depression

I don’t belong here.

Public Speaking

Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

I don’t belong here.”

I allowed myself to tremble as I stood before all of them. Hundreds of leaders in my church body gathered in convention, and I was tasked to point them to Jesus. The worship that began the convention the day before had a sermon that guided us through Law and Gospel. We had been fed rich food. That morning, a confident man had guided us through the meaning of a particular word, feeding both intellect and faith as he revealed the mysteries of Scripture.

And then here was me.

And as I looked out at that vast sea of leaders, I spoke the truth again: “I don’t belong here.” I couldn’t even pace; the sound system in this rented space didn’t include wireless mics. “Maybe some of you are far more self-assured than I am, but I constantly feel like I don’t belong. I feel like a fake. Like someday someone is going to figure it out, and the district president will show up and pull the plug. ‘We figured you out, Jon. Get out. You don’t belong here.’”

There’s a slight chuckle through the crowd. They think I’m exaggerating.

Of course I’m not. (more…)

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Choosing Depression

Depression 5

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

It’s a bargain. It’s always a bargain.” The man sighs. “I offer you a choice. Either way I get the better end of the deal, but you think you’ve won. And that’s the way it works.”

I won’t think I’ve won,” I answer.

You will. Briefly, at least.” The man raises an eyebrow. “Here is what I offer: I can take your depression. I’ll deliver it to someone who wants it. He’ll wear it around his heart like a necklace of bone and sorrow. But when I take it, I will take all your memory of your depression. You will never know what you have been strong enough to face. You will never know how much of your own demons you have conquered. You will not recall the darkness of your struggle. And,” he raises a finger, “You will never know that someone loved you enough to carry your burden.”

You love me?”

Someone must, to offer to take your depression from you.” He tilts his head. “Because depression cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be passed on from one person to another, until the end of time and the Dawn comes.” He wrinkles his nose at that word, but smooths it away quickly. “So yes. Someone is offering to take your depression. And all you’ve gotten from it.” (more…)

Medicated Pastor

Pills

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

My friends told me I needed to see a doctor. More than one friend. They said my depression was getting worse, and they could tell.

They were right.

I delayed going. I figured the next step would likely be meds. It can take a while to find the right med to help a person. That search is well worth it; I’ve seen the positive results. However, I needed time to be able to go through that search, and the buildup to Easter probably wasn’t the right time.

But Easter is done now. I’ve survived. And… and I want to the doctor.

Long story short: I’m now medicated. (more…)

Post Easter Recovery

Head above water

Photo by Li Yang on Unsplash

I have survived the dreaded Easter. Am I surviving recovery?

Mostly. I am so, so thankful I serve a smaller congregation where I can rearrange things and take a week mostly off. I canceled nearly all my meetings for this week, and had worked ahead so that there was very little office work. That doesn’t mean the week has been easy, though.

Sunday night was bad. My brain would not shut off. I kept on going over Easter worship that morning. “I should have spent more time with him. She’s going to think I’m a jerk, because I was. They left pretty quick – what did I mess up?” There was this paranoia setting in that everything was going to fall apart because I messed up again and –

I ended up taking out a book and reading most of it to try and shut my brain up. (Thankfully Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen held my attention pretty well!) And even after finishing that book… my brain wouldn’t stop. I eventually passed out, but it was a struggle to get there. (more…)

Surviving Easter

Depression 5

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Twenty-four hours ago, I dreaded Easter morning worship. It was coming. It was well-planned. I had practiced it several times.

I wanted nothing to do with the upcoming worship service.

The people. Oh, the people. I had been without rest for so long, it seems, and now nearly any interaction I had with a person for longer than a few minutes would bring me down. It wore at me so much that depression was able to gnaw at my soul.

And Easter morning? Do you have any idea how many people I’d have to interact with?

I braced myself. (more…)

An Easter for Introverts

Mary at the Tomb

Easter begins with a trumpet fanfare.

That’s the way it is every year here. A family here has three generations of trumpet players, and they join together in a beautiful prelude to our worship. It is loud and boisterous and wonderful.

Thinking about it makes me nauseous.

Not because the family is unfaithful; they are faithful in worship and growing in Christ. Not because they’re not talented; all three are different kinds of professional musicians. Not because I don’t like the arrangement they’re playing; I mean it when I say it’s beautiful.

I’m nauseous because I’ve OD’ed on people in the last month, and this last week and a half before Easter, it’s only going to get worse. See, when I spend too much time with people, I deplete my energy. And the lower my energy, the easier it is for my depression to attack. And for the last month, I’ve not had time to recharge.

As I think ahead to Easter morning, to the big smiles and the trumpets and the singing and the people and the crowds and everything – it’s too much. It’s too loud. (more…)

Apparently it’s time to be stupid again.

Depression 4

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

It started about the time I went to bed, as it usually does.

My brain decided to glom onto a problem. Now, it is a real problem: How to teach the youth of the congregation about Jesus in a way that draws them to Christ. Many of the things we’ve attempted to do – both traditional and not – simply haven’t worked well. Right now we’ve got a glut of children reaching sixth grade in the next school year, and that means it’s time to start confirmation.

And my brain decided last night was a good time to start really working on how to teach them. My preference would be to have the parents teach at home, while once a month I gather everyone to do a good review and test to make sure everyone’s actually learning everything. But if the parents aren’t teaching their kids now, how could I expect them to do it next year?

Gather all the children together once a week? Unlikely. As it is now, many of the children can’t make it to church weekly because parents or children are “too busy.”

Do I journey to all the homes once a week, as I did the year previous? Possible, but with that many children, I’d have to drop some other duty.

And my brain whirled round and round. The parents are going to be angry. They’ll say that it doesn’t matter what we teach the kids. They’ll ask why I’m changing things. Why can’t we do it the way we’ve always done it? Why do we need to teach them anything at all?

I want you to understand: The problem my brain decided to pick at is a valid problem to consider. The goal is a good one: How to help our children grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

The problem was that my brain would not let go of the problem. I could not release the jaws of my mind to allow me to sleep, to rest. No, there was no rest at all. And the imagined scenarios got more and more outlandish, and all of them ended with the church bursting into flames one way or another. And my stress level kept on going up and up.

This is a bad sign. It’s the kind of thing my depression does when it’s deciding to bodyslam me. (more…)

Slow Down

Slow Down

Sometimes you need to slow down.

So I’m told.

Repeatedly.

There are several church members in the hospital right now, and it’s my policy to visit someone in the hospital daily if at all possible. And so I’ve been visiting the hospitals a lot lately. And it takes a lot of time and emotional energy. I come back home… just wiped out.

And one of those people I’ve been visiting? “Pastor, I love you. Stop. You need rest, too!”

Yesterday at worship, someone else pulled me aside: “Pastor, you need to take a break.”

Earlier last week, another person: “Pastor, you’re working too hard.”

…maybe it’s time I listen. (more…)

An Ending

alone in church

Photo by Stefan Kunze on Unsplash

Sunday we canceled worship. The roads were hazardous enough that we decided it was better if everyone stayed home. I recorded a miniservice and uploaded it to Youtube so the congregation could still worship as they saw fit. (Judging by the number of views, quite a few of the congregation took advantage of this way of worshiping!) I linked two songs and led a short devotion.

I spent the day with my family after that, leading them in worship, too. It was so good to hear my two older kids singing along to, “Chief of Sinners Though I Be” and “In Christ Alone.” I can see them growing in their faith and walk with Jesus.

Monday hit. I didn’t have to deal with anyone face-to-face. I had scheduled one possible appointment with a person I could just drop in and see, but chose not to pursue it.

Tuesday. And for some reason… I couldn’t handle being with people. I had a few appointments; nothing incredibly stressful. But when I thought about going out… I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I felt nauseous as I thought about meeting with them.

I canceled everything. (more…)

Am I OK?

Crowd

Today before worship one of my council members pulled me aside. “Pastor, can I have a second? I need to ask you a question. If you need to think about it before answering me, I understand. It’s about that paper you gave me.”

Ah.

About a month back, I made available to my council members a paper I had written on pastoral depression. It was meant to be a show of transparency: “Hey, I wrote this, and if you want, you can have access to it. It’s not an assignment or even something I’m asking you to do; it’s just something you can have if you want.”

And this man has read it now.

He pulls me aside, and very concerned, asks, “Is this a cry for help?” (more…)