Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Depression Symptoms: Crying

I am was not a crier. Every once in a while my husband would get a shoulderful when I felt overwhelmed, but mostly I kept my emotions under control.

When husband took medical leave, I cried uncontrollably for a week. I couldn’t do anything because I was crying so much. I didn’t want to go anywhere or talk to anyone because I feared I might burst into tears. Bursting into tears is embarrassing and awkward and, I thought, inappropriate. Even my kids, who are 99% self-centered, were worried about me.

I made it through that week and regained my composure. I thought things were going to get better after that. For a couple of months, they seemed to be. Then some fresh stupidity came about at church and I realized peace was not on the horizon. The crying started again and I couldn’t stop.

The constant crying is what prompted me to see a therapist. It was such a weird feeling. I appreciate a good cry, the kind that relieves stress and afterward I can see clearly things that had seemed foggy. This crying was different. It was like a nosebleed that can’t be stopped. Just when I’d think it was over, I’d start sobbing again. I couldn’t shake it off. I didn’t feel better afterward. I just felt sad.

Taking medication and talking to Therapist both helped this symptom a lot very quickly. Sympathy and perspective were the first two things I got from therapy. I’d closed my world down to a tiny, isolated place where it was hard to not feel desperate.

I’ve learned to talk to some people about how I feel. Writing this blog is a tremendous help in dealing with feelings I don’t understand and feeling like I’m part of a community. Just knowing that people close to me understand things are hard relieves a lot of stress.

To read all the posts in the depression symptoms series, go here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Ninny Report

This is so immature of me, but sr. pastor is still making me bananas and I need to whine about it. Today the staff was all together for devotions and sr. pastor gave a briefing about the candidates the call committee is considering to fill my husband's position.

And my husband was in the room.

And no one on the staff has said anything about his leaving, or we'll miss you, or we wish you well. Several public announcements about calling a new pastor, no public announcements about saying goodbye to THE ONE WHO IS STILL SERVING THEM!

He is such an idiot about dealing with people.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Depression Symptoms: Sadness

Recently I posted a list of the symptoms of major depression. I thought it might be helpful (to you and to me) if I describe how each of these symptoms has affected me. I’ve read the list of depression symptoms dozens of times in my life, but it was almost meaningless to me until I started living it.

A persistent, sad, empty mood

Two weeks of persistent sadness seems to be the standard measure for depression. I used to wonder how anyone could possibly feel sad for two weeks straight. Two days, maybe, but then you just have to get a hold of yourself.

Now I understand. I have felt sad for months at a time this year. I have been paralyzed by it. I have felt like I was drowning in sadness. Moments of hope or optimism sometimes felt like slippery things floating past me in the ocean, things someone else knew how to grasp but I just watched them go by.

At one point, Therapist was trying to help me imagine when it would be time to talk seriously about my husband resigning for the sake of our mental health. She suggested if I could not remember the last time I was happy, it might be time. I actually thought, “You mean I should be able to remember the last time I was happy?”

To read all the posts in the depression symptoms series, go here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

What Depression Feels Like

I've heard someone describe depression as "feeling like you've never had a good day in your life." It's true.

A few days ago I was completely wasted. I could not make myself get out of bed. I knew that lying in bed does not make depression go away but felt overpowered by vague and persistent feelings of wanting to surrender. At times like that, how I feel and what I know are completely unrelated. I feel like nothing good exists for me, but know that there is lots of good in my life.

I could not think what to do except hope that the next morning I would feel better. Blessedly, I did.

Days like that remind me why the relationship between the psychological and the spiritual is so hard to define. Days like that feel like Satan is working overtime, like I might never again be in the light.

If someone asked me why I go to church I might say it's because of days like that. I need to practice knowing that Jesus is with me, that God's promises are reliable, so I can see them in the dark.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Happened?

We have gotten some very kind notes in the last week from friends who want to support and encourage us. It's so good and helpful and hard and I love them for it.

One friend asked, as many have before, what happened to create such conflict in our congregation. I tried to describe how it started here, but really I have no clear answer. The energy, the hours, the tears, that have been poured into trying to grasp the conflict so that something could be done to resolve it are incalculable.

I have theories and I can talk for hours about what I think is going on, but that only agitates me and arouses my anger. I feel like it would help if I could answer this question in some short, understandable way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Telling the Truth

This has been the best week I've had in a long time. I've felt good from breakfast til lunch every day. Things go downhill after that, but maybe I'm just rebuilding stamina.

This week I finally mailed a belated "Christmas" letter to our friends and family. I wrote mostly about our fantastic kids but included news of my depression and my husband's unexpected break from ministry.

Sending that letter was hard. I want people who love us to know what is happening in our lives, but that was a lot of self-revelation in one mass mailing. Discretion has been a guiding ethic in my life so far and learning to balance that with relationship-building emotional honesty is exhausting.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Going to a new church is making me realize just how much I have hated going to church lately. En route yesterday my kids were acting crazy in the car, and I remembered how that used to put me over the edge on Sunday morning. Yesterday, it seemed fine and I knew they'd quit as soon as they unbuckled.

At our new church, lots of people smile and shake my hand and it's easy for me to say, "I'm new here. Could you tell me where to find...? How to ...?" There is a kids' church during the sermon, so we found the person who manages that and she showed us how it all works. When it was time for them to leave the service, my kids just got up and followed everyone else and were happy as could be.

The sermon addressed, in part, our identity. Does your identity rest in Christ, or in obedience, or right doctrine, etc. I tried to apply this only to myself, but my mind kept wandering to sr. pastor. My experience of him suggests that his identity is in something like being right. Technically speaking, that's not my concern anymore since I don't need to see him. But it is very hard to stop judging him.

Thankfully, there was also confession & absolution during the service.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oddly Reassuring

I happened on this thoughtful article about Christian faith, ministry, and depression from a magazine called Just Between Us. No new information for me, but lots of things that I can't hear often enough.

The section on major depression helps me feel less freakish. It's good to see that everything I feel overwhelmed by is common to this disease. I'm not dealing with all of these symptoms, but enough of them at various times to feel like I'm totally losing myself. I am comforted and alarmed every time I read a list of depression symptoms and recognize myself.

Major Depression. This is severe clinical depression, an illness. Your physiology, thinking, and emotional state are disturbed. It is disabling and interferes with your ability to function and think normally. It can be experienced at one time in your life or at repeated intervals. It can go on for months or for years, if untreated. The symptoms need to be constant for two weeks or longer to be diagnosed as major depression.

The symptoms include:

  • a persistent, sad, empty mood
  • crying or inability to cry
  • loss of interest and enjoyment in most things
  • significant weight loss or gain
  • waking in the early morning hours and not being able to go back to sleep; insomnia
  • excess sleep, fatigue
  • loss of energy
  • social withdrawal
  • feeling agitated
  • a profound sense of worthlessness
  • feelings of inadequacy or shame
  • loss of sexual desire
  • difficulty thinking and concentrating
  • indecisiveness
  • recurrent thoughts of death or dying, possibly with suicidal plans
  • substance abuse

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bitter Root

A lot of things are going well. I think I said that in my last post. It’s true. I’m going to a new church where I am able to worship without layers of anger, I’m making some plans for the near future, and I’ve been trying to focus my attention on stretching out good days.

But I also had a counseling appointment this week. It took me a solid 24 hours to come down after that. It was a very agitating conversation and I left feeling like every nerve in my body was standing at full attention.

Being away from church has made a huge dent in my day-to-day anxiety level, but the intense negative feelings I have about what’s happened there did not evaporate. I bumped into a church member earlier this week and had a short conversation with him. He kindly expressed his sadness at our departure and offered to help if we need anything in the months ahead. It seemed like a perfectly appropriate and reasonable conversation but I was catapulted into deep distress, sadness, a steady mental rehearsal of every painful episode.

Therapist drew a comparison with post-traumatic stress disorder to help me understand what was going on. It sounds like a primary way of dealing with this is to talk about it. Ugh. I hate talking about it. I hate thinking about it. I hate being angry. Even writing this is making me feel agitated again.

I will not let this bitter root grow in me • I will not let you leave that legacy • But it gets so hard when pain is all I see” (from the song “Tornado,” Sara Groves)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fruit of the Spirit

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious...hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:19-23)

Good things have happened in the last week. Sunday I attended a new church. I think “our church” is now “my former church.” What a relief. For the first time in months, I listened to the sermon without meditating on the failings of sr. pastor. I heard God talking to me about Himself and me.

Here’s what I heard: you are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit, mp, you are bearing the fruit of you. Nursing anger and wishing for disharmony at your former congregation comes from you. Let Me live in you, and I will fill your heart with love, peace, and patience.

Ouch. And thank you. And let me think on that.


Evenings tend to be difficult for me. Along about 9:00, the kids have been in bed for a while and I can feel pretty blue. I settle on an old recording of unhappy thoughts -- what if? why didn’t he? why us? will this ever be over? Urgent to escape that unpleasantness, I take a moment to select some distraction: eat something (good feelings), watch tv (mind numbing), read a Psalm (reassurance), go to bed (escape). Of these, reading a Psalm is the one that takes a fair bit of discipline. I do not choose it most often because it doesn’t involve escape. Praying = thinking & feeling, two things I’m basically trying to avoid.

Last night, as it happens, I made it through Psalm 37. It was reassuring, challenging, painful & hopeful. Am I the only one who finds this difficult?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Depression has turned the part of my brain that houses self-worth into mashed potatoes. I don’t recall ever having a profound problem sustaining a sense of personal value. Periodic anxieties and doubts, yes; generally overcome with logic and affirmation. Now I have whole days and weeks when I cannot come up with a clear sense of why anyone cares that I am here.

I can talk myself through this. My kids need me. My husband loves me and depends on me in many good and meaningful ways. I have friends who care for me. One friend of many years has spent 4 days in her car during the last year just to come see me when I have been at the bottom of the well. God keeps showing up when I’m about to completely lose it.

That list is an intellectual exercise that would usually light up my internal sense of value. These days the wiring is loose, and my You-Matter Lightbulb doesn’t always turn on.

I’m not clear on when the brain-mushiness will subside. It also screws with my decision-making ability. If I’m trying to decide about something and don’t trust myself, I replay something Therapist suggested, or something a friend said, and then try to weigh that against what I see. It’s weird to rely so heavily on that.

I have a dear friend who says that when she prays for me she says, “Ok, God, game on! Whatcha got? I know You’re going to do something exciting with them.” It’s really nice that she tells me this. I feel such an overwhelming sense of dread and uncertainty, and her confidence and enthusiasm about God’s work in us is a hopeful little platform for me to stand on.