Friday, March 25, 2016

Crown of Thorns: The Ongoing "Good Friday" of Depression

It's Good Friday. And I am still in Depression.

Why? What's going on?

You don't seem depressed.
You talk. You make jokes.

You "look fine." 

You help so many people. 
You're so full of hope.

How can you be "Depressed"?

I don't know. If you're reading this looking for Deep Thoughts, I have none. They have failed me. I'm not sure what I'm going to write here.

I am bi-polar, though it's a bit unconventional. I move between a kind of nervous, obsessive energy (sometimes compulsively "productive," other times paralyzed by anxiety) and a darkness and exhaustion that I don't have words for.

Or rather--and this is very important--I don't trust the words that echo in my head during this darkness. They are words of discouragement. They are prompted by a world that discards "useless people," a flesh that has the urge to disappear, and that sinister, opportunistic monster--the "father of lies"--whom we must not listen to, about whom we can only turn to God and pray, "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the Evil One!"

And so I direct my thoughts outward to others, to creation, to the miracle of sunlight playing with the fringe of a curtain, to poetry, to music, and above all to the memory that my hope is not grounded in myself. My hope rests in the infinite power and the infinite love of Another who makes me and sustains me and loves me.

I am full of hope.

I am also still Depressed.

The condition I suffer from is a brain disease. It is a brain disease.

I have suffered from this kind of mental illness as long as I can remember, and surely since I was ten years old. I have also endured many outwardly physical illnesses in the past 16 years, the most persistent of which has been Lyme Disease (and though this appears to be under control, it went long untreated and has left its mark).

My "mental illness" is as physical as any other physical illness I have suffered. There are other factors that contribute to it and that must not be neglected. But there is an inescapably physical basis. I know that I have spiritual intelligence and freedom and I can get mixed up about what's going on inside me because the brain and the mind are mysteriously interrelated. But I have to remember that in Depression the root of the problem is in the brain.

This is a disease. It is not who I am.

Yet it is a circumstance within which I must live my life!

There are ways to relieve it somewhat, reduce it somewhat, "manage it" (somewhat). But for me there is no cure and I am strangely at peace with this fact.

I do not want to discourage others who are seeking cures, or who have found something that "works" for them. Good. Live that health right now, and don't worry. People are different, and life is a fragile thing. If you find that you are strong, spend that strength in love, in caring for your brothers and sisters.

I am not completely without health. My heart beats. My chest rises with the breath of air. And more: look, today I am writing!

I am at peace. God knows my suffering.

What is "disease" anyway? Why is our longing for boundless happiness so thwarted? There is so much suffering. My brothers and sisters are hungry, in prison, in refugee camps, dodging explosions and living in fear in their own houses. They are sick, disabled, unemployed, alone, forgotten. Trafficked like slaves, abused, beaten, wounded, tortured, put to death.

Desperate and overwhelmed, we humans are all woven together in this brotherhood and sisterhood of suffering and pain, agony and disappointment, of hope and love and aspiration and tenacity. We all die, and we all know that we are made for more than death.

We are made for more....

The crown of thorns. Mother Teresa said that Jesus draws especially close to people who are mentally ill in His experience of the crown of thorns.

He suffers the mysterious agony of this crown in me, and He knows and carries the depths of this pain with a profundity immeasurably beyond what He has asked me to bear.

So there we are again: all my hope is in Him.