Where have I been?

I am extremely grateful that people come here to read what I write. In fact, I’m usually quite astounded, because there is no shortage of reading material on the Internet, and there are a great many writers out there more talented than I am.

My post about Faith in America went up after a 50-day hiatus, and I feel as though I owe you readers an explanation.

I am subject to depression and have been off and on since I was in my teens. Most of the time, I’m able to manage this condition by taking a nightly dose of an SSRI anti-depressant. I’ve taken a lot of powerful anti-depressant drugs in my life, and nothing has worked as well with as few side effects as this new class of drugs known as SSRIs. It’s one of the mysteries of the brain that scientists don’t really know why they are effective in combating depression. But they are.

Except when they aren’t. Every so often, my depression seems to overwhelm the ability of the drug to keep the chemicals in my brain properly balanced. The current theory of depression is that it is caused by some improper balance of neurotransmitter chemicals, primarily serotonin. When I’m under stress or I’ve been sick or I’m traveling and not getting enough rest and exercise, depression sometimes gets the better of me.

It is estimated that 9.5% of the US adults suffer from depression. The symptoms can vary. In my case, I feel tired and can’t get enough rest. I feel unhappy and can’t find pleasure in things that are normally enjoyable. I begin to feel as if dark clouds are swirling around me. I become irritable. Concentrating on my work takes much more energy than usual. And my ability to be creative disappears.

I started a great many blog posts over the past couple of months, but they were all a mess. Incoherent. Moody. Not suitable for public consumption. And I wasn’t able to finish any of them.

We do not have dual, separate natures. Our spirit is very much entangled with our physical being in this life. Therefore, what affects our bodies may also affect our spirit. Depression can make it difficult for us to experience God’s presence. We know from Paul’s testimony (2 Cor. 12:7-9) that God sometimes chooses not to heal us of certain physical ailments, despite our prayers, our faith, and His knowledge of the way these things will limit us.

Despite his prayers in Gethsemane, Jesus was not permitted to avoid the pain and suffering of the cross.

My depression is nothing like what Jesus endured, I want to be clear about that. But the cross teaches us that our short lives in these bodies will include suffering. That can mean the pain of losing a loved one to an unexpected, early death. It can mean disabling, physical injury or illness. It can also mean psychological difficulties. Despite these things, the love of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit are unchanged.

Jesus gave his disciples this warning, and this promise:

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. — John 16:33

My depression seems to be lifting and my ability to write seems to be returning. I appreciate your encouragement of my work here on AnotherThink and I appreciate your prayers. We’re in an interesting season as we move towards the 2008 presidential elections. I’ll have more to say about that and other things relating to faith in these postmodern times, in the next few days.

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Comments

  1. I’ve had grief, but not depression. My mother, however, suffered from depression on and off for her whole life, so I do have some sort of idea what it is and what it means in someone’s life. All that to say that I will indeed pray for you.

  2. Charlie, it’s good to have you back, in both senses of the phrase. I’m so glad you weren’t seriously injured or kidnapped in a Latin American country you visited for work (my mind runs off to Worst Case Scenario Land).

    May the Lord continue to carry you during those times you can’t carry yourself.

  3. Hello Charlie

    I can relate to what you are talking about. I suffered most of my teens, twenties and thirties with mild but debilitating depression, with symptoms setting in just as you describe, for between three to six weeks before the dark clouds would begin to lift. I also have a good friend who suffers with it — as well as PTSD and OCD and bi-polarity to boot!

    My friend — a lifelong Anglican before experiencing a spiritual renewal and involvement with the Pentecostal movement — was astounded how uncomfortable some Christians were with mental health suffering. They gave him the clear impression that it could be overcome by ‘pulling yourself together’ “in faith” of course!!

    For myself, I found the link between physical, mental and spiritual energy was close. The Lord had to speak fairly strongly to me about the real need for “rest” — of a physical nature, not just “spiritual rest”!

    I’ve gradually learned to recognise the signs and to admit to myself when I’m not coping well with stress — and to admit it to my wife, for whom embracing my weakness required something of a ‘paradigm shift’ — and most important of all: to give myself permission to rest physically (even when others around me are still working…I found that really difficult at first.)…

    to slow down, take some time off, some pressure off. Demand less from myself for a while. Take in some things I enjoy, such as bird-watching. I’m normally pretty hard-working so I don’t need to fear that I’m slacking off. Once rested and renewed, I find the energy levels return and it’s not to long before I’m drawn back to my computer and other tasks with fresh energy.

    I’ve also read and found for myself that regular exercise aids in keeping energy levels more consistent, making the lows not so low, the highs not so important for coping.

    I wish you well and am glad you are presently ‘back.’

  4. Charlie:

    I am so sorry that you have been going through this, sorry too that I have been so heedless of your circumstances.

    My only defense, and it’s a poor one, is that I am simply overwhelmed by life in my new parish and my time spent blogging and reading blogs has been dramatically reduced. I’ve even been fairly heedless of everything, in fact, apart from my work…not a good thing.

    You will be in my prayers.

    God bless you.

    Mark

  5. Welcome back, brother – you were missed. I’m so glad you’re OK. 🙂

  6. Welcome back, Charlie. You were missed.

    My prayers are with you.

    Susan

  7. Hi Charlie

    I’m glad to hear your depression is lifting and your creativity re-emerging. I think I can relate– I know what it’s like to be on hiatus from blogging– for a while I’ve been dealing with health problems that kind of crept up on me slowly and turned into debilitating aches and pains. This has prevented me from blogging as often as I’d like.

    In my case too I’ve recognized a connection between my physical condition and my spiritual and creative state. Yet for me, I believe God is using my sickness to help me deal with certain sins in my life.

    Often though, things happen to us that aren’t necessarily the result of any particular sins in our lives, they’re just the result of living in a fallen world. Still, believing that God is sovereign, I take hope in the fact that even these things are not just random events– but rather that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).” Wouldn’t you agree?

    Well anyway, for me such thoughts bring comfort. I’m happy you’re doing better.

    Love in Christ,

    Alex

  8. Glad to have you back, Brother. You were missed! Now I need to get caught up on the reading!

  9. As a fellow depressive, let me remind you that just because you’re a depressive doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there to be depressed about. The only way out is the long view, which, out of his love and grace, Jesus has provided for us.

  10. Hi Charlie,

    Glad you are doing better. The tendency toward depression runs in our family. I find taking fish oil and exercising regularly can help. I’m glad you do have the help of modern medicine.

  11. Pat Slomanski says:

    Thank you for your honesty. It has surely helped me. I too have suffered from depression all of my life. For many years I thought that it was something that I caused. Through it all, though, God has been with me and sustained me when I was almost paralyzed with the condition. I therefore need your prayers as I move onto a new field of ministry. God bless and keep you.