On Fireworks and other Events I've Missed

I’m sitting at home tonight alone. My family is off doing the annual fireworks display thing downtown. I can’t go. The noise. The people. The clutter. The questions from my children. I just can’t take it. It would wear me down. My brain would overload. I would get nervous and jittery, like too much caffeine. Then I would start to shut down. I would turn into a zombie. Staring into space, praying for the noise to stop.

It’s not that I don’t like fireworks. Okay, truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of fireworks. But we’ve always gone to the fireworks. It’s what you do on the 4th. Duh. But not this year for me. I just couldn’t take it.

This is, of course, simply one of many examples of things I have missed because of my illnesses. Between depression and anxiety (two illnesses that often go hand in hand), I have missed a lot over the years. Graduations. Confirmations. Birthdays. Recitals. Even little things like walks to the park, extended family events. The list could go on and on.

And this is just family, of course. If we started to talk about church, I’m not even sure where to begin. For me, the most obvious and painful is preaching and teaching. I love preaching and teaching. It’s why I became a pastor. Yet my mind doesn’t’ allow me to function well enough right now to do it. I used to be just numb to this. Now I’m more anxious to get back into things. I’m sure my counselor would tell me this is a good sign.

But whether we’re talking about family or church or other parts of life, the reality is that depression and anxiety just plain change things. You can’t do these things. At least for a time.

How are we to deal with this? If you’re like me. There is:

  • Guilt. I believe I should be able to do all the things I “normally” do. But if I had a broken leg, would I feel guilty for not being able to walk? Maybe, but it would be pretty silly. Why do we believe this is different?
  • Shame. I’m embarrased that I am so weak and incapable. (This, btw, is a kissing cousin to pride.) The concept of weakness and suffering is one that does not come easily to pastors, especially younger pastors. We may know all the right answers about suffering, but it is different when one is in the middle of it.
  • Relief. I know I can’t do these things, and so it is liberating to be free of them, at least for a time. A period of rest (sabbatical? Sabbathical?) is a good thing. But we are so programmed to GO GO GO until we drop, that this relief is often fleeting. So, it leads back to guilt.
  • Creepy Despair. Will I ever be able to do the things I enjoy again? Or have I given them up for good? Despair is really more of a theological term than a medical one in my opinion. See the Sixth Petition. Satan causes despair by using the events in our lives to lead us away from where our confidence lies (Christ and His Gifts) and onto ourselves, or something or someone else. Despair is creepy, and it creeps in to the most unsuspecting places.
  • Hope. This is the most elusive of them. Relief from the responsibilities of life for a time is a gift and a good things. It’s hard to see. Hope is like that. But it will come, as sure as the morning. Even when you don’t feel it. Even if you can’t see it. It will be there.

Every day I go through these. Sometimes one more than another. The hope took months to come. Even the relief took time. But I have been able to look at things now a little differently, thanks to medication, counseling, a supporting family and congregation, the the prayers of many friends.

So how do you deal with these and other results of a changed lifestyle? What have I missed?

-DarkMyRoad

11 thoughts on “On Fireworks and other Events I've Missed”

  1. What I have practiced over the last 17 years since my major depression is to engage in those things I enjoy yet fear. This is everything from leaving the house for the walks to flying on a jet to visit family.

    This is done through will training. We have self control by the presence of God in our lives. But our will still says yes or no to things. This has to do with everything including turning in one oneself. It takes practice, does not happen overnight and is a continue battle.

    When depressed, which I am constantly to some degree, it is always easier to refuse to do things. When my children were growing up I missed a lot of events and it hurt them especially my youngest son. He has been bitter about some of those things for years but now has come to understand the problem.

    Pastor I would encourage you to venture forth in the peace of God and cry out to Him for strength. Start with the small things like a short walk. Moving your muscles will help with the thoughts of insecurity and danger.

    God’s peace.

  2. How else do we try to deal with things?

    Addictions – By the grace of God, I never tried to “treat” my depression with alcohol or illegal drugs. I’m too scared of making life worse. But I’ve gone through periods of fixations on computer solitaire, sudoku, and surfing the web. (I even told myself the classic addicts phrase – I can stop at any time.)
    I knew my life was not under my control, good results seemed too far in the future or too invisible and the bad was a blinking neon light. These fixations give me a sense of control and a chance to make decisions that didn’t affect anyone else – which wasn’t exactly true. Because I was in my own little world, I was away from the world of interaction with others.

    Avoidance through other responsibilities – I can’t handle writing a sermon right now, or thinking about tonight’s elders’ meeting, or addressing this person’s sin issue, so I go visit shut-ins, sort the piles of mail on my desk, pick hymns, etc.

  3. Addiction. That is a big one. Certainly the self-medication for pastor’s is usually alcohol. Although illegal drugs, pornography, and a whole other cacophany of evils may ensure. This is such a big topic that we will cover it in a separation article

  4. This may sound downright silly, but I don’t think it is: have you been praying the daily office and going to confession? It’s not an easy solution or out, but it has a way of giving the strength to pull the body of bed in the morning and just go on. “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping…” Wishing you every good thing in Jesus.

  5. What I found is that I become comfortable in the avoidance of family, parishioners and gatherings. It’s dangerous to start using depression as an excuse when you really COULD do something but would RATHER not. This is a real temptation I noticed as I started to come out of my depression. It was easier to just not have to deal with so many of the social or family obligations in my life. People were used to having me just fade out of the picture. It was hard to start saying “I’d rather not do this, it would be easier if I didn’t do this, but I know that I can and probably should.” Helps to have someone to talk to about this to keep your head on straight and not BS yourself or anyone else about what you should/could take on.

    Peace and joy in the Lord,

  6. These are all good and salutary comments in their own way. Pr. Weedon raised the very good question about the daily office and private confession.

    What I have found is that it is precisely the things that would be best for me are the things that are hardest for me. Praying the daily office and private confession are a regular part of my habitus as a pastor. But I have found prayer in particular to be painful to the point of almost impossible. At best it is going through the motions. Usually I just can’t bring myself to do it, even knowing it God’s command and promise.

    So we have our abbreviated daily office with our children at night, and I rejoice and am at peace knowing that there are many praying for me when I cannot.

  7. You are definitely not alone with what you are enduring. As one who has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease, both physical and mental, it strikes to our very core. I have been physically aflicted and cognitively aflicted and endure this each and every day!!

    God sent our spouses to help us deal with this, but our ego gets in the way and we no longer understand nor believe in ourselves. Like the people we are attempting to minister to, we need to crucify ourselves and let God take over. But our ego gets in the way. Our society says we should be able to handle it, but it is to much. We land in the divit of despair…..

    But all of a sudden in our blindness someone jumps down into the divit with us. We cannot see them, nor touch them, because we are blind, but we know the Voice.

    It is the Holy Spirit. As Luther says, He calls us, gathers us and enlightens us by the Gospel. That sweet Gospel!!! That is what gets us out of our divit!!!!

    That is the only thing keeping me going!!!!

    May it keep you going as well!!!!!

    Your Brother in Christ!!!!

  8. Pr. Weedon,
    thanks for posting what I knew I should include in my own post. I didn’t because I thought it sounded trite – “Be in the Bible more and all your personal problems will disappear.” I am glad that while acknowledging this is no easy out, you knew better than to let such thoughts stop you.

    During the daily office I have found both the deepest pain and the greatest strength as the Word of God went straight to the core of my being, reminding me that there is Paradise – but this most certainly ain’t it. During one of my roughest bouts in college, I found myself unable to sing hymns to the Lord because life hurt so badly. When the vespers Scripture was Romans 5 a few years ago, I told my wife I didn’t want more character and hope if it meant I could get out of the suffering I was going through. If you would ask me when I am most likely to shed tears today, my answer would be “while praying the office.” Rationally, it does not make sense, but Darkmyroad is exactly right when he says prayer can be painful.

    And yet it is precisely in the daily offices that the Lord gives me strength to carry on. If I only had Sunday mornings, or if I succumbed to the lie that, “I’m in the Scriptures all the time as I feed God’s people, so I don’t need to have personal devotional time” I would have withered and died long ago. The Scriptures bring me life as they show me other brothers and sisters in Christ who failed too – and yet were saved (this week ironically brought the assignment to read Jonah 1:1-3). The Scriptures bring me life as the Holy Spirit gives me permission to express my groanings in this tent (2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 13), and reminds me that when I am at the end of my rope – so confused I don’t even know what to say – that He is praying for me with groanings too deep for Words (Romans 8). They bring me life as they show Christ punching a hole through the belly of death, redeeming and recreating this fallen world.

    Private confession has lifted tremendous guilt off of my shoulders and has helped me better deal with depression – if only I would not neglect this gift and arrange for times to see my father confessor.

  9. so what do you do when you are so depressed that you just want to quit being a pastor? it really would be alot easier.

  10. I must confess that I don’t think I’ve experienced praying the daily office yet as pain. I don’t doubt your words one bit, however. But I have experienced it as burden. The funny thing, though, is that it is only burden when I decline to pray it. This week, I got busy Friday and didn’t pray it on Friday afternoon as planned, nor on Saturday morning as is my wont. The result was a distinct distate for picking it up at all. But I ploughed ahead before the Divine Service this evening and began the Office, singing the psalms, and reading the Word, and interceding for others. As usual, the Office pulled me out of myself and gave me a great deal of peace.

    “They heard the Lord God walking in the garden the cool of the day and they hid themselves among the trees of the garden.”

    For myself, I find that hiding myself is what I do at the just the worst times – the times I need His forgiveness and love the most.

    Thanks be to God He comes along calling out: “Where are you?” And He is always there, waiting to embrace and welcome home the prodigal once again. He opens His arms and takes us back. He loves us, washes us, clothes us and restores us.

    The daily office is just one way to encounter Him on an ongoing basis. Even when it is totally dry and the lips seem to be uttering lies at the start, if I persist the feeling is usually relieved. If not, no big deal. I know that there’s a chance the next time, or the time after. I always know it is a problem in me and my perception – not in Him or His unfailing love.

    I hope that this is helpful and not condemnatory. I certainly do not wish to add to anyone burdens, but just to share my own struggles, recognizing that God works in a very unique way with each individual.

    Oh, and on a practical level, I find that varying HOW I pray the office has been a help too. Lately, I’ve been praying from LSB, using the proposal sent out last year (or was it the year before?).

    Much love in that Lover of us all!

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On Fireworks and other Events I've Missed

I’m sitting at home tonight alone. My family is off doing the annual fireworks display thing downtown. I can’t go. The noise. The people. The clutter. The questions from my children. I just can’t take it. It would wear me down. My brain would overload. I would get nervous and jittery, like too much caffeine. Then I would start to shut down. I would turn into a zombie. Staring into space, praying for the noise to stop.

It’s not that I don’t like fireworks. Okay, truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of fireworks. But we’ve always gone to the fireworks. It’s what you do on the 4th. Duh. But not this year for me. I just couldn’t take it.

This is, of course, simply one of many examples of things I have missed because of my illnesses. Between depression and anxiety (two illnesses that often go hand in hand), I have missed a lot over the years. Graduations. Confirmations. Birthdays. Recitals. Even little things like walks to the park, extended family events. The list could go on and on.

And this is just family, of course. If we started to talk about church, I’m not even sure where to begin. For me, the most obvious and painful is preaching and teaching. I love preaching and teaching. It’s why I became a pastor. Yet my mind doesn’t’ allow me to function well enough right now to do it. I used to be just numb to this. Now I’m more anxious to get back into things. I’m sure my counselor would tell me this is a good sign.

But whether we’re talking about family or church or other parts of life, the reality is that depression and anxiety just plain change things. You can’t do these things. At least for a time.

How are we to deal with this? If you’re like me. There is:

  • Guilt. I believe I should be able to do all the things I “normally” do. But if I had a broken leg, would I feel guilty for not being able to walk? Maybe, but it would be pretty silly. Why do we believe this is different?
  • Shame. I’m embarrased that I am so weak and incapable. (This, btw, is a kissing cousin to pride.) The concept of weakness and suffering is one that does not come easily to pastors, especially younger pastors. We may know all the right answers about suffering, but it is different when one is in the middle of it.
  • Relief. I know I can’t do these things, and so it is liberating to be free of them, at least for a time. A period of rest (sabbatical? Sabbathical?) is a good thing. But we are so programmed to GO GO GO until we drop, that this relief is often fleeting. So, it leads back to guilt.
  • Creepy Despair. Will I ever be able to do the things I enjoy again? Or have I given them up for good? Despair is really more of a theological term than a medical one in my opinion. See the Sixth Petition. Satan causes despair by using the events in our lives to lead us away from where our confidence lies (Christ and His Gifts) and onto ourselves, or something or someone else. Despair is creepy, and it creeps in to the most unsuspecting places.
  • Hope. This is the most elusive of them. Relief from the responsibilities of life for a time is a gift and a good things. It’s hard to see. Hope is like that. But it will come, as sure as the morning. Even when you don’t feel it. Even if you can’t see it. It will be there.

Every day I go through these. Sometimes one more than another. The hope took months to come. Even the relief took time. But I have been able to look at things now a little differently, thanks to medication, counseling, a supporting family and congregation, the the prayers of many friends.

So how do you deal with these and other results of a changed lifestyle? What have I missed?

-DarkMyRoad

0 thoughts on “On Fireworks and other Events I've Missed”

  1. What I have practiced over the last 17 years since my major depression is to engage in those things I enjoy yet fear. This is everything from leaving the house for the walks to flying on a jet to visit family.

    This is done through will training. We have self control by the presence of God in our lives. But our will still says yes or no to things. This has to do with everything including turning in one oneself. It takes practice, does not happen overnight and is a continue battle.

    When depressed, which I am constantly to some degree, it is always easier to refuse to do things. When my children were growing up I missed a lot of events and it hurt them especially my youngest son. He has been bitter about some of those things for years but now has come to understand the problem.

    Pastor I would encourage you to venture forth in the peace of God and cry out to Him for strength. Start with the small things like a short walk. Moving your muscles will help with the thoughts of insecurity and danger.

    God’s peace.

  2. How else do we try to deal with things?

    Addictions – By the grace of God, I never tried to “treat” my depression with alcohol or illegal drugs. I’m too scared of making life worse. But I’ve gone through periods of fixations on computer solitaire, sudoku, and surfing the web. (I even told myself the classic addicts phrase – I can stop at any time.)
    I knew my life was not under my control, good results seemed too far in the future or too invisible and the bad was a blinking neon light. These fixations give me a sense of control and a chance to make decisions that didn’t affect anyone else – which wasn’t exactly true. Because I was in my own little world, I was away from the world of interaction with others.

    Avoidance through other responsibilities – I can’t handle writing a sermon right now, or thinking about tonight’s elders’ meeting, or addressing this person’s sin issue, so I go visit shut-ins, sort the piles of mail on my desk, pick hymns, etc.

  3. Addiction. That is a big one. Certainly the self-medication for pastor’s is usually alcohol. Although illegal drugs, pornography, and a whole other cacophany of evils may ensure. This is such a big topic that we will cover it in a separation article

  4. This may sound downright silly, but I don’t think it is: have you been praying the daily office and going to confession? It’s not an easy solution or out, but it has a way of giving the strength to pull the body of bed in the morning and just go on. “Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping…” Wishing you every good thing in Jesus.

  5. What I found is that I become comfortable in the avoidance of family, parishioners and gatherings. It’s dangerous to start using depression as an excuse when you really COULD do something but would RATHER not. This is a real temptation I noticed as I started to come out of my depression. It was easier to just not have to deal with so many of the social or family obligations in my life. People were used to having me just fade out of the picture. It was hard to start saying “I’d rather not do this, it would be easier if I didn’t do this, but I know that I can and probably should.” Helps to have someone to talk to about this to keep your head on straight and not BS yourself or anyone else about what you should/could take on.

    Peace and joy in the Lord,

  6. These are all good and salutary comments in their own way. Pr. Weedon raised the very good question about the daily office and private confession.

    What I have found is that it is precisely the things that would be best for me are the things that are hardest for me. Praying the daily office and private confession are a regular part of my habitus as a pastor. But I have found prayer in particular to be painful to the point of almost impossible. At best it is going through the motions. Usually I just can’t bring myself to do it, even knowing it God’s command and promise.

    So we have our abbreviated daily office with our children at night, and I rejoice and am at peace knowing that there are many praying for me when I cannot.

  7. You are definitely not alone with what you are enduring. As one who has been diagnosed with a debilitating disease, both physical and mental, it strikes to our very core. I have been physically aflicted and cognitively aflicted and endure this each and every day!!

    God sent our spouses to help us deal with this, but our ego gets in the way and we no longer understand nor believe in ourselves. Like the people we are attempting to minister to, we need to crucify ourselves and let God take over. But our ego gets in the way. Our society says we should be able to handle it, but it is to much. We land in the divit of despair…..

    But all of a sudden in our blindness someone jumps down into the divit with us. We cannot see them, nor touch them, because we are blind, but we know the Voice.

    It is the Holy Spirit. As Luther says, He calls us, gathers us and enlightens us by the Gospel. That sweet Gospel!!! That is what gets us out of our divit!!!!

    That is the only thing keeping me going!!!!

    May it keep you going as well!!!!!

    Your Brother in Christ!!!!

  8. Pr. Weedon,
    thanks for posting what I knew I should include in my own post. I didn’t because I thought it sounded trite – “Be in the Bible more and all your personal problems will disappear.” I am glad that while acknowledging this is no easy out, you knew better than to let such thoughts stop you.

    During the daily office I have found both the deepest pain and the greatest strength as the Word of God went straight to the core of my being, reminding me that there is Paradise – but this most certainly ain’t it. During one of my roughest bouts in college, I found myself unable to sing hymns to the Lord because life hurt so badly. When the vespers Scripture was Romans 5 a few years ago, I told my wife I didn’t want more character and hope if it meant I could get out of the suffering I was going through. If you would ask me when I am most likely to shed tears today, my answer would be “while praying the office.” Rationally, it does not make sense, but Darkmyroad is exactly right when he says prayer can be painful.

    And yet it is precisely in the daily offices that the Lord gives me strength to carry on. If I only had Sunday mornings, or if I succumbed to the lie that, “I’m in the Scriptures all the time as I feed God’s people, so I don’t need to have personal devotional time” I would have withered and died long ago. The Scriptures bring me life as they show me other brothers and sisters in Christ who failed too – and yet were saved (this week ironically brought the assignment to read Jonah 1:1-3). The Scriptures bring me life as the Holy Spirit gives me permission to express my groanings in this tent (2 Corinthians 5, Psalm 13), and reminds me that when I am at the end of my rope – so confused I don’t even know what to say – that He is praying for me with groanings too deep for Words (Romans 8). They bring me life as they show Christ punching a hole through the belly of death, redeeming and recreating this fallen world.

    Private confession has lifted tremendous guilt off of my shoulders and has helped me better deal with depression – if only I would not neglect this gift and arrange for times to see my father confessor.

  9. so what do you do when you are so depressed that you just want to quit being a pastor? it really would be alot easier.

  10. I must confess that I don’t think I’ve experienced praying the daily office yet as pain. I don’t doubt your words one bit, however. But I have experienced it as burden. The funny thing, though, is that it is only burden when I decline to pray it. This week, I got busy Friday and didn’t pray it on Friday afternoon as planned, nor on Saturday morning as is my wont. The result was a distinct distate for picking it up at all. But I ploughed ahead before the Divine Service this evening and began the Office, singing the psalms, and reading the Word, and interceding for others. As usual, the Office pulled me out of myself and gave me a great deal of peace.

    “They heard the Lord God walking in the garden the cool of the day and they hid themselves among the trees of the garden.”

    For myself, I find that hiding myself is what I do at the just the worst times – the times I need His forgiveness and love the most.

    Thanks be to God He comes along calling out: “Where are you?” And He is always there, waiting to embrace and welcome home the prodigal once again. He opens His arms and takes us back. He loves us, washes us, clothes us and restores us.

    The daily office is just one way to encounter Him on an ongoing basis. Even when it is totally dry and the lips seem to be uttering lies at the start, if I persist the feeling is usually relieved. If not, no big deal. I know that there’s a chance the next time, or the time after. I always know it is a problem in me and my perception – not in Him or His unfailing love.

    I hope that this is helpful and not condemnatory. I certainly do not wish to add to anyone burdens, but just to share my own struggles, recognizing that God works in a very unique way with each individual.

    Oh, and on a practical level, I find that varying HOW I pray the office has been a help too. Lately, I’ve been praying from LSB, using the proposal sent out last year (or was it the year before?).

    Much love in that Lover of us all!

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