Category Archives: anxiety

A Day

What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday was a day of great darkness and paranoia.  Anxiety, fear, anger even were the watchwords of today.  Today, it was completely different.  Yesterday I was embraced by my family and my congregation, and most especially by the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I don’t mean this in an abstract “think about Jesus” sort of way.  I mean by the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper.  Our Lord binds Himself to me, forgives all my uncleanness, and draws me into His loving embrace.

One of the strangest changes of my move to California has been the shift in my view toward shut-ins.  I had wonderful shut-ins in Kenosha.  But visiting always created great anxiety in me.  Here, I look forward to them in a way I never did before.  This is a gift I did not expect.  The Eucharist is the lifeblood of the church.  God continues to teach me this.

“O Taste and see how gracious the Lord is; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.” Psalm 34:8

Be at peace, brothers and sisters.

-DMR

Paranoia

This was a new one for me. Today I had some remarkable highs and lows. Highs of super productivity, and lows of not being able to get my head off of my desk.

But what was new today was paranoia.

I don’t remember experiencing this kind of paranoia before. It was as if everything and everyone was out to get me. I was looking into people’s eyes and saw anger and resentment. Closed doors meant plotting against me. Every look, every turned shoulder, every voice spoken that wasn’t abject praise I heard as loathing. And praise was manipulation.

I am a pariah. I am a leper who is unworthy to be in the presence of anyone. My touch is death, and so one and all plot to destroy me.

Paranoia.

I can’t really say I’m a fan of this twist.

I know that this is not true. I know that I am surrounded by people who love me and care for me. I know that God is merciful and that He will never abandon me to such depths, but that He travels with me through the valley of the shadow of death.

But it feels so real. So terribly, terribly real.

The hand of a friend is peace. A hug from one who cares is comfort. The love of my beloved is hope.

Even in paranoia, we are all incarnational. It is only in flesh and blood, real humanity that does not shrink from the chaos, only in that flesh and blood can healing begin.

Never underestimate the power of your humanity. It may not seem like much, but that moment of contact with the sufferer may be all that is between them and the abyss.

Time to go pray Psalm 46 and go to sleep.

Be at peace, dear brothers and sisters.

-DMR

Speaking at CTS

Thought I would let the dear readers know that I will be speaking at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne on

 

Tuesday

April 12, 2011

7:00 PM

In the Commons

 

Concordia Theological Seminary

6600 N. Clinton St.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

The topic will be depression and the Lutheran pastor.  You may go to the Facebook page for the event at

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=194920890546386

 

Let me know if you are coming.  Thanks!

-DMR (aka Todd Peperkorn

 

 

 

 

 

All of the Voices in My Head (getting organized)

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I’m on an organization kick right now. Every once in a while I go through this. I spend a few days trying to wrap my brain around a new system for task management, etc., etc., etc. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this. Probably since before I was sick.

Now for me, being a complete geek, getting organized means finding some nice computer program to help me. I’ve tried Things and Omnifocus this time around. They would both work well, but I’m going with things.

The whole process, though, has really gotten me thinking about the process of managing information, and what that means for mental health. If you’re like me, there are a thousand things going through your brain at any given time. I run around putting out fires, trying to stay one step ahead of disaster in all of the spheres or realms that I operate. Church, home, school, opera, DOXOLOGY, Higher Things, and who knows what else. With each of these comes big tasks and little tasks. Projects and emails and phone calls and meetings and contacts and people and jobs…you get the idea.

I had a revelation a couple days ago that part of the reason why I go into mental shut down is that I am trying to remember and juggle all this stuff in my head. Whatever seems the most pressing at the moment is what gets the attention. What that usually means is that my own health and well-being ends up last, until I crash and have to recharge.

Furthermore, these lists and piles and STUFF literally keeps me up at night. I’m so afraid of forgetting something that I can concentrate on nothing.

I’m no expert, but this just doesn’t seem like a good pattern to me.

So what I’m trying to do is a few simple steps to help me keep my sanity. Here’s my list so far:

1. Deal with things as they come in. Do it now, schedule it later, give it to someone else, or delete it.

2. Don’t allow lingering projects to just hang out there. Resolve them as much as possible.

3. Actually plan for relaxation time. I wish this were not necessary, but it really really is.

4. Schedule time for prayer and meditation. If I don’t have that as a regular part of my routine, it simply never happens. If it is a choice, as often as not I will choose no.

That’s the start of my list. So far it’s been helpful, but it is a tough road.

What do you think? How do you keep the voices in your head from driving you mad?

-DMR

Why the Church Drives Away the Mentally Ill

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In the last few years I have had the opportunity to speak or correspond with many people who struggle with depression or other mental illnesses. Pastors, teachers, DCEs, laity, each story is different, yet there are common themes.

One of those themes is how often the church, either at the congregational level or at the district/synod level, has failed these people. In all too many cases, their faith has been shaken to the point of disappearing. Now I don’t believe that there is any malice on the part of congregations or our church body. Far from it. But the sad reality is that we are driving people away from Christ by how we approach the mentally ill.

Why?

I have several theories about this. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Because we so often equate clinical depression (or any mental illness) with some sort of character flaw, it is viewed basically as a sin. I think people instinctively know that this isn’t quite right, but they don’t have any other categories in which to place mental illness.

2. Everyone has weaknesses, and we work very hard to hide them. For many, depression unmasked is too close to home. It forces us to view our own struggles and failings, and that may just be too painful.

3. If we view the church as a place for the spiritually strong to work out, and not a hospital for the sick, then the mentally ill have no place.

4. The fundamental notion of “depression is in your head, get over it!” is so strong that we can’t help but judge others whose weaknesses are in public view.

5. Lutherans just aren’t very good at areas which aren’t “spiritual” in nature. If it isn’t about justification, then we just don’t get it. Hence, we try to place depression and mental illness simply into the “spiritual” box, and it doesn’t fit there.

Those are off the top of my head. What’s on your list?

A Sermonic Panic Attack

So this past Sunday was quite an adventure in my illness. I had really been struggling with the sermon. It wasn’t working. I tried writing it three times. Nada. I tried working through one of my old sermons (been doing too much of that lately). Nada. Finally I settled on a sermon that a friend wrote whom I can usually “lift” without too much trouble. But it just didn’t feel right. I knew this, but I had just ran outta time in preparation. So it goes.

The service is going fine, but the sermon is just dogging at me. I can’t get it out of my mind, and not in a good way. It didn’t feel right. As I thought through it, I didn’t know what I was going to say. There was nothing there. Just nada.

We come to the sermon hymn. Thankfully, it has seven verses so I have a little time to think. My mind is racing, but it isn’t going anywhere. I just have no idea what I’m going to say. The manuscript is up there, but it’s like it’s not even though. I finally get up to start reviewing it before I’m on.

I start the sermon. But I can’t read. I get through a sentence, and it’s like the words have no relationship to each other. It makes no sense. I try off the cuff a bit, but my brain has become a black hole, sucking all thought away into a mindless void. I am as we would say in Hebrew class, tohou wa vohou, a formless void.

This goes on for 5-7 minutes. I really have no idea how long. I have no idea what I said. I’d read a sentence, and then try to say something offhand about it, but it wouldn’t make any sense. I’m sweating, fearful that I have now been FOUND OUT for the fraud that I feel I am all the time.

Thankfully, it ended. The rest of the liturgy went fine, and bible class went surprisingly fine. But the whole experience left me shaken.

I think it was a panic attack, just unlike any I’ve experienced before.

Blech.

God willing, tonight will go better.

So how’s your week?