Living with depression

A week ago I came to the realization that I will be open about what it means to live with depression. And, for me, with extreme anxiety. I am on medication for both but that only levels me out – it is not a cure. I have tried for years to hide it – to put on the happy face and, unfortunately, let the people whom I am closed to suffer from my hiding. I have treated the people I love worst of all because I was completely me – a horrible person out of control. No intent but I naively thought that I could be me with these people.

So … depression hurts. Life is dark, painful, lonely (not in the sense of being physically alone but being misunderstood). I rarely have any idea what I am feeling and often have completely opposite feelings at the same time. My mind is full of ideas and feelings that battle inside my head. It is a little like someone yelling at you in your head while outside you are smiling. Everyday things are a battle – getting up, eating, taking care of myself. And, unfortunately, those closest to me have taken the worst of it. It has taken time and space for me to see that and to be fully, truly, sorry for my behavior. And that makes me cry!

I have no excuse! I have no reason for my behavior. And I will be honest that often there seems only one way out. (I have a very understanding counsellor and some incredible friends whom I have made a deal with to not hurt myself without speaking to them.) I do not want to die (death is very final) but I want the pain to stop. I do not want attention or sympathy but I want to be open about every aspect. And when I was open about it (to my doctor and to my counsellor) life changed.

There are other aspects that I will write about some other time. Except to say that in the midst of it all there is always people who encourage me and take care of me (spiritually and physically). Random people who encourage, people who smile.

So I am going to keep writing about it.

God’s mercy

The thief on the cross certainly did not receive
the Kingdom of Heaven as a reward for his virtues
but as a grace and a mercy from God.
He can serve as an authentic witness
that our salvation is given to us
only by God’s mercy and grace.

John Cassian

Yesterday’s word was “love” for me, today it is “mercy”. God’s mercy towards me and also my mercy towards me. I like the Cassian quote. God gives Himself in His mercy – the thing I cannot do, He does completely. There is lots bouncing around my head but I want to come back to God’s mercy.

Solitude – hidden in Jesus

Life has drastically changed for me in the last month. I find myself alone a lot of the time. I am not saying that is negative – I am alone but rare lonely. I have come to embrace this solitude as a way of life. I enjoy when I am with people – I like being of service to other people, especially in their walk with Jesus. Yet these times drain me. And I return to the hiddenness to recharge with Jesus. I enjoy people but I also needs the moments of solitude and silence.

There is something about solitude and silence that means I am hidden in Jesus – not visible to the world, not engaged in the world’s desires and passions. I have my own passion – faith. I have my own time – prayer. I am flexible in how my day moves but it always has the same elements – prayer, meditation, reading, physical needs.

I have stopped listening to music as much. I eat alone – sometimes listening to an audiobook, sometimes simply listening to the birds and the trees. I take a walk alone. Is it a vocation? I do not know.

Prayer and Solitude

I have had a lot of time by myself. Sometimes I read, sometimes I listen to Thomas Merton’s talks to the novices, and sometimes I just sit and pray. I have enjoyed the simplicity of life. I have been trying to use APBA for Morning and Evening Prayer, and also Compline. I like the simplicity of it. No long readings and complicated prayers, with page turning and confusion. Simplicity and now-presence.

Tonight we start our online Lenten Study. It is a journey through the First Epistle of John. I know God has called me in a special way to witness to Him – not so much “teach” but to share with others insights on the spiritual life – to share the simplicity of Jesus. I like getting along-side people and journey with them. Yes, my anxiety and depression make it an overwhelming experience but God has placed people in my life to help and encourage. And, together with other people, always to journey to Jesus!

I have been reading some articles on Kierkegaard and imitation and contemporarility. Again presence of Jesus – “Given for you”. A relationship of person to Person. A relationship in the “now”.

So I am using the gift God has given me – solitude – to love. And to simply rest in Jesus.

27 April

A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it. Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk. One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. ‘My fellow travelers on the way of life,’ he would say, ‘can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence? I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. ‘How poetical,’ they thought. ‘How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.’ Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher’s message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!”

Soren Kierkegaard

3 April

I had a dream last night that I was listening to Kierkegaard preaching in Trinity, Copenhagen. He preached part of a discourse I had recently read. And this is the line he spoke over and over:

I have come to no conclusions but that this really what this Lent is all about. When we are stripped of everything, even the liturgical meeting together, what then? Do you love Jesus more than all of that? When it comes to the very essence of Christianity – do I love my sin more than I love Jesus?

the tax collector

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:9-14

25 March – Priesthood?

Today (liturgically) is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. (If you have done the math, there is less then a month between being made a deacon and priesthood!) I have not functioned as a priest for over a decade. And I have wondered what priesthood means to me. Maybe I should speak of an “inner priesthood” – a call from God to me to live a life of sacrifice and love? But all of that will unfold in God’s time. SO for now, I am waiting!

BTW: that is the worst fitting chasuble!

And we are in offical lockdown. We should only go outside for urgent business like food or medicine. Lots of uncertainty! This morning I was struck by how all of this is again a period of waiting. And we are no good at waiting. We want action – get things done.

WE beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And today is the festival of the Annunciation. With God all things are possible.