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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

 

 

 

38 Years–Keep Your Heart Young

State of the Brian Address

Another year. Another Birthday. A lot has changed. A lot has remained. Been a roller coaster!

My back-to-school-life-change has gone well.  Though my wife considers it a mid-life crisis. You really can’t be too young for mid-life crisis, because who really knows how long you will live. I don’t know if I am concerned about inching closer to a milestone like 40; but I am very aware that by the end of this calender year I will have lived longer than my biological mother. Not creepy. Not interesting. Just there…lingering.

I love school. I feel just as at peace and content with the decision to pursue this degree/career path as I did a year ago. I have enjoyed the teachers, books, concepts, people, etc.

Working and “working a real job” have been challenging. Very challenging. It’s not so much the work, I stayed busy as a minister with many emotionally draining weeks. But having zero flexibility and not seeing my family often enough has been hard. Waking at 4:30 most days and no longer using my snooze button has been………

I just started a new, less crazy job closer to the house and Marisa got a job for the Summer at Kohl’s so we are grateful.

Somewhere in the past year, I lost my filter. I have reverted a little to “Brian, circa 1995-1996” (my Freed friends might remember that well). My personality has shifted a little. I chat up waitresses and clerks, joke with strangers, and make a general fool of myself for laughs at work and school. I have more confidence and feel mostly comfortable in my own skin. Trying to be myself without being too much of an idiot. But on some days those two overlap.

After taking a break of a few months away from “head meds,” I felt the need to start up again. I “fell on black days” back in the Winter but am doing better now. I am glad I started again. Life has been stressful balancing work, family, school, church.

Life is good, though. School rocks. Work is work. We have a wonderful church family (Hermitage Church of Christ) that has blessed us in many ways. I am giving a devo tonight outdoors after some lemonade and cookies. Family is adjusting well to life in TN. School and scouts going well for the kids.

Trying to stay young at heart. I really think I want to work with kids and young people. Humans from elementary schoolers to college students will hopefully be the focus of my career as a therapist/counselor.

A great blessing in the past year has been my young friends at school (the older ones, too). They sometimes make me feel old. But mostly make me feel young. My cohort/classmates are an amazing and talented group. I am grateful for them. S/O to Lipscomb peeps!

For my birthday, I just want you to listen to this Brandi Carlile song. It’s cool.

“Don’t go growing old before your time has come…..”

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

What I been Reading

Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron

You can read the DSM and doctor’s comments but reading a narrative by a gifted author (Sophie’s Choice, etc.) about what it’s like to have Major Depressive Disorder is enlightening.  He talks about how his view of depression (and suicide) change after suffering himself.  He talks about suicide, including how close he got, and various artists he knew who killed themselves. Provides great insight into severe depression.

His writing skill, personal experience, and research (he himself read about his disease in the DSM) provide for a fascinating and brief (less than a 100 pages) read.

Scarred Faith by Joshua Ross

I have already loaned my copy so I can’t quote much except this: “May God forgive us for taking better care of our buildings than we do our neighbors.”

The book is very personal and very powerful.  It focuses on the loss of Ross’ sister who died unexpectedly at a young age and that death’s impact on his faith. He says a lot of important things about risk, adventure, and faith. His style is humorous and down-to-earth but also be warned: Don’t read it in public unless are you okay with crying in public. Big, ugly crying.

The second half of the book has a lot of great stories about what God is doing in Memphis.

Would be great for anyone who has lost a loved one, for ministers, and Jesus followers of all kinds.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison

Only halfway through this one but it is interesting.  It’s a personal account about living with Bipolar Disorder (technically Schizo-Affective because she also had delusions/hallucinations but she focuses on the more commonly known Bipolar) written by a psychologist.  She does a great job of painting the picture of the mood swings, especially the highs of mania and the spending, risky behavior, etc. that accompanies it.  Jamison does a good job of explaining why so many who suffer from BPD resist taking medication in spite of the severity of the symptoms.

The most interesting tidbit so far is that she made it all the way through graduate school without recognizing she had Bipolar Disorder.  She was well aware of her moods and struggles but didn’t connect the dots.

Mental Health Monday: Carl, Counseling, Culture and Context

Freud often gets a reputation as being a perv. Keep in mind he was dealing with wealthy, Victorian women who were stuffy, so sexual issues were repressed and not often discussed.

Also consider American culture when Rogerian theory was tested and arrived as influential.  Children were to be “seen and not heard.” Authoritarianism was the norm.  Politicians, parents, church leaders were generally obeyed and respected.  For a client to sit in the chair and be totally accepted and allowed to say, think, feel whatever they honestly felt was drastically new and innovative. People desperately needed that.

What about now?  What about subsequent generations?

Saw a lot of TV about the Kennedy assassination because of the 50th anniversary.  Many view that as a turning point in American history towards cynicism and pessimism.  Definitely the Vietnam era saw rebellion and revolution become a norm.  Authority and Authoritarianism took some big hits in the 60s and 70s.  The period from the Dealey Plaza to Watergate saw revolutionary, societal change in American.

So now we have a few generations raised in a more lassez-faire atmosphere as far as parenting is concerned.  Instead of being seen and not heard, the spotlight landed directly on the youth of our families and culture. Authority–whether governmental, church, or parental–is not as respected as in Rogers day.

So what about these people? Maybe some boomers, but definitely the more recent generations? Will they respond to “unconditional positive regard” as well as previous generations? Some will suggest they have already received too much of it. Will they need more direction because of the lack of direction given during their upbringing?

I don’t have answers, just some thoughts I wanted to share. I do believe that culture has a great impact.

What do you think?