depression

The Dangers of Peopling

people sitting in front of wooden table

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So maybe I’m a little isolationist. So maybe I like it if I have a week where all I have to do is work my butt off in the office. So maybe I don’t like answering the phone. So maybe I’d rather bury my head and just have to deal with other people on Sunday morning.

So maybe I’m an introvert.

And maybe I’ve taken advantage of this whole pastor thing for too long.

See, when you’re a pastor in a small congregation,you’re largely in charge of your own schedule. Frankly, as long as Sunday morning goes off without a hitch and you visit people when they’re in the hospital, you could probably get away with doing nothing else.

Now, I’m not lazy. I’ve been working hard.

But… I’ve been spending a lot of time in the office and not nearly enough time out visiting members, making evangelism calls, anything like that. Basically, if it involved peopling, I’ve become really good at avoiding it.

That needs to end. (more…)

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Found it!

Sleep

Photo by Matheus Vinicius on Unsplash

Aaaaaaah…. there it is.

I’ve found that if I spend too much time with people and not enough time in solitude, it triggers a depressive episode. Last week I spent pretty much every moment of every day with people while I was at camp. I figured a depressive episode was coming.

And then it didn’t.

The day after I got back, I spent a good chunk of time on the phone, an activity that’s not too friendly too me. No problems had, though!

Sunday was a Sunday. I got to see and serve my congregation. All went well. In fact, I even spent more time on the phone.

I was really expecting the depressive episode on Monday. See, my depression usually follows “pastor’s rules for sickness.” I know a lot of pastors that will be sick as dogs on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday they’re fit as can be! And then Monday, the sick strikes again. It’s a combination of mental “I have to do this” and God’s pure grace, keeping his servants able to serve. My depression often follows those “rules.” I can be a wreck on Saturday, fine Sunday, back to a wreck on Monday. (more…)

Review: The Problem of Suffering

The Problem of Suffering: A Father’s Hope
by Gregory P. Schulz

Greg Schulz’s daughter was buried three days before what would have been her first birthday. His son died at fourteen. In The Problem of Suffering Schulz offers his heart. He shows that there are no easy answers, but there is comfort. He shows that in this world, there is real pain. And through it all, he points to Christ.

The foreword (written by Harold Senkbeil) says that this book will change you.

It did. (more…)

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…)

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…)