being a seemingly lifelong perception built atop an emotional reality.

If I fail to kill myself, whenever that eventuality (hoped-for eventuality, that is) comes to pass, I will be severely disappointed. Dying any other way, given how I perceive myself and the world I find myself in, would be a cop-out. I hope, I pray, I find the courage to do this. If it hurts others, so be it; it's not as though they haven't hurt me.

And yes, dying is the only thing that matters to me any longer. Everything else is time abided, time wasted. Pointless.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Suicidal impulses circa 1965

A rather forward-looking film for 1965, this educational film on depression and suicide gets a lot of it right and is notably compassionate toward its subject. It's a little over 23 minutes long. Good music. H/T to Rosary Films.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here again?

I am enough of a fool to have imagined that I had come through the depression that had plagued me anew for more than a year, after years of having it managed OK. I was, obviously, imagining that to be the case.

I am back here, again.

Why does living seem so relentlessly miserable so much of the time?

Why does everything feel so hopeless so often, just a slog until the moment I am no more in this life?

Why am I so anxious to get there, to be done with the slog?

The Black Dog. The Noonday Demon. The Big Black. It's back. My oldest friend, come to settle in again.

My fantasy: blowing my brains out

I'm sure it says something really dark and ugly about me that the only real way out is through the barrel of my gun.

I no longer have sex fantasies, thank goodness (those were bad enough), but I do have death fantasies, particularly under stress. I want to die; that's the backdrop to everything I do these days, it seems. But in my fantasy, I go out quick. The fantasy is to go to a bank, gun in hand, announce why I'm killing myself there, and then making sure I'm at an angle that will spray the maximum amount of my blood and brain matter on as many people as possible. They will literally feel my anger in my body-hot blood, in the still-pulsing brain matter that lands on their nice, clean clothes.

In reality, the way I'll do it is much cleaner. I'll make phone calls, particularly to make sure someone is en route to get my pets. Once I get my affairs taken care of, I'll simply pull the trigger in my back yard, so no clean up (beyond getting rid of my useless body) will be necessary.

I now see that the only true act of self-assertion possible in a time and place where everything and everyone is utterly controlled is suicide. Not some machine, some drug cocktail; it must be brutal to make the point. There must be trauma. No bogus sense of peace draped over it; the deliberate smashing of skull to splinters is absolutely required. 

Bud Dwyer, you are my hero:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Alone, always alone

I live alone. I'll die alone. Pointless. May the end come soon.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Division

I find joy in simple things: family, friends, animals, nature itself. God, of course. But still there is this disconnect; I cannot stand myself. I can't see how I fit in all this. I honestly feel like I don't, and I don't feel particularly depressed right now. Just lost to it all.

There is division somewhere inside me. If I don't think about it, I'm OK; the moment I bump up against it (and it is inevitable that I will), I confront the disappointment, shame, and humiliation of being me. I detest that. I detest myself. The meds make me feel better on the whole; I don't feel suicidal about all this, as I do during spates of depression. But that doesn't mean I can bear the thought of myself, of my being. I can't bear it.

I trust that God is making something valuable of me that I can't perceive. I trust that I am blind to the work of God in me. But it is a leap of faith to believe that, as I see no trace of value within me. Just a collection pool of incompetencies, regrets, pain, and sorrow. Maybe that is, in part, simply an aspect of being, or being human; I don't pretend to know. I do know that it is a bad place, and no amount of pretending otherwise can change that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A weekend of rest (and dogs)

Visited my sister's home, where we had seven dogs to help us "relax." Which, actually, my sisters and I managed to do. Funny how the dogs "pack up" and assume roles to keep order. Kind of like us humans.

After Thursday night's drop into another depressive phase, I've gone up on one med, and it has helped (with doctor's approval, of course). The relaxing weekend also helped a great deal, which was timely, as the workplace is rather stressful just now.

I feel much better, but at the same time, I find myself confronting anew the severe limits on my competence in every corner of my life. I am a mildly capable individual, but I screw up a lot. There are platitudes aplenty covering that subject; no need to revisit those here. But the fact is that human existence is an unforgiving proposition. Mistakes haunt me all my life, whether I'm aware of them or not (and I often become aware of them as patterns emerge in the chains of failure that have characterized my life). I generally don't forgive myself because I haven't encountered much forgiveness from others, at least that I'm aware of. If they don't forgive, why should I forgive myself?

That does not extend to my regard for others, however. I am quick—maybe a little too quick at times—to forgive. I bruise way too easily, and that is my fault, no one else's; still, there are times when I get hurt, realize it's my propensity for letting things hurt me, and blame myself alone, even if someone else actually said or did something cruel or unthinking. It comes around, yet again, to my failure, as evidenced by my failures.

So, even now, calmed, even feeling positive about things generally, I am aware of how thin the ice is beneath my feet. Catastrophe is just under the ice, plainly visible as it looks up to me through the translucent sheet. A single misstep, and I am doomed; and I make that mistake frequently. Doom is my lot, and it is my deserved state of being.

I fully expect that at some point I will be one of the homeless people least able to fend for himself, a nameless victim waiting to happen. History marches over those graves with impunity. I am not even a number; I am just bones and organic material waiting to be pressed into oil by heat and pressure and time. My value is measured by the price of crude, nothing more.