Sweet (and not so sweet) Music

Generally speaking, I am a classical music, choral sorta guy. Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mahler, etc. You can even throw in a little opera for variety.

But I have a secret love for hard rock and 80s music (not always the same).


AC/DC, Dire Straits, the Cars, the Bangles, Led Zeppelin, my tastes vary quite widely. I’m not huge into jazz or blues, but I’ll even go for Johnny Cash and some other country music at times.

So lately I have been listening a lot more to the darker side of my music interests (and I’m not talking about Wagner). Some of these various types of music are light and happy, but others are dark, even violent in their basic tone. Sometimes with rock music the text is secondary to the actual music (not always, I know).

So I’ve been reflecting on what has been attracting me to this kind of music. I think it’s related to my previous post, Addicted. I said in that post that the reason people suffering from depression often become addicted to various thing is because of the need to feel anything. Even if they are negative emotions, violent or angry. That feeling is better than nothing at all. At least it can often seem that way.

So this is where music comes in. I love modern music, at least certain aspects of it. (I’ll leave a discussion about the “morality” of secular music to some other blog.) So what effect does different styles of muisc have on the depressed/anxious person?

Well, it turns out that there is a whole realm of musicology that addresses this question. It’s called sentics. I’ve found very little about it online, but basically it is the study of the relationship between music and emotions. While I don’t want to oversimply, the basic point of sentics is that certain types of music are going to effect your emotions differently than others. Now your answer to this may well but DUUUHHHHH. You’re probably right.

Now while this is probably obvious, I do believe it is often overlooked. If you are listening to music that is intended to get you agitated, excited, highly stimulated, or, uh, aroused, then this kind of music may not be helpful for you. This is especially true if you suffer from anxiety, and it may have a different effect on you if you suffer from depression.

I really don’t mean this as a criticism of any particular genre of music. But one thing that depression has taught me is to be “mindful of my surroundings” (to quote the movie. Name that movie!) Noise, lights, sound, all of these things affect me in ways in which I was not aware. Music, television, crowds, they are can either drain me or energize me, depending on the day and the context.

So, dear friends, be mindful of your surroundings. No matter how much you love AC/DC, it may not be good for your frame of mind. It probably wouldn’t kill you to listen to the Brandenburg Concertos occasionally anyways….

Be at peace, friends,
-DMR

Addicted


One of the facets of depression and anxiety that I have often, uh, interacted with is the question of addiciton. (There could be some connection to OCD there, but I’m not up on that enough to talk intelligently.)

In my experience, the person suffering from depression longs to feel something, sometimes anything. There is a void and a darkness where emotions (good or bad) ought to be. There is a blackness that is hard, nearly impossible to penetrate at times. This darkness, this blackness and fog makes the depressed person want to break through somehow. In my observation the most obvious places where this happens are in some of these areas:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs (both prescription and non-prescription)
  • Pornography
  • Sex
  • Food
  • Possesions (money or buying stuff or whatever)

I’m sure there are many others, and I haven’t experienced all of these. But I can understand the desire very well. It lies in every sinners heart: to have what you cannot have, and to feel what you cannot feel, to take what is not yours.

I think this is what makes the interaction between faith, the body and the spirit so difficult. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, as St. Paul once said.

In depression, though, there comes a physiological desire to feel that Satan can use to tempt the sinner in the most viscious ways. How does he do it? He does it by convincing the sinner that because they are sick, they are owed these things. Whatever these things may be. And your body is telling you he’s right. You know things aren’t right. That you can’t feel as you should, and if you feel anything, it is only darkness.

So you try to manufacture joy, happyness, normalcy in some fashion. But you can’t. Once you start down these roads, they only leave you unfulfilled and more unhappy and depressed. So you want more. Try more. Get more extreme in your desires, and Satan rejoices that he has used your sickness to drive you into sin. So now on top of all your other problems, you have guilt. Great.

What do you do? I would suggest there are three areas from which healing can come. Spiritual, psychological, and physical/physiological.

Spiritual Healing
No, I don’t mean crystals and reaching out to the great nirvana. Duh. By spiritual healing, I mean confession and absolution. Recognizing the difference between sin and not sin is critical, and you cannot do it alone. Go to your pastor. Confess to him, even if you’re not sure something is a sin. He’ll tell you. God will forgive your sins, release you from these false hopes and give you the firm foundation upon which your very life is based. But this simply must involve another person. You can’t think your way through this, or (dare I say) pray your way through it. You need another person (preferably your pastor) to speak the words of healing and forgiveness. Forgiveness always comes extra nos. God will give it.

Psychological
This one is a little tricky. I know that confessional Lutherans instinctively believe that all therapy and psychology is satanic. They’re wrong. A good therapist is worth their weight in gold. I am blessed to have such a therapist. In order to kind of tackle these things head on, a therapist can help you understand the interaction between what’s going on in your body and how your mind reacts to it. In order for you to tackle this, I would suggest that you need to understand both the spiritual elements, and the mental/physiological elements to it. A therapist (or psychiatrist) can help with this.

Physical/Physiological
If you can come to recognize that the way you are trying to “deal” with your depression is leading you into sin, or at least into unhealthy habits and lifestyles, then you have a place to start. You can’t blame your depression on sin, but at the same time, God does give strength to Christians to resist temptation. If we don’t believe that, we might as well jettison the Lord’s Prayer (sixth petition). Here are a few ideas that have helped me to one degree or another:

  • If you’re married, talk to your spouse about these things. Addictions are nasty, and most any spouse will recognize what you are going through. Talk with them. Don’t hide it, as tempting as that is to do. It will only hurt you and them. They can help. They want to help.
  • If you can find some outlet that gives you enjoyment without overtaxing you, that will help a lot. Maybe try something outdoors (tennis, golf, walking, whatever), something to occupy your time and mind (games, reading, television, computer games, whatever), or some other hobby that you can get some healthy fulfillment from (woodworking, even blogging!).
  • Spend time outside. I know that sounds silly, but if you suffer from depression, your natural instinct is probably going to be to hide out in your bedroom, and just be alone with your fears and your mind. Take a nap, but do it outside. It will help to clear the fog, if even just a little.
  • Recognize that if you have a physical addiction to something in addition to your depression, that it may require external help. Ask your doctor. They can help.

Well, there’s my wisdom on addiction for today. I’m sure there’s lots more. So what have I missed?

-DarkMyRoad

Addicted


One of the facets of depression and anxiety that I have often, uh, interacted with is the question of addiciton. (There could be some connection to OCD there, but I’m not up on that enough to talk intelligently.)

In my experience, the person suffering from depression longs to feel something, sometimes anything. There is a void and a darkness where emotions (good or bad) ought to be. There is a blackness that is hard, nearly impossible to penetrate at times. This darkness, this blackness and fog makes the depressed person want to break through somehow. In my observation the most obvious places where this happens are in some of these areas:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs (both prescription and non-prescription)
  • Pornography
  • Sex
  • Food
  • Possesions (money or buying stuff or whatever)

I’m sure there are many others, and I haven’t experienced all of these. But I can understand the desire very well. It lies in every sinners heart: to have what you cannot have, and to feel what you cannot feel, to take what is not yours.

I think this is what makes the interaction between faith, the body and the spirit so difficult. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, as St. Paul once said.

In depression, though, there comes a physiological desire to feel that Satan can use to tempt the sinner in the most viscious ways. How does he do it? He does it by convincing the sinner that because they are sick, they are owed these things. Whatever these things may be. And your body is telling you he’s right. You know things aren’t right. That you can’t feel as you should, and if you feel anything, it is only darkness.

So you try to manufacture joy, happyness, normalcy in some fashion. But you can’t. Once you start down these roads, they only leave you unfulfilled and more unhappy and depressed. So you want more. Try more. Get more extreme in your desires, and Satan rejoices that he has used your sickness to drive you into sin. So now on top of all your other problems, you have guilt. Great.

What do you do? I would suggest there are three areas from which healing can come. Spiritual, psychological, and physical/physiological.

Spiritual Healing
No, I don’t mean crystals and reaching out to the great nirvana. Duh. By spiritual healing, I mean confession and absolution. Recognizing the difference between sin and not sin is critical, and you cannot do it alone. Go to your pastor. Confess to him, even if you’re not sure something is a sin. He’ll tell you. God will forgive your sins, release you from these false hopes and give you the firm foundation upon which your very life is based. But this simply must involve another person. You can’t think your way through this, or (dare I say) pray your way through it. You need another person (preferably your pastor) to speak the words of healing and forgiveness. Forgiveness always comes extra nos. God will give it.

Psychological
This one is a little tricky. I know that confessional Lutherans instinctively believe that all therapy and psychology is satanic. They’re wrong. A good therapist is worth their weight in gold. I am blessed to have such a therapist. In order to kind of tackle these things head on, a therapist can help you understand the interaction between what’s going on in your body and how your mind reacts to it. In order for you to tackle this, I would suggest that you need to understand both the spiritual elements, and the mental/physiological elements to it. A therapist (or psychiatrist) can help with this.

Physical/Physiological
If you can come to recognize that the way you are trying to “deal” with your depression is leading you into sin, or at least into unhealthy habits and lifestyles, then you have a place to start. You can’t blame your depression on sin, but at the same time, God does give strength to Christians to resist temptation. If we don’t believe that, we might as well jettison the Lord’s Prayer (sixth petition). Here are a few ideas that have helped me to one degree or another:

  • If you’re married, talk to your spouse about these things. Addictions are nasty, and most any spouse will recognize what you are going through. Talk with them. Don’t hide it, as tempting as that is to do. It will only hurt you and them. They can help. They want to help.
  • If you can find some outlet that gives you enjoyment without overtaxing you, that will help a lot. Maybe try something outdoors (tennis, golf, walking, whatever), something to occupy your time and mind (games, reading, television, computer games, whatever), or some other hobby that you can get some healthy fulfillment from (woodworking, even blogging!).
  • Spend time outside. I know that sounds silly, but if you suffer from depression, your natural instinct is probably going to be to hide out in your bedroom, and just be alone with your fears and your mind. Take a nap, but do it outside. It will help to clear the fog, if even just a little.
  • Recognize that if you have a physical addiction to something in addition to your depression, that it may require external help. Ask your doctor. They can help.

Well, there’s my wisdom on addiction for today. I’m sure there’s lots more. So what have I missed?

-DarkMyRoad

New Drugs. Yippee!!!


Well I’m on a new drug today. Yippee! Apparently the three drugs that I’m currently on aren’t enough, so they had to supplement with what is called an SSRI. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to go into the medical reasons for it. The short version as I understand it is that there are two major kinds of anti-depressants, and it is fairly common to combine and mix and match drugs.

It’s easy to feel like a guinea pig in the whole process. We’ve tried combinations, more of this and that, different times of day, all sorts of things. It drives me crazy, frankly. I hate taking drugs. I’ve tried all kinds of vitamins, walking, “sun therapy”, St. John’s Wort (that’s just not right), and all kinds of thing. But despite all of that, and all of the progress made along the way, all it takes is one bad week and I’m a basket case again, staring at the wall, no short term memory, can’t handle my kids, etc. It’s crazy.

Drugs are a gift from God. But like so many gifts in this fallen world, they are tainted and complicated by sin. No two minds work alike and react alike, and so even with the best doctors and therapists, sometimes it can be a long road.

But the road has an end. There is hope. I don’t know where it will lead in the midst of earthly life, but Christ is on the road with us all, hurting when we hurt, and providing faith and hope on a dark, dark road.

Be at peace, my friends.

-DarkMyRoad

New Drugs. Yippee!!!


Well I’m on a new drug today. Yippee! Apparently the three drugs that I’m currently on aren’t enough, so they had to supplement with what is called an SSRI. I’m not a doctor, so I’m not going to go into the medical reasons for it. The short version as I understand it is that there are two major kinds of anti-depressants, and it is fairly common to combine and mix and match drugs.

It’s easy to feel like a guinea pig in the whole process. We’ve tried combinations, more of this and that, different times of day, all sorts of things. It drives me crazy, frankly. I hate taking drugs. I’ve tried all kinds of vitamins, walking, “sun therapy”, St. John’s Wort (that’s just not right), and all kinds of thing. But despite all of that, and all of the progress made along the way, all it takes is one bad week and I’m a basket case again, staring at the wall, no short term memory, can’t handle my kids, etc. It’s crazy.

Drugs are a gift from God. But like so many gifts in this fallen world, they are tainted and complicated by sin. No two minds work alike and react alike, and so even with the best doctors and therapists, sometimes it can be a long road.

But the road has an end. There is hope. I don’t know where it will lead in the midst of earthly life, but Christ is on the road with us all, hurting when we hurt, and providing faith and hope on a dark, dark road.

Be at peace, my friends.

-DarkMyRoad

Falling In


Fall is the time of new beginnings in the parish. Sunday School, confirmation, schools, it is the secular Advent that the Church kind of must adopt because of our culture. There are many good things about all of these.

My topic for today, though, is how does this affect the person with anxiety or depression?

For me, transitions are the toughest. Moving from one thing to another, new or different situations, new people or increased interaction with people, all of these things are kind of the button for my mental status. Press it, and the energy starts going out my big toe (or wherever energy goes).

So when it comes to fall and all of these new beginnings, if I had blood pressure problems, they would show up. My anxiety goes up, I start to feel like I’m walking through mud, and I can’t get that big toe to stop running all my energy out.

HELP!

So what does one do to handle all of these pressures and transitions? Well, here are a few tips. Hopefully, I can follow them myself:

  • Be realistic with what you can and cannot do. Pastors believe they are supermen, who can leap over tall sinners with a single bound. But we all have limits. If you suffer from depression or anxiety, some of those limits are going to be much more clearly defined. You are no good to your parish by doing everything and then having a breakdown. Think through what you can handle, and then work with someone you trust (elders, circuit counselor, even a friend or counselor can help), to come up with ways to manage the things you cannot do. There is no shame in this. It is reality.
  • Say no. When someone asks you to do something else, say no. It’s hard. Let me spell it for you: N-O. It doesn’t mean you are a loser, it means you are realistic about your own health and healing. That’s a good thing.
  • Build in time for relaxation, both with your family and by yourself. While this may appear selfish, it is absolutely necessary. You big toe is draining, and you have to have time to recharge. That time doesn’t magically appear from the time fairy. You have to guard it, and I would urge you to get some people you trust in your parish to help you guard it. You need it.
  • Pray. I know I’ve said this before, but this is always true. Pray and meditate on the Word of God. I’m not talking about praying all of the Hours here. But pray to our heavenly Father for strength and wisdom and good judgment. He will give it to you. Our Lord is our Sabbath rest. Rest in Him.
  • Be fed. If there is a way to hear the preaching of the Gospel from another pastor, do it. If you have to get them via podcasting or whatever, do it. The preacher does indeed preach to himself, but at the end of the day, even the preacher needs to hear it extra nos.
  • Stagger these transitions. Don’t start everything on one Sunday. Show a video for Bible class for the first week. Have confirmation begin later in the year. Do whatever you need to do in order to stagger these transitions. If they all hit you at once, you’re toast.

Well, there is my Saturday morning wisdom. Now I’m off to some relaxation. Did I forget anything? Let’s hear about it.

-DarkMyRoad