Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Thoughts of a Tired and Troubled Mind

I'm plugging along. Some times are better than others. I may as well write something.

I am still a bit too close to the edge of things. Perhaps its better not to write too much. The intensity of my writing turns too much toward brooding right now. Brooding is not healthy. I want to avoid that.

As I have emphasized in my book (in different terms), it is a constant struggle to avoid getting sucked down the hole of ... what is the phrase? ... feeling disgusted with one's self? Something like that.

But it is not a matter of self-pity. I can't emphasize that enough, so let me emphasize it again: it is not a matter of self-pity. This is not something you "do" or "consent to" with intellect and will. It is something that pulls you and eats at you and tries to consume you.

Yes, it can be an occasion for self-pity or other kinds of self-indulgence; these are things you might mistakenly take up as part of the struggle, the effort to block up the hole. I expect it can also be triggered by self-indulgence and sin; there is a mysterious unity of soul and body, and sin can have many kinds of consequences. And Screwtape gets in on the act as well.

But not everyone who sins gets sucked down the hole. Many people sin with a vigorous mental health. And there are saints who are bi-polar, depressed, obsessive, or wracked with all kinds of neurological disorders.

These things are afflictions. They are diseases. Whatever else may be going on in the moral or spiritual realm, you are sick.

If you can struggle against it, then that means the sickness is not so bad.

A lot more people struggle than we realize. The brain is a delicate instrument. It has its strengths and weaknesses and propensities in different people, and we will probably never reach the end of analyzing the material factors that shape it. Heredity is certainly a major factor. We can mark certain overall common tendencies in whole peoples. Brain health is also affected by many things in a person's particular experience; things which a balanced and not overly ambitious psychotherapy can help to identify and modify.

And, please, take the medicine. If you need it, don't be ashamed to take it.

Who knows what role bacteria and other microbial agents might play in all of this? Environmental toxins? Heavy metals? Processed food? Hormones? The crazy, hyper-lifestyle of the contemporary western world? There are all sorts of theories.

In my own situation I have to take into account the possible role of a chronic infection. Its one reason why I need to be especially careful. 

Enough. I said I wasn't going to write too much.

Really, my problems seem like nothing when I hear about what some are called to endure. But who can understand the depth of another's suffering (much less make comparisons)? We cannot even measure our own. The question is not, ultimately, about who is suffering "more" or "less" ...  the truth is very simple: we are all suffering.

The question is: "How can we help one another?" We can stay with one another in solidarity, giving and receiving mercy, embraced by the heart of Jesus.

Ultimately, what is it that gives each of us value and meaning? It is the fact that each of us is loved by Jesus.

Maybe our brains and bodies don't work very well. Maybe we've failed at everything we've done. Maybe we constantly disappoint people. Maybe we are dull, cantankerous, bad company. Maybe we are ill-tempered, or boring, or too intense, or too reserved. Maybe we are uninteresting, uncultivated, poor, wretched human beings. Maybe we're just not very good people.

But Jesus loves, right now, each and every one of us with an infinite love.

Remember this. Remember your dignity. You are loved. Do not be discouraged.

3 comments:

Devra said...

I think your perspective really fills a gap--between those who take the dogmatic view that depression has nothing to do with the spiritual realm and those who dismiss people suffering from it as somehow just not trying hard enough.

JohnL said...

Well said John. On a not so suffering sense, I know when I feel a bit done out of things, want not need things, I think back to my experiences in a refugee camp or in a third world country struggling (or not struggling) to meet the needs of its people. It helps cure selfishness. Your outlook on life, faced with illness, does help deal with self-pity.

Nancy Piccione said...

John, beautiful post! So glad that you are able to keep us updated.