The pages of my journal in the latter half of 2007 are mostly naked; quite characteristic of me during this period of life. There is a story to be told that these pages refer to as narrative.
I was in a cloudy depression. I started in my forties, in a cold spell, had recently gotten married, surprised at how unexpected my life had become. Life deconstructed.
This depression came like a Fujita-5 tornado, fast and sudden; its signs are only apparent from afterwards. These symptoms appeared unconscious and unfair on our honeymoon.
Here is a story of how depression involves breaking the mind and creating tremendous emotional fragility and spiritual crisis:
On an innocent enough Saturday morning, I changed the engine oil in my Hyundai. I had done it dozens of times. The job is done, I started the engine. Checking that everything was working as it should, I was crushed to find oil running across the driveway. I shut down the engine and ran into completely broken, crying tears like a baby. I met Sarah in the kitchen and fell into her arms before slipping down on the floor. She didn’t know what had happened and it took her some time to figure it out. I was inconsolable. Usually, I might react angrily to the fact that the job went bad; but in my depression there was no agency for such a struggle.
The fracture in my mind had contributed to the spilled oil in the first place; With depression, it’s so hard to keep your mind on the task. I had failed to remove the old O-ring. With a clear mind, I would never make such a fundamental mistake. Still, when I remember that I was performing the task, my lack of confidence was gripping. Neither the mind nor the emotions could hold me up.
Reflecting on the first period of our marriage, I quickly feel the suffering my new wife must have found; her new husband completely uncertain about identity, violated from within, defending down, a victim of a broken mind who ran uncontrollably according to his own will, and a heart vulnerable to the cognitive chaos it underwent.
For a period of just over three months, I had a daily struggle. I was in a paid ministerial role and felt completely inadequate to perform this duty most of the time. Many times I had to put my depression to one side and pray that the Lord would maintain my mind and my feelings every time I served with the youth. God was incredibly faithful. My elder pastor also graciously allowed me to continue working. Having to keep showing up helped. But there were also days when I couldn’t work and no one could create me if I couldn’t create myself.
Coming out of it
What eventually pulled me out of this depression was the Word of God – Proverbs to be exact. I began to read a chapter of Proverbs a day and stayed on that plan, meditating on chapters of about twenty verses daily for eighteen months. This book in the Bible saved my mental, emotional and spiritual life. I read little else about the Bible during that time. Proverbs was a book of the season for me.
Focusing on Proverbs, my mind became engaged and stabilized my emotions as the Holy Spirit spoke the life of encouragement into me. It showed me how important the stability of studying a book or part of God’s Word is. Proverbs gave me the character of God as a structure for the wisdom I sought.
Through Scripture, God was able to stabilize me enough to heal the break in my mind, and it helped strengthen the fragile sense of my emotions.
Fortunately, I got out of this depression as soon as I got into it.
And for the record, I took SSRI antidepressants. They were important; about as important as recognizing signs and symptoms and admitting that I was out of control. As soon as I recognize that I am out of control, I have quickly been able to tackle the confusion and start to get better again.
May God truly bless you as you go gentle with yourself.