Tag Archives: missouri synod

Presentation on Depression for CDC

Below is a PDF file of the slideshow from the Deaconess Conference, as well as a QuickTime movie of the same.  I have not posted the actual slideshow file, since I will probably use portions of it in the future.  If for some reason you would like access to the actual Keynote or PowerPoint file, please contact me via email or telephone. Thanks! -DMR

Presentation on Depression for CDC

Presentation of Slides in QuickTime for CDC

Concordia Deaconess Conference presentation

NewImage.jpg

This coming week I will be speaking to the Concordia Deaconess Conference about the topic of depression and mental illness.  I’ll have about four hours with these fine ladies, and I am really looking forward to the opportunity.

My plan right now is to divide the presentation into two parts.  The first part will be on living with depression.  This section will be an overview of the book, and trying to provide some insight into the mind of the depressed and/or mentally ill.  The second part will be on how to serve those who suffer with depression and/or mental illnesses of various types, and how to serve their families.

So my question for you today is this: if you had this opportunity, what would you want to teach about and why?  How do you see the role of deaconesses and others in your congregations when it comes to serving those in need, especially with mental illnesses?  Do they have a place?  What is the place?  Are they better suited to serve the family, or the person directly?  I have my own ideas on these subjects, but I would love to hear yours as well.

-DMR

 

 

On Confessing Your Illness

I recently had a conversation with someone that centered around the question of what to confess if you suffer from depression or other mental illnesses. So many of the symptoms which we face that are bio-chemical in origin also find their origin in our fallen nature. In other words, I can look at certain manifestations of my illness(es) as being the disease “talking” but at the same time it can be my sinful nature “talking”. Here are a few examples:

  • Laziness, sloth, incapacity to work
  • Boredom, lack of interest in anything, indifference
  • Isolation from others, unfriendliness, dislike of crowds
  • Inability to handle children

Now these are just a few examples. I think that any of those three categories could be easily attributed to sin or clinical depression/anxiety.

So what do you confess?

The real mess of depression and mental illness is that they are so intertwined. My general approach is that if you are in doubt, confess it. But it is also a matter of real pastoral care, so that when I am confessing something that isn’t sin, my pastor tells me that.

Probably the dilemma comes from the fact that when you are in the throes of the darkness, you aren’t in a position to be making subtle theological distinctions. I just want relief. And at some level, I don’t really care where it comes from. IT it comes from my pastor forgiving my sins, great. If it comes from my doctor or counselor reminding me that this is biochemical and not a character flaw, great.

So how do you approach this question?

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?

Robert Preus on Mental Illness

I don’t generally think of Robert Preus as the source of all knowledge when it comes to mental illness, but I ran across this article recently. It is well done. Very Preusesque, but he really understands the relationship between faith and mental illness. Here’s one citation to pique your interest:

Pastors who suffer stress and affliction, like any Christian in similar circumstances, may be tempted to look to their faith as a reason for self-esteem and assurance, rather than to the only object of faith, Christ and His pardoning Word. They conclude that failure and inability to cope are due to weak faith or the lack of faith altogether. They are viewing faith as their act rather than as their reception of God’s mercy.

Robert D. Preus, “Clergy Mental Health and the Doctrine of Justification,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 48, no. 2 & 3 (1984): 120.

I recommend this little essay very highly. Check it out. I actually think that LCMS World Relief has this online somewhere, but I can’t find it right now. Can anyone help me out?

-DMR

The Commemoration of +John Gerlach

Below you will find a link to the funeral sermon for Rev. John Gerlach, our brother in Christ who died this past week. Pastor Flo does a wonderful job proclaiming the Gospel, putting our hope where it belongs (on Jesus), and on recognizing the grief that is ours at John’s death. Thank you, Pastor Flo, for speaking His Word to us.

-DMR

The Commemoration of +John Gerlach

(Via Cyberstones)

The Clergy and Mental Illness via Cyberstones

Rev. David Petersen on his blog, Cyberstones, has a nice post about clergy and mental illness. Check it out here:

The Clergy and Mental Illness

He makes some good points that are well worth considering. However, I do disagree with him on a couple things. Please read the following:

2. The Office of the Holy Ministry is so stressful it causes clinical depression, etc.

The other fallacy [the one I’ve listed above] is usually picked up by those who are suffering, whether the actual sick person or by his family and parishoners. They are looking for someone or something to blame. It is mostly false. The Office of the Holy Ministry is no more stressful than any other vocation or job in this fallen world. It does not cause mental illness. But being mentally ill and trying to deal with suffering people is difficult and the feelings of being a hypocrite are immense. So it certainly feels at times to those who are ill as if the Office is the root of their problem.

Obviously Rev. Petersen has a good point. It is easy for those who are sick or for the family of those who are sick to blame the Holy Ministry for depression or some other mental illness. We like to have something or someone to blame. In this sense Rev. Petersen is right.

In this sense he is wrong. The Office of the Holy Ministry is more stressful than other vocations. Not always, and not universally, but there is no question that the pressures put on a man who serves as a pastor is far greater than what one will find in many, even most other vocations (other than father and mother). We deal with the eternal. Heaven and hell. Life and death. We are forced to try and answer some of the toughest questions human beings ever face: why did my mother die? Why did my wife abandon me? How do I know my son will go to heaven? The questions which we seek to answer are deep and abiding, and cannot simply be shed with your winter coat in the closet when you come home.

There is a great deal of evidence that generally speaking, individual serving in service fields (doctors, nurses, social workers, etc) have a much higher incident of clinical depression. The same is true for clergy. I don’t have the exact statistics in front of my right now, but I know that roughly 10% of the general population in America struggle with clinical depression, and that the number is closer to 30% for clergy. That’s a pretty big difference.

Now I don’t say this to provide a scape goat. I say it because one of the key elements in healing is understanding why you are sick. What are the causes. Heredity, situation, family life, lifestyle in general, and good old chemical makeup all play a factor.

I’m not saying this to hold up pastors as the great saints who sacrifice more than anyone else. That is nonsense and I don’t believe it. There has to be an honest understanding on the part of the pastor of how the Office affects him physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. That mindfulness of who we are and how things shape us is a part of what can make a great pastor. It’s also what can contribute to the utter downfall of a pastor who things he has everything under control.

Thanks for your thoughts, Rev. Petersen. I appreciate what you have to say.

-DMR

Christmas Affective Disorder (CAD)

Pastors get Christmas Affective Disorder. I’m surprised it’s not in some medical journal somewhere. Here are the symptoms as I have come to experience them:

1. A fear and even dread of the month of December. It looks. It is coming, sure as St. Nick. With this season comes about six more services, plus everything else that goes into the most stressful month of the year for most Americans.

2. A desire to avoid people. Now I think most pastors who suffer from depression go through periods where they simply want to stay away from people. Probably a result in part of compassion fatigue. But December is worse. For myself, I’d say 60% of the “counseling” I do as a pastor occurs in December and January. It’s crazy. I am afraid to talk to people, yet at the same time I know that they need me now more than any other time of the year. What to do?

3. Sermon meltdown. I’m sure that I recycle more sermons this month than any other month as well. How many more ways can you say Jesus is born for you? When you are stressed, under the gun for time, emotionally strung out, and running on fumes, it is very hard to prepare those memorable sermons. On top of that, there is a very real expectation that the sermons this time of year will be GREAT! The texts are rich and varied. There are more visitors than usual. The need is high. The bar is simply higher. It’s a perfect setup for a meltdown.

4. An elusive sense of Christmas cheer. I want to be cheerful and happy and seasonal. I really, really do. But it is hard. I feel guilty for not being happy and chipper. Which makes me even less happy and chipper. I look at all of the blogs of pastors who are rejoicing so much in Advent and the upcoming Christmastide, and I say to myself, “Why can I be more like them?” I LOVE ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS! Why can’t I get with the program and just be jolly?

So what to do? Here are a few things I try to remember:

A) Jesus comes whether I am Jolly or not. That is the real and true beauty of the season. Our Lord’s Advent is not based on my love, joy, peace, sermons, abilitytointeractwithotherpeople, or whatever else the ailment of the day might be.

B) In the same way, the Word of God is effective, regardless of my personal disposition at the time.

C) Moods change. Just because one day is bad doesn’t mean the next one will be. It may be better. It may be wonderful. That’s the beauty of each new day.

What are your thoughts?

-DMR

Christmas Affective Disorder (CAD)

Pastors get Christmas Affective Disorder. I’m surprised it’s not in some medical journal somewhere. Here are the symptoms as I have come to experience them:

1. A fear and even dread of the month of December. It looks. It is coming, sure as St. Nick. With this season comes about six more services, plus everything else that goes into the most stressful month of the year for most Americans.

2. A desire to avoid people. Now I think most pastors who suffer from depression go through periods where they simply want to stay away from people. Probably a result in part of compassion fatigue. But December is worse. For myself, I’d say 60% of the “counseling” I do as a pastor occurs in December and January. It’s crazy. I am afraid to talk to people, yet at the same time I know that they need me now more than any other time of the year. What to do?

3. Sermon meltdown. I’m sure that I recycle more sermons this month than any other month as well. How many more ways can you say Jesus is born for you? When you are stressed, under the gun for time, emotionally strung out, and running on fumes, it is very hard to prepare those memorable sermons. On top of that, there is a very real expectation that the sermons this time of year will be GREAT! The texts are rich and varied. There are more visitors than usual. The need is high. The bar is simply higher. It’s a perfect setup for a meltdown.

4. An elusive sense of Christmas cheer. I want to be cheerful and happy and seasonal. I really, really do. But it is hard. I feel guilty for not being happy and chipper. Which makes me even less happy and chipper. I look at all of the blogs of pastors who are rejoicing so much in Advent and the upcoming Christmastide, and I say to myself, “Why can I be more like them?” I LOVE ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS! Why can’t I get with the program and just be jolly?

So what to do? Here are a few things I try to remember:

A) Jesus comes whether I am Jolly or not. That is the real and true beauty of the season. Our Lord’s Advent is not based on my love, joy, peace, sermons, abilitytointeractwithotherpeople, or whatever else the ailment of the day might be.

B) In the same way, the Word of God is effective, regardless of my personal disposition at the time.

C) Moods change. Just because one day is bad doesn’t mean the next one will be. It may be better. It may be wonderful. That’s the beauty of each new day.

What are your thoughts?

-DMR