Thursday, October 14, 2010

Have you gone Mental? (XLVII)

To negotiate the rough waters of depression-anxiety one must have a degree of courage. Anxiety will haunt you while depression taunts you. Sometimes they take turns. Other times they come together. I've written about many things we may want to have in our bag of tricks. Thinks such as a strong support system, healthy diet, daily exercise, development of positive affirmations, positive self-talk, writing in a journal and others. All these have uses at different times in our lives.

I asked one of my "care givers" if I was always going to be like this. I've heard that there is no real "cure" for depression or anxiety. If we are prone to these disorders we will struggle with them to one degree or another throughout our lives. As for my life to as I close my 57th year on this planet, I can attest to this; having suffered with both since I was a teenager. I had a terrible two year period in the late 80's in which I was so affected that I just plain wanted to die. My situation was a lot different then. I had lost my wife, my family and my job, due to my own lack of integrity and stupidity. I had a small support sustem, but most of them just wanted to fix me, or create me in their in their own image; not let me heal.

During this horrible time one person told me that if I didn't reconcile with my wife there is no way I could really be a Christian. I was a minister at the time of this path of pain, guilt, and shame. Even so, I did not reconcile. The individuals who saw me as a non-Christian treated me like a second class citizen and were trying their best with ineffective tactics to attract me to come back among the faithful. I never returned. I became embittered against those self appointed agents of God and the evangelical church in general. It took years for that bitterness to wear off! I never denounced God. I loved God but couldn't stand his kids. I am now involved in a very small church in Portland where we practice love, acceptance and forgiveness. What a freeing experience!

Maybe this story strikes a chord in your heart. Have your disorders led you into unhealthy behavior or negative relationships? If your like me, and I know I am, the answer is yes. It is interesting how the battle lines form. One side are the people of solemn truth who will guilt and shame you into following what they think is right. The other side are the people of the lie. They are the ones who cheer you on to justify and continue in your unhealthy behavior.

There must be a middle ground. There must be a place to which we can go to maintain our integrity and a quality life. When looking at two extremes, the best we can do is to learn to govern our lives from the middle. I do this by taking a break, emotionally, from trying to please either side. I do this by entering a season of solitude. I know from experience that this takes tremendous courage. To take time to be alone is difficult. Its important to take time to read inspirational literature, such as the Bible and other books that speak to you. It is important to pray to God and meditate on the truth that comes to your mind. I found it important to sit in silence each day, listening for the voice. I found it important to take time to reflect with no one else around.

This very difficult. I'd advise you to only undertake this course if you believe you are safe from self-harm and have a strong support system: a person or persons you can call if the going gets too rough. Silence and solitude are not much heralded in our culture, but I have found little else that gives me peace of mind more times than not. What do you say to the individuals who belong to one group or the other, as described above? Tell them you are taking a break for a week or so to sort things out. Part of this break will be your "retreat". When you receive resistance you will know whom to avoid in your life. You may not be able to trust them to truly be a supporter. When you receive a persons' "blessing" on your plan, you will know who you may be able to trust as a supporter.

Healthy relationships are those that recognize the needs and boundaries of others and allow them the space to do what they need to do. You may get lonely and that's ok. Take time for yourself. Go and do things that bring you peace and joy. Walk by the river or the ocean, hike in the hills, go visit one of the flower gardens in your area. We have two or three of these (probably more) in the Portland area. Lie down on green grass looking up to a clear blue sky and notice how green trees contrast with the blue above. I love this one. Look to beauty to heal you. God can be recognized and approached, for example, in nature. Find your peace and you will begin to feel what healing feels like. It feels good to get this glimpse of the healed life. It gives us a goal to aspire to. Once we taste peace (we Christians may say "taste the kindness of the Lord", you will develop a love for it. Your personal retreat may be a day or two or even a week. Take a break in a way only you know how... the kind of break that will best minister to you . . . calm your soul and spirit. Start small, an afternoon or morning for example, and work your way up to more time.

If this sounds too good to be true, you may be a great candidate to build this wonderful activity into your life. I like to take a day or two each quarter to be alone. Even in my ongoing depression-anxiety this feels like it is helpful, at least at the time. My point is that we need to develop a break ... or like Richard Dreyfus told Bill Murray in the movie "What about Bob": "You need to take a vacation from your problems!" A planned retreat can be just that if you have the time, the support, the safety, and the courage.

The prophet said, "Be strong and of good courage for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Its hard for a former preacher to leave out a fiting text or two.) Pardon me.

Typos and all ... God bless you!

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