September 23, 2014

When The Pain Becomes Too Much To Bear

VanGogh_Depression“Just the pain, the excruciating pain, was just too much.”

These were the words of a friend of Matthew Warren when he learned that Warren, the son of Rick and Kay Warren, took his own life last Friday. I know that pain all too well.

I have been honest with you about my battle with depression. It has not gotten any easier or better. And yes, sometimes the pain, the excruciating pain, just gets too much. I would much rather suffer physical pain than this emotional pain. Matthew Warren, a Christian who came from a loving home and had access to medical and spiritual help, could no longer bear his pain. Statistically, another American ended his/her own life seventeen minutes prior to Warren’s suicide, and another seventeen minutes after. Eighty six people in the United States take their own lives each day, while another 2,150 attempt to kill themselves. And this does not take into account all of those who walk through their days suffering from depression, feeling as if their soul is in a vice and their life is being slowly suffocated.

But statistics don’t feel pain, only people do. And mental illness does not avoid those who check the “Christian” box on their census forms. I guarandamntee you that at least one person in your pew or row at church this Sunday will be one who is suffering from depression or another mental illness. No matter the size of your congregation, chances are very good that at least one person in worship with you this Sunday has had suicidal thoughts in the last six months. And while we will gladly (and rightly) declare ourselves pro-life and take a stand for the unborn, we cower in ignorance and fear when confronted by someone who has emotional pain that could cause them to take their own life.

As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane? Are we not all a little off the balance? C.H. Spurgeon

I really don’t want to join the growing chorus at this time saying that the church needs to do more for the mentally ill in their midst. Yes, that is true in a broad sense, but once again, the “church” is not going to be the one to help. It is the people who make up the church that must be God’s hand extended to those who are hurting. And these human hands are just that, human hands, imperfect and flawed and clueless. Yet it is these hands the Lord uses, or wants to use. So I want to address three people in this mess of life that involves pain so severe it can result in death.

First of all, pastors. You are not a leader, you are not a director, you are not a spokesman. You are a pastor, a shepherd. There is nothing, not one thing, that matters more than your sheep. Nothing. Forget everything else but the sheep in your care. Sheep get sick, and if you don’t care for them, they will die. Yet since you are most likely not a licensed counselor or medical professional, just how are you going to care for the sick sheep?

Certainly prayer. By all means, prayer. And helping them to know how God sees them is vital. For so many caught in the web of depression, the spider that is closing in on them is doubt and despair. Doubt that God cares, that he even knows who they are or that they are in agony. They may have seen God clearly for much of their lives, but now the clouds are so thick they wonder if he ever existed. Your job is to turn their eyes from themselves to God. This is not easy. It will take time and patience and tender fierceness.

More than anything, you just need to be there for them. Not just once or twice, and not just when you see the on Sundays. Go to them, even if they don’t want to see you. See them anyway. Sit with them. Listen to their stories. Stay. Be. Care. That is what a shepherd does. And you are a shepherd.

Next, laymen. You are just as useful to God in bringing healing as the shepherd is. Maybe more. After all, if my pastor were to come see me (which he hasn’t, but that is another story), I might think that he was just fulfilling his duty. But when my friend Mike calls to tell me he is coming over to watch baseball with me and bringing ice cream, I know it’s not because he is being paid to do so. It’s because he knows I am suffering and he wants to help bring healing. (When I told him I was feeling the effects of depression, he said he didn’t think it was depression, just a recession, and with any luck we’d get through it without anymore layoffs. I told him to shut up and pass the ice cream.) You won’t have to look very far to find someone suffering from depression in your workplace, your neighborhood, your school or your church. (And if you can’t find anyone, you can come be my friend.) And just like the commercials that say you don’t have to be perfect to be a Big Brother, just willing, the same goes here. You don’t have to be a medical professional or professional minister to give aid to one suffering from depression. You just have to be willing. I don’t want someone to come over and try to “fix” me.  I just want friends who will love me and be with me.

I wrote earlier about how lousy Christians are at loving one another, even though that is the one mark Jesus said will identify us as his followers. I talked about how few people I have had who are willing to say “I love you” or just come be with me. This week I had breakfast with a friend who apologized for not being there for me, and said “I love you.” With him, that brings me up to a total of … three. Three people from my church who have said “I love you and will walk with you as you go through this.”  I can count two or three other friends who also are there to encourage me (like Mike, who goes to a different church than I do, and my former coworker Smokey) and show me love. There are others, however, who, for whatever reason, don’t want to say “I love you” or cannot find time to just be with me. There are those who say, “If you are ever having a bad day, call me,” not understanding that someone in depression can’t even pick up the phone and call. So if you are going to be used of God to bring healing, you will have to do the calling. It will most likely be inconvenient and tedious to go sit with someone who is not the life of the party. Do it anyway.

Finally, the one who is depressed. You are sick, just as someone with diabetes or cancer is sick. You can’t just “get over it.” You need help. You need medical help. You need counseling. Both of these are necessary (and I am receiving help from my doctor and from a professional counselor). You also need spiritual help at this time, and that is going to be more difficult. If you have a true shepherd at your church, one who is willing to tend to sick and lost sheep (which, by definition, is all sheep), then count yourself among the fortunate few. If you attend a church with a leader or a celebrity or someone other than a pastor, you are going to have to look elsewhere. But do look. You don’t need someone who is a gifted speaker or a noted theologian. You need a patient listener who will help you to see through the clouds to the One who has never left you and never will leave you.

You may find it hard to keep going to church, to face those who smile and seemingly have no cares beyond beating the Presbyterians to Applebees for lunch. Forget them. Instead, find someone else who is hurting and give them a hug. You will know that one when you see him. He will look just like you.

Here are some additional essays/stories to read on this topic.

The Depression Epidemic

Spurgeon On Depression

The Boat In The Backyard (Michael Spencer)

 

Comments

  1. These are very good words, Jeff. Thank you. I think many people are quite willing to help and support you through physical illness, because it’s clear and understandable and there’s (usually) an end in sight. But with depression, I think people just don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. I’ve found the 12-step programs better places than church to talk about my depression, but as you say, there is nothing like a true close friend, wherever they come from.

    • H. Lee, I don’t want to pry into your personal life, but it would be extremely helpful to me to know what kind of 12-stepper you found that deals with depression if you are not a drunk or a druggie or overweight or anything else beside depressed in one or more of its emotional guises.

      • I’m in Al-Anon now, but I came into the 12-step programs through Adult Children of Alcoholics. In fact, my parents weren’t alcoholics, but alcoholism ran rampant in my mom’s family, and my immediate family therefore had most of the characteristics: denial, repression, sudden rages, “Don’t trust, Don’t Talk, Don’t Feel.” ACOA was an enormous relief for me, and I spent many years in it. In Al-Anon now, I am “allowed” to talk about my feelings, and I do. The Steps work on depression, at least for me. For instance, if I’m feeling a situation is terribly stressful and depressing, yet I keep letting it occur over and over (such as not paying bills on time), I’ve now learned to ask myself, via the Fourth Step, “OK, so what’s my payoff here? What am I getting out of this?”

        Of course, mine is now rather garden-variety depression, not the wrenching, horrible stuff of my early days in recovery, where I got a far too close look at what drove poor Matthew Warren to his death.

        There aren’t many ACOA meetings around here any more. I think nowadays most people just take a pill for the pain. I take anti-depressants too, but I’m rather glad I actually took a look at myself and my life first.

        • ACOA groups are for people that came from any form of dysfunction in their families, not just alcoholism. The 12 steps can be a very real tool for those suffering from depression.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      You said, ” I think people just don’t know what to say, so they say nothing”

      I think your assessment is right on the money, but what they don’t realize is that the hurting person (whether they have depression or are in grief over a death) don’t want you to say anything: they want you to sit next to them and listen, or just hold their hand as they weep.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      If some of you are getting relief from 12 step programs, okay, that is wonderful, but a word of caution.

      I have a brother who is an alcoholic who is a big time cheerleader for Alcoholics Anonymous, which is, of course, a 12 step program.

      Talking to this brother is about impossible because of it (not that we were ever close to start with, but AA has made it more complicated).

      My brother is unwilling to simply listen and give sympathy if you tell him you are having some kind of problem or heartache in life. Due to his AA indoctrination, my brother will blame you for your own pain, even if you did nothing to cause it. I found this baffling and insensitive. I’ve never been an alcoholic or been to a 12 step program, so I looked up websites about all this to see if this is normal.

      What I found from my research, especially on sites by ex-AA members, is that AA leaders are in the habit of asking their AA members, when the members complain about anything, “And what role did you play in that?,” as if to say you bear some responsibility in whatever the incident or tragedy was.

      I understand that some substance abusers may shirk taking personal responsibilities for their actions and choices, but it is simply not true that all of us are always to blame for abuse or bad things that happen to us in life, but from what I’ve read, a lot of these 12 step groups blame people for things that are not their fault. This could be a huge set back for the one who is struggling with depression.

      There are already enough “blame the victim” types out there against Christians who have depression, both in the church and in secular culture.

      If you are a Christian with depression, you will be told by some people that it’s your fault you have depression, because God is punishing you; God is trying to teach you a lesson; you have unconfessed sin in your life; you’re not trusting God enough – or some other blame-assigning reason will be given.

      The last thing you need is to walk into a 12 step group and have them ask you, “And what role did you play in creating or sustaining your depression?,” as if to say you are to blame for being depressed, or have a lot of control over it, or can just make it go away by making different choices.

  2. From the Christian Monist blog this week:

    The closest I ever came to killing myself was after I talked to a pastor of a mega church in Houghton, Michigan. I was sitting in the vestibule. He was sitting beside me (prior to the service). He asked me how I was doing (I didn’t realize that for him it was superficial small talk). I told him I was struggling with depression. He didn’t bat an eye. In 15 minutes he was standing in front of his church of 900 people. Almost the first thing out out of his mouth during his sermon was, “I’m sick and tired of Christians telling me that they are depressed. Do we serve a depressing God?” The congregation shouted a definitive, “NO!” I started to think were I could get some rope.

    • Danielle says:

      UGH.

    • CM……oh, My God! I cannot believe that someone who is supposed to be a Christian leader could be so deliberately and horribly cruel!!! The mother and nurse and friend in me would love to get this guy’s name and address so I could give him a few choice words of my own…….

      The black dog mostly stays out of my yard these days, but not always. It is mostly my friends who chase the damned wretched beast off, but he likes to show up when it is dark and I am alone.

      Why can we not, as Christians and as Americans, get the idea across that depression is not feeling sad, it is not a spiritual weakness, it is not the sole property of non-Christians, and it is a brain disease.

      People with brain tumors, strokes, and traumatic brain injuries usually have a personality change afterwards…..this is medical fact, and few people blame Granny, a lifelong Baptist and bible-study guide, when she starts swearing and flirting with every man she sees after a stroke. Her brain structure and chemistry has changed, and her free will has been compromised due to this.

      Depression also deals with brain structure and chemistry. Clearly, it is not the ONLY factor~we are a syntheses of mind, body, and soul, and our thoughts, feelings, and faith can make matters better or worse. BUT the issue remains one of an illness, one not wanted, imagined, or embraced.

      For all the good it might do, consider yourself cyber-hugged, from someone who has been down that lonely road (of course, it looks different for every traveler). As I have shared often—-I don’t know if here or not—–at one time, my faith and a real fear of Hell kept me from suicide. In fact, I shared with a good friend (also a professional counselor but not mine in that context)…….”Dammit, Susan, all I want to do is not wake up tomorrow….but I’m Catholic and so that isn’t an option. It is JUST NOT FAIR!!!”

      Praying for you and all who suffer.

      • Sorry for misunderstanding that the pastor didn’t hurt you, but another. I am STILL ready to find that pastor and “educate” him……………..

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        CM……oh, My God! I cannot believe that someone who is supposed to be a Christian leader could be so deliberately and horribly cruel!!!

        Believe it, Pattie. From the spiritual abuse blogs both of us frequent, It Happens All The Time.

        • HUG…..I know what you and Eagle and others have suffered, and my response may have sounded a bit naive, but it was a gut level reaction to the incident described. I know that (besides the evil, abusive ones in the press) there are rotten, miserable Catholic priests out there….but I have been blessed enough not to have run into any of them personally.

    • “Do we serve a depressing God?”

      By no means, but we serve him with some pretty depressing Christians. Ugh.

    • You know that righteous anger you get when you’ve seen something so wrong that you want to break things?

      This is one of those times. If this is happening in your church, feel free to immediately walk out and find somewhere you don’t hear this kind of evil. It may take a few times, but they do exist.

    • He could probably find more compassion from a local bartender. What’s wrong with this picture?

  3. And about Matthew Warren — yes, sometimes the pain is just too much. I think I read somewhere that depression has about a 15% mortality rate from suicide. It happens when a victim of depression is unable to see anything but the pain, stretching on forever. A book which I felt explained it well from the inside was William Styron’s “Darkness Visible.” It’s short and stark and, to my mind, it expresses so well the pain, confusion, and despair of clinical depression. It would help a suicide-prone person see he or she is not alone, and that there is help, and it would help a friend of such a person understand the disease a bit better.

    On a side note, I have been pleased to observe the absence of hate-filled remarks from the usual suspects in the media and on some comment boards — the ones who generally burst forth in rejoicing whenever anything bad happens to a Christian. Perhaps even those people have been silenced by the terrible sadness of this event.

    • Adrienne says:

      H. Lee – sadly there have been attacks on Pastor Warren, not only from unbelievers but from believers also. I won’t repeat them here but they have been widely reported on the Internet. This is what Pastor Warren posted on his Facebook page in response.

      On Tuesday, Warren posted to his Facebook page, “You’re most like Jesus when you pray for those who hurt you, ‘Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.’ “

      • Attacks on grieving parents are as low as I want to imagine. I don’t have Warren’s level of charity.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          That’s what happens when you get Net Drunks safely anonymous behind social media whose cosmos is only big enough for Purity of (their) Ideology.

  4. I appreciate your openness about your journey. Depression is not an easy thing and it is no respecter of persons. I was so saddened to hear about Rick Warren’s son and the pain they are surely experiencing. It reminds me of a time when I strongly considered suicide as an option. Most of my life I struggled with “low grade” depression – functional but with great difficulty. Over the years I found it more and more difficult to participate in life – like I was slipping away. I usually did not want visitors but I did have many friends who were praying for me. Meds did not help. So the only thing that kept me from going through with ending my life was the fear that I would be eternally separated from God and that it would traumatize my family, leaving my children motherless. So I cried out to God (literally). “God – help me.” And he did. At last – after more problems over time and me keeping in my doctor’s face it was found out I had celiac disease. I wonder how many depressed people have an underlying, undiagnosed medical condition. A few years and multiple supernatural experiences later – I say that God is good. He is the God who sees me. I have joy. I have peace. I don’t know you, Jeff, but I am a sister in Christ and I will pray for your complete and total healing. Blessings.

  5. I have struggled with depression for many years and have begun to break free from it. There are no easy answers or solutions, for me it took one event to push me over the edge and it also took many events and graces to pull me out. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever encountered, the bitterness was so pervasive that I could not imagine any other way of being. I never thought about suicide, it was more of a hellish monotony and hopelessness that I could not remove, if I had taken my life I would be in a place where this state would continue or even get worse. Because I had hated God in my heart or hated who I thought He was. But it can be broken, in God’s own way, in the individuals own way of receiving.

  6. This is so important for people to hear and respond to. I would add a few things to the list or perhaps just expand on some of the thoughts. The pastor and others need to help people understand how God sees them, definitely. But some pastors might take this to mean that they need to show people that they are lost hopeless sinners, etc. That may or may not be true. But what depressed people need to hear (at least I did) is that God values and loves them with an everlasting love and that God believes in them. Also, depressed people do not need to have guilt heaped upon them for “feeling this way.” As you have said, some pastors are quite good at being supportive and walking with people through this time. Others, even well-meaning pastors, can say really damaging things, as Christian Monist experienced. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. I have no opinion but only empathy for those daily battling depression, because I can never imagine this pain. I have read and highly recommend “I Trust When Dark My Road” by Pastor Todd Peperkorn, which is an account of a Lutheran pastor’s on-going battle with clinical depression. More information can be found on Pastor Peperkorn’s blog: http://www.darkmyroad.org .

    A hand of grace to the Warren family who must cope with the consequences. This is not God’s doing. This is not a “test” sent by God. The enemy here is death, and the answer is Jesus, who has overcome death, who in his hand holds the keys to death and hades and who has set its captives free.

    I think of that scene from the movie, “Luther”, where in a fictitious scene Luther responds to the family of a boy who commits suicide, who was refused proper burial by the church. The character of Luther in the movie declares a paraphrase of the actual Luther’s opinion of suicide from his “Table Talks”:

    “Tell Otto to bring his son. Tell him: Some people say that according to God’s justice, this boy is damned because he took his life. I say it was overcome by the devil. Is this child any more to blame for the despair that overtook him than an innocent man who is murdered by a robber in the woods? God must be mercy. God IS mercy.“

    • This past Sunday (Divine Mercy Sunday on the Church’s calendar) my priest told a story from his time in seminary. He got a call a day or two after Easter of that year from an old acquaintance (his brother’s ex-girlfriend), who asked, in a tremulous voice, if people who commit suicide can go to heaven. Her cousin had killed himself. He tried to give her some comfort–God gives every chance of repentance, we should never despair of His mercy, sometimes depression is so great that it compromises the will to the point that we cannot condemn them. Before they hung up, he asked her what her cousin’s name was. She said Pablo.

      About a week later, the day after Divine Mercy Sunday that year, he was attending daily Mass, but he was distracted. He was hung up on the question, where is Pablo? He had been praying the Divine Mercy novena (praying the Divine Mercy chaplet everyday from Good Friday thru to Divine Mercy Sunday), and he had been specifically praying it for Pablo ever since he heard about him. But he couldn’t stop thinking about him. Then they got to the “Peace be with you” bit of the Mass. He turned to the seminarian next to him, who says–to my extremely pale Caucasian priest, couldn’t possibly be mistaken for someone of Hispanic origin–”Peace be with you, Pablo.”

  8. This fact has helped me in no small way in learning to abide with my own depressiveness; many many “great” people constantly suffered and fought depresson. Winston Churchill called it his “black dog”. That dog can hunt all too well…..

    Jeff, I’m going to walk into the electronics dept. of your Target and say, “BOO !”. You’ve been warned.

    Tom

  9. Joanie D says:

    Jeff, I am so sorry that depression is weighing so heavily on you. I noted in your post that you referred to Smokey as a “former” coworker. Oh no! I know she was such a support for you at Target. Did she leave or did you? Either way, I hope she can maintain some contact with you and I hope friends will step in as well.

    I just finished reading Henri Nouwen’s book, The Life of the Beloved. It was written at the request of his secular Jewish friend to help him and his friends “understand” about God, faith, etc. Nouwen said it didn’t work out that way, but that it inspired his Christian friends, so he decided to let it go to publication. As usual, Nouwen’s writing is very inspirational. I don’t know if it can help you any, Jeff, but just remembering how loved you are even when you are feeling horrible can perhaps can you through some rough patches. The problem for me would be, though, if I knew that God loved me I would still wonder, “Why, God, can’t you help me to feel a little better? Wouldn’t it be best for me, you, and all the world if I was not depressed?”

    I hope and wish for you that you are able to find a retreat place where you are surrounded by people who can assist you to remain within conscious awareness of God’s presence. That awareness hopefully will help you through tough times. I know awareness can come and go, though, and then we are just left with a fleeting memory. Sometimes, that fleeting memory is enough to get us over the hump. And if we have no experience or memory of that awareness, then it is only hope that can keep us going. So many of us are hanging onto a thread.

    I wish for you, Jeff, faith, hope and always love.

  10. I am not sure of how to ‘fix’ the church. My problem, in the current setting of a church, is I don’t know who has problems, and no one knows about my problems. I have tried small groups, but they are challenging to keep going over the long haul. Sunday School classes are too formal.

    I think women could help fix it, but the church has got to stop being obsessed that men/women will jump into the sack if they talk to each other.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think women could help fix it, but the church has got to stop being obsessed that men/women will jump into the sack if they talk to each other.

      You know where you also find that trope outside the Christian world?
      PORN.

      I have long maintained that Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else, just in a different direction.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      @ Allen said, “I think women could help fix it, but the church has got to stop being obsessed that men/women will jump into the sack if they talk to each other.

      Thank you. I’m a never married Christian woman over 40 years old and have noticed that many Christians treat single women as threats or as though we are floozies, or as though it’s impossible for men and women to remain friends.

      It’s very isolating to be single past the age of 35 especially in Christianity, because nobody, Christian or Non-Christian, think it’s possible for an unmarried women to be a platonic fried to a married man (or with a single one, either).

      I’ve had married Christian men cut off conversations with me after a day or two online, or who won’t let me phone them, because they’re afraid their wife will perceive it as being an affair. I’m always surprised by this, because romance is the last thing on my mind.

      I’ve always wanted to get married, but to a man of my own, I would not want to break up a marriage. I’m also waiting until marriage to have sex, and I’m still celibate – I find it insulting that Christians continue to act as though I’m a harlot with an over-active libido who beds ever man in sight and who will steal a married man away from his sweetie.

      I will say one problem I’ve had is since my teen age years also is that a lot of men also misconstrue or read signals – a mere “hello, how are you” is mistaken by males (singles and marrieds) often as being flirting (it is not), so I usually try to avoid men, both single and married, because they always get the wrong idea. It would be nice to chat with a guy and not have him assume I’m “warm for his form.”

  11. Joanie D says:

    I dedicate one of today’s Psalm readings to you, Jeff:

    The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
    and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
    Many are the troubles of the just man,
    but out of them all the LORD delivers him.
    Psalm 34:18-19

  12. This is one of those articles that I will refer back to from time-to-time. People are so busy these days, and busy is a word that says “I don’t have time for anyone right now”. I can fall into that category and not see that others are hurting. That sucks to say but it is true. Those of us who are “busy” need to slow down and notice others around us. Some of us who are busy are almost afraid to slow down because maybe the “black dog” is waiting for us.

    If I was astute enough to see that you were down Jeff I would give you a hug (learned how to do this without consternation when I was doing Marriage Encounter) because I would genuinely be concerned about you. The key is “if I was paying enough attention”… sad to say on my part.

    You know… here in Pittsburgh its relatively easy to find someone to walk in the woods with, talk, and breathe all that good air. For me there is nothing that lifts my spirits more than to be ouside under trees. I admit Jeff that I am a bit naive about what your going through so I am sharing what has alway helped pick me up.

    Take care…

    • @Radagast…..don’t hear much about M.E. these days, but it sure changed the deal for DH and I! We were team for a couple of years back..

      • Radagast says:

        Us too… its one of those tools I keep in my tool box. We did team back in the late 90′s…

    • You know… here in Pittsburgh its relatively easy to find someone to walk in the woods with, talk, and breathe all that good air. …

      Interesting. I lived there for 7 years in the 80s and when I had the opportunity I left. Way too many depressed people around. Ex factory worker waiting for the factory to re-open. Was never gonna happen. I lived in Forest Hills near Braddock, Turtle Creek, etc… I guess if I lived in Squirrel Hill or similar neighborhoods things might have been different.

  13. Matt 11: 29-30

    Jesus wants us to come and learn from Him. Rest in Him. Put our burdens on Him. He is gentle and humble in heart.

    Jeff- I going to pray for the Shalom of the Lord Jesus to be made known to you in a great way.

  14. Travis Sibley aka BigLove says:

    Once again, Jeff, you are spot on!

    Much love to you!

  15. I’ve got to get this off my chest. Tuesday was not a good day for me at all. As you all know last summer I was in the hospital dealing with sepsis and a staph infection on my leg. The swelling on my right leg still exists and I’ve been getting to a point where I dread the going to the doctor because of what they will say. So I had a doctor’s appointment with the Dermatologist on Tuesday. Since I lost my skin and it grew back it looks like a leg of a burn victim.

    The doctor is concerned about the swelling and is telling me that it needs to improve. She wants to me go back to the internist and possibly look into seeing a cardiologist to try and get the swelling down. She’s warned me that if the swelling doesn’t go down I could end up back in the hospital for other reasons. She thinks it could possibly be scar tissue from the infection that’s still there. I was so full of despair upon hearing that because I want this to be over. So I left the doctor’s office really depressed and sat in my car really wanting to cry. I tried calling a couple of people to get this off my chest and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone. So I went to my apartment here in D.C and cried…just being so frustrated that this isn’t moving faster.

    This is a leg issue that is going on and I’m in my 30’s. But the other day I began to realize why people who are older who are dealing with chronic illness, cancer, ALS, etc… get entertained by suicide or thinking euthanasia is the answer.

    • Eagle,
      I’m so sorry to hear this. They think the infection is still there? I will be praying.

    • I am really sorry to hear this, Eagle, and I hope a cure is found. It must be so hard to have fought such a battle against your wretched infection, and have “won” it, and then find that you may have to fight it all over again. I’d be thinking, ‘Forget it. I can’t do it again. I’m done.” I hope you can find good friends to talk it through with.

    • I am sorry to hear this Eagle, I wish I could give you a hug. My husband suffers from a chronic illness, we spent one year watering the couch with our tears, because his pain was unmanageable… Take Care buddy & know you are loved by many.

    • Eagle, this could ALSO be lymphedema, where the leg can’t move fluid through the lymph drainage system because they are damaged or destroyed, as could easily have happened with the magnitude of the initial infection. The answer may be a wrap or compression stocking to assist with the fluid removal.

      I don’t KNOW any of this, and of course listen to your doctors….but sometimes they assume the worst and look at medical treatment. There is an old saw that states that doctors treat diseases, but nurses care about the whole human person.

      Praying for you…….keep us posted on your physical and emotional/spiritual health.

      • Pattie has a good point. Doctors don’t know a whole lot about lymphadema but it can be very painful where there’s been surgery which cuts off the normal flow of lymphatic fluid. My brother had great pain from it and the doctors had no clue, but a physical therapist was able to show him some ways of massaging the area to get the lymphatic fluid to drain. Maybe this is TMI but I hope it helps you, or someone reading this.

      • melissab says:

        Amen to that! The Spurgeon and Spencer articles were profound. In this day and age, it is particularly difficult to slow down and give friendship the due process it deserves. And sometimes I have expectations of people that they just cannot fulfill. As an introvert, it is easy to get sucked into distorted truth, i.e., I have no value. God’s grace and only that. I am looking forward to the new magnificent me in heaven, when the good of this earth flourishes and sin and its effects no longer exist.

  16. Jeff, I hope and join in prayer with others asking that you find your way thru the darkness. I would like to point out that not everyone dealing with depression has the same needs as you. The friends I would most want to see at my door during an intensification of the ordeal live far away and many years pass without seeing them. Those closer might show up with a six-pack or a bottle of wine instead of ice cream. The last thing in the world I want if I am hurting is someone I am not close to knocking at my door. I know Jeff says above, “Go to them, even if they don’t want to see you.” People, if you are not a very good friend of mine and you pull that one, I may be able to contain my ire or I just may unload on you. Especially if you are a pastor. My second marriage had a lot of stresses that were probably too large to overcome at the time, including mainly depression, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was a well-meaning but clueless pastor.

    I find that most people are clueless about depression. When you are depressed, there is nothing more depressing than someone well-meaning who has no idea what depression is like. There have been a number of suggestions here as to possible sources of help and the more the better. I would like to offer another one that perhaps one person out of a thousand could understand and benefit from.

    David R. Hawkins was a highly successful psychiatrist for something like fifty years. That was not the only hat he wore. He didn’t call himself a Christian mystic, but I would. I would say that he has explained the Way that Jesus taught better than anyone else since Origen died. He doesn’t use the language of the Christian church very much, tho he was raised a high Episcopalian and probably ended his life as such. He speaks in terms familiar to the Western rational scientific mind and was of the generation born in the Great Depression and serving in WW II.

    His last book is titled Letting Go and is probably his most accessible. His approach to depression and life in general is way outside mainstream thinking, and in my opinion far ahead of its time. I believe that reading his books has saved me twenty years or more of hard work.

  17. It may be that people in churches have difficulty both understanding and dealing with depression.

    In our case, where there has been physical sickness involved, the church has been extremely supportive.

    The pastor sent out an email (at our request) to the entire congregation asking for prayer. People have been constantly sending notes of encouragement. A teen from the church told us that she was making dinner for us Friday night so that we don’t have to. We have just felt incredibly loved and supported.

    I know of a leader in our church who suffers from depression. Do they feel the same love and support. I very much doubt it, yet they need support in very much the same way we do.

    OK, now I am convicted that I need to send an email.

    • Joanie D says:

      Hi, Michael Bell. I am glad to see you posting here. I hope your father-in-law is as comfortable as he can be under these difficult circumstances. You all have my prayers.

  18. Depression Anonymous has helped me in my struggle with depression
    -david

  19. Jeff, something to consider nutritionally – recent studies link depression in men to folic acid and vitamin B9 deficiency. Folic acid is the dietary form of vitamin B9 and is found primarily in green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, beans and other legumes, liver, and yeast.

    • I can handle all of that except liver!

      • LOL, bulk up on your salad and beans. :-) I did hear a doctor say once that people taking pharmaceutical meds need to especially take care of their nutrition, because those meds can deplete the body of many essential vitamins and minerals.

      • I’ll take the liver Jeff doesn’t want…..if it’s covered in bacon and sauteed onion: anything to help the anti-depression cause.

  20. When I read the news article about his suicide and came across the quote “Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” I thought, boy I have been there many times. Being a young single man I can see how he let go. The only thing that kept me moving forward during my darkest times was knowing that I had a wife and family and that they would be dramatically impacted if I gave up.

    His question is an important one that deserves to be wrestled with. Why do we put up with the pain of this place? Why not just die and go to heaven?

    • TPD, your comment wrings my heart out. So, thankful that your wife & family didn’t have to suffer the loss of you. I hear you and I feel for you, I have traveled some of the same roads… Hope there has been some movement out of that dark place.

  21. I think Jeff, you may grossly underestimate the number of people in churches that are on psych meds.
    Even the most rapid of independent Baptists know first hand, loved ones on psych meds. Mental illness is no secret in the modern pew.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      That may be true, but I wonder, how many of those Christians taking medications and/or seeing a psychiatrist/ counselor have to hide that from their preacher/ church?

      I was reading a book by a Christian psychiatrist who wrote a very good book about all this, and he had a few people in his book (Christians who attend church) that they cannot tell anyone at their churches that they are depressed, take anti depressant medications, and/or see mental health professionals because they attend churches that are very judgmental about these things, or who refuse to admit that Christians can and do get depression, bi-polar disorder, anxiety attacks, etc

      It is totally revolting to me how most Christians (other than extreme Word of Faithers) are sympathetic about physical pain, but become cold as ice or mean spirited if the illness is psychological in nature. No sympathy for you!

      (Of course, some times, psychological problems are due to physical causes, an imbalance of chemicals in the brain and so on, but even then, the Christians who don’t ‘get’ depression don’t care about that or they deny it.)

  22. That’s “rabid” not “rapid.” sigh

  23. DaisyFlower says:

    I left a post under Jeff’s previous post on a similar topic (but I think under the name “Daisy”). I am sorry for the pain you are in. I’m sorry my post will be long, I hope nobody minds, but your post touches on subjects close to home for me.

    I hate to be a downer, but I’m afraid it’s an uphill battle to get other Christians to care, help, or do more in this area, as well as in other areas.

    Just about everything you wrote about how most Christians are inadequate at helping those who suffer with mental health issues can be applied in equal measure to Christians who have other heartaches, including and not limited to, grief from the death of a loved one.

    I had clinical depression since childhood but am mostly over it now, as of a year or two ago. (How I finally overcame depression would involve another long post -kind of- so I don’t want to get into that at this time.) I was diagnosed with depression by psychiatrists in childhood. My mother and a few other family members also had depression.

    Years of seeing psychiatrists, a few psychologists, taking anti depressant medications, praying for a healing, having faith in God, reading my Bible, serving others, reading books about depression, getting involved in hobbies, and all the things people say you should try and do, all did nothing to ease the psychological pain. And yet those are often the cliched bits of advice most Christians hand out to those who suffer with mental health ailments.

    There is unfortunately another group of Christians who don’t even acknowledge that Christians can and do suffer from depression and other psychological problems.

    I don’t know why they are so hypocritical and will readily admit that Christians can get diabetes, cancer, toothaches, splinters, paper cuts, and heart attacks, but refuse to concede that Christians are no more immune from psychological problems any more than Non Christians are.

    Yet other types of Christians, such as those who advocate “nouthetic counseling,” or Christians who have a strange hatred or suspicion of psychology and psychiatry, will basically blame you for having such a problem to start with (they will insist your depression is due to personal sin on your part – which is a lot of bunk and very insensitive).

    Some of these sorts of Christians (or your average “Word of Faith” or “Prosperity Health and Wealth” types) think if you just have enough faith, or tough it out, or by sheer force of your will, you can get over depression. Their ignorance about depression and other types of emotional pain knows no limits.

    (Please note that is appears as though 100% of those Christians – and some Non Christians – who are so ignorant and insensitive about depression have never had it themselves. I find that so telling. They feel so comfortable condemning people with the condition they obviously know nothing about.)

    Not only when I had depression (which was for about three decades), but when I lost someone very close to me through death, I received hardly any encouragement or support, not even from some Christian family who are regular church goers. I was shocked by this. I was expecting tons of support but got about none.

    After I told one of my internet friends about my extreme hurt, anger, and disappointment over the lack of support in my time of grief, she told me I needed to reach out and tell these people I was in pain and what kind of support I needed from them, but even when I did that with several people, I was still basically ignored (aside from a few very small gestures of kindness here and there).

    Most nobody wants to do what it takes to help the depression person, or the person in grief, which is to give them your time.

    This means sitting with the hurting person while he or she just cries or talks about the pain her or she is in, maybe for a couple of hours per week, or at least for 2 or 3 hours, once a month or once every 2 to 3 months, at a minimum.

    Whether we are talking about the depressed individual, or the one who is in grief, or going through some other emotionally taxing situation, these hurting people need someone who will be a sympathetic ear – and that means, listen to him or her talk about their pain without dispensing advice, without giving judgment, without blame, without trying to solve their hurt or explain it, with no Bible quoting, and no uttering of platitudes.

    Very few people, Christians included, are willing to play that role, though. I speak from experience as one who has been through depression and intense grief over a death, and from listening to other Christians who’ve been through the same things.

    One reason I’ve considered walking away from the Christian faith was over some of what I’ve mentioned here. It’s shocking, disheartening, and sad to see how many Christians profess the faith but don’t actually do what the Scriptures say.

    • Daisy, thanks for sharing this. The long post is short, considering all the wisdom and experience you have packed into it. You’ve walked a long road!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      (Please note that is appears as though 100% of those Christians – and some Non Christians – who are so ignorant and insensitive about depression have never had it themselves. I find that so telling. They feel so comfortable condemning people with the condition they obviously know nothing about.)

      Not much different from a pastor who married at 18 advising an older single to Kiss Dating Goodbye.

      You always Know It All about How Others Should Act when you have never been there yourself.

  24. Excellent! Hope many will use the share buttons. And how about printing this and distributing it to your Christian friends and pastor? Get off the dime. This needs broad distribution.

    Anyone who has had real sheep knows how easily they die. If they are injured and go down, you really have to work at getting them up and going. Now, actual shepherds do this for actual sheep.

    And we all need to press on to the Christ-centered view rather than a self-centered one.

  25. Jeff, as some of the comments above state, know that you are not alone. I know there is nothing anyone can type that is going to “fix” this. But know that others identify and that you are not crazy or unusual. Also…I know this does not really feel true when you are in the middle of a dark place…but it won’t always be like this. Hang on. You know we are all rooting for you.

    Thank you for being so honest. I think it is exceedingly difficult to express what it feels and means to be going through what you experiencing. Those of us who have had little brushes with these feelings, or none at all, probably don’t appreciate fully how it feels. But by sharing you are doing more than you know. I am sure there are people reading this right now who are thinking, “I’m not the only one. Thank goodness.”

  26. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Wartburg Watch is also picking up on this subject, though more from the angle of all the hate flames the Warrens have been getting over the tragedy.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      I think it’s good they’re doing that. They should maybe think about doing an entire series about it.

      Dee and Dee (at TWW) were kind enough to do a week long series on how the church mistreats unmarried Christian adults after I did several posts mentioning it, and the topic of how Christians demonize or mistreat those with mental health problems would be good too.

  27. Bill Metzger says:

    There is no cure for depression. Certainly not the cop out of drug therapy. Depression can be an opportunity to be forced back to the Cross-where we find true healing. I should know. I’ve been battling depression my entire adult life.

    • DaisyFlower says:

      @ Bill M.
      I hope you’re not condemning the use of medications for all who have depression and psychological health problems? I tried them and they didn’t work for me, but they do work for some.

  28. Seneca Griggs says:

    Winston Churchill struggled with depression; referenced it as his “black dog.”

    “I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand right back and if possible get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.” – Winston Churchill

    “I think this man might be useful to me – if my BLACK DOG returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.” – Winston Churchill

  29. “Depression can be an opportunity to be forced back to the Cross-where we find true healing”

    hmmm, not sure about that. forced back to the cross, as in many rounds of self-assessment of one’s sins?

    if Depression is an opportunity for spiritual reflection, why not this?

    “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you,… and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,”

    “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus”
    (Eph 1, 2)

  30. I just came back to get the link to this. I suppose all comments are pretty dead by now. It would be interesting to know how many people, here, took the initiative to share this with their church.

  31. Yeah I came in late to this as well. Not sure if anyone is reading (but if you are Jeff, give us a cyber wave if you don’t mind so we know).

    Firstly, EXCELLENT post!

    Secondly, I think many of us can’t resist the temptation of trying “to fix” those who suffer from depression. Some do it with good intentions thinking they are “helping” their friend and others do it because they get a high from having all the answers.

    In Christian circles, you can almost guarantee that if one has come under the influence of dominion theology, he/she will be a Mr/Mrs Fix It.

    I haven’t suffered from this myself (not in a severe form anyway), but have been close to people who have. 18 months ago I found myself in this predicament as I found out from the wife of a very dear friend that he was diagnosed with depression. We live in separate cities now so I was not aware.

    I felt utterly helpless, wanting to “do something” for my mate but not knowing what or how, so I asked for suggestions on an online forum. Then the light bulb moment came from a young lady who said “just be his friend, take him somewhere and chill out”. And so we did, we spent a weekend by a lake somewhere and the topic never came up because his wife didn’t want him to know that she had told me.

    So I agree wholeheartedly, DO NOTHING, just listen and hang out with them. If they want to talk about it fine, but if not, the LAST thing you wanna do is quote verses and sound bites from famous Christians authors.

    (John From Down Under)

  32. Let’s Talk about Jesus had 2 phone calls about this topic
    http://www.lovinggrace.org