Tuesday, June 29, 2010


A few weeks ago I wrote that a congregation had called my husband. He has accepted the call. That is (of course!) good news. It also has the potential to make me completely insane.

By the end of the summer, we will have packed and unpacked our entire house, live in a new community, my kids will be in new schools, we will all be getting acquainted with a new congregation and a new schedule, and I will be visiting an oncologist twice a month for therapeutic poison-drips. Nothing on that list appeals to me. Every bit of it has come to me unbidden.

Here's the crazy part: I am not freaked out. I am, today, entirely calm. I feel content about accepting the call and making the move. I feel confident that God is guiding us there and that He will provide what we need as we need it. I am almost rolling my eyes at myself as I write this because it sounds so pious.

I feel like I am witnessing my own death and resurrection. I surrender. I give up on trying to figure out my life and make it work right. I'll focus on today and thank God for giving me the grace to trust that He will provide everything I need when tomorrow gets here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Adrenaline Rush

I have had a surprisingly pleasant week. My life really, absolutely sucks a lot right now. In the (roughly) two years I've been dealing with depression, though, I've found that the adrenaline rush of a crisis alleviates depressive symptoms. For a while.

Going to the hospital, finding out I had a tumor, focusing on coming home, then coming home and enjoying the rush of love, encouragement and support from friends and family buoyed me for several days.

This afternoon I started to sink again and could almost feel the clouds descending. The vague notions I've had this week of chemotherapy, a likely move (still considering that call!), and the weight of all the work and decisions that lie between here and there looks like TOO MUCH. A lot too much.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Medical Woes

I've been in the hospital for the last several days. I came with pain that made me think appendicitis. I was right on that point, and had surgery to repair it. The surgeon also removed a "large" tumor nearby. Sounds like I'm headed for six months of low-level chemo in the near future.

This is what I've been telling God: "Well, look! Here's something else. Cancer. Good thing you are bigger and more powerful than this mess because it is a MESS. There are entirely too many piles of sh** around here and I cannot cope with them all. I fully expect you can and that you will hold onto me and all of it and just dole out what I need one day at a time.

"You also know that in a few days I'm going to stand up and start pointing and barking orders and trying to get a handle on all this for myself. Please forgive me. And be gentle with me. This is very, very hard."

I can see already that there are going to be some interesting comparisons between dealing with cancer and dealing with depression. People are much better prepared to support a friend with cancer.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I recently read a book that dealt primarily with a grown man's memory of the year he was 11 and his uncle died suddenly, violently. The movement of the story is the assembly of his memory, his childhood understanding, and his deeper adult understanding of what happened.

The most affecting scene is of the 11-year-old boy, Andy, sitting in the living room with his father and grandparents one night when all three adults separately and simultaneously weep. It is a stunning image of raw, private grief. It's a difficult and confusing thing for the boy to witness.

As an adult, after his father has passed away, Andy wonders why he never asked his father more about the uncle's death:
Why, as I got older, did I not ask my father for his version of these events? Now that he is dead, it is easy to wish that I had asked. And yet I know why I did not. I did not want to live again in the great pain I had felt in the old house that night when he had wept so helplessly with Grandma and Grandpa. I did not want to be with him in the presence of that pain where only it and we existed.
I did not want to be with him in the presence of that pain where only it and we existed. I know exactly what he means. How I have feared being in the presence of pain and the way the world shrinks to a horrible, tiny place where there is nothing but grief.

But isn't this the tremendous gift of Jesus? There is no place on earth where we are alone with pain. God is always with us, present in the deepest, most isolating pain. His presence is what I need most.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Prayerfully Considering

A church has called Husband to be its pastor. I think that this should be very exciting to me. It is kind of exciting, but right now it seems more overwhelming. Taking a call requires a lot of energy. Staying here is unsatisfying and will eventually be financially impossible, but it's a grating kind of anxiety rather than a decisive challenge.

In the last few weeks I've finally started to believe that we need to move away from here. Proximity to our last congregation makes it difficult to feel separate from the trauma we met there.

We have, like most clergy families, moved lots. Every previous move was sad but I looked forward to discovering what I would love about our new home. I don't feel that way this time. When I imagine moving I feel exhausted about getting acquainted with a new community, new people, new schools....

Can a move still be good even if it makes me want to hide?

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Kind of Woman

A couple of women I recognize, from a book by Wendell Berry:

The female world turned on an axis held at one pole by Aunt Judith and at the other by Minnie Branch--Aunt Judith, with her bred-in dependency, her sometimes helplessness, ill with fright and self-regard, childless and forever needy; and Minnie, who was fearless, capable, hardy, fecund, unabashed, without apology or appeal. Minnie could cook and keep house for what amounted to a small hotel, split firewood, butcher a hog, raise a garden, work in the field, shoot a fox, set a hen or wring her neck.
I have little in common with either of these characters, but I act often out of fear of being as weak as Aunt Judith and desire to be as invincible as Minnie Branch. Imaging myself always in terms of these two poles makes me constantly dissatisfied and a little crazy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Depression Symptoms: Withdrawal

Social Withdrawal

I knew I was doing this. I saw it happening before I even realized I was depressed. It seemed like a reasonable response to the stress in my life. As I began to feel overwhelmed by my family’s needs my circle of concern quickly shrank. I stopped trying to get involved at our new church. I stopped calling friends to check in. I avoided situations where I’d meet new people.

One day I was in the downstairs playroom with my kids and realized I was purposely hiding from the world. I dreaded leaving the house. I felt like I couldn’t handle questions or attention from other people. I think I was struggling for some control over a situation that had spun quickly, wildly out of my grasp.


Though I am much better now I still have to coach myself into social situations and often feel spent afterwards. The phone is most difficult for me. I’d rather be face-to-face or communicate in writing than talk on the phone. I imagine it has to do with the difficulty of deciphering interpersonal cues on the phone without the benefit of body language and context.

A few weeks ago I had plans to meet a friend out for the evening and had to call at the last minute to cancel. I don’t remember what preceded it, but I was terrified about leaving the house and navigating a lively evening out. I called her in tears. It was embarrassing to admit I couldn’t leave my house. I spent the rest of the evening on the couch under a heavy blanket.


I have come to believe that the way sr pastor treated my husband was abusive. We often described it as working with a terrorist -- there was no pattern or predictability to his “attacks” except that there was always another one coming sometime.

Being abused disrupts a person’s sense that the world is basically safe. I became persistently, sometimes intensely, fearful of being with other people. I came to expect to be rejected.

Personal rejection seemed ok back when I thought most people liked me, but the constant flow of judgment, disapproval, anger, and punishment from sr. pastor to Husband (and by extension, me, as much of this related to our family) made me to feel that rejection was normal and acceptance rare.

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

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I (Don’t) Pray For

God pointed out something distressing to me today. I write down some of the people I want to remember to pray for and all of them are people who do not live in my house. I neglect to ask God’s blessing on the people closest to me! It’s shameful.

The reason for the omission was immediately clear to me. Every intercessory prayer on my list is a person or situation over which I am sure I have no control - people who are sick or grieving, or who are on the periphery of my life such that I care about them but have no influence over them.

My family, however, is *my* responsibility. I take care of my kids and participate in the important aspects of my husband’s life. If something is not right with one of them, I take steps to make it better.

The layers of my illusion that I have control are stunning. I’ve written down the names of my kids and my husband because it seems I need to be reminded that God is responsible for them and He’s invited me to express His care and love for them.