Category Archives: mental illness

Fifteen years

Fifteen years ago today I almost took my own life. I was in the middle of a “major depressive episode,” and got some really bad news from our insurance company. Because that is how fragile we are sometimes. The deeply spiritual and reflective times of life (like Good Friday) are often interrupted and derailed by the very human and earthly things of life. So it was that I was ready to kill myself, in between our noon and evening services. I was a pastor, after all.

Wait a minute. Christians don’t do that! Pastors don’t do that? Why would you come so close to throwing your life away? After all, since Jesus died and rose again from the dead, aren’t you supposed to be happy as a Christian?

I’ve written about this event many times before (see HERE, and HERE, for example). It was a defining event for me as a Christian, as a husband and father, and as a pastor. So every year I seem to come back to it and ask some of these questions again.

Human beings are body and soul. I don’t have a body or have a soul. I am ME, body and soul together. Any attempt to try to rip these apart inevitably ends up in either gross materialism or dualism. If I am only the material, the physical, then I am no different from animals, or plants, or even the earth itself. Death is my end, and there is nothing beyond it. At the same time, if my soul and body are separated, with the soul being the “real” me, then this physical world doesn’t really matter at all. If that is the case, my body becomes the enemy, trapping me in this world until I die.

So when the body suffers, the soul suffers with it. When I am in physical distress from sickness or injury or whatever it might be, that changes me as a human being. It affects my soul, my faith, my life before God, and my neighbor. And in the same way, my spiritual state changes my body. We are together, forever linked. This is only of the many reasons why we confess in the Creed that we believe in the “resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”

When the brain is broken, or strained, or (to use the very technical term) “out of whack,” then both the body and the soul are impacted. That is what makes mental illness so insidious and evil. Because the dopamine in my brain is not working right, and my serotonin levels are not properly regulated, my capacity for thinking AND feeling, AND doing are all messed up. Unraveling spiritual distress from physical ailments is sometimes nearly impossible. Where does one start and the other end? How can I tell? It comes to the point when we can confess with St. Paul, “who can deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) While St. Paul meant it in connection with his own struggle against sin, the same can be applied to our struggle against the consequences of sin.

It is for all these reasons that caring for those with mental illness is so very hard, so much work, and can involve heartache and frustrations galore. Sometimes you can’t see the way out, and all you can do is keeping going through it with them.

For my own story, there were three people in particular who went through this with me. Well, there were many more than three, but three that always come to the forefront for me.

The first is my wife. At the time of this event, we had three small children, one who was just weeks old at the time. Neither of us knew anything about mental illness. It was the scariest time of our lives, and she had to take care of our children, work, keep the house together, and somehow take care of me. I will never understand how she did it all.

The second is my pastor. He stood by me through so many dark hours, conversations of despair, and brought Christ through it all. He didn’t try to be what he wasn’t. He was my pastor, and he was my friend. I will never understand how he did it all.

The third is my counselor. I didn’t really even know I needed one until a couple of months before this incident. She brought compassion, listening ears, counsel, and wisdom in a way that is truly remarkable. The added bonus was that she was also a Christian, and a Lutheran no less. That allowed her to be my counselor and NOT my pastor. I will never understand how she did it all.

What does all of this mean? It means that caregivers are what keep the world going around. Make no mistake about it. A spouse, a friend, a nurse, a doctor, a pastor, a child, a father or mother, a teacher, a deaconess, all of these and more are the ones who are on the front lines of bringing Christ to a broken and suffering world each and every day. We need you, every one of you.

God is merciful. I didn’t die. And for fifteen years, God has graced me with being a husband, a father, a pastor, and in some cases, a pastor to pastors. Sometimes I will be asked why I’m willing to help broken people. The answer is that I was helped when I needed it most. I still am. If God can use me to offer some comfort or care to one who suffers, then to Him alone be all glory.

Fifteen years of grace. Well really, fifty years of grace. And it isn’t ending anytime soon.



What does all of this mean? It means that caregivers are what keep the world going around.

Seven Years

Seven years ago today I was ready to take my life. I’ve written about it many times (HERE, and HERE are the most recent).

I’m in a pretty good place, from a mental health point of view.  I have an excellent counselor, my medication seems to be pretty stable, and I have a loving and supportive family and church.  I haven’t found a father confessor that’s less than 100 miles from me yet, but otherwise I feel like all of the various pieces are as in place as they are likely to get.  For this I am very thankful.  

What always strikes me, as this day comes around, is how many there are who suffer with depression, despair, bipolar disorder, and so many other diseases and maladies both physical, emotional and spiritual.  Just yesterday I was contacted by three different people about their trials with mental illness.  I had only met one of them beforehand.  Sadly, these sorts of days are not that uncommon.

Our Lord’s death for our salvation was nearly 2000 years ago, and the world continues to be remade by His death and resurrection.  But it is still a sorry, broken world.  More than anything else, we need to hear and receive the healing balm of the Gospel, and we must continue to learn how to give of ourselves to one another.  I speak to myself as much as to my readers.

Know again, friends, that Christ is here for you.  He suffers for you, dies for you, and rises for you.  Rejoice in His salvation, no matter how dark the road may be.  You are never alone.


(a.k.a. Pastor Todd Peperkorn)


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.



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.


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.



It’s been five years since my life took a strange sideways turn. I’ve written about it before (HERE, and HERE for example).  It has made Good Friday a very strange day for me, personally.

This year I’m in a better place personally and emotionally than I usually am by this time in Lent.  Sermons are done (I think).  Family is coming.  Everything is okay.  Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but sometimes, that’s all you have, and it is enough.

I pray for all my fellow sufferers that Christ’s death and resurrection would sustain you in the true faith to life everlasting.  Your labor is not in vain.  Your suffering will come to an end.  There will be peace for you.

Grant peace, we pray, In mercy, Lord;

Peace in our time, oh send us.

For there is none on earth but You, None other to defend us.

You only, Lord, can fight for us.  Amen.  (LSB 778)



Speaking at the mother ship

I just returned from speaking at the Fort Wayne seminary.  The topic, of course, was clinical depression.  It was really a two part visit.  The first part was speaking to a deaconess practicum class, and the second part was doing a “fireside” chat in the Commons with about fifty students and (if they had one) their wives.

I always feel like it is returning to the mother ship when I go home.  No matter how much I like (or dislike) what is going on at the place, it is home in many respects for me.  I feel the same way about Seward.  I don’t really have many ties to Seward anymore, but it is still my school.

The visit itself was good.  I got to catch up with some friends, etc. More importantly, I was able to speak to about fifty members of the student body (and their wives) about depression.  It was basically the same schtick I have done elsewhere (if you want to order the talk, CLICK HERE).

What do you say to a group of men who are studying to be pastors about mental illness and depression?  There’s a lot to say but I tried to keep it to a description of depression, why pastors are at risk, and ways to address it (either preventatively or in the midst of it).  I don’t know if they liked it.  Can you “like” a talk about clinical depression?  But I believe it was and is important for them to hear, and pray that there are more opportunities to do the same.

What would you tell a soon-to-be-pastor about clinical depression?  Why?



Concordia Deaconess Conference presentation


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.




Episode 4 – Letting Others Help You

I Trust When Dark My Road – Episode 4 – Letting Others Help You

The easiest way for you to hear and get these consistently is to subscribe in iTunes.  Try this link from iTunes.

I am trying to send this one out in MP3 format. Let’s see if this is a little more generally accessible.

Again, I would appreciate any comments on the quality, accessibility, etc., of getting this audio.  Thanks very much!


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?