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National Mental Health Awareness Week

Well, even though I am in school to be a Mental Health Professional some day, I am also in grad school and busy, so I neglected the calendar.

And as someone who is occasionally mental, well, that would also explain why I forgot….

I have written about my personal experiences and shared some resources on this blog over the last few years, here are some if you are interested or need them. Let’s not wait for a family member or a celebrity death to make us aware of this problem.

My Depression

My Depression, part 2

Last Time About my Depression

Afraid of Bad News

State of the Brian Address

Book Recommendations:

Unholy Ghost

Lincoln’s Melancholy

What I been Reading

 

 

 

Unholy Ghost: writers on depression

I just finished this amazing collection of personal stories of depression by professional writers. Some were siblings or spouses of those suffering, but most of the writings were by people who have suffered a great deal.

When you are depressed, you don’t write. But these people, after the fact, sometimes with help from family and journals, recount their lowest points and what they learned.

One chapter is a woman in her thirties who talks about being pregnant while on medication. An African-American woman talks about how depression is viewed by the black community. A man survives overdosing on 65 pills then finds another pill in a jacket pocket and wonders if that would have finished him off.

They write about suicide attempts, long hospitalizations, and many more sad events. Grab a used copy at McKays or Amazon.

Unholy Ghost: writers on depression edited by Nell Casey, includes excerpt from Styron’s Darkness Visible; Styron’s wife, Rose; Larry McMurtry (western author, Brokeback Mountain); Susanna Keyson (Girl,Interrupted); Jane Kenyon’s Husband; Nell and Maud Casey, sisters, both giving an account of Maud’s struggle.

I highly recommend reading it. It provides a great balance to some of the textbooks I have for school.

Here are some of the quotes that struck me:

“I think depression and despair are reasonable reactions to the nature of life.”   -Susanan Kaysen

“The raw nub of my soul bobbed up to the surface, ugly and ungainly, and I was suddenly pierced with panicky malaise.” -Darcy Steinke

“my own view….is that depression arises out of an enormously complicated, constantly shifting, elusive concatenation of circumstance, temperament, and biochemistry.”   -David Karp

“You do not cheer up depressives; the worst thing you can do is to count their blessings for them.”  -Donald Hall (husband of Jane Kenyon)

“My failure was not in perceiving reality; I perceived it full well, and despised it.”  “I was nearly paralyzed by dread of my inadequacy.”  -Nancy Mairs

“My heart pumped dread. It was an actual substance I could feel coursing through my bloodstream–some days a barely-there awareness, other days a carbonated liquid that seemed to have replaced my blood.” -Lesley Dormen

“Depression is a place that teems with nightmarish activity. It’s a one-industry town, a psychic megalopolis devoted to a single twenty-four-hour-we-never-close product. You work misery as a teeth-grinding muscle-straining job (is that why it’s so physically exhausting?), proving your shameful failures to yourself over and over again.”  -Lesley Dormen

“I don’t know where depression comes from or where it goes. I do know that it was the crucible, the rite of passage, that allowed me to create my life.”  -Lesley Dormen

“…one thing people always say about depression is that stubborn, consistent support helps even when it seems like it doesn’t..” -Nell Casey

“…to be depressed is not to have words to describe it, is not to have words at all, but to live in the gray world of the inarticulate, where nothing takes shape, nothing has edges or clarity.”   “Being depressed felt like living in a corpse, so being dead seemed like ‘a better place to live.'”  -Maud Casey

What am I Reading?

Glad you asked.  May not finish these until August because classes start this week, but enjoying all three.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

This classic is a hard read because of the content of Frankl’s concentration camp experiences. Existential theory gets a bad rap in Christian circles for different reasons, but I believe there is more complementary between the view and Christianity than contradictory.

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

my favorite part is actually from the preface, and not even a main principle of the book:

“…success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success; you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio

I have been interested in this for a while. It is written by a neurologist, but for a general audience. I worry that emotion is given a bad rap in psychology and Christian circles. He has done research that suggests that emotion can be an integral and helpful part of decision-making.

“feelings are just as cognitive as other percepts.”

“Emotion, feeling and biological regulation all play a role in human reason.”

“I began writing this book to propose that reason may not be as pure as most of us think it is or wish it were, that emotions and feelings may not be intruders in the bastion of reason at all; they may be enmeshed in its networks, for worse and for better.”

Unholy Ghost: writers on depression

This is an anthology of writers sharing their own experiences with depression.  So it’s not clinical but personal and fascinating. And powerful, at times.

There are three cases where a person afflicted will write, and then a loved one will share their perspective.

Russel Banks contribution, “Bodies in the Basement” is a great essay on poetry, fiction, and depression. Highly recommend.

You will get stuff like this by Darcy Steinke: “The raw nub of my soul bobbed up to the surface, ugly and ungainly, and I was suddenly pierced with panicky malaise.” So, if you are interested in depression/mental health but prefer something more scientific, this may not be for you.

My favorite, so far, has by Susanna Kaysen, who wrote, “One Cheer for Melancholy.”

These quotes give you the gist:

“Any psychiatrist can tell you this (pessimism) is a standard defense mechanism against disappointment and loss. But so is optimism–and optimism is a lousy defense mechanism because more than half the time it leaves you feeling bad.”

“Seeing things clearly, for me, is a sort of happiness, even if what I see is banal or sad.”

“Americans are saddled with the idea that we can and should be happy.”  (I could go on for days on this sentence)

“I think depression and despair are reasonable reactions to the nature of life.”

“The melancholic temperament is equipped to perceive and, more important, to tolerate the fundamental ambiguities of life.”

 

 

 

Emotionally UnHealthy Spirituality, cont.

More Excerpts and Summaries from Peter Scazzero’s book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.”

6. Doing for God instead of Being with God.

I have often wondered if having lots of programs and activities were the best thing for a church. If we are expected to be at the building 4 days a week, how will that affect our living of our faith in the world.  Scazzero deals with the tendency to emphasize and value activity to the neglect of relationship with God/Jesus. I have known Christians and churches who emphasize the work of evangelism so much above the work of sanctification or even discipleship. And the results can big churches full of eternally immature Christians. But with all the people and all the activity, it’s hard to see the downside.

“Praying and enjoying God’s presence for no other reason than to delight in him was a luxury, I was told, that we could take pleasure in once we got to heaven.”

“But work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego, power, needing approval of and from others, and buying into the wrong ideas of success and the mistaken belief that we can’t fail.”

The result in Scazzero’s eyes is that “our sense of worth and validation gradually shifts from God’s unconditional love for us in Christ to our works and performance.”

7. Spiritualizing Away Conflict

“…the belief that smoothing over disagreements or “sweeping them under the rug” is to follow Jesus continues to be one of the most destructive myths alive in the church today.”

Scazzero said that he personally was the great “peacemaker” who avoided conflict…”so I did what most Christians do: I lied a lot, both to myself and others.”

Specific examples:

  • blame or attack
  • making promises we have no intention of keeping
  • become sarcastic
  • tell half the truth to no hurt someone’s feelings
  • say yes when we mean no

When does too much activity in your life or in your church become a problem?

So, do you agree with the problem of “spiritualizing away conflict?” How do you handle conflict?

Mental Health Monday: OCD Personality Disorder in the Church

Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is not the same thing as being OCD.  It’s related but has different symptoms.  Whereas in regular OCD there are hard to stop/control thoughts and behaviors, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder is seen as an extreme type of perfectionism.

Symptoms include (from National Library of Medicine website and my class notes):

  • Over-devotion to work
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Lack of generosity
  • Not wanting to allow other people to do things
  • Not willing to show affection, lacking in expressiveness or warmth
  • Difficulty in relaxing and having fun
  • Preoccupation with details, rules, and lists

Unfortunately, this sounds like some churches and Christians I know.

You can stop laughing or being offended, because I am serious. This is a prominent manifestation of “Christianity” that does not glorify God. This “perfectionism” mentality (whether pathological or not) is why some churches are dying, while they think it’s because no believes or wants to hear their “TRUTH.”

It’s the worst case of legalism. I don’t know if you can diagnose an entire denomination or not, but many churches need help. They are believers who want to do what is right, but are consumed with doing what is right instead of being consumed with their Creator God and Savior Jesus.

Fear of not getting a list right keeps them from KNOWING God and truly having a relationship with him. It causes them to be judgmental and arrogant. It divides churches and hurts families.

Yes, there is truth and we must be faithful to what God says, but each one must decide if God’s Word/Law/Truth is being used to make oneself feel good and right and better than others, or if a love of Truth and righteousness flows out of an intimate and loving relationship with Jesus.

You can read more about the disorder HERE.