Weary Walking in a Dark Valley

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;     heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled.     But you, O Lord—how long? (Psalm 6:2-3) The Psalmist agonizes over the anguish that impacts his soul -- body, mind, and spirit. He calls on the Lord to relieve him of his suffering, not quite sure how or when or even if God will respond. S.B. write about her struggle with mental illness: Why is it so exhausting? The mental battle has reeked savagely on my physical self. I battled for years with depression. Always treading water. My spiritual walk though however has gotten stronger. I am a stronger more faithful Christian. Now my battle is trying to make it to places people expect me to go. Church is a big one. The guilt for disappointing is immobilizing. The state of our minds impacts the condition of our bodies. A [...]

Weary Walking in a Dark Valley2018-11-07T17:10:04+00:00

When Depression Looks Like Laziness

I went to bed last night at 6 p.m.. I got out of bed at 1 p.m. this afternoon. 19 hours. Sometimes it's longer. This time it would have been had not Briley, my 80 pound lab overpowered me with her playful bites on my hand and slobbering kisses across my face. Briley loves me very much and doesn't want me to add to the despair of my depression by wallowing on a bed of misery. Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I attributed days like these to sheer laziness. I couldn't understand why some days I was so eager to start the day that I would wake up hours before my alarm. Sometimes not sleeping at all. Then other days it was like a Sumo wrestler sat on my gut, pinning me down with no chance of escape. How do I tell if I am buried in depression [...]

When Depression Looks Like Laziness2018-10-21T20:26:41+00:00

How Can I Best Respond to Depression

Originally published April 23, 2017: I had coffee and scones with a good friend the other morning. One thing I greatly value about our friendship is that we quickly dispense of pleasantries, moving right to prayer and the sharing what is deepest in our hearts. I told him that after a lengthy period of emotional and spiritual high, I had fallen into a depressive low. At my peak, I was spending as much as three hours a day in intensive prayer and Bible study. Lately, however, my time with God had become desperately pleading for some sustenance in a verse or phrase of Scripture – “Get up and eat,” “Jesus wept,” “God is love,” and the like. My friend, who has some close loved ones battling mental health issues, asked me a very sincere and poignant question, “How can I best respond to someone who is depressed?” I thought back [...]

How Can I Best Respond to Depression2018-08-10T20:53:04+00:00

I Ain’t Got No Home

{This post was originally posted on May 20, 2017} Lately, I have felt an all-too familiar sense of exile. As a pastor, I moved around a good bit and was encouraged by my ministry supervisors not to put down roots. Now that I'm retired, divorced, and living on my own, it is easy to given in to the temptation to withdraw, to isolate myself, which leads to a vicious depressive cycle from which it's hard to escape. While it does not replace face-to-face contact, I appreciate the community I  have come to know through social media. Often, I read posts that give voice to my unexpressed feelings and help me feel less alone. The post "My Father's House,"  from Mama's Musings is a reflection on how mortality impacts our desire to "come home." Today has been a long and emotion filled day. I have spent time with two people close [...]

I Ain’t Got No Home2018-05-09T18:31:24+00:00

Hiding From the Power of God

Last year, I witnessed God's amazing power in so many ways. My father survived intricate bypass of his carotid artery. Then a stent placement. Then a bypass of the bypass, which had become clogged with scar tissue. I made a commitment to healthy eating and exercise. I lost 30 pounds in 3 months and felt the best I can remember. My step-mom pulled through a delicate spinal implant. I was rear-ended and wound up spending 5 days in the medical-behavioral unit to address both physical and psychological needs. As a result of the injury, I have chronic neck and back pain. But it could have been much, much worse. My 94-year old grandmother, who very much wanted to let go of the burdens of this life, passed into the next in a beautiful way, in her room, within the house she helped build. Surrounded by loved ones. My son, who [...]

Hiding From the Power of God2018-04-26T10:44:33+00:00

Is Depression ‘of God’? – Leanne Sype

In 2013, I partnered with Leanne Sype to begin the process that led to the publication of Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission. I was thrilled with her work as editor, a crowdfunding consultant,a spiritual adviser, and friend. Here is some of her story. *** I have depression. It’s called “situational depression” because it was induced by the situation of both my kids being diagnosed with mental illnesses. My son has ADHD. My daughter has depression and anxiety, which, for her, include symptoms like self-harm and thoughts of wanting to die. Over the course of navigating treatments, advocating for academic accommodations, and engaging in the bulk of the emotional support for each kiddo, I felt depression slowly weigh down on my chest. *** I once had a Christian friend tell me that anything with the prefix de- isn’t “of God.” Depression fell into that category in our conversation. Whether [...]

Is Depression ‘of God’? – Leanne Sype2018-02-14T17:16:05+00:00

A Mental Illness Spectrum?

When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was given a very mixed prognosis. Many of the staff at the psychiatric hospital I was in had cared for persons with severe mental illness for years. What they often saw was people who were essentially non-communicative, sometimes aggressive, often pacing through the halls with what they called the "Thorazine shuffle." They told me I should prepare for a life where I could not return to ministry, get divorced, and, spend the rest of my life in-and-out of psych hospitals. But when I saw my psychiatrist, he painted a very different image. He handed me a memoir that had just come out called, An Unquiet Mind  by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. Jamison is a leading researcher of bipolar disorder and has the illness herself. This book expanded my vision of what God could do in my life despite the challenges of [...]

A Mental Illness Spectrum?2018-01-22T01:28:56+00:00

Love for the Unlovable

I have been mired in a holiday depression. I texted a friend about it and we had this exchange: +.    +     + Friend: What do you think started the decline. Let's break it down. Me: Nostalgia over past holidays. They were not likely as good as I remember them. But my loss still seems palpable. Friend: In Hebrews, the author talks about hearing God's voice. and entering God's rest. He ends up talking about the power of God's Word. That has helped me. The idea we can enter God's rest here -- today. Me: I'm not really connecting on the "rest" part. It's more like I sleep and lie in bed to escape. Friend: Would you say that nostalgia over past holidays is fundamentally a belief that there was a time when God was with you, and now God is not? Me: I have always believed [...]

Love for the Unlovable2017-12-06T17:01:41+00:00

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse

This is not something I want to write. It's something I feel compelled to write. First, an explanation. Mental illness is a serious problem, both for those of us who have it and for our loved ones impacted by it. It is a also a major societal issue. How we care for those who are most vulnerable is a reflection of who we are and what we believe. If we let "the least of these" fall through the cracks, we will be judged by our consciences and by our faith convictions. God does not look lightly at those abusing His children. Mental illness is a medical condition stemming from faulty brain chemistry which current medical science can treat, but not cure. My own bipolar disorder is considered a serious mental illness (SMI). SMIs are disabling conditions that are chronic. You can't just take a pill and make them go [...]

Mental Illness: Explanation or Excuse2017-10-19T14:49:19+00:00

Responding to Suicide

This post was originally published August 11, 2014.    Robin Williams is dead, apparently of suicide after a lengthy battle with depression. My heart is heavy. What a terrible tragedy. How could a man who seemed so full of exuberant life somehow lack the will to live? I respect the family’s desire to keep details of his death private. There will likely be a feeding frenzy in the press — speculation over his mental state, drug use, relationships with others, every jot and tittle to try to explain the unexplainable — some people (and it can be anyone) simply lose the desire to see another day. Whenever I encounter suicide in the news or in the lives of people I know, my mind flashes back to one Saturday night in March of 2008. I was feeling flu-like symptoms and had called to get someone to preach for me. I went [...]

Responding to Suicide2017-08-04T10:27:34+00:00