Monthly Archives: August 2014

The illogical beast.

I’d like to write about depression this week. Not because it’s been in the news. (Though I’m glad that it has been.) I’d like to write about this subject for a much more personal reason. As it happens, I’ve been experiencing a depressive episode for the past several days.

I’ve come to realize recently just how much depression is a disease. Part of me had always resisted that label. Disease. It made it sound like I had the chicken pox or something. Or that I were creating a false equivalence between my ailment and, say, cancer. Something legitimate.

Despite everything that I’ve experienced and learned, I still struggled with the nagging doubt that this was “all in my head”. And I had always wanted to believe that there existed some remedy that could make me “better”. A change in circumstances, or behavioral patterns, or the application of any of the tools I had learned while in treatment for depression.

To me, depression was primarily a logical beast. I felt that if I could reason with it, barter with it, then it would shuffle away and leave me alone. “If I engage in mindful living, will you no longer afflict me?” “If I exercise more?” “If I sleep better?” “If I eat better?” “If I spend more time playing guitar?”

But I have had to admit that depression is utterly unconcerned with the remedial activities in which I may engage. It comes and goes as it pleases. There may be a reason, a trigger, for a depressive episode. There may be several. Or there may be none. It may simply appear.

To be sure, there are things that I can do to prepare. I can board up the doors and windows, and make sure I’m stocked up on bread and toilet paper. But none of that provides a guarantee of safety. The power may still go out. The house may still be damaged, or flooded. And the waters will remain until they recede.

Right now, the house is still flooded. And I’m trying to wait it out as best I can. Writing is one thing I’ve chosen to do in the meantime. It’s not an easy task at the moment. One of the more insidious aspects of depression is its sabotage of any attempt to reach out. Interacting with others becomes difficult, and feels impossible. Even writing becomes laborious, when the writing is about how I’m really doing.

The biggest reason why I’ve resisted labeling this thing a “disease” is that I want to have hope that someday I won’t be bothered by depression anymore. Because it really does suck. But I don’t know if that’s going to happen. Which I don’t say to be fatalistic or, well, depressive. It may simply be the truth.

Which is fine, I guess. I can treat it. I can practice the things that I’ve been taught. For the most part, I’m able to do what I need to do. I hold down a job. I keep the kids from killing each other. And I try to work on my quality of life. But I do get tired sometimes.

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What don’t I want?

I used to know what I wanted. In life, I mean. I had that figured out. One of the benefits of religion is that it provides you with those big-picture answers. And I was super religious.

But then something happened: I lost my faith. Ever since, I’ve spent most of my time figuring out what I don’t want. I don’t want religion. I don’t want church. I don’t want religious people. Above all, I don’t want reminders of my former religious life.

This was an important process for me, as historically I’ve allowed myself to be persuaded into decisions that I wasn’t really sure about, particularly when it came to religion. So I had to be clear about the ongoing role of religion in my life. It was a categorical “no”.

Unfortunately, that clarity came a bit late for me. I had started and ended my ministry career at a church in Illinois. (I’ve written about this before: the short version is that it was a traumatic experience that catalyzed the loss of faith I mentioned above.) My family and I moved away soon afterward, eventually settling in Texas.

Then one day, we got a call from our old church. They had a new staff position available, and they wanted to hire my wife for it. Which would mean relocating back to Illinois. She was excited; I was not. But the prospect of redeeming my past experience at this church was seductive. Even though I was agnostic-leaning-atheist by this point, part of me still wanted to believe that everything had happened “for a reason”.

So we moved back. And it was a disaster. Not only did I fail to reconnect with this church that had once been the hub of my social, spiritual, and professional life, but the same thing happened to my wife that had happened to me years before. She found herself marginalized and out of a job less than two years into it.

We had bought a house here. We had a mortgage and a new car payment. We couldn’t afford to be without my wife’s salary. So she found the first, best thing she could. She started working at a Starbucks, as a store manager. Which in practice meant that she woke up while it was still dark, and was in bed by dinnertime. For the next year, as she was dealing with the trauma of the experience, and as I was dealing with the re-traumatization of watching this all happen again, we barely saw each other. It took us the next several years, including a separation, to come to grips with the experience and its effect on us.

This is where my clarity came from. No more religion. No more church. No more religious people. And above all, no reminders of my former religious life.

That last part has been tricky. When we moved back here, we had chosen an area that would place us as close to the church as possible. Which means that my wife and I now play church roulette every time we go out somewhere. We never know who we might bump into, and what awkward conversations might ensue. (Both my wife and I have been berated for giving up on the church.)

And for me, this entire area feels poisoned. I have years of memories attached to this place, most of which come from my time in the church. But lingering behind it all is a nagging sense that I didn’t really choose to be here. That I was too passive, and allowed this to happen. And now I’m stuck here.

Now, I realize that saying “I’m stuck here” may itself sound too passive, but it’s the honest truth. We don’t have the money to relocate; even if we did, the kids are settled here, my wife has a great job here (not Starbucks), and we’ve started to put down roots again.

Well, at least everyone else has. I’ve been holding back on that. Avoiding emotional investment. I still have a telecommuting job that enables me to work from any location. And I’ve stayed with that job long past the point of necessity, primarily because I don’t want to give up that hope of escape. Even if it is only illusory.

The net effect of which has been that I feel disconnected from my own life. I’ve gotten very good at identifying what I don’t want, which I oftentimes confuse for what I do want. But “I don’t want to be here” isn’t a direction. It’s the absence of direction. It’s nothing.

What am I to do? The part of me that sounds wiser tells me to give up the job, find something here, and accept that this is now my home. The rest of me, however, tells that part of me to go fuck itself. It wants to move to the Southwest and start over.

This is where I have to leave it, because this is where I am right now. This is where I’ve been for years. I don’t have an answer yet. But I need to do something. I’ve done “nothing” long enough.