I am having a bad week. Not a “I’m gonna die so just shoot me now” bad week. Just a bad week. Some things have happened that I don’t like, and while at one level I’ve “handled” them pretty well, made good decisions involving my own health, etc., it has not changed the fact that the fog has rolled in much more than I would like. I feel like I’m in slow moving quicksand, and I’m afraid of a relapse. I don’t want to go back to where I was even a month ago. I want to move forward, but I’m afraid.

This is what we might call Globalizing: taking an isolated event or time period, and extrapolating a whole series of future events that all work off the worst possible construction theory. Now everyone is susceptible to this. Everyone has their moments of despair and when you can’t see the future.

For one suffering from depression, globalizing is, well, more like solarsystemizing.

Instead of thinking of the stead progress that (by God’s grace) I have made over the last six months, I simply catapult back to the worst, the foggiest moments of my illness. It’s absurd. It goes against all of God’s promises for health and healing. It discounts medication, therapy, a supportive family, supportive pastor, and everything else good that has happened to me in the last year.

Yet it is how I feel. It is what I dread. My mind and body tell me that I am going to fall all the way back a year or more.

Is it true?

NO. It’s not true. I’m having some bad days. That’s all it is.

So what do you do when you’re slumping? You do what you know has helped you in the past. Here are a few of mine, but I’m sure you have your own list.

  • Get outside.
  • Golf
  • Work in the shop
  • Play chess or some other game (cards) that engages your brain elsewhere.
  • Spend quality time with your spouse.
  • Have some quiet, but don’t isolate yourself.
  • Pray

Those are a few. God’s peace be with you.


Devotions and Book(s)

I am really doing a lot of writing right now. Tragically it’s not here. But this is another way you can help the cause.

One of the things I have completely missed is any kind of theological treatise on suffering that would help the Christian understand how suffering fits into the Christian life. I know there’s a bazillion things out there. What’s the best?

In connection with this, what are the best books/articles any of you have read on depression? What are the worst?

Have any of you run across any devotional booklets that were actually helpful? (I’m thinking about another project here.)

Thanks for any input you can give

Torn between….

Sorry I’m not posting quite as much as usual right now. I am in the midst of trying to write a draft of this book I posted about earlier. It’s good, and I’m very excited about (insofar as someone on as many drugs as I am can be excited), so it’s taking more of my time. But have no fear. I haven’t left, and I’m not going anywhere.


Venting on the WSJ on Depression

HERE is an article by a WSJ columnist in their Opinion Journal section about depression in America. It really ticked me off.

It ticks me off because the author says this at the end of the article:

I suspect, however, that cultural differences can account for only so much. Economics must also be at work. Consider Jean-Baptiste Say’s famous insight that supply creates its own demand. We know this to be true about, for instance, personal computers: There was never any demand for PCs until Steve Jobs put one on the market and persuaded consumers it was something they should have. Just so with depression: Is there a country on earth where Prozac is more widely prescribed, or therapy more readily available, than the U.S.? It should hardly be surprising, therefore, that Americans now find themselves so depressed.

None of this is to say that depression is not, for those who suffer acutely from it, a serious matter or that it doesn’t warrant attention and care. But it is also true that what we now call “depression” is something previous generations also knew, albeit with different names: melancholy, unhappiness, “the blues.” In song, in church, in labor, in philosophy and in the bonds of family, community and tradition they were often able to find genuine consolations.

Such consolations still exist, though we no longer think of them as cures. Given how badly our own “cures” seem to be working, perhaps it would be well if we did.

Well, here’s the problem. There is nothing magical about the word “depression”. It is used colloquially for probably a dozen different diseases, maybe more. Some of those diseases are more common in different places. But generally speaking, any kind of illness of the mind can fall under the category of depression.

Furthermore, it is not simply a matter of consolation or of being happy. What a silly thing to say. The goal of life is not to be happy at the end of the day. Our goal as Christians is to be in communion with Christ, and to find our rest in Him. Even most other religions or secularists will recognize that “happiness” is not everything. I’m all for happiness, but please. Is that a medical diagnosis?

The same may be true for the word consolation. It evokes images of patting someone on the back when they’ve had a bad day, or simply sitting down and listening to a friend. Again, I’m all in favor of consolation. Consolation may be found in many different places, some of which the author listed. Consolation (I would suggest) is a portion of the healing which must come about in order to recover from depression. But it is not the “cure”.

Mr. Stephens, your article cited a lot of statistics, and pulled the public conversation about depression backwards, not forwards. I hope that you never have to suffer as we have suffered, but if you do, you will find your own words as painful as I do.


PS Yes, I’m in a crabby mood today.

The Second Book I've Read: Prozac Nation

Ten years ago or so, this book, Prozac Nation, was the hot ticket. Written by a young up-and-coming female writer, it was hailed as fresh and innovative, courageous, raw, and a bunch of other nice things. It was a part of a genre of self-disclosure that was (and is) extremely popular. But written just a few years after William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, this book was written for the young and the restless. Lots of colorful language, a few titillating references to sex, and sort of a super-extension of teenage angst, the book had everything that other books of the genre lacked. It had a movie made about it. It was a bestseller, and so forth.

When I first read this book, early on into my illness, I found it liberating and deeply moving. It described what I couldn’t. Despite the sometimes whiny voice, it served an important purpose for me in understanding what I was going through. I wasn’t crazy; I had a mental illness.

I’ve read it again, and my views on the book are very different. It does describe the state of depression well. It does describe the roller coaster of medications pretty well also. It was, however, written at a time when Prozac was the first of a panoply of anti-depressants to come on the market. In many respects this is better, as more people have more options for healing. But this phenomenon has also added the maddening factor of doctors bouncing you from drug to drug, seeking to find the magic cocktail that will be the right fit. It can be a profounding frustrating and, well, depressing experience.

Back to Prozac Nation. After reading Styron’s book above, and others (which I’ll get to in due time), I find that Wurtzel is not as helpful as other memoir-type books of the genre. One of the dangers of reading memoirs like this while you’re in the midst of the illness is that it can give you ideas, prey upon your already overactive anxieties, and create a mental state which may not have been there at the start. It’s usefulness for those suffering from depression and anxiety comes more as an afterward than as a self-diagnostic tool.

Now what I do find extremely useful in this book is how it chronicles all of the different types of self-medicating that we go through. Alcohol (the pastor’s choice most of the time), uppers and downers of various sorts, over-the-counter drugs, sex, relationships. We can use almost anything as a narcotic against the creeping darkness and the coming fog. They are all attempts to escape from our lives, or to feel SOMETHING so that we can know we are still human. In that respect it is helpful

Completely lacking in the book, though, is any real interaction with the spiritual element of depression and anxiety. Wurtzel is basically a non-practicing Jew, where religion and spirituality of any sort plays no part in her worldview. That is helpful to recognize at the outset, but that also means that the Christian suffering from depression and anxiety is going to find this book completely lacking in one of the key elements of their suffering. It is a picture of the disease, but it is not a complete picture.

If someone were to ask me today what book could I read to describe what I’ve gone through, I’d probably give them Darkness Visible, because it fits my own experience closer than Wurtzel. However, I would also tell them that there isn’t anything out there that I’ve read which really nails it completely, so they’ll have to wait for the book…