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Welcome to my blog, MB's Theological Thoughts. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, feel free to ask, either in a comment or an email. If it's a legitimate question, I'll do my best to answer it. Might take some thinking and some time, but again, I'll do my best.

03 September, 2010

Depression in Retrospect

Depression is not cool. But neither is it the absence of God as so many try to tell me nowadays. You don't need meds to get through it, and you don't need a twelve-step program, but in hindsight, I probably should have acknowledged my problem and tried to get over it faster. This is my story and how I got through it.

It all started several years ago, in July of 2006. My family moved out to a twenty-acre piece of property, leaving behind a home we'd shared for the better part of twelve years. The day we finally moved out of that house was supposed to be a day when I had a bass lesson, but due to the fact that I was feeling sick, I cancelled. It would have been the last time I saw my teacher alive. Sunday morning, my parents broke the news to me that he had been killed in a head-on car accident. I started feeling guilt, feeling like I shouldn't have cancelled my lesson that week. But I wound up getting over it and moving on.

Later on, I wound up falling in love with a friend's sister. After a game of cat-and-mouse that I cleverly orchestrated, I revealed myself as her secret admirer. I asked her to ice cream and she said yes, but then after some thinking, decided that she wasn't ready for a relationship, and that it would be too awkward between us. I took it way too hard, throwing myself into a depressive identity crisis that lasted, for the most part, until March of 2010, totaling almost three years. During that entire time I didn't acknowledge that I had a problem because I didn't want to seem weak, I didn't want to go through treatment or see a shrink, and I didn't want to be preached at.

People would always ask me whether I was okay. I'd say yes, knowing full well that I was lying, both to my friends and myself. But I pretty much turned emo. No, I didn't do my hair backward (short in the front and long in the back) or wear skinny jeans. But I wrote poetry and lots of it. Most of it was very depressive, mourning about how I was wronged and had nowhere to go. I was able to write sonnets on a whim, something I wish I could do now. And my music tastes took a turn for the screamo. I never did listen to Underoath or stuff like that--more like Skillet, Red, know, hard rock and metal.

I finally managed to do some introspection and realized that my problem was that I had no sense of purpose, no sense of direction. I didn't know who I was. I was suffering through the fifth stage of Erikson's stages of psychosocial development. The fifth stage is titled, "Identity vs. Role Confusion". I was thoroughly confused. And it didn't help that I was mature for my age and was also suffering through (and continue to suffer through) the sixth stage, "Intimacy vs. Isolation". My depression was rooted in the latter extremes of these two stages.

So let's talk symptoms really quickly. I was sleeping a lot. I was feeling down in the dumps constantly. And as a part of my identity crisis I kept finding myself wishing I could have a "George Bailey experience", to see how I had influenced people's lives. To see what it would be like if I'd never been born. This is a dangerous line of thinking, borderline suicidal, and I didn't even realize it! By the time I did, I told myself that I definitely should have gotten help. Even though I didn't think I was clinically depressed, I probably was.

I beat depression with a process that lasted from March of 2010 until probably mid-August. It started by facing my fears of inferiority and role confusion, deciding to switch my musical area of study from string bass to voice. I chose string bass because I thought that was what I wanted. But I was no good at it. I knew I was a better singer than I was a string bassist (though I'm probably a better bass guitarist than I am a vocalist). Then I decided to face my other fear, fear of isolation, by asking somebody out. I'd been through almost three years of seeing somebody I liked and saying, "I'd never have a chance with her." With an 0 for 2 record, I expected rejection and felt helpless to avoid it (a phenomenon I later discovered to be called "learned helplessness"). I decided to swallow the frog in my throat and ask somebody. Rejection or no, I was going to do it. I hesitated for a couple of days, and finally asked her to vespers after class. It was such a freeing feeling when she said yes, and that Friday night was the best Friday night I'd ever had. And even though it didn't work out, it was the kick in the butt that I needed to realize that what I was dealing with was beatable without meds, shrinks, or being beaten over the head with a Bible.

That brings me to something that I'm sick and tired of. The entire three years, I heard the same message: "If you're depressed, you need Jesus." Maybe at first I was searching for God, but once I found Him, my depression went away. It was still feeling that isolation, that confusion. And the same message also told me that if you don't feel love, all you need is Jesus, and you'll feel loved like never before. But the thing is that I already had Jesus. I knew He loved me, and I was reminded of that every time I thought of the miracles worked to get me up to Walla Walla, to get my family to the Ranch, and so on. There were songs and skits that painted such a stark picture of the love of Jesus that my emotions got the better of me every time I saw them, causing me to cry openly. No, it wasn't Jesus that I was missing. In fact, God was all I had, all I was hanging onto. I remember praying dozens of times that He'd come and take us all away from this world full of crap. I remember sitting silently in Heubach Chapel, to me the "Holy of Holies" at WWU, and feeling the Holy Spirit touch me, feeling an angel sitting next to me. That was the day that I'd walked out of church because I was hearing the same empty message and the same empty songs. It was like calling tech support and them telling me to do something that I knew wouldn't work.

The theological issues here lies with the fundamental inaccuracy in mainstream Chrisitanity that a relationship with God solves all your problems. The truth is that a relationship with God gives you something to hope for, gives you an attitude of compassion. It's not a quick-fix for your problems. And that's why when some Christians don't get an prayer answered in the way they want, they lose hope. They think God has wronged them in some way. I thought that often enough until I realized that when you don't get what you want, it means only one thing: God has something better planned for you than what you thought you wanted. Something that is beyond your wildest dreams. The road is narrow, not easy. And if you fall, it's like Peter walking on the water. Jesus will be right there to pick us up if we want Him to. And feeling down is not the absence of God, but merely a part of life. Remember that: depression doesn't necessarily mean you need Jesus. You just need to keep hanging on until He makes a way out. Or until you decide to pick yourself up and get over it like I did.

Your Brother in Christ,

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